San Simeon style painted onto tiles made of wood

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Jacqueline Moore, a furniture restorer and decorative painter, felt the recession hit in 2009. Worried about the future of her business, she spent a day walking around Lotusland, the garden near Santa Barbara. She became intrigued by the Malibu tiles she saw there and was inspired to try tiles in her medium -- wood.

“I started sketching. It really kicked my interest,” Moore said one morning last week in her Santa Monica studio.


Using the research skills she gained doing restoration work, she sought out the wood, glazes and sealers that would make her tiles useful indoors and out. Though silver and gold leaf are too delicate for ceramic tile, she said, they can be used on wood.

Each handmade tile, she said, is like lasagna -- layers of Baltic birch and layers of design and finish. Twelve to 20 layers of conditioners, glazes, paints, inks and sealers are on the wood. The final step for each tile is a “secret sealer” to make it durable without altering the appearance. She even submerged some for two months and they were fine, she said.

Finding the right audience took time. Many people thought she was ‘mad as a hatter’ to make wood tiles, she said, adding that she has had to demonstrate to contractors that her tiles can withstand cleaning. There clearly was a method to her madness. She began working with her own designs, using colors she saw in Malaysia, Art Nouveau lines, black and gold Chinoiserie. And finally, she connected with Tilevera, a Sausalito manufacturer and distributor of the Hearst Castle Collection, which has tiles in several materials -- now including wood.

Of the thousands of images from the castle that she perused, it was Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan’s archives that caused Moore to “burst a blood vessel” in excitement and inspiration. But she chose not to reproduce Morgan’s drawings.

“I said, ‘Let’s not copy it.’ Can I sing a duet? I don’t want to sing her song,” Moore said.

Up to 7% of the proceeds from the Hearst Castle line, depending on the product, benefit the castle. Moore said that pricing varies given the custom nature of her work; more details are available through her studio.


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-- Mary MacVean

Photos, top, from left: The Hearst Celestial Fruitwood tile and the Driftwood Aloe Vera tile. Photo, middle (inset): Driftwood Anthemion. Credit: Tilevera

At bottom: Julia Morgan drawings from Hearst Castle, California State Parks-Hearst Castle Collection