Global Tile Show

If you didn’t get to Spain for Cevisama in February, or to Italy for Cersaie last September, hopefully you made it to Las Vegas in April for Coverings 2014, North America’s top tile and stone show.

Among the 35 nations represented were many of the leading Spanish and Italian brands, as well as a strong North American presence, showcasing the world’s top products and trends. The U.S. market is but a small slice of the global tile market, as much of our usage is kitchen, bath and pool area. Other regions of the world use this versatile material much more extensively in their building projects.

Even within the kitchen sphere, so many other materials (such as wood, natural stone and laminate, for instance) compete heavily for flooring dollars. Tile’s tremendous advances in aesthetics and technology make it a choice worth expanding.

In the master suite, for instance, increasingly realistic wood-look tile can go into wet areas that pecan plank or its Pergo likeness cannot. That means visual continuity can be created with flooring finishes that extend from the bedroom and closet right into the shower stall. You also benefit from the more stringent anti-slip standards that a wet wood or laminate floor doesn’t necessarily offer. Many of the tiles on display at Coverings this year met that higher DCOF AcuTest level, ideal for Universal Design and aging in place installs.


Wood Trending

Wood-look tiles continue to be a dominant style trend, with ever-more realistic looks. Some looked so much like the real thing, in fact, that they had to be touched to ensure that they weren’t. Mexican brand San Lorenzo, with its rustic Antique and Highland styles, and Italian Cerdisa, with its Home Teak, were stand-outs.

Not only were there traditional reclaimed-look wide planks in grays and browns on the show floor, there was a wide choice in looks and finishes from around the world. Blends were especially attractive.

Wood blended with metallics and fabric snippets for a ‘scrap-wood’ look from several Italian providers, including Fondovalle and Impronta. Wood also went high gloss, like a polished hotel floor, from others, including Impronta’s Maxiwood and Sant’Agostino’s Jungle Lux. There were parquet and herringbone options, as well, scattered throughout the show floor.

Like stainless steel, wood-look tile appears likely to remain a timeless design staple.


Patterns Get Playful

Patterns got bolder and more colorful at Coverings. For the last several years, encaustic and hydraulic looks have gotten popular.

In Las Vegas, appropriately enough, they were still a strong trend, with even more exaggerated size and pattern. The effect was a traditional style turned on its eclectic head, or a tongue-in-cheek way to add Old World charm to a modern space.

Other patterns making an updated appearance around the show floor were Dutch delfts, plaids, hexagons, leaves and arabesques, even camouflage from Italy’s Ornamenta for the G.I. Joe client’s man cave.

Patterns also came from varying shapes and thicknesses, rather than colors or graphics. There were numerous offerings around the show floor that showed off three-dimensional tiles or different thicknesses in one series, allowing for shape play on wall design.


Blends Stand Out

While many of the blends had wood as a style element, there were numerous other choices, as well. Florida Tile showed off a mixed media series with rustic stone-looks blended with glass or metallic tiles. American Olean combined glass mosaics with stone and concrete looks.

Mexican conglomerate Lamosa, among others, took the material blend in a monochromatic direction, as did Spanish tile maker Natucer. The combination of interesting mixed materials and mixed thicknesses, rather than color play, created a strong look and was definitely a Coverings 2014 trend, as it has been in Europe at recent shows.

Italian mosaic masters Sicis added some color variation to its mixed media Structura series, but with more elegantly understated aesthetics than many of the bold blends for which they’re famous.


Oxidized Looks Dominate

One of the strongest style trends at the show was the oxidized look. Tiles went dark, distressed and well-worn for industrial drama. Some took on a stone look, while others evoked concrete or old metal. These rough-looking tiles typically offered slip resistance, fitting the newest standard, and spanned the globe in origin.


Tile Gets Clean and Green

There were some interesting technology trends at the show. One was a trend toward self-cleaning or anti-bacterial tiles. Italian brand Lea was offering the anti-microbial element Microban (probably best known to kitchen and bath designers for its inclusion in Silestone countertops) in its tiles.

Closer to home, American brand Crossville debuted Hydrotect, which is both clean and green, as a feature of its new tile series. Italian brand Casalgrande Padana also offers Hydrotect technology in its Bios series. Hydrotect’s clean credentials come from its ability to deter germs and dirt from sticking to the tile.

Its green points come from the fact that it’s made from recycled Toto toilets. Also on the recycled front were Spanish tile maker Togama’s recycled glass mosaics from construction site debris.


Thin is Still In

Ultra-thin slabs are still a hot commodity. They’re used for floors (sometimes being laid over existing flooring when the original surface is smooth and level), walls, cabinetry cladding and countertops. The widest slabs are still being made in Italy and Spain, but European brands like Fiandre are making their thin tiles in the U.S. now, too.

The technology isn’t here yet to make the oversized thin tiles suitable for covering large kitchen islands, but that could change with increased market demand for porcelain and ceramic slab countertops in this market.


Printing and Production Get Sophisticated

For the past few years, porcelain tile has gotten increasingly agile in its ability to mimic natural materials, especially wood and stone. Italian brand Mirage upped the ante with its book-matched Calacatta. Up until now, that look could only be the result of a high-end natural stone installation. That, of course, meant a high-end budget and post-installation maintenance to keep it looking great.

Another interesting stone advance was Marble Tech, Mexican tile conglomerate Porcelanite Lamosa’s natural marble laminated over porcelain substrate. Comparable to wood veneer on cabinetry, Marble Tech gives you the real material at a real deal. It’s fair to say that improved production processes are democratizing luxury in the tile sector, just as they have in high-end cabinetry features such as soft-close doors and drawers.

Italian tile maker Del Conca offers a wood-look tile that installs like engineered wood or laminate called Fast; American brand Images in Tile has created dry erase boards in tile.

The pace of innovation in this industry is breathtaking. Every trade show offers new game changers.

If you’re only specifying tile for kitchen and bath floor and wall applications, you’re missing out on its amazing style, versatility and low maintenance benefits. Start considering staircases, accent walls, outdoor kitchens (with matching indoor tile), fireplaces, exteriors and even bedrooms (with radiant heat flooring installations).


Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is an independent designer in San Diego, the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work (Taunton Press), and a blogger, design journalist, seminar developer and industry consultant.