Villa del Greco
Part 4: A Medallion Becomes Brilliant

We’ve already discussed the process that led to the Smith garden redesign, including the Moorish star motif that was repeated throughout the landscape. But how did the luscious, rich tile patterns actually come to be pieced together? That’s a story unto itself.

As I’ve mentioned, the original intersection of the primary and secondary axes of the garden was anchored with a tile compass that had been installed in the 1990’s, replacing what probably had been a fountain. The compass was woefully off-center; north was…well, quite a bit west of where it should have been…something which bothered the homeowner every time she passed by. This had to be rectified, as no proper compass should lean askew.

Tiled compass at intersection of primary and secondary axes - before
Tiled compass at intersection of primary and secondary axes – before

As the design developed, rather than merely right the compass directionally, we decided to replace it altogether with a medallion in the shape of a Moorish star, matching the tile used throughout the project.

Tear sheet (with a few notes) from NS Ceramics - custom-colored Busby and Gilbert and Andalusian tiles
Tear sheet (with a few notes) from NS Ceramic – custom-colored Busby and Gilbert and Andalusian tiles

The key to designing a tile pattern is to “unhook” your brain—don’t over think the arrangement. Gather a range of tile sizes, colors, and patterns, and then shift them around until you like what you see. Solid color tiles will make the patterned tiles “pop,” and varying the tile widths will add interest. With input from the homeowner, we created at least 20 iterations of the medallion’s layout, layering the rich blues, yellows, greens and whites until they felt just right.

Our final design for the medallion
Our final design for the medallion

Pedro and Amado set the tile, with lots of input from Ariel and I on where to make cuts, how to match pattern, and how to bring a corner together.

tile medallion layout

As the pattern progresses out from the center, the star morphs into an octagon then back into a star.

We left the existing circular path around the compass intact
We left the existing circular path around the compass intact
The finished tile pattern was bounded with a border of salvaged brick that fans outward, expansive and inviting.
The finished tile pattern was bounded with a border of salvaged brick that fans outward, expansive and inviting
New tile medallion looking southeast towards refurbished courtyard fountain at southern terminus of primary axis
New tile medallion looking southeast towards refurbished courtyard fountain at southern terminus of primary axis

These very same tile patterns have been in production for hundreds of years, so the overall feeling is both familiar and fresh, enlivening what had been a long-neglected space.

New tile medallion looking northeast towards refurbished rill and sunken fountain and restored statue of Baby Bacchus at the easterly terminus of the secondary axis
New tile medallion looking northeast towards refurbished rill and sunken fountain and restored statue of Baby Bacchus at the easterly terminus of the secondary axis

The medallion was no small project: after design was complete, prepping the 6-foot area, setting the tile, and sealing it with grout took about a week.

Are you doing any tile work in your garden?  We’d love to see photos!

xoxo,
Margie


Sneak peak into our next blog post…

Details: Multi-functional Pieces from Dot and Bo


Dot and Bo


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