Explore the rich history of terracotta

Discover how to bring the rustic warmth of terracotta into your home

Over time, some home fashions come and go as trends evolve, but there is one remarkable yet ‘everyday’ material that is far too beautiful, affordable and useful to be forgotten for long: terracotta. From classical sculptures to modern, minimalist pendant lights – the enduring appeal of this humble substance appears to know no bounds.

Countless designers and makers have embraced the fiery orange-hued clay of late. While trend-setting Danish brand Bloomingville has a new tableware collection featuring part-glazed terracotta pieces, up-and-coming designers such as Nick Fraser are creating contemporary products with this ancient material. Royal Doulton has just launched its new ‘Olio’ collection, which features terracotta pieces inspired by the salt-glazed clay pipes the firm once manufactured, and paint brand Valspar has also announced that ‘terracotta’ is a key colour for 2017.

1. Use wallpapers to cleverly mimic different materials and finishes, such as this distressed-effect design

Walls papered in ‘Affresco’, £169 per 10m roll, Lizzo. Tablecloth made in ‘Petits-Champs’ linen, £165.60 per m, Pierre Frey. ‘Rustic’ napkin, £7.99, Linen Me. Olive dish, £75, Maison Artefact. Reclaimed tiles, £18 each, Lassco. Tumblers, £42 for six, Raj Tent Club. Carafe, £125; jug, £245, both Maison Artefact. Side plates, £69 for three, Reiko Kaneko. Confit pots, from £100 each, The Old Cinema. Small pots, £8 each; gate panel, £450 for a pair, all Maison Artefact. Italian pot (just seen on right), £75, Petersham Nurseries. 

2. Enormous olive pots sit majestically beside the borders of an English garden. Set up a day bed and prop up a fine linen canopy shade to enjoy the last days of summer

Footed terracotta urn c1870 (far left), £3,360 for a pair, Westland London. Small terracotta olive jar, £200; large terracotta jar, £900; reclaimed tile, £18 each, all Lassco. Terracotta tumbler, £25, Reiko Kaneko. Raffia basket, £85, Ross & Brown. Antique day bed, £1,250, Nimmo & Spooner. On day bed: canopy made in ‘Eole’ linen, £84 per m, Pierre Frey; trim in ‘La Terre’ cut fringe, £72 per m, Samuel & Sons; find similar bamboo canes at Homebase; ‘Kalli’ long cushion cover, £59.95; ‘Kalli’ linen throw, £99.95, both Nkuku; ‘Rustic’ cushion covers, £24.99 each, Linen Me; chopping board, £30, The Old Cinema; early 19th-century terracotta bowl, £100, Andrew Bewick; mantra beads, £58, Petersham Nurseries. Footed urn on plinth (just seen) find similar at Westland London. Terracotta footed urn (far right), £2,650 for a pair, Guinevere. 

3. Indulge in the continental lifestyle by creating an undercover outdoor kitchen. A dark terracotta bowl glazed inside makes a relaxed sink and is complemented by a new pitcher. Terracotta roof tiles are reimagined into decorative wall lights

Walls papered in ‘Oh La La’ in ‘Sand’, £129 per 10m roll, Feathr. Lemon tree, £45, Petersham Nurseries. Hooks from a selection at Homebase. Early 1900s roof tile candle holders, £48 each, The Old Cinema. Shutters, £320 for two, Maison Artefact. ‘Rustic’ napkin, £7.99; stone-washed linen napkin, £8.99, both Linen Me. Chopping boards, from £30 each, The Old Cinema. Italian pot, £75, Petersham Nurseries. Terracotta pancheon bread bowl, £70, The Old Cinema. Linen tea towel, £12, Oggetto. Hand wash, £11.50, Petersham Nurseries. Jug, £65, Reiko Kaneko. Borneo backpack basket, £50, Olli Ella. 

4. Create space for charming clay figures of soldiers, ladies and attendants

French 19th-century folding table, £950, Maison Artefact. Terracotta figures, from £295 each; Tarentine Dionysus head, £275, all CJ Martin. Mantra beads, £58, Petersham Nurseries. 

5. Throw open the windows for a fresh, light-filled sitting room. Bare plaster walls work perfectly as a backdrop for the natural textures of terracotta. Introduce oversized busts of Grecian gods and bucolic antique amphora to enhance the sense of faded grandeur

Italian chair 1950s, £1,400 for a pair, Shane Meredith. Amphora in stand, £1,850, Andrew Bewick. Terracotta Zeus with column, £4,800, Guinevere. ‘Paloma’ wool rug, £245, Olli Ella. Antique primitive coffee table, £280, Puckhaber. On table: late 18th-century terracotta vase, £220; green terracotta urn, £240, both Maison Artefact; Tang ceramic jar, £495, CJ Martin; woven bowl, £265 for three, Raj Tent Club. ‘Isaac’ sofa, £2,040, Sofa.com. ‘Akriti’ cushion cover, £40, India May Home. Table, £950, Maison Artefact. Early 20th-century swan, £1,200; painting, £480, both Puckhaber. 

6. Fashion a tablescape using a variety of terracotta storage vessels from different periods and origins. Here, an oriental vase c1880 complements German rustic jugs from the 1960s 

French 19th-century folding table, £950, Maison Artefact. Antique book, £30, Puckhaber. German stoneware jugs c1960s, from £45 each, Petersham Nurseries. Terracotta relief, £195, CJ Martin. Chinese terracotta pot c1880, £650, Mackinnon Fine Furniture. 

7. Create an impressive Italianate entrance with a terracotta bust on a marbled plinth alongside an imposing olive tree rooted in a weathered terracotta planter

‘Antibes’ jute rug, £245, Olli Ella. Italian late 19th-century pedestal, £1,800, Shane Meredith. ‘Octavia’ bust, £1,900 for a pair, Guinevere. ‘Bohemian’ wall hanging, £45, India May Home. Curtain made in ‘Petits-Champs’ linen, £165.60 per m, Pierre Frey. Terracotta planter, £750, Lassco. Olive tree, £80, Homebase. 

The full feature on decorating with terracotta appeared in the September 2017 issue of Homes & Antiques. Back issues are still available. To purchase a copy click here.

Photographs: Katya De Grunwald
Twitter/Instagram: @katyadegrunwald 

Styling: Ali Attenborough


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