Antique French Terra Cotta Tiles

Antique French Terra Cotta Tiles

Perfect plinths for your pampered plants and objects.

Our quest to provide antique building materials for a private residence in the States took us to France. Prior to the trip we’d spent weeks researching stone and acquiring dozens of samples. We decided on a reclaimed stone called Pierre de Bourgogne, from a reclamation yard near Aix-en-Provence.

When we arrived at the yard we met Hervé, a young man in his early 30s. Behind him and off to the side stood a very senior man who stood like a stone himself, with no emotion or eye contact. We were not introduced.

Hervé didn’t speak English, we didn’t speak French, and the older gentleman seemed unable to speak at all. We talked through translators. It was very businesslike.

I took the tile sample Hervé had sent us out of my pack and began comparing it to the crates of stone to insure their patina matched. A word about the sample: It was divine. It was cut from stone used in the floor of a home, stable, warehouse, or government building; polished smooth by 100+ years of scrubbing and foot traffic; like no other surface you have ever felt or seen. I went from crate to crate and it was apparent that much of the stone in the crates had come from exterior locations and lacked the rich patina we’d traveled four-thousand miles for.

As soon as I pulled the tile sample out of my pack the older gentleman came alive, studying me with great interest. He needed no translator to read my body language. I was not happy. After I inspected about ten crates he strode over with great authority and thrust his hand out to inspect my sample. He took the tile, rubbed the surface, burst into laughter and said “cette est magnifique!” We all laughed in shared appreciation for the beautiful stone. And we’d won the man’s respect by demonstrating we knew how to discern good stone from truly great stone. He decided we were not ugly Americans. The man. Hervé’s father, went by the nickname Lull. He’d begun reclaiming building materials just after World War II. It was his life’s work and it was clear he loved it.

He showed us his entire operation in great detail, presenting his collection of exquisite antique Pierre de Bourgogne, antique Barr, concrete floor tiles, reclaimed Jerusalem limestone and of course wonderful reclaimed 18th-19th century terra cotta floor tiles.

By the end of the morning Lull promised that he would fill our crates with majority of interior stone. Lull would not allow us give him the predetermined deposit until he took us to lunch at his favorite restaurant -- an hour’s drive past endless fields of sunflowers and intoxicating lavender.  Four hours later we were still at lunch, drinking his private stock of Armagnac.  

When the containers arrived in Virginia it was apparent Lull had lovingly hand selected every single stone; virtually all had the beautiful patina that spoke to us across time and cultures.  Lull has since passed away, but I have many more Lull stories for another blog.

We have a limited number of French, 19th Century terra cotta floor tiles from Lull’s collection. We use these marvelous reclaimed tiles as plinths for pampered plants and objets d’art. I clean and wax them then put tabs on the bottom so they don’t scratch surfaces.

+/- 7”x7”, 13”x6.5” and 6”x6” 19

Found Objects Ltd.