Bologna, Italy — It may be hard to believe, but a little-known annual tile show here, sets the tone for most of the tile trends you’ll see at the hottest restaurants, hotels, and residential interiors.
One of two important tile shows in Europe (the other is Cevisama in Valencia, Spain), Cersaie is like Fashion Week for the tile industry. The show draws distributors, architects and designers from all over the world who flock to see what the Italian manufacturers have been cooking up in the lab and what cool new invention will show up stateside in the coming year and beyond.
This year’s show, held from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, drew more than 100,000 attendees and offered a glimpse of what is happening now in the world of ceramic tile, including large sizes, pop art and blue-tone tiles. One overall trend that kept popping up: ceramic that mimics other materials. Here are some ideas that stood out.
Other than durability, one of ceramic tile’s greatest selling points is that it can take on the look of almost any material, and one that is trending is cement — be it polished concrete or colorful artistic tiles reminiscent of old-timey encaustic products. “The concrete effect is interesting for most R&D labs, since the research is focused on construction materials such as wood, bricks and, of course, cement,” Silvia Bedodi, a spokeswoman for Coem-Fioranese, says. At the show, Fioranese unveiled the Evoke collection, which was inspired by a print recovered from an old worn concrete tile floor. It even has the faded colors.
As urban revitalization continues apace, designers and architects are seeing an acceptance for modern interiors with edgier details. Which is why tile manufacturers are responding with products that mimic different types of metals, such as iron, steel and copper. “The growing appreciation and interest shown by architects in rusted metal such as Corten steel has encouraged us to introduce a ceramic tile reflecting this aesthetic trend,” Roberto Fabbri, chairman of the ABK Group tile brand, writes in an e-mail. Suitable for floors and walls, the company’s Interno 9 draws inspiration from oxidized metals and comes in colors such as Rust, Mud and Dark.
European tilemakers started the large-format tile craze back in the 1990s and early 2000s, and now they are adding their own twist to a familiar shape: hexagons. “The hexagon has been a typical format that you could find in Italian houses from the beginning of the 20th century,” writes Debora Laterza, marketing director for Emilceramica Group, in an e-mail. “These days designers are rediscovering the format” and coming up with modern versions of the design. An example of this trend is the company’s Milestone collection, which is rendered in a structured limestone and features hex shapes inside hex shapes. It’s perfect for an accent wall.
Ceramic tile that looks like wood has hit its stride, and manufacturers have perfected the grain patterns. At first seen mostly in retail stores and restaurants, wood-look tiles are now showing up in homes at various price points. “Our industry has been designing wood-look tiles for a long time, but the aim is to give clients something really different and absolutely new every time,” Filippo Manuzzi, chief executive of Ceramica Sant’Agostino, e-mailed through a translator. Designed for the adventurous consumer, the company’s new product, Pictart, is a porcelain stoneware collection with the bold appearance of banana leaf stems.
Amid all the industrial motifs and pop-art-inspired tiles, colorful feminine designs and delicate fabriclike prints made a strong showing. As a wall tile, the product is ideal for applications in wet areas where traditional wallpaper might not work. “Decoration is part of the nature and tradition of industrial ceramics,” Cristian Nizzoli, a spokesman for Ariana Ceramica parent ABK Group spokesman, writes in an e-mail. Encouraged by growing interest in wallpaper, the company is proposing new products that combine the decorative look of wallpaper with the durability and easy clean-up of tile. Ariana’s Canvas collection is inspired by the world of soft furnishings, featuring textured surfaces and surfaces that mimic fabric.
Ceramic tile that looks like stone is the bread and butter of the industry, but today’s versions are a dead ringer for the real stuff. “The recent development of cutting-edge digital technology applied to porcelain stoneware encouraged a reprise of stone-look tiles,” says Aldo Magnani, spokesman for Casalgrande Padana. Drawing inspiration from natural stone and marble, Casalgrande’s Pietre di Paragone reproduces shades, veins, textures and colors that are incredibly realistic. The company says the production process is so evolved that there should never be two identical tiles.
Of all the current trends in ceramic tile, none is more exciting or offers as many possibilities as textured wall tile. It’s been around for years, but textured tiles continue to strengthen their position. “Over the past 10 years the tile industry has created myriad textures for walls and floors through new advancements in digital printing, pressing and glazing,” says Sergio Barberini, U.S. export manager at Tagina. “Occasionally, the textures are optical illusions — achieved through high-definition printing — but there’s been a definite increase in adding actual texture to make the ceramic even more lifelike.” Textures span the range, appearing as 3-D striations, fabric effects, bush-hammered concrete as well as hand-scraped and charred wood, he says.
Maynard is a freelance writer and can be found on Twitter at @products_hound.