Some time ago I bought a Hemnes china cabinet which I decorated with Mexican talavera knobs to fit in with the southwestern style of my home. I needed some more storage in my living room, so I decided to get a matching Hemnes TV bench and put talavera tiles on the top as well as using the drawer knobs.
After assembling the bench per the instructions, the first part of the hack was preparing the back. I cut off the overhanging tabs that hold the bench away from the wall, so the top would be rectangular. I also added a stiffener underneath the top in back, made from a piece of 1×2 pine. I attached it with a screw through the center support, angle brackets to connect it to the corner posts, and screws through the top. (I’m not planning to use this to hold a TV or electronics so I’m not worried about blocking ventilation; I just want the top to be sturdy enough to support the tile without sagging.)
Next I screwed down 1/4″ Hardiebacker over the top to provide a substrate for the tile. To cover the edge of the Hardiebacker and tile, I used 1 3/8″ x 1/4″ lattice trim, installed so the bottom edge is flush with the bottom edge of the wood top on the bench. I attached this with wood glue and a few tiny brads.
To finish the stiffener and the edge trim pieces, I used 2 coats of General Finishes Espresso water-based stain and 2 coats of Minwax Tung Oil finish as a sealer. The stain is pretty close to the Hemnes black-brown color, just a little bit lighter. I prefinished all these pieces before attaching them.
I bought the talavera tiles from local Mexican imports stores — I had to make two shopping trips, the first one just to see what they had in stock so I could plan the design, and the second one to buy the tiles. I put a coat of tile sealer on the back of the tiles, since they have a clay base and are very porous. I marked layout lines on the Hardiebacker and on some pieces of masking tape on the edge trim, and dry-fit the tiles and sorted them carefully for the final installation.
This was my first project with laying tile and I found that it’s quite a labor-intensive and messy process which requires a lot of supplies. I used pre-mixed mortar which I applied with a putty knife and notched trowel. Since the tiles are hand-made and not always flat, I used the putty knife to “butter” extra mortar onto the backs of them. I used lots of damp paper towels for cleanup. After giving the mortar a few days to cure, I applied premixed grout using a rubber grout float, using a large sponge and more damp paper towels to clean the tiles as I went along. Finally I painted sealer on the grout, again using lots of paper towels to clean the tiles.