Much like how Paris Fashion Week is a major indicator of the apparel and accessory trends to come, Italy’s annual ceramic and porcelain tile fair—Cersaie in Bologna—often sets the tone for what’s going to gain momentum in residential design. After all, the big-ticket items in both new-construction and renovation projects are typically the very rooms where tile is most applied: kitchens and baths. But because of their versatility and eye-catching designs, tiles are increasingly popular in other spaces, from the living room to the backyard.
Just in case you couldn’t make it to the historic, porticoed city for this year’s massive fair, here are some of the trends and products you should know for your next residential projects.
Seeing (and Feeling) Patterns
If clients deem pattern as too busy or gaudy, they may just change their minds when they see one of the biggest trends this year: monochromatic wall tiles with reliefs.
Ceramica Vogue’s Dekorami collection was a standout with three patterns that play on geometry and familiar motifs. Although they have a decidedly contemporary feel, they look at home in any interior regardless of architectural style, from traditional and arts-and-crafts to minimalist. What’s more, Dekorami offers the option of matte or glossy finish.
Another brand excelling in this market is FAP Ceramiche, which introduced two lines that combine pattern with a stone effect; but instead of raised reliefs, they sport a carved appearance. The romantic Flower (from the Lumina Stone series) looks hand-chiseled, yet remains subtle to the eye, while Foliage (from the Nux collection) features a more pronounced leafy composition that shifts in hue within the same color family.
Back in the 2-D realm, many new products lean toward retro-mod or psychedelic aesthetics. Francesco de Maio-Vietri has reissued a 1960s series designed by legendary architect Gio Ponti. Appropriately named Blu Ponti, its mostly geometric graphics are rendered in sky- and sea-inspired blue shades with white. But the manufacturer is also offering the 33 tiles—in large formats only—in green, yellow, black, and red palettes.
Other patterned products to know include Imola’s Bubble, which takes its textural pattern from bubble wrap—down to the popped spots; Ceramica Bardelli’s psychedelic Fleurs and minimalist, linear Zip; Fioranese’s square relief Block; Mosaico+’s mod Quilt; Ceramica Sant’Agostino’s bold Fun and mixed-material mimicking Intarsi; Appiani’s Regalo Textured collection with raised dots and lines; ABK’s colorful Wide&Style Art Shapes series; and Cir’s Key West line of small-scale patterns.
Bits and Pieces
You couldn’t walk down an aisle at Cersaie 2019 without seeing tile or slab products with flecked or fragmented visuals. Naturally, some of these resemble classic terrazzo, but many others are exaggerated or somewhat graphic takes on terrazzo flooring.
Casalgrande Padana’s Macro reinterprets terrazzo in a modern vernacular, and in particular the Moro color (black ground with a white, pebble-and-stone pattern) is the showstopper. Its stark contrast and random-seeming pattern turn ordinary walls or floors into striking surfaces or focal points.
Another high-contrast product is ABK’s Play Dots and Drops in Multiwhite or Multiblack (multicolor large or small flecks on white or black grounds, respectively). Fioranese similarly exhibited exaggerated-speck patterns Ghiaia and Terrazzo MaxiMini, but its more interesting product was from the Sfrido collection: here, confetti-like, wood-emulating strips appear to be embedded in concrete.
Speaking of wood imitations…Several years ago, another journalist attending Cersaie turned to me during a booth tour and asked, "Would you ever spec these fake woods in your own home?" Just by sight, you could easily differentiate porcelain fakes from authentic wood back then, so I said no—as did he. Yet just about every manufacturer we visited that year had some sort of unrealistic, timber-simulating product. Six short years later, the printing and texturing processes have progressed so much that we’ve converted. This year, expect timber with a twist or some intricacy, allowing designers to really customize unique compositions.
Ceramiche Piemme’s Soul, for example, is an oak grain–inspired collection with three decorative modules that recreate the look of inlaid wood. These impressive modules—Shield, Kaleido, and Rolo—can create high visual impact on both walls and floors. Similarly, Ceramica Sant’Agostino included two inlaid or marquetry-evoking patterns in its Timewood collection.
Instead of inlay designs, Isla Tiles’ Shibusa series simulates timber in intriguing shapes of concentric squares, hexagons, elongated hexagons, and basket weave. Settecento’s Bamboo collection is subtler but still attractive. It draws on weathered timber in a natural, white, or dramatic black finish, and offers decorative modules sporting a micro-grid band or mosaic-style squares.
A trend that’s been growing over the last few years are tiles and panels that replicate the look of murals, frescoes, photography, and wallpaper—and it’s evident that the trend is still going strong.
Ragno’s Ironstone collection mostly comprises solid colors, but also includes decorative mosaics including Floreale. Like its name sounds, it’s a floral design that, combined in multiples, has a wallpaper effect. Casalgrande Padana introduced a floral as well. The photorealistic Limpha Coral Rose depicts a climbing rose garden that’s reminiscent of plant growth reclaiming building facades.
Target Group previewed its Hand Painted Collection of five designs, including the embossed Trees Line. These wall panels sport raised, abstract, irregular veins evoking a woodland backdrop with two types of enamel and metallic shimmer.
And Francesco de Maio’s Verdi Verticale injects some greenery with painted illustrations of fronds and cacti.
Though not as prominent as the aforementioned, these trends are still worth noting. Industrial chic remains popular, but instead of ordinary concrete or weathered metal, the category today boasts more variation, detail, or ornamentation.
Ceramica Bardelli’s Lines, for instance, is a concrete-simulating collection that includes the decorative element of a brass or steel strip.
Meanwhile, Lea Ceramiche’s Concreto series adds decor—such as a craquelure pattern or gold flecks—to utilitarian concrete. And OVER fuses characteristics of concrete and metal—such as Cor-Ten and aluminum—in its Titan collection.
Saturated-color trends prevail, too, as demonstrated by Francesco de Maio in the playful dot series Puntini, the Hub collection of vibrant asymmetrical and floral patterns by Naxos, Imola’s Let It Bee line of modular tiles sporting fragmented shapes of the letter B, the Memphis Group–influenced hues and forms of Decorati Bassanesi’s Rocket, and the Mediterranean palette of Perle d’Italia by Antiche Fornaci D’Agostino, among others.
Finally, faux marble and stone are also still on-trend, especially as rapid progress in printing and production is making it more difficult to tell real from fake. This year, the manufacturers are not only aiming for realism, but also abstraction and uniqueness. Del Conca’s large-format Boutique series is a prime example: the Bloom design creates a collage of mixed marble fragments while HBO 6 Onice Fantastico mimics onyx vein striations at an exaggerated scale.
In a similar fashion, Floor Gres introduced B&W_Marble, which amplifies black and white marble veining to an extreme.
Rex Ceramiche Artistiche’s Les Bijoux de Rex draws inspiration from and reinterprets rare or striking stones such as blue sodalite, red jasper, and Emperador marble. (Take a very close look at your building lobby’s precious onyx walls next time, and you might discover it’s really high-resolution, through-body porcelain.)
Brooklyn-based design journalist Sheila Kim reports on architecture, interiors, and decor, as well as design-centric products that run the gamut from table lamps and home accessories to commercial flooring and acoustic ceilings. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Architectural Record, and numerous other publications.
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