Tile Exhibit Focuses on Mixing of Materials, Colors

Tile Exhibit Focuses on Mixing of Materials, Colors

So reports Christine Abbate, spokesperson for Ceramic Tiles of Italy and principal for Park Slope, New York-based Novita Communications, who says, "The tile industry continues to create new looks that are both decorative and appealing for designers to use. [Tile design] is not just for the backsplash and kitchen floor anymore, it is for different rooms in the house to add color, warmth and durability to the home."

She notes that a large trend this year was the mixing of materials, such as glass, metal and ceramics something we're already seeing a lot of in the U.S. Additionally, she notes that soft, neutral palettes, such as woody browns, were highly visible at the exhibition.

She adds: "There was also a lot more texture [than last year], with bamboo effects and Asian motifs. Companies were adding surface textures that were rich with low relief."
Another interesting trend she noted was that: "The Italians are [more concerned about] the environment, using recycled materials and being responsible in the usage of energy and water while being aware of the way tiles break down."

As an example, she cites a company called Gambarelli which offers a tile named "Oxygena." The tile which features a titanium element in the ceramic works with smog to break down pollution and turn into an eco-efficient salt.

She concludes: "I think there is a tradition to push the envelope [with European ceramic tile design]. They are always re-thinking and emphasizing the design process. Therefore, I am seeing an increasing cross-pollination between the fashion industry and the design and furniture industry."

Color Choices
Undoubtedly, the biggest trend at Cersaie 2003 was the increased use of color; especially earthy, brown tones, Abbate points out.

"I saw brown tones across the board this year," she explains. "They were soft browns, with woody, almost brown washes. It was really elegant looking for a  faux wood."

She adds: "I saw browns being used with oranges, as well. There was just more color in general."

This is a key development, she notes, offering: "The color possibilities are vast and different colors can be used to allow yourself the ability to create installations that are different, sturdy and durable."

There were also many tone-on-tone applications, such as greens and black, mixed with varying patterns and finishes, including floral designs, water lilies and Asian elements like bamboo mixed with either matte or gloss surfaces.

Another way companies set off neutral tones, she notes, was by adding a punch of bright color such as blue inserts to create an eye-catching contrast.

Material mix
According to Abbate, there was a wide mixture of materials featured at this year's exhibition, as well.

"I saw many companies combining glass, metal and ceramics in interesting ways, such as cutout pieces of glass that were sliced and inserted into various ceramic fields."

She adds that more than one company featured glass surfaces that were affixed to ceramic bases.

"One company had crystal pieces mixed into the ceramic. They sunk into the crystal and in the glass pieces were little LED lights," she explains.

"The same held true with metal, such as with pencil-thin metal inserts and metalicized effects. Different mediums were being explored," she continues.
Stone looks also continue to be hot, she adds, with one company offering a Jurassic Stone that was pioneered from porcelain into a realistic stone look.

Cement is seeing a surge in popularity as well, Abbate notes, stating, "We first saw the cement look last year, and now it is in a larger format, with softer grades and different inserts."

For a seamless look, she cites rectified edges as another unique trend: "Traditional stone fabrication companies are featuring honed edges or bullnose edges to show more of the countertop possibilities there.

"Now, so many of the ceramics are rectified so designers can play without having grout lines," she adds. As an example, she points to SAICIS' "Pingo Pallino," a glittering field of textured copper disks set off by iridescent grout.

Another development, Abbate notes, was the introduction of Mirage's "Granito Ceramico," or "Ceramic Granite," which combines the durability of vitrified stoneware with the natural look of granite. According to Abbate, its large format slabs can be fabricated with traditional marble or stone machinery and can be used for countertops, stairs, shelves and a variety of wall applications and is offered in polished, honed or unpolished surfaces.

Changing Formats

Abbate notes that there was a varying approach to format this year, with tile sizes moving in two different directions. For instance, floor tiles are getting bigger, she says, often with 4'x4' porcelain slabs blended with medallions and border designs. As an example of this, she cited Piemmegres' large-format "Mediterrano" which paired porcelain with steel and crystal accents.

In fact, she adds: "Many of these huge porcelain slabs can be used for walls, floors, countertops or floors in the kitchen."

And while other designs, such as Cerdisa's stone-look 'Sandstone," offset its large format with textural nature-inspired insets, Abbate notes that the larger formats are well-suited for contemporary settings.

The desire for mesh-mounted mosaics especially those featuring the mixture of glass, mother-of-pearl, wood and porcelain in a small format also continues to make a splash, she adds.
The retro look is still popular as well, says Abbate, with circle forms gaining prominence, rectangles remaining popular and hexagons making a comeback, she notes.

"The rectangles are becoming thinner and longer, almost like strips," she describes. "Many companies showed stacked installations with these thin rectangle shapes that they can make into patterns."

While trends are currently all the rage overseas, Abbate believes they will soon be more evident in the U.S. "My impression is there is a new appreciation for modernism in America. In the Midwest you can have people discussing Barcelona chairs and Italian ceramics. People interested in design will discuss something modern and new if it is a design within reach," she says.