My March Madness: Portuguese Tiles

Azulejos Penha Longa

My new year’s resolution to surround myself with things that make me happy continues! After January’s luxurious soaps and February’s cork bags, it’s time for March’s happiness-inducing obsession: azulejos, Portugal’s beautiful tiles. This month, I’m making it my mission to introduce azulejos into my life in subtle and creative ways that don’t involve me grouting a single tile into my house (I rent, so technically it’s not my house and I’m also not allowed to tile it). How, you ask? With a little Portuguese creativity!

Some background on azulejos: They were initially brought to Portugal around 1498, when King Manuel I visited Spain and fell in love with the geometric Moorish tiles he found there. By the time they reached Portugal, they took on a more “European” influence. At the height of the Portuguese Discoveries, themes included globes (symbols of maritime expansion) and florals. The 16th century Renaissance also influenced the style of the tiles: less geometric, more human and religious figures and allegorical themes. Many styles of azulejos developed over the next few centuries and tiles were used for both interior and exterior design, including large panels and entire walls. The prevalence of azulejos spread throughout the Portuguese colonies, where many of the original decorative tiles still exist today. The colors used eventually focused heavily on blue (influenced from the blues in Chinese porcelain). Yellow is still a popular secondary color to the blue; green is the third most popular color. Brown on azulejos is rarer but not unheard of.

So how do I bring azulejos into my life without mounting a single tile? Firstly, as my wedding theme. I took a photo of the tiles from the venue and used them as inspiration not only for the color scheme (blue and yellow) but also on the save the dates, invitations, etc. The beauty of azulejos is that they never go out of style! But what if you’re not planning a wedding but want to include azulejos in other ways? Consider having tile detailing or decorations on a birthday cake, or creating pretty address labels using an image of your favorite tiles from your Portugal vacation.

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Another subtle way I’m adding azulejos to my life is thanks to my amazing mom who bought me some azulejo-print fabric. Fabric offers me lots of flexibility which means I haven’t quite yet decided what to do with it: cushion covers for my couch, a feature panel/board in my office, a runner for a dining table, a cute skirt for spring? Again, technically it isn’t a tile, just an image of tiles, but it gives me so many options!

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El Corte Ingles azulejo ad

Inspiration from an ad by El Corte Ingles – using azulejo imagery in unusual ways

Lastly, I’m planning a visit to the famous Museu Nacional do Azulejo (the National Tile Museum) in a few weeks. Watch out for that post – it’ll feature some beautiful pictures to inspire you!

I’m so excited to be introducing azulejos into my life in fun ways that don’t involve any permanent changes (or serious manual labor). And even though I’m not permanently adding tiles to my house, I have a feeling the azulejo theme is here to stay!

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  • Becky B
    March 22, 2016 at 6:01 am

    Have you got to the museum yet? We went the other weekend and had a marvellous time. So so much to see, quite a few non Portuguese tiles too.

    • aportugueseaffair
      March 22, 2016 at 9:46 am

      I haven’t yet. It’s on my to-do list this week or early next week! I’m really looking forward to it, especially after reading your comment

      • Becky B
        March 22, 2016 at 11:46 am

        When you go just make sure you leave enough energy for the 3rd floor! ooh and my tip is if you have an android phone download the free guide app.

        • aportugueseaffair
          March 22, 2016 at 12:37 pm

          Thanks so much for the tips! I was actually just speaking to someone who mentioned how much they love that museum!

  • Blogger Collab with The Crafterpreneur – A Portuguese Affair
    April 10, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    […] You may recall that my March obsession was azulejo tiles, which I resolved to introduce into my life in new and creative ways. I decided […]

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