Decorative Peranakan tiles have boomed in popularity over the past decade due to the interest in vintage and retro designs. Heavily patterned, they can be overwhelming if they cover too large an area.
So, if you decide to use them as flooring in any area of the home, make sure they are balanced out by plain and undecorated surfaces. For example, in the kitchen, they can be used on the floor or as a back splash in combination with cabinetry and countertops in one colour.
The same goes for the bathroom, where the usually white sanitary ware can counter a heavily patterned floor.
Peranakan Floor Tiles
Most people are unwilling to experiment with the flooring of their home. Sure, it’s not easy to change it up once you’ve committed to a particular type of material, but don’t underestimate the power of statement-making flooring!
Pictured above, colourful hand painted Peranakan tiles line the walls and flooring of a HDB flat’s entry way. Imagine such cheer and character greeting you each morning and evening as your pass through this foyer, in and out of the house!
The foyer of this house features concrete screed surfaces, graphic tiles and a colourful assortment of board games, sets the tone for the homeowner “play den” beyond.
Vintage Peranakan Tiles
Style your vintage Peranakan floor tiles with ornate or traditional furnishings (such as this old window frame) sparingly to make it pop among contemporary pieces. Pictured above, an original feature of the shophouse, the beautifully-carved display cabinet built into the wall now stores the couple’s stemware collection.
Peranakan Tile Bed Headboard
Prefer to keep your walls clean? Imbue Peranakan tiles in your furniture – think shelves, kitchen cabinet doors, or even bed headboards! The bedsheets are vintage-inspired and match the Peranakan tile bed headboard.
Bathroom Peranakan Tiles
The vibrant vintage Peranakan tiles are a cheerful addition to the bathroom of this home, bringing life to the grey space.
Camouflaging a mirror, the “window” reflects the colourful shower area, bringing an interesting depth of space to this bathroom designed by Singaporean celebrity, Jade Seah.
Kitchen Peranakan Floor Tiles
Peranakan or bohemian tiles can also give a vintage feel to the home when coupled alongside contemporary kitchen fittings, industrial elements and raw finishes such as concrete walls – such as this spacious yet cosy jumbo HDB flat in Woodlands pictured above.
Homeowners appreciate Peranakan tiles as decorative elements that add a touch of uniqueness and personality to their homes.
The popularity of Peranakan tiles is also tied to the broader interest in heritage conservation and the preservation of cultural traditions. Many homeowners seek to incorporate elements of local history and culture into their living spaces.
‘Peranakan Tiles Singapore’ by Anne Pinto-Rodrigues
Singapore-based writer and blogger Anne Pinto-Rodrigues is a tile enthusiast, who collaborated with leading tile collector, Victor Lim, to produce ‘Peranakan Tiles Singapore‘, a 200-page coffee table book that showcases the different types of tiles that came to the country in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
5 Places to view Peranakan Tiles in Singapore
She shares with us her favourite places in Singapore to view decorative ceramic tiles, and get up close to these works of art.
Eating at Bumbu is a multi-sensory experience. The restaurant serves a variety of Indonesian-Thai-Peranakan dishes and the food is complemented beautifully by the tasteful decor of the restaurant.
Owner Robert Tan has decorated the place with a variety of Peranakan-Chinese furniture and collectables including framed antique tiles, black-and-white photographs and ornate lighting fixtures. One is almost instantly transported to a bygone era. A treat for both your palate and your eyes!
Bumbu Restaurant is located at 44 Kandahar Street.
You cannot miss this building if you are walking along Dickson Road. The eclectic mix of tiles on its facade really makes the building stand out.
Today, it is home to the quirky Wanderlust Hotel but the building itself was built in the early 1900s, and has quite an interesting history. Old pictures of the building show that the façade was decorated with tiles even way back then and more tiles have been added over the years, giving it a very “rojak” feel (means: mixture in Malay).
Wanderlust Hotel is located at 2 Dickson Road.
English tiles were imported into Singapore as early as the 1890s and the Majestic is possibly the earliest example of the use of imported tiles on the façade of a public building. It was built by business magnate and philanthropist, Eu Tong Sen (1877-1941) for his wife who loved Cantonese opera.
The construction was completed in 1928 and it functioned as a Cantonese opera house until 1938. The elaborate tile panels you see on the front façade of the building are scenes from Cantonese operas.
The Majestic Shopping Mall is located at 80 Eu Tong Sen Street.
Bukit Brown Cemetery
As the earliest Chinese Municipal Cemetery in Singapore (opened in 1922), Bukit Brown has several tombs that are decorated with exquisite tiles. Some of the tiles here are very rare and the only ones of their kind in Singapore.
The cemetery closed in 1973 but the tombs and the tiles adorning them have survived the prolonged exposure to heat and humidity. Bukit Brown is a reminder of all the men who built Singapore – the rich and the powerful as well as those of humbler means.
Join guided tours to Bukit Brown Cemetery.
Aster by Kyra (Closed)
Victor Lim’s collection of tiles spans several decades and artistic styles. What started out as a teenage hobby for Victor is today a successful business venture, Aster by Kyra.
I would highly recommend a visit to the gallery for any genuine tile enthusiast. The gallery is open daily from 12-5pm. Victor has a colourful personality and likes to educate people about tiles.
The former Aster by Kyra was located at 168 Telok Ayer Street.
Part of this article first appeared in Silverkris.