This is the time of year when all true tile geeks sit down and compare notes on the emerging design trends: and also observe which fashions are starting to fall from grace. The three large international tile exhibitions have all have taken place, and all the global manufacturers’ stalls have have been set out for the year, or years, ahead.
Except, of course, this is a truly exceptional year. While the Coronavirus crisis impacted after the shows in Italy and Spain, it did cause the cancellation of the great North American tile showcase – Coverings – which should have taken place in New Orleans in late April.
So just how are dedicated followers of tile fashion – like the Porcelain Superstore team – meant to keep abreast of the constant ebb and flow of ceramic fashion? Well … we have been talking to our friends and colleagues in the design and publishing fields, and reaching out to known and trusted manufacturers to get samples and technical specifications of all their new ranges to evaluate. That is because, although the actual USA exhibition never took place, all of the product development, prototype manufacturing, photography and literature production had already been undertaken well before it was cancelled. And Porcelain Superstore, of course, wants to be the first retailer to get these exciting new lines into our portfolio and out to our design-savvy customers.
But rather than introduce specific new ranges at this time, we thought it would be interesting to share the main design directions that would have emerged had Coverings taken place as planned. In this post we are concentrating on six new design directions from Italy, still widely regarded as the leader in ceramic fashion and finishes. And we have found that, had they made it to New Orleans this year, Italian manufacturers would have wowed us with beautiful patterns, rich glazes, and alluring textures.
The first trend we are highlighting is Biophilia. Biophilic design is proven to reduce stress, improve cognitive function, alter mood, and boost creativity. Tiles mimicking nature can help enhance a person’s perception of space.
Today, Italian tile manufacturers offer a wide variety of plant-like tile designs: from barely-there leaf prints, grassy motifs, and palm designs right through to pixelated florals, pop-art versions, and abstract gardens.
When Pantone named blue as the colour of the year, tile manufacturers were clearly on the same page.
There have been many classic blue options on show this year, as advanced technology now allows manufacturers to recreate nearly every shade of blue under the sun. Home owners can make a bold statement using solid bright blue tiles, energize a room using blue marble with contrasting veining, and create a head-turning floor with the look of rare blue minerals like Blue Sodalite.
Turquoise and teal can also be used to conjure images of the Mediterranean, especially when paired with hexagonal formats and whitewashed walls. On the other end of the chroma spectrum, greyish blues have a more subdued look and tie back to a sense of calm and serenity.
Geometric Stone is another classic finding fresh energy. Geometric stone has been used since ancient times and is ubiquitous in Italy, from terrazzo sidewalks to the floors of historic churches like Florence Cathedral.
Thanks to modern technology, Italian tile producers can replicate the look of Palladiana Terrazzo or inlaid stone without the headache of cutting, sorting, and installing an assortment of small pieces. Geometric shapes can also be found in a variety of mosaic options, from linear bricks to rhomboids that look like micro-mosaics, and metallic inserts on marble designs.
With so many products available on the market, it’s not enough to have a beautiful, high-quality tile; it also needs to tell a good story: and one of the most engaging are today’s Material Stories.
Today, many manufacturers offer striking photography and imaginative narratives that conjure a specific place or mood – from rustic tiles reminiscent of a historic estate in Tuscany to collections that evoke the colours of the desert and the charm of Middle Eastern kasbahs.
Tile producers also scour the world to find material inspiration for their collections, whether it’s a rare and precious marble or a limestone only found in a small village in northern Italy. Today’s consumers really value provenance and authenticity, and tile manufacturers are really embracing this trend by rediscovering age-old techniques and inspirations from the near and distant past.
New metallic effects, notably Oxides, are emerging as one of the most interesting and varied decorative directions. Oxidized metal has been a part of architecture and design for over a century, which you can see in the roof patinas of municipal buildings all over the world.
These new metallic-inspired tile collections reveal beautiful material and colour stories, minus the actual chemical reactions - from large format tiles with a beautiful green patina and ceramic mosaics with an imaginative oxidized blue, to tiles that look like Corten steel or oxidized pewter for a more modern industrial look.
Texture is an enduring trend, which evolves in new ways every year as manufacturers continue to push the boundaries of tile beyond the second dimension.
There are many different ways to create tactile interest on the surface, from linear reliefs that create a sense of movement to ceramic tile reminiscent of wood panelling from the Victorian era.
Some manufacturers take an artisanal approach, using glazes or plastic casts to create an imperfect surface and hand-crafted effect. Even tiles with a flat surface can give the appearance of depth and texture by using a tromp l’oeil.