One of the big appeals of using tiles in the home is that they combine a unique aesthetic beauty with important functionality, and few designs have embodied that more than the mosaic effect tile.
A sheet of smaller tiles assembled on a transparent array,mosaic effect tiles are a practical and exceptionally unique way to style a shower, bathroom or kitchen, but the principle behind them is older than you might expect, going as far back as mosaic’s most famous creators.
Whilst tiles themselves dates as far back as 13,000 years ago if evidence found at Chogha Zanbil is anything to go by, mosaics are an Ancient Greek art form that would eventually be co-opted by the conquering Romans.
Most people know about mosaics, but there were actually two different types of mosaic design that were made, one of which shows that what people know today as “mosaic effect” was used just as often as mosaics themselves.
The first style was opus tesselatum, which is the standard way of making mosaics to this very day. Tiles are cut or broken down into tiny cubes or tesserae and are assembled and laid on-site, as you would any tiling job.
It was the most popular way to do it because it was simple and at a scale where most people could at least try it, but there was an alternative approach.
The other style, opus vermiculatum involved mosaics that were made ahead of time in a workshop onto sets of tiles that were then themselves glued into place once on site.
The reason for this is that opus vermiculatum used extremely tiny tiles, some of which were less than 4 millimetres long and were famous for the high level of detail they provided, allowing for mosaics that almost looked like paintings at a distance.
The latter style as an art form was an unfortunate victim of social and artistic changes in Rome. The extreme detail of opus vermiculatum was not needed for the more impressionistic mosaics seen in the first Century AD that looked great from a distance and would be abandoned entirely by the fourth century.
In any case, the smaller form of tiles we see today in modern showers trace their techniques back to the intimate detailing of some of the finest mosaics ever crafted.