Has Elegance Just Collided With a Rich But Unadorned History?

A designer-oriented company called Custom Saltillo International (C.S.I.) Certainly thinks so. And the name of their company says exactly what they do – custom colored saltillo tiles. The Mexican wall and floor paver business is seeing a surge as designers, builders and home owners alike are once again expressing their appreciation (and loyalty) to Spanish Colonial and Santa Fe architecture. Of course this does not mean that one has to own a Spanish estate to have some fun with saltillo tiles. After all, C.S.I.’s mission statement says: “Custom Saltillo International has injected itself into the rich history of the tile industry. As Mexican pavers were among the first tiles [manufactured] its only natural that CSI be the first to customize this legendary product, adding elegance to a history of rustic distinction.”

It was in the late 16th century that the first permanent Spanish settlers began to fortify their scattered locations throughout the gulf region of the United States. Strongly influenced by Native-American techniques, frontier priests manifested their way through the Southwest constructing what we identify today as missions. These centers of worship were constructed with whatever materials were available. A significant component in this plan was the use of sun-dried clay tiles on the floor. Clay (dirt) was cheap and so was natural solar energy. Little did they realize that 400 years later, some of the most elite homes in the world would be imitating their “design.”

Formed by the merging of two tile companies in San Diego, Custom Saltillo International combines import/export experience with over 20 years of Mexican paver finishing and refurbishing. CSI has quite possibly changed the Mexican paver business forever. “Colored saltillo is refreshing. CSI takes an already beautiful Mediterranean product and splashes it with color. I use color to either warm or cool a space.” – Michael Gomez, Architect (President West Starr Custom Homes, Tucson, AZ.) Rustic by design, the beauty and characteristics of these tiles include variations in size and texture. CSI stains and seals the tiles by hand in California. Any color you choose to match any decor arrives, ready for installation. Some of the more popular color that CSI has stained has been what is known as the rugby colors: burgundy, navy blue, forest green, etc. “although lime green has come across our production line quite a few times,” says Charlotte MacIlraith, co-owner.