Continuing this two-part 10 year retrospective investigation of tile trends at Cersaie 2007, Tile Addict shines the spotlight on floor tiles. The article below first appeared in Tile & Stone Journal, November 2007.
“Many factories are now utilising the almost limitless capabilities of the new generation of direct printing technology to produce new designs. This has taken the minimalist aesthetic to new levels of surface sophistication. Alongside these new textured effects, soft cement finishes and metallics continue to proliferate. Burnished steel tiles are now as common as faux limestone effects were four or five years ago. Bronze, copper, lead and iron glazes are also widely available.
Generally displayed in large rectangular formats, such as 400 by 800mm or 600 by 900mm, these metallics clearly have much to offer commercial designers, but the overall quality across the globe is now so high that achieving differentiation is all but impossible. This is one clear instance of many at the Cersaie show that indicates that the true power to move the ceramic tile market forward – or, indeed, cause it to stagnate – actually lies more in the hands of the glaze companies and machinery manufacturers, rather than with the tile makers themselves.
The other dominant trend in floor tiles is the polarisation of colourways. White and off-white floor tiles were widely displayed this year. With satin or soft matt finishes, subtle cushioned edges and smoothly structured surfaces, these tiles have a wonderful tactile quality, although many will question their practicality. In contrast there was also a notable move towards darker floor hues: deep brown, grey blacks and the inevitable wengé.
The ability to create highly authentic floor tile designs inspired by natural stone continues to be showcased by most of the major players, but the emphasis now is on creating an appealing ambience, rather than slavishly aping nature. Timber effects are still surprisingly prominent. The look now is more towards simulating distressed and aged timber floors, and the darker hues of heat-treated woods and exotic rain forest timbers. In terms of format, the trends is away from parquet-effects towards larger planks – just as it is in the actual wood flooring market today. Cersaie also witnessed many examples of wood-effect tiles (or even real wood strips) used as a decorative element – often a border – with porcelain tiles in faux stone, concrete or modern textured designs. Across all the wood-effect ranges the quality is very high and improving. Partly this is due to the wholehearted embrace by companies such as Inalco of digital printing technology, that allows accurate printing, edge to edge, on structured tile faces. Whatever the reason; high quality grain definition and remarkably accurate colouration and figuring are now the norm rather than the exception. Most impressive of all, perhaps, is the surface ‘feel’ of some of these design. To paraphrase that infamous advertising slogan: “I can’t believe it’s not wood!”
Tile surfaces resembling natural textures have been around for some years now. One influence remains natural fibres, such as seagrass and coir, but the relief surfaces have become subtler, with new decoration techniques giving a false perception of depth of relief: thereby improving the cleanability of the tile’s surface.
Rattan, leather, hessian, snakeskin and crocodile are still being promoted, as well as scale-effect tiles, like kale’s Reptile. Once again, the Russian influence is clearly at play.
Tiles that ape polished concrete continue to inspire tile designers. Today’s designs are softer in feel and lighter in colour, yet still offer a cool contemporary look.
The soft subtle look is also to the fore in stone-effect tiles. Silky surfaces, lightly cushioned edges, subtle surface variation and bold formats, both square and rectangular, are very much in mode. Advances in decorating techniques, such as the new large diameter rotary glazing lines, spray glazes and post glaze brushing, now allows manufacturers to offer almost limitless variety. It was noticeable at this year’s show that highly polished marbles, particularly pale Carrara marble, were back in vogue.
In conclusion, Cersaie 2007 has to be seen as an interesting rather than a vintage year. We still await the next step change in tiles design, but the technology clearly exists to make almost any designer’s dream a reality.”
Top 10 Floor Tile Trends in 2007
- Marble renaissance: While it never really went away, Cersaie 2007 saw a return to polished marble floors, with light colourways, notably white Cararra and Calacatta, to the fore.
- Metallic invasion: A significant tends for the last three or four years, metallics are now the dominant design theme in floor tiles. The subtle burnished metals that started the trend are now supplemented by new grey metallic tones like lead; richer colours such as copper and bronze; and glittery effects such as Smalti Micacei.
- Monochrome palette: Sober tones of grey, black and white, delivered in either soft cement or harder textured finishes.
- Moiré effects: Thin lines and intersecting geometric decors catch the light, and the viewer’s eye, to create playful and dynamic visual effects.
- Larger and larger formats: The key sizes in floor tiles are no longer 300 by 300, 400 by 400 and 450 by 450mm, but 300 by 600, 300 by 900, 600 by 1,200, 600 by 600, 400 by 800, 1,000 by 1,000 and even 1,200 by 1,200mm. Where will it all end?
- Ultra-thin 3.5mm ceramic sheets: While the technology has been available from System for a few years, this was the first time that a significant number of factories presented the 3,000 by 1,000 by 3.5mm ultra-thin ceramic sheets. Billed as a low-build refurb option for floors, these thin sheets were also available as large decorated wall panels from design-led companies such as Viva.
- Pitted and polished: Structured minimalism, making use of post-production process techniques.
- Masculine: The bulk of floor tiles at Cersaie seem to be aimed at the contract market rather than the domestic interior. Unless the hard-edged urban loft look is going to be taken up across the board, it is unclear in what direction the domestic floor tile market is heading
- Simulated timber: The ongoing popularity of simulated timber floor tiles remains one of the mysteries of the global tile market. Just when it looks as though this trend has run out of steam back it comes. The emphasis now is on more distressed woods, bolder grain patterns and longer planks. Heat treated oak and tropical hardwood decors predominate.
- Material contrasts: Mixing metals with cement effect floor tiles, natural stone with terracotta, real wood with porcelain, glass tiles with ceramics: the combinations and contrasts are seemingly endless.
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, August 2017