With a whole world of architects, designers, specifiers and media searching for the hottest new products and trends, the 2008 edition of Cersaie, the international exhibition of ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings, did not disappoint. From Sept. 29-Oct. 3, close to 90,000 industry professionals flocked to Bologna, Italy, to get a taste of the crème de la crème in tile and bath before the products hit the marketplace. It is safe to say that the Italian tile industry scored big at this show. The three S’s: size, shape and surface are three areas where innovation soared. But first, Italy’s ongoing commitment to the green revolution and a move toward designer collections must have its time in the limelight.
Sustainable StandoutsIn line with the long list of Italian tile manufacturers that are regularly at the forefront of green design, this year’s most celebrated tile products are aesthetically appealing as well as environmentally friendly.
Ergon Engineered Stone, a brand of Emilceramica, whose eco-collection Green Tech has been in high demand by distributors around the country, is expanding its sustainable offerings. In October, the company reintroduced its popular line Mikado, which is now being produced with recycled content. Similarly, Caesar, the first Italian company to obtain Eco-label certification, used Cersaie 2008 as the moment to launch Change, a sleek new LEED-compliant series with a visually stimulating surface texture. Pastorelli, a subsidiary of Del Conca, debuted Opera, which is made using recycled content.
Glass mosaic manufacturer Trend also has two new green collections, Feel, which is made of a minimum of 80% recycled glass, and Trend Q, which consists of up to 72% post-consumer recycled glass. Casalgrande Padana’s four new introductions, Loft, Oxide, Maxima and Pietre Rare are the result of the company’s ongoing research to produce high-performance materials with a low impact on the environment, as testified by the ISO 14001 and EMAS certifications it has obtained.
Designer/Manufacturer Duos Dominate the Tile SceneTrend reports are intended to highlight the designs and initiatives that are brand-new to the market. But like an iconic find, some collections transcend decades. In 1982, Bruno Munari created two tile design projects for the Italian tile manufacturer Gabbianelli. Now, more than 25 years later, Gabbianelli is reintroducing these timeless 8”x8” tiles to the world. Gabbianelli is also shedding light on its long-standing relationship with Italian designer Enzo Mari with the revised version of Traccia without any modifications other than the technical details dictated by the evolution of production systems.
From ongoing partnerships to new endeavors, the designer/manufacturer joint venture is a sure thing in this ever-changing market. Patricia Urquiola and Mutina launched a new porcelain stoneware collection called Déchirer.
Another first is for DesignTaleStudio, the creative lab of Refin, who partnered with industry icon Karim Rashid on a new series called R+Evolution. Rashid’s signature artistic flair shines through in the collection’s 11 wall decors and five floor tiles.
High-TechAs always, technology took center stage. Large and in charge is the best way to describe this year’s harvest of oversized formats. Casamood introduced a new line of porcelain stoneware called thin neutra. The collection boasts tiles as big as 3m x 1m and as slim as 3.5mm in thickness. Other notable new collections in this category include: Slimtech from Lea, Networks from Impronta, as well as Oxide, Sketch, Metropolis and Jungle from Laminam.
Finally, Kerlite Twin from Cotto D’Este is a highly resistant, double-layer slab that can stand up to high-traffic commercial applications.
Digital technologies are driving the industry forward. Ceramica Sant’Agostino has patented a digital system that allows non-repetitive patterns to that extend from edge to edge with a clearness even on surfaces with strong relief. Lea’s Biossenze is produced with FULL HD technology, a system that transfers the design and texture of wood onto a ceramic surface using a machine that works like a digital printer but uses pigments and glaze stains specifically for ceramics. Impronta uses a system called “Pro-Digit,” which utilizes Rotodigit technology to decorate different graphics and stone-like vein patterns.
In terms of adhesives, MAPEI debuted four new grouting solutions including Kerapoxy Design, a two-component, decorative, acid-resistant epoxy mortar for tile joints and glass mosaics.
Beyond the BasicsCircles and squares continue to take shape, but these days the new geometric forms come in the way of polygons, hourglass figures, geographic diagrams and more.
Cotto Veneto’s Cerchi, which means circle in Italian, takes on new contours, blending in a play of continuous geometry. Caesar and Mipa played with irregular squares and created patterns that mimic netting. Elongated rectangles and silhouetted shapes combine to make the profile of a cityscape in Marca Corona’s Skyline. Mirage’s Black and White mixes layers of light and dark diamonds for an optical effect. Hexagonal patterns and six-sided formats, such as Vietri Antico’s Giochi d’Acqua – Liberty, Ragno’s Philosophy and Etruria Design’s Hex also turned heads at the show. Viva’s Bikini and Duplo offer unusual shapes that fit together like a giant puzzle while the structural features of Provenza’s d’Oc include a stunning droplet shape.
