restoring the french floor

by Sharon Santoni


detail of a wooden-framed day bed and printed cushions

As I continue to work on my kitchen project, I spent the week researching floors.   Our house is about 180 years old, and at some point in  the early 1900’s, the ground floor was covered in a very ordinary tile.  Or I should say tiles, because different tiles were used for the kitchen, the dining room, the entrance hall, while the sitting room was covered in ‘tomettes’.french floor tiles in clay called tomettes

French tomettes come in different shapes and sizes.  Ours are octagonal, about 16cm in diameter.

view over an autumn valley

Today we would like the same floor treatment throughout the ground floor, and we want  to use old materials, in keeping with the age and style of the house.  I’ll be looking for tomettes that are very pale, rather than the orange-red tones that you sometimes see.  The colour comes from the regional clay used to make the tiles.

french floor tiles in clay called tomettes

Luckily for us there are plenty of dealers here in Normandy who sell old materials.  Tiles and wooden floors are often lifted carefully when a renovation takes place, and dealers  sell them on by  the square meter.

old tiles piled up in cellar

If you can’t find enough of one tomette or wooden flooring to cover your space, then it is often possible to find two or three matching lots and mix them up to create a harmonious effect.  The dealers pile the tomettes into big wooden boxes, or stack them high, and it’s up to the client to decide how they’d look once in place.

french floor tiles in clay called tomettes

The only problem about these places is that it is so easy to get distracted ….

by beautiful old stone paving …

french stone floor slabs

or wonderful hand-carved fireplace surrounds ….

french stone fireplace surround

or old roof tiles ……

french clay roof tiles

…surely I could find a way to use those too ! ….


Karena November 17, 2014 - 2:57 pm

I love these wonderful antique tomette hexagon tiles! The look if fabulous Sharon.
Have a wonderful week!

The Arts by Karena

Madonna/aka/Ms. Lemon November 17, 2014 - 3:07 pm

What an exciting and challenging project. I can’t wait to see what you have done.


Nancy November 17, 2014 - 3:14 pm

I love the floors!
We can through special stores get those tiles, from France, however, one pays a small fortune to get them….
Having the floors be the same throughout is going to be quite stunning and wonderful, putting them in and going through the “reno”, not so much….
We ourselves are finishing(in Jan) the wood floors throughout in the bedrooms and getting rid of the 20+ year old carpet.
The task of moving things so workers can do their job will be difficult but worth it…
I can’t wait to see your finished floors!

Emm November 17, 2014 - 3:43 pm

I’m right there with you and Nancy — getting close to finishing up a kitchen re-do necessitated by externally-caused mess. So many lovely choices and colors and styles, it’s fascinating to look at all of them, like going down a rabbit hole into decorating wonderland.

Your tomettes are beautiful, especially in the softer colors, and the shape is elegant. I think of those floors as being cool in summer, yet warm in winter when there’s a fire in the fireplace.

Katherine November 17, 2014 - 3:46 pm

I LOVE these tiles. I wanted something like this for our house but it would involve importing them {if even possible}, and it’s important to have the remainder of the features with the same look. It has to be authentic – and that’s a bit tougher outside of Europe. You are fortunate to have this available to you.
I can see how you would get lost in a place with this much opportunity and pieces to incorporate in the house.

Colleen Taylor November 17, 2014 - 4:11 pm

I love all those tiles Sharon! We have tiles like this in our back yard with the exception they are the plain old rectangular shaped. Fascinating stones & tiles, one of my favorite things in the world. Yes, I know I’m weird like that but it’s a love of mine too. X

Doré @ BurlapLuxe November 17, 2014 - 4:14 pm

The pale sounds wonderful, oh how I have wanted to do this very look in my last home before it was sold. I have painted the floor in my living room, but plans are to do a pale creamy tile in there. I will so the oblong shape brick veneers 1/4″ this way I can get them to blend with the entryway that are large 20 x 20 tiles in a cream. It’s just an investment home and don’t want to put to much into it.

