It's that time of year again. No, I'm not talking about spring, but Coverings, the largest North American tile show, where manufacturers from all over the world converge to show off their latest designs in ceramic tile, stone, and related products. Despite attempts to diversify the product lineups offered at the show, the real star of the show remains ceramic tile, which continues strong growth in retail sales year after year. So, it's no surprise that show organizers are anticipating a sold-out show this year.

Each year, I am amazed by the flood of innovative new ceramic tile designs that fills the show floor at this and other flooring shows. More than any other type of flooring, tile seems to constantly reinvent itself, rather than merely making a few superficial changes such as new colors. Ceramic tile manufacturers are always pushing ahead with new technologies that not only improve the appearance of the tiles, but their technical performance as well.

From larger formats up to 48 inches and beyond, to ultra-thin and lightweight tiles, to energy-saving façade systems, there are an extraordinary number of technical innovations that are changing the way that ceramic tile is used in both residential and commercial applications. New "smart" tile designs offer added benefits such as cleaning the air or even turning on a light when a tile senses that someone is standing on it. In the future, there's no telling what ceramic tile will be able to do.

In this issue of TILE, we are focusing on one of the oldest applications for ceramic tile: pool, spa, and patio areas. From the public baths of the Romans to modern pool and spa designs for residential and commercial projects, ceramic tile has remained one of the cornerstones of design. In her Horizons column, tile design expert Patti Fasan explores how ceramic tile is being used in modern pool, spa and patio design. In the case study for this issue, columnist Jennifer Adams shows how ceramic tile was creatively used in a residential pool and a commercial health spa, demonstrating the versatility that ceramic tile offers designers. To round out the issue, tile installation guru Michael Byrne takes a look closer to home, his home that is, offering a step-by-step journey into the creative process that turned his backyard pool into a true showcase of tile artistry. All in all, this is an exciting issue for an exciting event. In the next issue, TILE will take an in-depth look at the many outstanding new ceramic tile designs unveiled at Coverings, as well as our annual industry market overview, in which we will examine the current trends in the U.S. market.