Tactile TexturesWith a heaping handful of manufacturers showcasing tantalizing textures, these highlights only scratch the surface.
To start, Lea experimented with materials such as linen, cotton and papyrus and imprinted these textures onto the surface of its new collection Makò, topping each tile off with glazed “stitching.” Ragno’s Textile is tactile, with porcelain pieces that are stratified, grid-like and sometimes three-dimensional. This decorative solution can also be found in Edilgres’s Starlight, which offers an extra-fine texture. This fabric phenomenon influenced Keope’s Wave and Casa Dolce Casa’s Cuoio, which have velvety finishes.
Leather and animal skins are among the other fabulous faux options. Rex drew on the overwhelming success of its MaTouche line to create a fine line of leather-inspired tiles called Galuchat.
These decorative textures shared the spotlight with more architectural options. Topping the charts is Casamood’s Nera, which is made of lava extracted from the foot of Mt. Etna. Also deserving praise, Coem’s Pietra Vicentina has a rough-hewn surface with tiny fossilized shells set into the body of the porcelain tile. Floor Gres’ Less, part of its Integrated Architecture Project, has three surface options including one that imitates the look and feel of rice paper.
Finally there were those manufacturers that chose to add a whole new dimension to the surface. Marazzi’s Paris features four structures, two ribbed and two that recall quilted and boiserie finishes. Piemme’s Imperiale, designed by Valentino, mimics the “capitonnè” upholstery that emerged in France in the mid-19th century. This quilted pattern, either true to form or done with a contemporary flair, popped up in many new Italian tile collections including Senio’s Velvet and Fioranese’s Extra Glam. Ceramica Campani also pulled from the past with its introduction of Mirror. For a more modern aesthetic, FAP’s Cupido includes a tile strip that juts out from the surface, which takes wallcoverings to new heights. Kronos’s three-dimensional basket-weave looks so much like the real thing, it is hard to believe its made of porcelain.
Flowers & Trees Take RootTraditional wallpaper may have met its match. At this year’s Cersaie show, fairgoers saw an elegant display of romantic florals and classic silhouettes done on hard surface ceramics and porcelains.
Sant’Agostino’s version of Romance featured elegant florals and classical wallpaper motifs similar to those found in historical mansions. Atlas Concorde’s color-rich series Intensity, covered with artistic rose buds, is another example of this trend. The rose is also featured in DecoratoriStyle’s new series Grace, designed by Carlo Dal Bianco as well as Novabell’s Sunshine. Dahlias, lilies, camellias and tulips, such as those available in Edilcuoghi’s new Garden series, are other options for walls.
Modern botanicals were also highlighted with Naxos’ Materia, which are cast in subtle tone-on-tone hues of beige and gray or contrasts of black and white. Similarly, a garden of plants takes over the surface of Cedir’s Chic, while Coem’s leafy metallic overlays pop against the collection’s basalt background. Cir’s Matile mixes silhouetted foliage with detailed leaves in bas-relief. Viva’s Chanson D’Amour uses striking contrasts to make a statement. Settecento’s Indian Summer decor from the Visionnaire collection is reminiscent of Cole & Son’s popular Woods wallpaper but presents a style all its own. Finally, sophisticated stencil-like scrolls and more floral patterns graced the surface of Piemme’s Diamond, Atlas Concorde’s Sublimage, Alfa Lux’s Iridium, Gardenia Orchidea’s Luminar, Fabbrica del Vignola’s Luminal as well as FAP’s Incanto and Oh collections.
Eastern InfluencesSome say history repeats itself. Nowadays, the design industry is seeing a resurgence of traditional Eastern art forms, fabrics and manual techniques. Piemme’s Charme, designed by fashion icon Valentino, features glittery motifs like those found in Islamic art. Oriental silks, Indian fabrics, embroideries from Indonesia and Burmese pieces in lacquered wood were used for inspiration for Emilceramica’s Satin collection.
Majestic MetallicsThe metallic craze is still going strong, but this year the trend is toward gold. DecoratoriStyle’s Gold Collection is tailored towards those who love beautiful things and above average performance. This luxury series sets Carlo Del Bianco’s two designs String and Grace in precious metal. Also new and notable is a prototype from Tagina named Doré. The collection is designed to recall the softness of Renaissance fabrics finely decorated with pure gold. ABK’s Axolute boasts a golden décor that looks like a piece of architectural artwork on the wall.
As outlined above, these top trends and the myriad Italian innovations are sure to inspire architects, designers and consumers alike with fresh ideas and new design approaches. For more information on new products, visit www.italiantiles.com, the portal to the Italian ceramic tile industry.