In conversation with: Damla Turgut

Damla Turgut is the founder and creative director for Otto Tiles & Design. Here she outlines the latest collection and why she loves the imperfect.

Can you describe the Otto style? In a few words, contemporary with a rustic touch, those are the two pillars of our design essence. We love the imperfect and reclaimed look in a contemporary context. Life itself is imperfect and not so smooth and seamless at all, that’s why perfectly smooth, shiny and glossy looks don’t fit us. Our tiles are not fabricated, they are all handmade and unique.

Terracotta and white zellige tiles

As well as other options you sell both encaustic and zellige tiles, why do you think they have such enduring appeal?

Let’s look at encaustic tiles first. These tiles are timeless and have been around for centuries. What makes them so appealing is that they are highly versatile and customisable. If you look at these types of tiles historically, artisans across the globe have captured the trends of the time through their application of pattern and colour. You can create so many styles with a single material from Victoriana to Turkish to highly abstract and contemporary. Their durability also stands out, it’s one of the best assets of these type of tile.

With zellige, again you have a classic design and something that is by its nature very authentic. When we first introduced zellige and bejmat tiles to the UK market, I was a little bit concerned about the potential customer base. The manufacturing process of zellige tiles is very traditional. The clay is  moulded by hand and they are hand chisled and glazed which means no two tiles are the same. Because of this rustic authenticity I had thought they maybe seen as a niche product that would only attract a particular customer. However, something quite interesting happened and our British customers vastly embraced and used them in a very different and creative way.

People were looking for something unique, something different, whilst still being timeless. They combined them with different styles, and I can honestly say, I have seen a new and fresh way of using zellige tiles that was born in the UK. I think our love affair with zellige tiles has only just begun and it seems it won’t fade in the foreseeable future.

Damla, “We love the imperfect.”

Are you noticing a revived interest in the use of pattern and colour in the home?

Yes, we certainly are. I think there a number of reasons behind this, including COVID-19. The pandemic, without doubt, accelerated our process of re-examining and rethinking our interiors. People suddenly realised that the places where we would spend our whole day needed to be more spacious, more lively and psychologically more supportive. This has led to people making braver design choices and our interior spaces becoming more colourful and more expressive. I think this is one of the major reasons for reviving interest in pattern and colour usage at home.

In the UK are we becoming more adventurous in the way we use tiles?

Definitely, yes. I can say we are bolder and more confident than ever to experience something new. ‘Safe’ colours like black, white, green and blue, along with the simple geometric or floral patterns are still best sellers. However, there is an ascending trend when it comes to asymmetrical patterns with opposite or adjacent colours.

We are seeing customers choose a combination of styles, sometimes clashing. And, I would say we’re mainly seeing this in bathroom designs. I think Instagram and Pinterest have allowed people to become their own interior designer. They’re inspired to create and recreate and we see this daily in so many posts that customers tag us in of their stunning projects.

Duo Brown Stripes tiles from Otto

Tell me a bit about your latest collection?

The latest Otto Tiles & Design collection has a strong focus on encaustic tiles this season, but we also have new additions to our artisan terrazzo and zellige and bejmat ranges. As you may have noticed, we love stripes and geometry, they’re a bit of a signature of the brand and they make up a lot of our new designs. As with last season, inspiration for some of the designs comes from my home country of Turkey and the serene beaches and crystal clear waters that I missed due to the pandemic. But for AW colours are more muted and we see a lot of neutrals, desaturated pastels and moody blues.

Where do you source Otto tiles?

Otto Tiles & Design has three major sources and exclusive manufacturers for our tiles. Our encaustic cement tiles are produced in Turkey. The moulds are all handmade, unlike the CNC machine cut ones most of our competitors use. The moulds and the tiles are made by Armenian artisans who have been producing these moulds for generations. Skills that have been passed down and are celebrated. Our Zellige and Bejmat tiles are handmade in Morroco and our terrazzo tiles come from Northern Italy. All of the tiles are made using recycled materials with little to no heat used in the manufacturing process to ensure our carbon footprint is as low and we’re as sustainable as possible.

What do you think the next big tile trend will be?

It is really difficult to purify yourself from your personal preferences when answering a question like this. I think design in general is becoming more and more human and function centric. Cosiness and intimacy along with boldness and individuality are key. In this context, I think the next big tile trend will be to perhaps create patchworks or murals on walls or floor. Rather than just placing pre-patterned tiles, the trend will be to create your own individual large scale design using geometric and abstract patterns creating something very unique to your home.

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