Creative interplay of different materials has been a strong decorative thread in the ceramic tile world for 10 years or more. Ceramic tiles have been combined with metals, natural stone, wood, resin, glass, plastics, plaster, pebbles, sea shells and much more.
Sometimes the idea is to create colour contrasts, while other material combinations are more about texture than tone. These mix and match material concepts have largely replaced glazed ceramic listelli as decorative feature strips and borders.
Some manufacturers have taken the concept further and created fully engineered, large scale, mixed material compositions that take tiles in a whole new direction. And, of course, sometimes the ’tile’ element in these material mixes is neither porcelain nor ceramic, but something else entirely.
In 2014 Israeli manufacturer Decotal came up with a tile collection that combined concrete and metal. The range’s use of engineered polymer concrete (EPC) was claimed as a first for the tile industry. Highly durable, this material is three times stronger than ordinary concrete and is textured to confer a warm look and feel. The combination of raw concrete and intricate metal decoration creates a luxurious effect with strong visual contrast.
The metal is embedded into the concrete during the casting process, and can be plated before or after casting. The metal is laser cut into required pattern before being cast in the engineered concrete to create a seamless tile. The type of metal and plating used depends on the application. The options for the metal graphics are unlimited and can be custom ordered to any required shape.
Currently, the plating options include gold, silver, nickel and blackened, with brass, copper, aluminium and titanium set to be available in the near future. The metal can have a gloss, matt or brushed finish.
The tiles can be used in bathrooms or outdoors, as they are completely impermeable and weather resistant. They can be used to create carpet like surfaces, as frames to a more neutral pattern or in the creation of fully-patterned surfaces for a decadent feel.
The biggest production challenge of incorporating thin metal inlays in the concrete was to ensure that the metal plate stays in place, due to possible exposure to shock and thermal expansion or contraction. The solution was found in patent-pending small tabs that project from the pattern’s edge and are folded in such a way that they are sunk inside the casting, hidden from sight, locking the metal into place.
The resulting tiles are said to offer outstanding durability and superb scratch resistance. They are also claimed to be highly resistant to chemicals with anti-bacterial properties. Resistant to UV light, weathering and temperatures up to 80°C, these colour-stable tiles are also easy to clean.
In 2014 the range spanned 27 graphics/patterns which can be used in sizes ranging from 200 by 200mm up to 600 by 600mm in both square or rectangular forms. Custom graphics and colours are available on demand.
Decotal is the brainchild of creative director Adi Fainer; an award-winning industrial designer.
This item first appeared in Tile & Stone Journal, February 2014.