Realistic texile patterns on ceramic tiles allow designers to utilize textile patterns in areas that would normally be unusable, such as bathrooms.

As the largest ceramic tile tradeshow in the world, Cersaie is the place where design trends for the coming year are forged, with manufacturers competing to command the attention of designers and consumers. This year’s show featured trailblazing designs that should help tile maintain its remarkable growth during the coming year. From futuristic cubist designs and retro flavors to traditional hand-painted tiles, Cersaie 2006 truly offered something for everybody.

Total attendance at Cersaie 2006 was 90,949, an increase of 2.7 percent over the figures from 2005, and the highest number since the show became a five-day event. There were 1,061 companies exhibiting this year, 211 of which were foreign companies from 32 different countries, highlighting the immense international scope of this show. Foreign attendance was also up by 6.9 percent over 2005, accounting for 29 percent of the total, the highest percentage ever for a tradeshow in Bologna. Of course, the numbers only tell part of the story; the focus of the show is on the latest ceramic tile products and designs, and in this respect, the show was also an unqualified success. There were so many outstanding new tile products presented this year, that it was difficult to differentiate them all, but there were clearly several emerging trends that will shape the course of ceramic tile design throughout the coming year.

Textiles continue to be an important source of inspiration for ceramic designers. This design, I Bagliore di Oriente from Provenza, was based on antique wallpaper patterns.

Back to Nature

One of the strongest new trends this year is the proliferation of ceramic tile designs inspired by nature, both flora and fauna. Flowers and leaves were common design elements in a plethora of new ceramic tile designs. Notable examples of this trend included Supergres’ B-Kind series, which featured a flower composed of drops of glaze; Majorca’s Flair series; Arpa’s Style; Sir Tiles’ Exotica; and Cerim’s Bloom. Other floral designs of interest included Fascia Folk from Naxos, which cleverly combines floral designs with textile-inspired textures; Impronta Italgraniti’s stunning Rhuus le Lacche, which gives an Asian twist to the floral theme, and Tagina’s Floral Textile, which also combines floral designs and textile patterns to yield a fresh, new look.

Cubist designs are becoming increasingly popular, as shown in this example, Enigma from Monocibec.

Animals were everywhere at Cersaie 2006, with every imaginable creature, from birds and butterflies to lions and tigers, providing inspiration for a host of innovative new ceramic tile designs. Standout animal looks included Impronta Italgraniti’s innovative news series Post, which featured silhouettes of dragonflies and deer; Farfalle, a new series from Cevi, celebrated the butterfly in a gorgeous range of colors.

Animal skins were particularly prominent, with a wide variety of ceramic interpretations ranging from subtle imitations so lifelike it was impossible to resist touching, to outrageous avant garde interprataions so over-the-top that no one would likely mistake them for the real thing. Some outstanding ceramic designs based on animal skins included Settecento’s Animalier, which featured imitations of leopard, zebra and cobra skins; and Tau Ceramica’s Serp, an elegant take on snakeskin. Even manufacturers specializing in mosaics offered their own take on animal-inspired designs, with Ceramica di Treviso offering a snakeskin micro mosaic and Bisazza offering two lines in its Sahara collection imitating giraffe and zebra patterns.

The call of the wild: Post by Impronta Italgraniti was one of a host of innovative new tile designs inspired by nature.

Tile Designs Inspired by Fashion

Another notable trend at Cersaie this year was the ever-increasing influence of the fashion industry on ceramic tile design. From textures that imitate the look and feel of popular fabrics to tile lines designed by famous fashion designers, this year’s designs were decidedly fashion-oriented.

Continuing a trend that began with Versace and Roberto Verino, popular fashion designers continue to be closely involved in the development of tile design. Lux Ceramiche worked Italian designer Lucha Nichetto to develop a new tile series, Sensative, while Brix debuted Powder, a news series by designer Andree Putman.

Spanish manufacturer Tau Ceramica also debuted several new series inspired by contemporary fashion designs. “Our colors this year were inspired by fashion trends,” noted Juan Antonio Pesudo of Tau Ceramcia. “From black and white designs to the newest snakeskin patterns, fashion is our primary inspiration.”

Traditional colors such as pale blue remain popular choices, especially for bathroom settings.

Also taking advantage of the tie-in to the world of high fashion was Saloni, which unveiled a new series of advertisements featuring supermodel Demi Moore.

The fabrics themselves also served as important design inspirations, with everything from denim to silk represented in ceramic form. Ceramica Fioranese debuted Denim, a highly realistic recreation of that fashion mainstay. On the other end of the fashion spectrum, Astor’s Klis offered an amazing recreation of silk in glazed porcelain.

