We’ve raved about our favorite handcrafted Moroccan beauties time and time again, but there is one type of zellige that is unlike the rest. Unglazed natural zellige swaps the classic zellige shine for an ultra-textured, matte appearance that gives a whole new meaning to “one-of-a-kind.” Not only is the surface completely different from typical glazed zellige, but the installation process differs as well. A few extra steps are totally worth it when you see how these stunning raw tiles transform your space.
Straight from the Moroccan desert, unglazed zellige tiles are recognizable for their organic appearance. If you want to take neutrals a step further and create a truly natural atmosphere, unglazed zellige is unmatched. The varying clay-based shades can complement any existing interior, and they are arguably the most versatile zellige tile. A total commitment to unadulterated terra-cotta, unglazed natural zellige is timeless and authentic. We’re going to break down the difference between glazed and unglazed zellige, and teach you how to increase the longevity of these unadulterated tiles.
When you get your boxes of unglazed zellige, the first step is to jump up and down with excitement! Okay, that step is optional, but we HOPE you’re over the moon when you see your tiles in person. Next, you’ll want to mix and match tiles from different boxes so you can get that perfectly imperfect signature zellige look. It’s well known that zellige tiles come with unique chips, pits, and hairline cracks, but unglazed zellige has even more natural variation from tile to tile. That means they only look better with wear over time!
Just like regular zellige, your installer should apply thinset to both the tiling surface and the back of each tile. You can choose to lay the tiles edge to edge with no grout joints, or you can use a thin grout line if you want to create a more even surface. After laying your tiles, you’re going to want to apply your first layer of sealant. Yep, that’s right! While glazed zellige does not require sealing, unglazed zellige does. This will ensure that it lasts over a long period of time, so you can enjoy your unglazed zellige for years to come. Just look at the zellige-based Moroccan architecture that still looks beautiful after centuries!
While contrasting grout might be trendy at the moment, unglazed zellige works best with a matching grout color. If you’re particularly concerned with the possibility of grout staining your tiles, ask your installer to use a grout bag so you don’t have to stress! Instead of spreading grout over the surface of the tile, using a grout bag is like icing a cake. Less cleanup means less chance of altering the natural appearance of the tiles. No matter how you choose to grout, always grout in small sections (2 feet by 2 feet) and wipe off the excess with a damp sponge immediately.
You’re almost done with your installation! Before you kick back and admire your (installer’s) hard work, unglazed zellige has to be sealed once more. You can use the same 511 Porous Plus Sealant, or if you want something a little more heavy-duty, we recommend the FILA Matt Wax Topical Sealer. Remember, natural also means porous, which is why this last step is so important! While roughing up the tiles over the years only adds character and charm, you want to avoid permanent damage and liquid staining. However, we have a little secret to share with homeowners who are stressed about major stains. Because the natural zellige is unglazed, you can actually sand it down to make it look as good as new if you get an unforgiving stain down the road.
Unglazed natural zellige represents everything we love about handmade tile. It is crafted by skilled artisans in the heart of Morocco. The art of zellige has been passed down for generations, and we are thrilled to make it accessible to a worldwide client base. We’ve never seen two installations that look exactly alike, and that’s what makes unglazed natural so special. If you want to create an interior that has never been seen before, unglazed zellige was (hand)made for you. Mesmerized by the magic of unglazed natural zellige? We can help you choose the best shape, size, and pattern for your project.