My Tile Exploration Trip to Spain


June 30, 2022


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John McClain is an accomplished interior designer, speaker, writer, and on-air contributor who has turned his lifetime passion for interior design into an opportunity to do the same for others.

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Part of the protocol for an interior design professional is to continuously educate ourselves on our chosen profession. Sometimes this means a trade show, sometimes a webinar, and sometimes, if we’re really, really lucky, it means a trip to Valencia, Spain to dive into the intricacies of tile and its origin. Well, I must have won the lottery because I just returned from an amazingly educational (and dare I say, extremely fun!) visit to Spain to do just that. I was honored to be a part of the Tile of Spain’s Passport to Creativity group of designers, architects, and media/press to go to beautiful Valencia, Spain for a week of learning, beauty, and exploration of this gorgeous and design-driven city.

First, let me say this. Whatever you pay for tile. It’s not enough. After visiting almost a dozen factories and meeting the passionate owners and operators of these amazing Spanish tile companies, I left feeling as if I had visited a mom-and-pop shop that just happen to be 300,000 square feet. My group and I were so lucky to have personal tours of showrooms and factories led by these talented people (many of whom are generations of tile manufacturing families). I was struck by the love and care they included in their tours. You could feel that they not only wanted to make a living from making tile, they actually enjoyed it! I can relate to this so much on an entrepreneurial and design level and was smitten with so many of our lovely tour guides.

Secondly, the process of making tile completely bowled me over. I have to admit, I knew very little of the exact process before this trip, but after seeing the clay particles formed into a solid material, only to be air-dried, fired (and fired again), glazed, dried again, pattern added, and more, did I truly understand what goes into that package of tile we pick up from our local tile shop.

This type of hands-on learning is invaluable to an interior design professional and I am so ready to share my newfound knowledge with our clients (and you!).

My other takeaway was the care and time every manufacturer took to display their tile. These showrooms are works of art. Some even created full-scale models of shops, hotels, lobbies, bars, and more. It made so much sense to me to be able to view the specific applications of their tile in a space where it could be used. At John McClain Design, we love to use commercial-grade (read: durable and long-lasting) products in our residential clients’ homes. These showroom displays really blurred the lines between commercial and residential. I also witnessed some of the newest and hottest trends to hit the market including magnetic tile (!!), very realistic wood-look tile, and probably the best-looking porcelain tile to replicate marble that I have ever seen. Properly and beautifully displaying one’s products means so much to me, and it tells me that the manufacturer of these tiles understands the importance of a beautiful showroom in exquisitely showcasing their products.

So let me say this; This fabulous trip to Valencia could not have been better. The wonderful people representing Tile of Spain (I’m talking to you Jocelyn, Ryan, and Lori!) led our group through the most amazing and informative tours. Such care was taken to make sure that we all gained new knowledge of Spanish-made tile and I left with a new awareness and love for the people of Valencia and the intricate and complicated tile-making process.

Side note: the city of Valencia is GORG! If you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it. We were even privy to the grand opening preview of a fabulous architectural display in the city square and dinner afterward to chat with the designer/architect.

I left this inspiring city loving tile, travel, and counting my blessings that I work in the design industry. I made wonderful friends, ate fabulous food, and walked about 20K steps each day 😉

Tile, Spain, and Me – I love that trio.

Here are all of the incredible factories we toured during our visit:

Upon my return to the US, I had the opportunity to recap the trip with Ryan Fasan, Technical Consultant for Tile of Spain. Click below for the video:

PS: If you have any questions about what I saw and learned, please leave them in the comments below. I’m so happy to answer!


Till Next Time,

Happy Designs!

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John McClain is an accomplished interior designer, speaker, writer, and on-air contributor who has turned his lifetime passion for interior design into an opportunity to do the same for others.

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