Tin Renaissance

Posted by Jac Slaney on

We've fallen in love with antique tin tiles from US and would like to share their interesting history.

Tin tiles were introduced to the USA in 1800s as an affordable way to mimmic the ornate plaster ceilings, covings, cornices and wainscots found in European houses. These architectural elements became very popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, leading to the development of around forty five US tin companies in the nineteenth century. Whilst easy, quick and cheap to install the added benefit of their fire retardant nature added to their appeal.

Designers were commissioned to create elaborate patterns that formed expansive ornate ceilings cleverly echoing the continental style. Designs varied from geometric to ornate swagged flourishes. Typically, a palette of white and creams dominated, whilst green, ochre and rust were also popular.

Sheets of tin plate were pressed over a cast iron decorative mould to create a patterned metal in relief. The metal was then painted to evoke plasterwork. The light weight tin tiles were easy to install adding to their fashionable status.


Salvaging original tin tiles is a specialised job as the tiles are fragile and can easily be damaged. We have found a reliable source who scours the US for hidden stocks and then imports them for us.


Now highly covetable, the antique tiles are salvaged and mounted as individual pieces of architectural history with a strong aesthetic and tactile appeal.


Each is different depending on its history and position in a room.


Simply framed in a rustic style, with raw edges and nails, the tiles and shelving are easy to hang. 

The tiles and shelves are in lovely old condition with an attractive old paint patina, naturally created through age.  The tile has been wrapped over a timber frame - for a close fit just hang the wooden frame on a picture pin.

The tin coving is transformed into unique shelving with a rustic timber shelf on the top and simple fittings on the back for a flush fit.  Please study the photographs.


What can I do with a tin tile?

There are numerous easy and stylish ways to use antique tin tiles in your room.


Hang one on its own as a piece of architectural history - with its texture, colour and detail it makes an interesting talking point. Choose a tile that compliments your wall colour - a close match will be more harmonious whilst a strong contrast more dynamic: considering opposites on the colour wheel can be helpful.



Build a facia with tin tiles and create a unique surface and design.

Hang a small group as if they were paintings. We’ve hung them almost as bookends, with an array of personal objects and framed finds, with the shelves showcasing small sculptures.


They make great splash backs above basins. We advise selecting ones that don’t have flaking paint, otherwise it could get quite messy!


Mount one above your mantlepiece and create an intriguing backdrop for your favourite things.

Create a patterned headboard out of old tiles.

A curated group of tiles can cover an entire wall making a statement feature wall.



Antique covings transformed into shelving look fabulous on their own or for a stronger statement add a coordinating tile behind.

And of course you could cover your ceiling with them!



With the shift in design to focus on more sustainable living, these antique tin tiles are not only ethically sourced, but also are recyclable. 

Have fun developing your own ideas with these versatile pieces of history and do share your ideas. We love to see what our clients create.


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