The Old-Fashioned Floors Joanna Gaines Was Thrilled To Uncover On Fixer Upper

Joanna Gaines loves a good tile, as is evidenced by her many renovations in "Fixer Upper" and its spinoffs. For example, she used vintage-inspired penny tiles in "Fixer Upper: The Hotel" and experimented with loud, gold and white zellige wall tiles in "Mini Reni 02." While there have been plenty of stunning floor design choices on "Fixer Upper," the iconic Magnolia designer might have a new favorite tile to experiment with, and that is pressed volcanic ash. Gaines uncovered the unusual material in her new show, "Fixer Upper: The Lakehouse," where she and her husband Chip Gaines renovate a 1960s lakehouse on Lake Waco. When Chip removed the flooring in the den, what was revealed underneath was a black and white checkered tile made from pressed volcanic ash. "Where has this been all my life?" Joanna asked while inspecting the vintage tile. "I think this is my new favorite thing in the house." 

Volcanic ash tiles are typically ceramic or porceliantiles that are topped off with a volcanic ash glaze, giving them a rich, gritty texture. The glazes use different amounts and grit sizes of ash, ensuring that no two tiles end up looking the same. This creates a unique, handmade look, which is what makes it look so "organic" to Joanna. Below is a deeper dive into the rare tile.

Why Joanna loves volcanic ash tiles

Volcanic ash has been used since ancient times, most notably appearing in Mayan pottery and Roman concrete, the latter of which was used to build iconic structures like the Parthenon. It's not a terribly common building material in modern days, which is what makes it so special to find in old homes. "Let me tell you why I love it," Joanna said in the episode. "I love the pattern because, you know I love black and white, but it feels a little more varied where it feels kind of organic. I love whatever those pieces are that you find in pressed volcanic ash." Chip mentioned that it looked like terrazzo flooring, and that those pieces were centuries-old sediment. This delighted Joanna, who thought that fact turned the tile into a conversation piece to talk about with guests. To which Chip replied, "You could talk about the dinosaurs! Those sediment specks tell a complete story."

Finding volcanic ash tile is difficult nowadays. Notably, one brand has become the leading expert in creating such tiles, and that is Dzek + Formafantasma. The design firm released the volcanic ash glazed tile collection called ExCinere. Due to its rarity, investing in volcanic ash glaze tiles can be pretty pricey. The pieces in the ExCinere collection run for $161.25/ square foot.

How to style volcanic ash tiles

If you're fortunate enough to live in a house that has volcanic ash tiles, you can use them as the foundation for all sorts of room designs. That's exactly what Joanna thought when she first saw it uncovered. "It's gonna be such a great first layer for the rest of the building blocks in this room," she told Chip. Joanna planned to use it to create a midcentury modern style space, pairing the black and white tile with cherry wood wall paneling, a built-in green sofa, and a retro malm fireplace. But if midcentury modern isn't your style, you can pair it with others as well.

Since it's textured and organic, it also works great with wabi-sabi interior design, which focuses on earthy accents, minimalist color palettes, and lots of texture. On the other hand, due to its checkered tile design, this would also look wonderful with traditional tastes, mimicking black and white marble tiles but in an earthier, less polished way. It would look just as great with antique furniture in rich wood tones as it would with MCM pieces.