Oh to live in a French country side home, and one of your age would interest me I. So many ways.
I cannot wait to see what you have decided and the finished design.
Beauty in your days ahead.



curtains in my tree November 17, 2014 - 5:45 pm

I love all those tiles they are just so beautiful.
I always have wanted a white house with the terra cotta tile roof I just think that is so beautiful

Marlene Stephenson November 17, 2014 - 5:59 pm

Those tiles are beautiful.Have a great day.

Nat November 17, 2014 - 7:38 pm

It is a great idea to put old tiles, your ground floor will look so charming.

Peggy Braswell November 17, 2014 - 9:08 pm

love those tiles + got them from a tile place in US for a client.

Cheryl November 17, 2014 - 11:00 pm

I love that look, how soft and warm. I love that sofa as well…is it yours? I know you don’t show the interiors of your home, but it’s fun to see glimpses of your style.

Susan Athanasakou November 18, 2014 - 10:05 am

I so want those tiles for my kitchen floor!
You are so lucky to be able to find splendid old stuff like this, here it’s marble, marble and more marble!
Every country has its own style I suppose, I do love Greece but its just so hard to find things like you have there in France.

Ina November 18, 2014 - 3:12 pm

Sharon, how great to have the chance to do this for your place….wonderful…I would go crazy doing it, going hunting for those old pieces with so much history…good luck with the renovation…I know will be sensational..Ina from Canada….Toronto…for now….but most of the time from Santiago, Chile…I am crazy…LOL

Linda November 18, 2014 - 3:13 pm

All of the supplies are simply beautiful!

Christine November 18, 2014 - 3:14 pm

Hi Sharon,
I own a home outside of Chicago that was built in 1930 in the French Country style. It’s actually based on the design of a house called Aramis in Perigord. We have tomettes in the hall and foyer. I am curious if I should be caring for them in any particular way. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks,

Pam November 18, 2014 - 3:15 pm

How wonderful to have such access to these beautiful​ old tiles, we don’t see such aged pieces in Australia so I’m quite envious.
Your home will be superb with these tiles. Good luck with it all.

susan November 18, 2014 - 3:16 pm

Maybe you could use some of the other tiles for a backsplash in the kitchen? I love old tiles and architectural pieces. Enjoy!

Kathryn Bechen November 18, 2014 - 9:24 pm

Sharon, your blog and home are so lovely. I especially like your sofa; I have a loveseat that’s similar but am no longer able to buy another one as they don’t sell them anymore. Are you willing to share where you bought your French legged sofa in the pix in this post? Blessings for a beautiful day in France. 🙂

Joanna November 25, 2014 - 8:30 pm

Beautiful Floors. I Like that titles very much, but in Poland it’s impassible to find that old type of titles. When me and my familly were in Provence this year on holidays I find same near to our holidays cottage house. This titles are my cup pad, now.

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Brenda Brokaw March 19, 2020 - 6:24 pm

Sharon, you are a wealth of information. Thank you for all your wonderful photos and ideas. I recently purchased a humble ranch in Northern Virginia and am in the process of making it into my French Country Home by adding two wings, farmhouse beams, and changing floors to start!!! I’m most curious to know how the subtle sheen is created on all stone and brick floors I find in photos of old French houses? I am wanting to create the same effect and think it must be some finish and not only related age?

I am sometime hoping to post my journey on Instagram of how I am downsizing from my French furnished 5400 sq ft Georgian to my soon to be French Country House!!! I have just decided to be my own contractor, because no one I interviewed understands the concept of beams in doorways and old farm beams placed in “odd” places!!

Thank you for any information you might be able to provide on finishes or anything that helps my dream this side of the Atlantic become reality! Having collected Country French magazines and visiting France many times, I can see it all in my mind”s eye!!!

Et Sharon, merci, merci pour votre magazine, MY FRENCH COUNTRY HOME! Je dévore chaque édition que je reçois!!!!

Derek Campbell September 3, 2020 - 9:01 am

Such an amazing job! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips on how to work on flooring.


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