Delft Tiles Are Back In Vogue—And They’re As Charming As Ever


blue and white delft by plain english in a kitchen

Delft by Plain English is a five-piece tile collection featuring designs inspired by antique tiles that decorate the founder’s own home. Children Playing I (background) and Sea Creatures.

Sometimes inspiration is right under one’s nose. Or in the case of Tony Niblock, co-founder of kitchen manufacturer Plain English, it was right over his Aga range, where an assortment of antique Delft tiles is proudly displayed.

Niblock first started collecting the blue- and-white squares after spotting them at a historic house in Yoxford, England, in the 1990s. Now, that passion has grown beyond adorning his own home and evolved into the company’s latest offering, Delft by Plain English—a collection of handmade, hand-painted tiles inspired by his findings. “There’s a freshness about the color combination, isn’t there?” posits co-founder Katie Fontana. “And it’s so wonderful that there’s been a renewed interest and understanding around Delft tiles.”

The tin-glazed earthenware tiles have been synonymous with the Netherlands since the 17th century when, impervious to heat or water, they became a functional—and charming—wall decoration for homes, public buildings and palaces across Europe. Plain English’s interpretation features figurative depictions of daily life, like children skipping, as well as fantastical scenes including a mermaid admiring her reflection—all in keeping with eclectic British style that is now back in vogue. “There is a naivete about them that people find appealing,” remarks Niblock.