Archival photos showing bathroom armature, gas boilers, lighting and other bathroom equipment also draw the eye with distinctive floor tiles. Their Polish name “gorseciki” – meaning “little corsets” – derives from their shape, reminiscent of a lady’s bodice, rounded at the top and bottom and with concave sides.
The unusual shape of the small tiles and the wide range of colours meant customers could design almost limitless patterns. Such terracotta “carpets” were frequently adapted to specific installations and they were rarely repeated. The matte surface and high durability of the tiles made them popular for laying in shops and communal parts of buildings, such as entrance halls and stairways, as well as places where hygiene was especially important, such as kitchens, bathrooms and toilets. They were laid without grooves.
The tiles of this shape, typical of modernism, were first used in the Netherlands. In Poland, their main manufacturer was Dziewulski and Lange, founded during the second half of the 19th century. In the 1930s, the company was headquartered at 1 Rysia Street in Warsaw, while the showroom at 34 Aleje Jerozolimskie demonstrated glazing and terracotta. The factory produced around 2250 square metres of tiles per year, with an average of 289 individual tiles per square metre. The demand was huge. The company’s archives include a note from 12 June 1939, describing the most popular colours: “The following must always be kept in stock: small corsets in grey – 500,000; black – 500,000; white – one million; yellow – 300,000; blue – 250,000; green – 250,000. Large and thick corsets, and those in other colours (not listed above) should only be made to order.”
In interwar Gdynia, corset-shaped floor tiles were a marker of contemporary interiors. Some original floors have been preserved at a few tenement houses along Świętojańska Street and in the gateway of the luxury residential home of the Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego Retirement Fund at the corner of 10 Lutego and 3 Maja Streets. A large block of black, white and grey tiles from the collection of the Gdynia City Museum originates from a modernist bathroom from a villa at 25 and 25A Korzeniowskiego Street, erected in 1937 and designed by Zbigniew Kupiec and Tadeusz Kossak.