KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Nov 09 2010

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“What goes around, comes around”

While researching tiles to be used in the VISION house in Orlando for this year’s International Builder’s Show, I wanted to find something that was a little different and “edgy” for the master bath flooring. I found the perfect solution on Daltile’s website, in a new product they are offering called “Traditional Terrazzo.” It’s one of four different styles of terrazzo in the line.

I wanted to find out a little more about what terrazzo is, and I did some investigating on the internet about its history. The word “terrazzo” is from the Italian word for terraces. In the 15th century, Venetian stone workers began utilizing their waste chips, left over from marble slab processing. They mixed the chips with cement and laid the floors of the terraces around their living quarters. The surfaces were durable but uncomfortable to walk on. So they began hand-sanding the surface to make it flat and more comfortable. It was considered a good-looking durable floor. They even began to make designs in the floor that couldn’t be achieved by traditional marble laying. In the late 18th century, European craftsmen brought an advanced, smoother, more polished terrazzo to America. It was used mainly in historic and monumental architecture. It was durable, seamless, good-looking but required continued maintenance.

Why is Terrazzo so popular again? It is beautiful and long-lasting. And nowadays, it is very easy to maintain. Many Floridians—especially in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, as well as the College Park area of Orlando where I’m designing this home—are lucky because there is a treasure trove of original 1950s/’60s terrazzo buried in their homes, under the carpet, under the tile, even under the linoleum. In the 1950s to early 1970s, terrazzo became the floor of choice for most Florida homes. Formerly, when building a home the contractor would put up the exterior foundation walls, and then pour the 5/8-in.-thick terrazzo floor in place. The floor would be ground smooth before installing the interior walls on top of the terrazzo. What caused the popularity of these mid-century modern floors to decline? There was no easy home maintenance; and professional maintenance workers were lacking. So many floors became scratched, stained and damaged. When the mid-’70s arrived, carpeting became popular, especially shag carpeting. Shag carpeting led to the great Florida “cover-up.” (OK, shag carpeting is back in style, too; but let’s save that for another blog post.)

Next door to the VISION house is a home built in the 1950s. It’s a traditional “4-square” design with simple, straightforward lines. The original front porch flooring has been uncovered, revealing a beautiful light-green terrazzo. What’s better than that? Very durable, high-quality, low-maintenance flooring that’s particularly timeless. So I wanted to bring that look into the new house, and Daltile’s terrazzo products certainly fit the bill. They also have a line with more than 20% recycled glass chips.

Here are some photos: I’m using the “jute” color in the VISION house…

Daltile terrazzo

IceStone, a terrazzo type countertop material made from concrete and recycled bottle glass

IceStone, a terrazzo-type countertop material made from concrete and recycled bottle glass

My favorite terrazzo!!

My favorite terrazzo!!

Patricia Gaylor

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Bath Design, Green, Products. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.