Mosaic Decor: In With the Old

It is said that history repeats itself – A truism from fashion to auto design. It seems that what was once in vogue will eventually return to popularity. How many times have you heard someone say "Do not throw that out, it will be 'in' again in ten years." Admit it most of you have a few choice items hanging in your closet, with the faint hope that the Dynasty or Miami Vice look will meander its way back into the mainstream.

We see the same trends in commercial and residential architecture and décor. Arched facades, tapestries, pillars and columns, are all reminiscent of styles that have repeated themselves from times of antiquity.

So what's next? Perhaps we need look no further for inspiration than, say, the 4th century BC – and the advent of mosaic art. When we hear the word mosaic, many of us think of small square tiles, often used in bathrooms and typically installed in monochromatic sheets. True mosaic art could not be more different.

Originally ancient artists formed their mosaics from water-smoothed pebbles, then from non-symmetrical pieces such as broken pottery and other scrap material. The mosaic would be a picture, perhaps a landscape, or mythological event. Churches throughout Europe incorporate intricate mosaics in their ceilings, walls, columns and floors depicting biblical events.

No one can say exactly when or precisely where the art of mosaic was born, but there is evidence of this form regaining popularity throughout the ages by various civilizations. The Greeks developed the first school for mosaic artisans. Originally created to decorate floors, the Romans took the popularity of the art to new heights using mosaics to decorate their walls. Archaeological evidence in Pompeii suggests that even common people would have simple mosaics adorning the walls of their homes. Over the centuries mosaics have experienced renewed popularity time and time again.

Far from little bathroom tiles, today's incarnation of mosaics are the works of art so valued in previous ages. Intricate pictures and designs in motifs from ancient to contemporary genres, the mosaic can make a unique addition to almost any décor.

Dean Avey, owner of Artisan Mosaics in Toronto, Canada, points out that mosaic can find their way into almost every room of your home, as floor or wall coverings. His gallery displays a wide variety of mosaics, in various sizes and shapes. "All made meticulously by hand," boasts Avey. Artisan carries a wide range of mosaic sizes that can be used in small applications such as the centrepiece of a kitchen backsplash on up to mammoth mosaic carpets with the look and feel of an Oriental rug. Most of Artisan's mosaics are made from tiny, hand-cut pieces of marble, in a variety of textures. According to Avey, tumbled marble and slate mosaics are currently in vogue, as well as highly polished almost seamless patterns that are reminiscent of Italian wood inlay.

The practicality of ceramic tile, and its ever-increasing array of colour and texture choices, makes it popular with home and business owners. The status of hardwood flooring, for its warmth and richness, is also at a peak. Setting mosaic medallions or 'emblemata' within your tiles or hardwood is certain to set your choice of floor covering apart.

Mosaic carpets offer the rich beauty of a Persian rug in formal areas and foyers, with the practicality of stone for durability and ease of cleaning. The mosaic carpet has the added safety benefit of being set flush with the floor – particularly valuable in high traffic areas, and in spaces where accessibility is important.

Beautiful and practical, the mosaic is ideal for walls in kitchens and baths. No need for rooms that require frequent clean-ups to look clinical or utilitarian. Mosaics will add warmth and charm to these spaces where typically little art is found. Outdoors mosaics can be used in swimming pools and fountains, or as the centrepiece of a porch or patio.

Commercial applications are limitless. Restaurants and hotels, business foyers, and elegant restrooms; all will welcome the air of distinction mosaic art can bring to their décor. "Custom insignias will be popular with businesses, clubs and institutions," says Avey, whose company will custom order a mosaic of your crest, coat of arms, or business logo.

The revival of mosaics means authentic art will find its way into less conventional spaces, like floors and patios, bathrooms and kitchens, as well as in commercial applications; a welcome opportunity for professional decorators, home and business owners. So once again, it is in with the old, the really, really old …