Each year, tile manufacturers continue to intrigue designers and homeowners alike with new product developments. When viewing the numerous collections available on today's market, it is apparent that a great amount of time is being devoted to attention to detail as well as advancing technology.
Tiles mimicking the appearance and texture of stone and wood continue to become more realistic. Although manufactured, the authenticity of these tiles has improved tremendously since their first introduction. Veining and color tones in the stone-look pieces are varying from tile to tile, illustrating a more natural appearance. And the same can be said for the wood-look tiles. The graining in these products is being perfected, and the tiles are even offered in plank format - further enhancing the authentic look.
The use of mosaics dates back centuries. Thought of as an ancient handcrafted art, these tiny pieces are now being implemented in more contemporary ways. Evolution and advancing technology allows this age-old art form to continue, but adapts it to current design trends. Mosaics are forming decorative medallions or murals, which can be inset into floor and wall tile - creating a point of interest and vivid focus in a space.
Additionally, subway tiles have grown in popularity in recent years. These pieces, when used in quantity, create the effect of brick coursing. Whether glass or ceramic, they are ideal for both residential and commercial settings. Irregularly shaped tiles such as these present a subtle way to give more flair to an interior application.
Meeting consumer demandsTo stay on top of current trends, tile manufacturers are concentrating their efforts to stay in tune with the desires of designers and homeowners. Through consumer research and focus groups, they are learning what products are of interest, and work to produce tile lines to meet these demands.
"There certainly are big trends toward glass mosaics and large-format tiles, as well," said Marc Nover, U.S. General Manager for Villeroy & Boch. "We are seeing a lot of 45-by-45-cm floor tile, where traditionally, 12-by-12-inch porcelain field tile was used. This has definitely been a change in the last five years."
Moreover, Nover has noticed that the use of handmade tiles in interior design has definitely grown over the years. "We launched our own handmade tile line three years ago," he said, adding that the collection targets high-end consumers and designers. "We brought glass mosaics into the line as well."
Nover stresses that innovation is an essential key to successful product development. It is important to have an understanding of the direction design trends are heading, and to utilize advances in technology to create tile lines that will grab the attention of consumers.
Among recent developments for Villeroy & Boch is a tile line that features LAD lights. These lighted tiles serve a dual purpose. When used for applications such as steps, they not only provide a safety measure, but also add a decorative element. Products such as this collection are being used in subtle ways to accent and stir interest in a space.
A minimalist approachIn general, design trends in the U.S. seem to still lean toward earth tones - particularly in residential settings. Homeowners are seeking a warm soft feel for their living spaces, which is welcoming and relaxing. And while the use of bolder shades is on the rise, they are being employed as complementary materials to neutral palettes.
"Designers and high-end consumers are looking for a cleaner and minimalist look," said Nover. "They are definitely looking for simpler designs."
But simple does not mean dull. As a result, consumers are attracted to tile products with refined patterns and textures. One example would be the Zebra series, which is part of the Alessi Tiles collection by Steuler Fliesen. Designed by Guido Venturini, this series discreetly replicates the beauty of the zebra's exotic pattern portrayed on ceramic tile.
Available in shades of espresso and grey, wall tiles are in large-format styles of 12- by-16 and 16-by-28 inches, while floor tiles are available in 15-by-15-inch format. Additionally, field tiles can be accented by decorative pieces - available in light beige or light grey and an assortment of sizes.
"Steuler is pleased that Venturini could bring his artistic style to the Alessi Tiles collection by creating the Zebra series," stated Paul Heldens, Managing Director of Steuler Fliesen. "The exotic design of the series presents a sophisticated appeal that is perfect for any residential setting."
The "Freestyle" chrome brushed buttons act as a latch for form-retaining silicon rings that crisscross the tiles from button to button - holding the decoration in place. A selection of Steuler decorative pieces are also offered with the series, including a cut-out picture of a crowned frog in boxer shorts, a ceramic heart, or stonewashed "Zen" bough, and a slate "Zen" tablet.
"With different décor elements from our series or from one's personal collection, it's easy to recreate a new wall style for any room," stated Heldens. "Because of the simple assembly and disassembly with Freestyle, a room can be restyled every day with minimal effort."
Tile lines such as this offer consumers a way to add a little variety to their interior spaces, while maintaining an upscale, chic appearance. And collections such as this are also ideal for commercial applications, which are seeking a sleek high-end look.
Mixing materialsAnother popular trend being seen in designs today is mixing tile with other mediums such as stone, wood or glass. Again, this is a subtle way to add decorative detail while maintaining a subdued atmosphere.
Architect Louis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Architects in Bloomfield Hills, MI, is involved in many high-end residential designs, and is finding that while his clients desire aesthetic appeal, there is also the factor of comfort to be considered. Homeowners are combining tile with other materials to create a subtle elegance.
For one project, DesRosiers combined a decorative band of glass tile with 4-foot-square pieces of Bluestone for the powder room floor in the residence. The semi-transparent miniature glass tiles were implemented as a curved border, adding a subtle contrast to the stone floor. "It was designed to reflect the shape of the granite vanity above," explained the architect.
Applications such as this illustrate how the tile products can be further enhanced when used in conjunction with other mediums. While tile certainly has the ability to create unique and exciting designs on its own, the effects can be even greater when it is placed against other colors and textures of materials with differing consistencies. With the abundance of tile collections marketed today - as well as the numerous others that are in the process of being conceived - the quality and creativity of both residential and commercial design will continue to reach new boundaries.