When most guests think of Bonnet House, they will likely imagine pristine gardens, luxurious spaces, and fine artwork from across the globe. But one of the most exquisite aspects of Bonnet House often goes overlooked: the floors. At Bonnet House, each room has a different flooring concept. To site a few examples, some rooms, like The Studio, Dining Room and Bamboo Bar contain terrazzo with bronze expansion joints, and the flooring in The Main Orchid Display House is made of roughly finished coral. From Helen’s Music Room to Evelyn’s Bedroom, each room has unique flooring features that are worth remembering!
The most unique floors in all of Bonnet House Estate, however, are the Ojus [Oi-yo] tiles found in the Drawing Room and the Shell Museum. The tiles were named after the Ojus Rock Company quarry that was opened after the turn of the last century. The techniques used to make the tiles was imported from the Mediterranean long before Florida became a state. Each tile can be unique in size, shape and color, as you may notice in the Shell Museum. Unlike the thin walled, but highly decorative glazed tiles, Ojus tiles are thick and heavy, and are sun-dried rather than kiln-dried, making it easier to produce needed quantities.
These tiles are often used for exterior application or high traffic areas as these thick tiles do not require a solid foundation, but can be placed on level ground, are weather tolerant, have more “grip” than glazed tiles, seldom move, can sustain heavy loads without breaking, and rarely chip. Interestingly, after centuries of island colonization, properties that do not have clear deeds or land titles use the hurricane proof tiles to re-establish property lines when there are disputes or a disaster devastates a property.
There are two methods to manufacture Ojus tiles. Initially both use a mold that is approximately three inches deep and filled with concrete. One technique uses pure white sand and calcium
carbonate in its concrete mix. Then, colored ink is immediately swirled into the surface before being sun dried. The second technique allows the initial pour to use regular mix sand. After drying, a slurry of pure white sand and calcium carbonate is poured as a top coat, and the ink is swirled into the surface. These tiles are still made by island artisans for home and commercial application.
Frederic and Hugh Taylor Birch knew what they were doing when they selected the heavier and thicker Ojus tiles for the Estate. They chose a flooring that would take a beating and last for more than a lifetime!
Next time you visit Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, don’t forget to look down and take in the beauty of our unique floors and tiles! If you have any questions about visiting Bonnet House, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to assist.