Interviewed by Cheryl Fallstead
Tell us a little about the history of Casa Mexicana.
My father, Isidro Peña, was, and is, a pecan tree farmer. But when farming was slow, he started making tiles. In 1978, in a shed in the backyard of Bustamante farm, he started making colored concrete pavers using a machine he bought in Guadalajara. Over the years we moved to larger and larger locations until we wound up in our current showroom and warehouse on Main Street. When we made the pavers by hand, the maximum we could produce a day was about 600 pieces. It would take us about four to five working days to produce 2,000 square feet of fully-cured tiles. Then he bought half a container with 6,000 square feet of tile from a manufacturer in Spain, which we sold in less a week. Then he bought a container and sold it in less than a month. That’s when we started importing, first from Spain, then Italy, France, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, and Mexico. Now I keep half a million square feet of tiles in stock from around the world.
How is Casa Mexicana different from other tile companies in the area?
We are the only ones that import directly from the factories. Tiles go from the manufacturer, to the port in Houston, directly to us. As a local business, we contribute to the local economy and charities. We want to make this community great, so that’s why we invest in it. In addition, my dad has always been a hard-working man and we continue that. We tell customers that we are going to stay here for a long, long time. I’ll bump into you in town and it’s in my personal interest to make sure you’re happy.
What should people know about tiles for outdoor spaces vs. indoor spaces?
Outdoor tiles have to have a porcelain body, which is more like natural stone. It has to be very dense and have a low water absorption rate, so when it is exposed to moisture and then freezes, it doesn’t expand like ceramic tile, which would separate from the glaze under these conditions. You want to make sure the tile is textured with some kind of grip in case it’s wet so you won’t slip and slide. The other thing to consider is color. If you have a multicolored tile, it won’t show dirt as much.
What options are available material- and style-wise for use outdoors?
You have your natural stone look, which are more like what Mother Nature created, such as travertine, quartzite, or tumbled marble. Then you have the tiles that are made to look like slate. We don’t recommend real slate for outdoors, but slate tile is great. With advances in technology, there is now HD dynamic imaging, which uses an inkjet to inject an image into the tile to create the look of natural Jerusalem stone, marble, wood, or old bricks. They are made to look just like the natural product, so you can have that look outdoors without the actual material itself, which would require a lot of sealing and maintenance. With the HD glazed porcelain tile, you can achieve any look, from flagstone to polished concrete, which is really in right now.
What’s else is trendy/popular right now?
Hands down, it’s the wood-look tiles that are very much in. Very large format HD stone looks are also popular. The nice thing is these tiles are low maintenance. We have tiles that look like Saltillo, for example, but are porcelain, and so they need much less care. The wood-look tiles have wood grain and feel, but also need minimal care. Grays are really popular now, as is using a variety of small glass or ceramic tiles as accents between larger tiles. You could also place a large rosone medallion in the entry to the yard for a dramatic effect. Wood-look tiles and natural contemporary stone looks in tile sizes of 18×36” and 12×24” are popular here, too. Or try a Versailles pattern with the same tile color in a variety of sizes.
What different ways can tile be used in the backyard and what different types of tiles are appropriate for the various areas?
There is a wide range of tiles that can be added to your outdoor décor. We have a new HD tile that is little brick pavers, 4×8”, and those are ideal for sidewalks or exposed areas where people will be walking, giving you a rustic, worn-out look. Around the pool, they are using highly textured stone that is made to look like sandstone. The texture helps prevents slips on wet tiles. We have swimming pool tile and glass, too. You need to use small, mesh-mounted pieces to fit to the curves of the pool. You could place tile on the bottom of the pool—glass looks beautiful there, too—on the edges, and on the ground around the pool. In a covered area, you want a large format tile, but not as textured so it doesn’t look dirty. You want a lighter texture in natural earth colors or gray.
Casa Mexicana Tile | 5603 S. Main Street, Mesilla Park | 575-523-2777 | casamexicana.com
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