First published in the Weekend Gardener and reproduced here with their permission.
Both Spain and Portugal have long histories of bright tiling which can look garish and out of place in different cultural and geographic contexts. However, the more restrained use of tiling, seen here at the Royal Palace in Seville, may fit the bill in more humble abodes in New Zealand. Setting a small tile into a predominantly brick paved area reduces the problems of a slippery surface when wet. Clay bricks (which grow moss too readily in many parts of this country) could be replaced with concrete for a safer walking surface.
Using bright tiles on the risers of the steps with very plain treads adds detail without being too dominant.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of the modern fashion for colourful and often rough mosaics and I suspect it may go down in history as an aberration in good taste on a par with macramé. The mosaics of antiquity in Spain were wonderfully detailed and executed with precision and go to show that good design and craftsmanship are timeless.
Mixed modern paving
We can certainly learn from the detail of modern paving, these examples are from Madrid. Bold, geometric designs, variations in texture and a subtle mix of muted colour can make an expanse of paved or sealed area a great deal more interesting. A mix of different sized pavers, flint, and flattish pebbles of a fairly small grade set in concrete make a pleasing surface.
Mixed paving and tiling
These two examples are from the famous Alhambra in Granada and may appeal to those who are looking for more detail in their paving. The small coloured tiles set in the brick squares are probably very old but recycled in a much more modern construction. The long view down the avenue is also a recent reconstruction and the detail is used to accentuate design features. These details have been picked out in black pebbles placed on their side which gives a relatively uneven surface which must be impossible to sweep. A blower vac would be needed to keep this area free of garden litter and debris.
Clearly one tree died in this avenue in Queluz, Portugal but that did not deter the local authorities from turning it into an eyecatching feature. It was painted well. Twiggy growth and loose bark must have been removed and it was given more than one coat of paint. Choosing a colour other than bright blue might make it a more subtle option for a home garden. A muted rusty red would be less visually dominant, while a cream could light up a dark area.