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BOLOGNA, ITALY —
What do Mother Nature, the animal kingdom and the world of high fashion have in common? The answer is usually “not much.”
However, the actual answer is “a lot” when it comes to the tile trends that came out of the 2006 Cersaie – the International Exhibition of Ceramic Tiles and Bathroom Furnishings – this past fall.
Italian, as well as other European and foreign tile manufacturers, took their inspiration from nature, animals and the runway, and showed tiles that featured avant-garde fabric patterns, funky animal prints, artistic floral motifs, sleek metallic sheens, three-dimensional forms, Asian-inspired flair and urban style. Their designs were put on display for a record number of attendees – 90,949 that included architects and designers, importers/distributors, wholesalers/dealers and tile layers – from 136 countries..
For starters, a plethora of tile introductions were decked out in an array of stylish faux fabric designs – from silk and damask to denim. For example, Astor showed a tile called Klis, which is the word silk spelled backwards. It’s a glazed porcelain tile that resembles the luxurious fiber. Supergres also chose to explore this idea and paired 10"x18" textured tiles with subtle floral listellos in its new collection called Arké Wall.
Several tile companies even paired with clothing designers for their new tile introductions. They include Piemme’s continued collaboration with Italian fashion designer Valentino, which produced Textile tile that features the look of woven texture. And Lux Ceramiche worked with Italian designer Luca Nichetto to create Sensitive, which is a series of soft, velvet-like wall tiles and coordinating porcelain floor tiles.
Some firms, such as Settecento with its New Baroque tile that features looks mimicking damask, silk and brocade, took a more traditional, classical angle, while others, such as Arkadia with its Denim tile, took a more current, playful approach.
Tiles also took a walk on the wild side, with many showcasing looks inspired by animal skins and prints, and styles depicting decorative animal images.
For example, Settecento’s Animalier line features tiles with surfaces that imitate tiger, zebra, leopard and cobra skins. Colli compacted and double-pressed its new Leather collection for a classic, timeworn appearance. Cevi’s Farfalle, which means butterflies in Italian, uses pastels to show off this creature on its tiles while Sicis presented tiles depicting full-size dogs, trees and flowers.
The wild kingdom was tamed a bit by some of the floral and botanical motifs on hand at the show, as well. Some were bold, like Bisazza’s Daisy tile, while others were more subtle. Some tiles in this category were more abstract, while others drew inspiration from contemporary architecture and fashion, like Ragno’s Arkitessuto.
The idea for La Fabbrica’s Geology tile comes from lava stone that sits atop Mount Etna in Sicily while the idea for Viva’s Seafoam came from the sea. Designed by Fabrizio Zanfi, each tile features a segment of a coral reef. Installed together, the vibrant, red pattern climbs the wall. The series is complemented by matching sinks, consoles, benches, shelves, silk-screened mirrors and accessories.
Heavy metal is usually a reference to the hard sound of this music genre. However, it could also be used when describing the emphasis on metallic tile looks at this year’s show. For instance, Viva’s Nouvelle Vague collection is reminiscent of cast iron; Tagina’s Fucina collection is done in the color of gun metal; and Century’s Interiors collection has textured surfaces that feature a platinum sheen. Other examples include Fioranese’s Steelwork and RHS’ Metallika.
Raised surfaces, three-dimensional shapes and bas-relief weaves were also hot, as were circular shapes. For instance, Tagina created a tile called Giunco that looks like a ladder of bamboo pieces set against tile. Magica put circles against a metallic background for its collection, Sicily. Other examples of this trend include Ker Av’s Luci di Venezia and Novabell’s Trevi.
Urban and Asian influences could also be seen in many of the tiles in this year’s crop. For example, Majorca’s Soho and Cotto D’Este’s ColorLife took inspiration from the Big Apple while Cotto Veneto’s Origami and Idea Ceramica’s Discorsi were based on traditional Eastern art forms.
BATHED IN TRENDS
While tile was at the heart of the trends coming out of the 2006 Cersaie, the bath fixtures and furnishings also caused a stir among trend watchers.
Whirlpool baths were enhanced with changing colored lights and diffusers with pleasing perfumes, while oversized shower enclosures, designed for at least two people, received water flows that imitated roaring waterfalls.
Traditional or whirlpool baths also sported rounder, cleaner and increasingly convivial shapes. Simple and minimalist lines also took control of the shower with a mix of high-level design and sophisticated materials.
The new shower enclosures featured improved fasteners and details to emphasize the transparency of the glass. Inside, thermostatic columns with multiple functions, including rain, waterfall or “nebulized” jets, lymph drainage massage, back massage, cervical massage, steam sauna, color therapy, aromatherapy, MP3 players – as well as mirrors and vanity shelves and even a bathrobe heating compartment – all emerged as requisites.
Faucet designs became slimmer, with geometric forms softened and edges rounded in order to create soft, floating shapes consistent with the sinuous, rounded lines of the human body. This idea was mixed with strongly futuristic design.
At the same time, sinks sported some softer shapes – both elliptical and round – as well as some surprising and unusual shapes, and materials, such as crystal glass and steel, marble, exmar and recyclable polyethylene.
Furniture and accessories were transformed into integrated furnishing systems, with versatile colors and materials, where sizes expand or contract according to the size of the room.
This was evidenced by the displays of small suspended vanity units, basket-type containers of various sizes, mirrors with illuminated frames, all made of materials such as glossy or satin-finish chromed brass, steel, ceramic and glass.
Lastly, radiators, long used in Europe as the main heating element in bath designs, are now increasingly becoming décor objects, as well.