Have you ever heard of an ogee? If you haven’t heard of one you’ve definitely seen one. Ogee-derived shapes have inspired all of those fun geometrics in tile design that are being referred to as Moroccan right now. The most referenced being the classic arabesque, as well as this little tile below that people are calling a Moroccan fish scale tile, but which is actually termed an ogee drop. The huge disparity in terminology around the ogee drop and other ogee-derived shapes, and a lack of information and history is making for a lot of misinformation on the internet and in home décor shops these days.
What is an ogee?
Let’s backtrack. An ogee by definition is simply an S-like curve, consisting of two arcs that curve in opposite directions so that the ends are parallel. In architecture the term describes an arch that is comprised of two mirroring ogees which meet at an apex, and was a popular feature of English Gothic architecture (see image directly below). So what happened between the period of Gothic architecture in 13th century Europe and now that has produced the iconic shapes gracing magazine kitchen backslashes and bathrooms, and a swath of rich textiles being attributed to Morocco? I’m not entirely sure, but someone with a passing knowledge of Moroccan mosaics and lacking any knowledge of English Gothic architecture probably recognized a similar geometric structure and labelled it as such. Then, as per the customs of the internet, misnomer chaos ensued.
In the context of tile there is no single ogee shape, but many shapes partially inspired by the classic architectural elements of the ogee. The most accurate reflection of a true ogee is this tile shape, which is the quintessential ogee arch from Gothic architecture mirrored against another arch. The arabesque style is the second most similar patterning, which follows the basic geometric shape with Moroccan-inspired detailing on the edges. Some of the other silhouettes in this category of geometric tile include a quatrefoil, a paseo and a drop or fan shape (as shown above). The ogee drop pictured here is referred to as a fish scale tile (or Moroccan fish scale tile), a fan tile, and upside down tear drop tile, and an ogee drop tile, but they all refer to the same shape. The ogee drop can be combined with three other ogee drops to create a true mirrored ogee arch. Does your head hurt yet? Am I saying ogee too much? Oh gee. I better stop.
I have the pleasure of working with interior designer Heather Smillie in an editorial capacity and she graciously guided us through some key elements of our renovation. I think the best thing she did for us was suggest this ogee drop from Centura tile, which they aptly name “Fan Series”. The Canadian company recommends combining the tiles to create that fish scale look that is being termed “Moroccan fish scale tile”. When I brought home the boxes of tile my boyfriend took one look at it and instinctively arranged it into something completely other (which of coursed has been dubbed the “Moroccan pattern” by Fireclay Tile). Maybe it’s Fireclay we can blame for this Moroccan fiasco.
At first I saw only the long intersecting repeating waves, but if you narrow down your focus you will see that with his pattern three tiles creates a true ogee arch, and the fourth mirrors the pattern on itself. I definitely disagree with Fireclay’s pronouncement about this pattern, to me its inspiration comes from the rich English Gothic door mouldings. Here’s an example of another kitchen where the same pattern was applied, but with a dark grout.
Compare the recommended design from Centura (left) to our own design (right)—I swayed a lot on this decision but I’m truly glad we veered off the original course.
The ogee drop is an incredibly flexible shape that can be arranged into four different patterns.
Top left and bottom left are clearly the pattern that has inspired the Moroccan fish scale label, top right has a sail-caught-in-the-wind look to it, while bottom right shows the class ogee arch mirrored on itself.
I’m done rambling. If you have more questions about this tile feel free to comment or shoot me an email but I’m not sure I will be able to answer them. I had a lot of difficulty uncovering information about ogee tiles and I would love to hear more about them if you happen to have some knowledge. Here are some photos of our ogee drops in action.
Counter tops: Viscount Grey Granite from The Old Barn
Cabinetry: Walnut shaker-style custom cabinetry by Beachwood Cabinetry
Pot filler: Contemporary Wall Mount Pot Filler Chrome Finish from Delta Faucets
Flooring: Macadamia Oak Laminate Flooring from Balterio
Sink: Granite sink in Grey from Bristol Sinks