Design inspitarion

Azulejo Português - Inspired Tilework

In early May, Matt and I got to explore Portugal for a few weeks--such a wonderful place. It was the wine that brought us, but I quickly fell in love with the Portuguese aesthetic, with its time-worn grandeur and earthy up-cyling traditions.

Discovering a country through its food, wine and culture is my favorite way to travel. We learned loads as we made our way though the enchanted Douro Valley, discovered elegant red wines in the Dao, and searched for wineries open to the public in Vinho Verde country. The port houses of Vila Nova de Gaia and the small wine bars tucked into the picturesque alleys of Porto added to the fun of the journey.

For a designer the country is a visual treat. Many generations of Portuguese have adorned their surroundings with lovely touches, from tooled leather to inlaid wood to faux stone painting. Perhaps most marvelous of all are the ajulejos, or tiles. Especially in Lisbon, building after building is covered in decorative tile. Repeating patterns and wonderful textures and colors abound as far as the eye can see.

Composição, a tile panel by Querubim Lapa (b 1925)

The Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon houses quite a scholarly collection that covers the history of tile-making in Portugal, from its Moorish roots up though very conceptual contemporary works. The pieces that most enchanted me were 20th century works, in particular tile panels made by Querubim Lapa. Stunning. 

The facade advertises the cuisine at this fish restaurant

From subway walls to simple townhouses, restaurants to churches, examples of tiles of all qualities, colors and styles dazzle your senses.

I came home with a camera bursting with colorful images of the rich and sometimes over-the-top drama of Portuguese decorative art, often made more soulful by the wear of time and the layering of texture.  I'm looking forward to taking some of these lovely and time-honored inspirations and putting a new spin on them!

A modern building in Lisbon. Tile detail shown below.