Cersaie 2004: The Best of Ceramic Style
These are the sentiments of Christine Abbate, spokesperson for Ceramic Tiles of Italy and principal for Park Slope, New York-based Novita Communications, who cites this year's biggest trends as nature-inspired designs, retro-tinged looks and varying textures.
She explains: "[Cersaie showcased a] definite movement back to a 1960s or 1970s theme and they tied that together with textural, bumpy tiles."
This was particularly true of color, she adds: "There was an explosion of really bold colors mixed with three-dimensional applications that are characteristic of the '60s and '70s look."
There were many eye-catching palettes indeed, with many manufacturers embracing pastels, gold hand-painted pieces and translucent red, orange, green and blue hues sometimes even showcased on tile-created mannequins for extra pizzazz.
But not all designs at CERSAIE were steeped in nostalgia. For instance, the use of thin planks was evident at nearly every exhibit, resulting in playful designs and mural mosaics. In fact, companies even used digital imaging to add artistic elements to its tiles, such as prints of visages, flowers, butterflies and dancing women.
Reflecting an influence often seen in U.S. design, a somewhat surprising trend found at CERSAIE was the plethora of nature-inspired designs integrated into the tiles.
Perhaps due to the available natural patterns and looks within the wood look, faux-wood designs were certainly prominent at the event, with some even integrating safari-style inlays.
One company, REX, showcased water-cut, tear-drop tiles set against "wild, oval knot holes of wood."
According to Abbate, "Those tiles could be used to create a funky backsplash in a kitchen or just create an exciting graphic. That is [one way] companies are taking trends to a decorative, mod sort of direction."
Much like last year, sustainable tiles continued to be a high-profile theme at CERSAIE.
But, companies aren't sacrificing style by being so "eco-friendly," with these tiles available in a wide range of sizes (including large, oversized formats) and colors. Hot pink even popped up a time or two!
The appropriately-titled "Feel" line, from Caesar, tied in well with the aforementioned nature theme as it has the look of wood, is completely sustainable and comes in seven colors.
For designers concerned about practicality, Abbate reports: "The tiles also feature rectified edges which are so straight that they could be butted up against each other with virtually no grout line."
Likewise, Italian manufacturer Gambarelli offers a new eco-tile, "Oxygena," which features a pioneering new technology that creates tiles which react to Co2 to actively cut down pollution, according to the company.
But, the standout sustainable style had to be brand-new oversized porcelain slabs: "KerLite" from Cotto D'Este (set in neutral tones with silver-squared accents) and "Endless" from Provenza, which both measure 3(m)x1(m) and a remarkable 3mm thickness, and are suitable for wall and flooring applications as well as for countertops.
"Those tiles come in matte colors as well," Abbate says. "Those are the largest sizes I've seen that are also so thin. [Designing them this thin] is a real technological feat."
Tile designs in Italy seem to be featuring much more playful and soft approaches to color.
A company called Cottoveneto stands as one example, with tiles available in translucent greens, pale blues and whites.
Casalgrande Padana reflected this trend as well, with Mediterranean-style offerings in a faux-brick design and a range of colors, including "Cherry," "Forest" (light green), "Sunny" (dark yellow) and "Coral" (brick red).
Others, however, did have some fun with more earth-based tones, such as offering tiles in whites, reds and mesh-mounted browns, as well as greys and even glass designed to resemble stone.
One tile, set in neutral tones, even used a veining-type technique to create a design that resembled a wedding veil.
Another interesting trend was the high visibility of faux-leather designs, such as those from companies Cerim and Dom, which highlighted the sleekness of leather mixed with an ease-of-maintenance slant.
Complementing that aesthetic was a notable tile called "Electa" from a company called Grazia, which features wainscoting set against bronze hues.
This year, imitation must be the greatest form of flattery for Italian manufacturers especially in terms of texture. How else to explain the predominance of imitation stone seen at CERSAIE?
"More companies are doing [imitation stone], such as mixing it with glass and with mosaics. I saw a lot of mixtures of glass and metal and ceramic," Abbate points out.
In fact, it was apparent that manufacturers were more than willing to push the envelope and experiment, as evidenced by the Opus line from Ceramgres, which combines liquid glass cut into thin strips mixed with ceramic; as well as a line called "Palladium," that had a unique, bubble-like texture.
"There were also sculptural-surfaced tiles," Abbate states, "as well as texture from different patterns of 'braille-like' bumps."
Another notable offering at Cersaie, travertine cropped up in many unique tile incarnations this year as European manufacturers still appear to enjoy its rich texture and ease-of-maintenance capabilities.
Among the other offerings that appeared to continue or offer variations on the theme, were replica crosscut travertines; replica slates and an entire limestone-inspired family of slab flooring.
Along the lines of things not always being as they appear, the "Muri" tile by Marazzi actually creates an optical illusion of three-dimensional shapes the more it is exposed to light.
Also notable was a technology called "dry pressing," that emerged as a unique alternative for fabricators who are seeking to create new looks.
Achieved by pressing glaze onto the tile, it adds a distinct, "veining" aesthetic to the tile that results in an ornate, Old World feel.
One example of this unique process was featured in the "Nudo" line from a company called BRIX. The line features thin, mesh-mounted pieces and uses the dry press technique to create the look of pressed-sand modules.
There also appeared to be a great propensity for manufacturers utilizing different-sized planks to create playful shapes in the tile on display this year.
For instance, many vendors fused strips or thinly cut pieces into individual tiles to resemble stone, brick or tiny mosaics. Others were mesh-mounted, while still others featured little planks or modular pieces to create unique patterns, such as the "Midtown," from LEA, that created patterns in tile through the manipulation of thickness.
Also of note, according to Abbate, was the influx of rectified edges incorporated into the tiles this year.
"Rectified edges are considered easier to clean and also have a smooth, minimalist look [that fits well with the popularity of the minimalist-style preferences in Europe]," she says.
Light in the dark
LED lighting was another unique application that gave an enlightened look to the designs.
For instance, formats and styles ranged from larger sizes in solid colors to ink-jet-cut, leaf-shaped tiles with the LED lights installed directly behind them.
Citing this trend as well, Abbate offers: "Even some student designers from the [nearby] Domus Academy showed ideas for mixing LEDs and ceramics."
Taking the idea one step further, Villeroy & Boch showcased 11 different contemporary tile offerings, complete with LED capabilities, that included lighting options of blue, amber and white, along with the option of adding three of four of the lights into the tile. KBDN