Tile as art: Trend Village, winner of the Coverings 2004 Grand Prize.

Azuvi's white wall tile Kronos, available in a large 12-by-18-inch format, is combined with Utopia, a 3-by-18-inch colorful listel.
This March, two of the world's most important tile trade shows, Cevisama and Coverings, showcased the latest tile design trends. Despite economic and political concerns, both shows saw an increase in attendance, which highlights the continued success of the tile industry, both in the United States and abroad. More than 86,500 attended Cevisama 2004, the 23rd International Trade Fair for Ceramics, where new ceramic products from top manufacturers were on display. The show, which was held in Valencia, Spain from March 2-6, saw an increase in attendance of three percent over the previous year. Coverings, held March 23-25 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, had more than 29,000 registered attendees, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year. These two shows highlighted the latest design trends in the tile industry, with bold new colors and formats, as well as reinterpretations of classic designs.

Back to Basics: Black and White Designs

One of the most noticeable trends in color is the return of bold, stark black and white designs. A plethora of unique designs were on display, all using simple black and white, in myriad designs, such as step patterns, diagonal designs, and various combinations of horizontal patterns, to achieve a modernist design aesthetic. Small horizontal textures, such as stacks of small rectangular shapes, were layered to create a variety of larger patterns.

Lea's Progetto L14 – Lounge Collection is a diverse pocelain tile available in a variety of modernist color schemes. Pictured in this setting are the spy 10-by-40-cm accent in paprika, record 14 10-by-40-cm tile in vaniglia, mood 14 10-by-40-cm tile in vaniglia, and mood 24 40-by-40-cm tile, also in vaniglia finish.
To complement the simplicity of these designs, a variety of accent pieces are used, ranging from glass and metallic inserts to brightly colored borders and listellos. By combining black and white, in many different shapes and textures, with brightly colored accents and inserts, an endless variety of bold, modern designs are possible. Outstanding examples of the new black and white design aesthetic included Roca's new Millenium line, Saloni's A+A line, and Pun by Ascot.

A New Color Palette: Red Hot and Retro

This year's color palette is definitely hot, red hot to be exact. Bright, lipstick red was the color of choice for many designers. These shades of bright red were used as accents to the many black and white designs, as well as on their own. An outstanding example of this modernist red look was Tau Ceramica's bold kitchen featuring its new Nagy line in bright red, complemented by stark white counters and black accessories.

Tau's Corten is a replica of the naturally oxidized steel Corten used in contemporary architecture and sculpture. This porcelain tile series is offered in 12-by-24- and 24-by-24-inch formats, and is available in oxidized silver blue or rusty bronze finishes.
Lea's Progetto L14 - Lounge Collection also featured bright red accents in conjunction with white matching wall and floor tiles.

In addition to bright red, other shades of red, including reddish browns, are having resurgence in popularity. Other popular colors included chocolate brown, orange and shades of gray.

Retro Looks Have a Revival

Another trend that was hard to miss this year was the strong return of retro looks, particularly the colors and images of the pop art movement popularized by Andy Warhol. Colors from the 1960s and 1970s, such as lime green, orange, and gold, as well as many shades of brown, made a strong return, perhaps symbolizing a collective wish for a return to simpler, more optimistic times. Outstanding examples of the retro, art pop-inspired trend included Saloni's Happy, which featured arresting lime green tiles with coordinated accent pieces in the shape of martini olives; Decocer's Arco and Cosmo lines, which featured creamy orange and brown shades and were complemented by the Klimt line of retro borders inspired by the painter of the same name; and Lea's Project L14 lounge collection, which contrasted chocolate brown with lime green accents.

Metallic Looks Continue to Gain Popularity

Another important trend is the increasing influence of metallic designs, which have moved beyond accents into complete finishes.

Marca Corona's Aedes Regia collection reproduces Rapolano travertine but with superior technical characteristics. Produced with 20 different patterns and sizes ranging from 6-by-6-cm mosaics up to 45-by-45-cm.
One of the most exciting new trends is ceramic finishes designed to imitate the look of oxidized and weathered steel, commonly referred to as "corten." Outstanding examples of this look included Tau's Corten, which is available in two finishes to simulate different levels of wear, Inalco's Eiffel series, Luxus by Gres Catalan, and Metal Line by Iris. Metallic and glass inserts and accent pieces continued to proliferate, with stainless steel becoming a common accent material.

Natural Finishes Become Even More Refined

Another important trend in ceramic design is the imitation of natural products, particularly stone, as well as wood and textiles.

Crossville's Illuminessence Glass line includes three series: Prism Glass, available in three finishes -- Clear, Frosted and Iridescent, in 3-by-3-inch format; Prism Glass Listellos, available in five surface textures and sizes; and Radiance Glass, available in two finishes – clear and frosted, in 3-by-3-inch-, 3-by-6-inch and 6-by-6-inch formats.
Stone looks have gained such as degree of realism that several manufacturers displayed real stone pieces next to their ceramic imitators for close-up comparison. Outstanding examples of natural stone imitation included Roca's trend-setting Rock and Rock collection, which featured several new series and colors, Azuvi's Minimum Marble collection, Diago's Seattle, which featured and antique marble look with irregular edges, Edilcuoghi's Africa line, and Colorker's Oregon and Ankara lines. Also noteworthy were the numerous wood imitations in ceramic tile, which have improved dramatically in the past year. The depth and color of these wood imitations is starting to rival the best laminate finishes, and the proliferation of large format rectified tiles allows their use in a variety of settings, including floors and facades. Popular finishes for wood look tiles included wenge, beech, and weathered pine, as well as more common varieties such as oak and cherry. Outstanding examples of wood look tiles included Porcelanosa's Ceramic Parquet, available in three colors and two formats, Maderas by Inalco, available in three colors and two formats, and Tau's new Sabika line, available in three colors and two formats, with matched listellos.

Bold black and white designs, a return to the retro looks of the 1960s and ‘70s, and the increasing realism of natural looks are some of the most significant trends revealed at Coverings and Cevisama. These trends in ceramic design point toward an increase in the sophistication of the U.S. market, which has long been considered to be more conservative than Italy, Spain and other European countries.