WITHIN the modern, idyllic and wealthy lifestyle of Vilamoura, there is a company which has barely changed from its traditional Portuguese roots.
Marten Panman and business partner Nico van der Vlis took over Solo Design two-and-a-half years ago, carrying on the 15-year-old factory’s tradition of handmade Portuguese cement tiles. In preserving the authenticity of their tiles, Marten and Nico kept the same process of manufacture as generations used before them.
With a team of only four tile makers, Solo Design produce about 100,000 tiles per year. One of Marten and Nico’s employees can produce between 150 to 180 complex tiles or 250 plain tiles a day. The production process starts with careful manual filling of a square, iron mould with a cement, stone dust and pigment mixture. The tile is then covered with a layer of dry cement, followed by a layer of wet cement.
Depending on whether the tile is plain or patterned, the paint is then added. For patterned tiles a mould is placed over the top of the tile and paint is added by hand. The mould is removed and the tile is then pressed in a machine with a 300kg weight. After rinsing the tile, it is placed in the drying racks outside. The drying process is natural and takes about 20 days.
The unique flexibility of this small firm means that any design or coloration can be achieved. If you have a certain design in mind, or you are after tiles to match your new bedroom curtains, Solo Design can customise their tiles to suit your personal needs.
The company sell their tiles over the whole of Portugal, as well as exporting them to Holland, Spain and France. They find that the spread of expats and Portuguese buyers is 50/50, showing that the appeal of tradition is not lost on newcomers and their tiles are up to the expectations held by the Portuguese locals.
Plain tiles start at 51.50 euros per square metre and patterned at 61.50 euros for the same amount. Marten and Nico are more than happy for customers to come in and look around the factory, watch the tiles being made and discuss any individual requirements with them. For more information about this unique business, call 289 321 569 or visit www.solodesign.info