Red continues to be one of the hottest colors for tile, as shown in this example, Oxus from Tau Ceramica.

In addition to clothing, textiles also provided inspiration for a variety of new ceramic tile designs. All types of textiles, from woven wallpaper to bamboo mats, were recreated with tile, allowing these materials to be used in applications that would normally be impossible, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Antique wallpapers were particularly hot this year, with a number of manufacturers offering designs based on these colorful patterns. One standout among these designs was I Bagliore di Oriente from Provenza, which reproduced a stunning array of colorful patterns. Provenza’s Live series offered a more subdued take on the wallpaper theme, while Marca Corona used bright metallic gold wallpaper designs in its new Charme series.

This new series, Floral Textile by Tagina, combines two popular design trends, textile-based textures and floral motifs.

Metallic Designs Continue to Shine

Continuing a trend that has grown during the past several years, metallic designs continue to expand in scope and influence. From the rusted metal look of corten steel to polished brass, chrome and iron, every possible permutation of metallic finishes have been recreated in ceramic tile, and the results are astounding; many of these imitations are difficult to distinguish from their natural inspiration.

More than 90,000 people attended Cersaie 2006, an increase of 2.7 percent over the total for the 2005 show.

Tau Ceramica, one of the leading proponents of metallic designs, expanded on its broad line of metal finishes with the addition of Basalto, which features an oxidized metal look. The company also introduced a variety of new sizes for its popular metallic lines, including a 60-by-60-cm size for its Silver series and a 60-by-120-cm size for its Metal Stone series. Other outstanding metallic introductions included Viva’s Nouvelle Vague, which resembles cast iron, and Century’s Interiors, which features a highly polished platinum finish.

N.O.W. by San Agostino is one of many fresh new ceramic tile designs inspired by the texture of natural wood.

Back to Basics: Black and White

While black and white designs never really went out of style, they are enjoying a new resurgence in popularity as consumers become more design savvy. Because they can be combined with almost any color of furniture or accessories, black and white designs offer unlimited potential for consumers and designers alike. There were an abundance of new black and white ceramic designs this year, often combined with bright colors such as red, yellow or orange for contrast. Variations in shade and texture within a series help prevent the theme from becoming too monotonous. Metallic, glass and wood accent pieces expand the black and white palette even further, yielding almost unlimited design possibilities. Interesting takes on the black and white theme included Roca’s new, whiter-than-white Artic series, Mutina’s black, white and gray mosaic combinations, Provenza’s Eco dell Atlante line, and Tau Ceramica’s Oxus series.

Black and white designs remain extremely popular, as well as red accents. All three are combined in this fresh new design, Le Lacche by Marazzi.

Tile Moves into the Third Dimension

This year’s show also saw tile designs soar to new heights, literally, as new manufacturing processes yielded raised surfaces and three-dimensional shapes that must be seen to be believed. From cubes and circles to all forms of geometric designs, tile profiles leaped to stunning new heights, hinting at the influence of industrial design on the tile industry. One of the most arresting examples of these high-rise designs was Monocibec’s new Enigma series, which resembles a cubist puzzle. Other notable raised designs included Tagina’s Giunco series, which offered and ultra modern take on a bamboo texture, Mutina’s Day to Day collection, and circular glass patterns from Giaretta Italia.

Wavy lines are a popular design theme this year, as shown in this retro-inspired example from Grazia.

Asian Influences Abound

There was an unmistakably Asian flavor to many of the new ceramic tile designs this year, which is likely due to the growing influence of Asian designers in the fashion world. From wall tiles that resemble Japanese tapestries to the thematic elements such as bamboo and cranes, there was an abundance of fresh new tile designs with an Asian flair. Notable examples included Cotto Veneto’s Origami series, Impronta Italgraniti’s Rhuus le Lacche line, Casa Dolce Casa’s Iki series, and Mutina’s hand-made Raku series, which is based on the ancient Japanese technique of cracked glazing from which it takes its name.

Traditional manufacturing techniques also continue to yield satisfying designs, such as this hand-painted tile, Riedizione by Cevi.

Fusion is the Future

As these diverse trends suggest, the future of tile design lies in the fusion of ideas, combining styles, colors, textures and formats together in new ways to yield fresh new designs that will inspire designers and consumers alike. If the architectural designs on display this year at Cersaie 2006 are any indication, tile will play a growing role in both interior and exterior design for many years to come.

The next edition of Cersaie will be held October 2-6, 2007 in Bologna, and will feature an expanded program to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary. For more information on Cersaie,