His old Volkswagen bus had a tough time when Ramon Huigen drove the three and half thousand kilometers back from North Africa to Utrecht, the Netherlands. In the back was a batch of very colourful, authentic cement tiles. During his surfing trip Ramon had stumbled across a small tile workshop in South Morocco. He was immediately sold. As were the tiles; the motifs, the colours, the craftsmanship, natural production process and the rich history captivated him and he decided to bring a few boxes back to the Netherlands for his own use.
Once home he placed a beautiful, colourful tiled floor in his kitchen and on his terrace. Naturally this didn’t go unnoticed by his family, friends or acquaintances and they wanted them as well! Ramon decided to use the last of his savings to order a container of tiles from Morocco and within a very short time all his friends and acquaintances also had the Mediterranean atmosphere in their homes. He knew that the rest of the western world wouldn’t be any different. This need had to be addressed. Starting own production With his friend Martijn Dijkstra, Ramon began to explore the possibilities of having the tiles produced themselves. They ended up with countries such as Portugal, Spain and Morocco. Vietnam also seemed like an option. Not only is the production process there much cheaper, the craftsmanship, raw materials for cement, pigments and marble powder is also better. After a lot of travelling, organising, calling, emailing and faxing www.designtegels.nl went online in 2006. Containers full of high quality, cement tiles found their way to the Netherlands. They all had a colourful Moorish design and carried the new brand name Azule. Designtegels.nl was born.
From Garage to supplier The first orders were taken from a garage box on Duurstedelaan in Utrecht. The demand was so great that every 6 months Ramon and Martijn needed to hire a new garage. It was becoming clear that this hobby was getting out of hand. Designtegels.nl could no longer be combined with a fulltime job. Both entrepreneurs therefore decided to follow their passion and work fulltime to further expand their business.
These days Designtegels.nl is one of the biggest suppliers of cement tiles – also known as Portugese tiles – in Europe. In the last few years the assortment has been expanded to include new products such as Spanish and Italian wall tiles and Moroccan Zelliges. With a minimum stock of 15,000 m2, more than 350 different designs and delivering to more than ten European countries, the company has grown into a fully rounded member of this niche market for floor and wall tiles. In the meantime there are now 11 people working fulltime in the Netherlands and in the overseas tile factories; more than seventy craftsmen putting their all into creating the most beautiful tiles they can. Designtegels.nl has two outlets in the Netherlands. One in Breda where the stock is delivered, the designs are developed and the production is managed. The other is the headoffice and is located in Utrecht. A third shop has recently opened in Berlin, Germany under the name of Designfliesen.de.
Volkswagen T2A 1969 In the warehouse behind the recently refurbished showroom in Utrecht, the same grey Volkswagen T2A from 1969 can be found with which it all started. The nearly forty year old bus has also been improved in the meantime, but perhaps if you look very carefully you can still find a little of the Saharan sand from its most important journey…..
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