11 Examples of How to Incorporate Traditional Building Materials Into Your Modern Home

By Kate Reggev
Cement tiles, terrazzo, and exposed shiplap boards are just a few traditional building materials that are experiencing a resurgence.

Many architects and designers are choosing to implement historic building materials into their modern projects, but with a fresh, contemporary perspective. Take a look at these examples to see how they've either preserved original aspects of interiors—and designed around them—or installed updated versions of classic materials.

Cementitious Tiles

Also known as encaustic cement tiles, cementitious tiles originated in the 1850s in Catalonia, Spain, and spread to the United States after the turn of the 20th century. Its popularity began to wane in the 1920s. 

Unlike other types of tiles, cement tiles are not fired or glazed. Instead, the pigment is hydraulically-pressed into the surface. The result is a brightly-colored tile with a matte finish, rather than a glossy, light-reflecting surface.

The classic tile is being reborn in modern renovations and designs, covering floors and walls again—but this time, with more contemporary patterns and colors like geometric shapes and stripes. 


Terrazzo is another traditional building material that's seeing a resurgence, but with a modern spin. It was originally developed by builders in Venice, Italy, as a low-cost flooring option, and consisted of chips of marble, quartz, or other stone that was held together with a binder.

Terrazzo flooring was popular during the 1950s through the 1970s for its durability and ability to be poured into countless patterns, logos, and shapes. But recently, it’s expanded its use and has seen a renaissance in furniture and furnishings.

While you may be used to seeing terrazzo on your floors, be prepared to start finding it on everything from platters to chairs.


Like terrazzo, shiplap also has a long history as being a traditional building material, and was often used to sheath wood-frame houses. Recently, it’s been seen as a desirable and celebrated feature in older homes.

Shiplap is typically composed of interlocking horizontal wood boards that cover the wood framing members. It can often be found covered with plaster on the interiors of buildings.

Many homes with shiplap walls have started to remove their plaster, revealing the character and texture of the natural wood boards underneath—similar to spaces that have exposed brick walls.

Shiplap and other types of interior wood boards can be left exposed, adding character and history to a space. They can also be painted over for a more subtle pattern and texture.

What other historic materials have you noticed are experiencing a resurgence? Let us know in the comments!


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