Grey tiles: the unspoken hero of industrial design

Away from the spotlight and the glitter, a humble and discreet material is proving to be a real hero of industrial design: grey tile. Often overlooked, or even considered banal, it nevertheless deserves well-deserved recognition for its essential role in creating functional, aesthetic and sustainable spaces. What role does grey tile play in interior design?

Grey tiles: a discreet but essential hero

The history of industrial design is closely linked to the rise of grey tile. From the beginning of the 20th century, architects and designers understood its potential and incorporated it into their projects. The Bauhaus, a pioneering movement in modern design, made a major contribution to the popularisation of grey tile, using it to create spaces that were both functional and minimalist. 

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From Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe to Eileen Grey and Charlotte Perriand, the great names of design have all succumbed to the seduction of grey tile. Click here have more information.

Even today, grey tiles continue to inspire designers. Architects such as Tadao Ando and Zaha Hadid use it to sculpt spectacular volumes, while designers such as Patricia Urquiola and India Mahdavi incorporate it into their interiors. Grey tile is no longer simply a building material; it has become an essential element of contemporary architectural and decorative language.

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Concrete examples of remarkable architecture and design using grey tiles

There are many concrete examples that illustrate the creative potential of grey tiles. It is a material that is inextricably linked with the world of industrial construction.

Architecture

The Villa Savoye (Le Corbusier, 1931) is an iconic example of modernism, using grey tile to emphasise the purity of lines and the beauty of volumes.

The Centre Pompidou (Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, 1977) also boasts a bold façade of steel columns and beams, enhanced by charcoal grey tiles.

Finally, we should mention the Tate Modern (Herzog & de Meuron, 2000): a former power station transformed into a museum of modern art, where grey tiles create a minimalist, industrial atmosphere.

Design

In terms of industrial design, Patricia Urquiola's "Hex" collection for Mutina (2016) features hexagonal grey tiles with geometric patterns. They're perfect for creating dynamic floors and walls.

Then there's Eero Saarinen's "Tulip" table (1956): a modern design classic, with a white marble top and a grey-painted cast aluminium central leg.

Then there's Arne Jacobsen's "AJ" floor lamp (1960), an iconic minimalist design with a grey steel shade and cast aluminium base.

Breaking down preconceptions

Grey tile is often the victim of persistent preconceptions. Some people see it as cold and austere, while others see it as suitable for industrial environments. It's time to break down these preconceptions and recognise the true nature of grey tile: a versatile, elegant material that adapts to all styles.

Combined with warm materials such as wood or textiles, grey tile creates a unique atmosphere. In a minimalist context, it emphasises the purity of lines and the beauty of volumes. Used as a total look, it gives spaces a good deal of depth. The variety of textures and patterns available makes it possible to create unique atmospheres, from raw industrial style to the perfected Scandinavian look.

Conclusion

Grey tile is much more than just a covering. It's an essential element of industrial design, a high-performance, aesthetically pleasing material that offers an infinite range of creative possibilities. Its discretion and longevity make it a true hero of the shadows, an indispensable element in the creation of timeless, sustainable spaces.