Tile was used extensively throughout the design of a private residence in Santa Barbara, CA. Green and white ceramic tile was used for a dome outside, and white and purple tile was used for the outdoor barbecue.  Shelton explained that the tile used for the dome were 4-by-6-inch "off-the-shelf" pieces which were cut on site.


According to the architect, the design started with the kitchen and progressed from there. "We ended up using a mostly cooler color palette for the ceramic tiles so that we could introduce warm-colored lampshades, draperies and furnishings," he said.

Private Residence: Santa Barbara, CA
Architect:Jeff Shelton Architect, Santa Barbara, CA
Tile Manufacturers: California Pottery Tile, Los Angeles, CA (custom ceramic tile); Original Mission Tile, San Luis Potosi, Mexico (cement tile)
Contractor: Dan Upton
Tile Installer: Juan Rios


An assortment of tile - including various shapes, sizes and colors - was essential in creating the vibrant design of a four-story residence in Santa Barbara, CA. While the walls throughout the home extensively make use of colorful, customized, ceramic pieces, the floors feature decorative cement tiles. The entire house was designed to reflect the Andalucian style of architecture - and the selected tile products were a key in achieving this desired goal.

However, before the selection process for the materials palette began, the type of structure that would sit on the 20-by-20-foot parcel of land had to be decided. Dealing with the unusually small lot presented somewhat of a challenge, according to architect Jeff Shelton of Jeff Shelton Architect in Santa Barbara. In making the plans, he first planned the stairs along with the exits and garage, followed by the rest of the home.

Once the structural details were worked out, it came time to choose the tile. “Tile is a giant part of [the design],” said Shelton. “The design was influenced by Spain, and the tile is a great jewelry. We really used color and expression.”

"Tile is a giant part of [the design]," said Shelton. "The design was influenced by Spain, and the tile is a great jewelry. We really used color and expression."

Shelton explained that his clients gave him minimal direction on the design of their home. “They left it all up to me,” he said. “They wanted a blue stove, storage for wine and books, and they wanted tile.”

According to the architect, the design started with the kitchen and progressed from there. “We ended up using a mostly cooler color palette for the ceramic tiles so that we could introduce warm-colored lampshades, draperies and furnishings,” he said. “The tile work played a bigger part on this project than most. We used a lot of handmade tile from California Pottery Tile [in Los Angeles]. They custom-made all of the pieces - some are solid tiles used in patterns and others are patterns designed specifically for the project.”

Shelton went on to say that he put the design together one piece at a time. “The wall tile has a real strong use of wainscot - up to 5-1/2 feet,” said the architect. “It’s a traditional use. Then I started to play with pattern - more zigzag - which plays off the stairs. It helps you climb up the building. It has a lot of movement.”

One particularly intricate part of the design was the tiles that cover the arched openings at the entry. These were custom-made to wrap around an elliptical arch that was produced using a shaped 3D form. “How the patterns came together was a challenge,” explained Shelton. “It is easy to draw, but to actually do it is another thing. [The installers] had their work cut out for them. I was there every day. My office is about a block away from the job.”

Shelton went on to say that, "The wall tile has a real strong use of wainscot – up to 5 1/2 feet," said the architect. "It's a traditional use. Then I started to play with pattern – more zigzag... It helps you climb up the building. It has a lot of movement."

Complementing the colorfully clad tile walls are decorative 12-by-12-inch cement tiles - featuring various floral patterns - that were fabricated by Original Mission Tile of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. “If you go to Mexico or Spain, you see them everywhere,” said Shelton. “They are not fired ceramic tiles, but they are very durable. Original Mission Tile is a fantastic company. They are responsive and flexible, and they can reproduce any pattern I give them.”

Tile was used from the garage all the way up to the fourth floor, according to the architect. Additionally, green and white ceramic tile was used for a dome outside, and white and purple tile was used for the outdoor barbecue. Shelton explained that the tile used for the dome were 4-by-6-inch “off-the-shelf” pieces which were cut on-site. “I wanted something really durable, and I wanted solid colors.”

The bright color palette and varying shapes and sizes of tile create a unique and refreshing residential design. They also were successful in bringing a Spanish flair to the home. The project won First Prize in the residential category of the Spectrum Awards, awarded during Coverings 2007 in Chicago, IL. The competition celebrates creativity and achievement in the use of tile in residential and commercial projects.