When traveling to various destinations around the world, it is always interesting to observe the different styles of architecture. Each country possesses its own history and culture - usually dating back centuries - which is often prevalent in the designs of its city buildings, historic institutions and residential properties. And when it comes to building materials, tile is typically found in abundance - adorning archways, cladding walls and covering floors.
Italy and Spain are among the leading manufacturers of ceramic tile, and in recent years, it is evident that they have taken significant strides in research and development. Advances in technology have allowed for more high-quality products that provide strength and durability needed in public spaces and other high-trafficked areas.
Overall, it seems that international trends, in regards to designs that use tile, are fresh and innovative. Bright colors, prints and textures are words that best describe what is being showcased. Many designs tend to stretch the imagination and evoke emotion.
Moreover, glass tile and mosaics maintain their popularity. These tiny tiles are being used in monochromatic color schemes to create contemporary designs in the commercial and residential arenas. They are also being utilized to create lavish murals and decorative wall scenes in the hospitality sector.
A Floral OasisAn example of the powerful effect mosaics can play in a design is the new Hotel Les Fleurs in Sofia, Bulgaria, where floral murals created by glass mosaic tile are found throughout the hotel. The decorative design is the result of a renovation project, which transformed the “Alexander Building” - one of the first modern buildings in the city’s historical center - into a trendy and inviting spot for vacationers and business people to reside.
“The Alexander Building was one of the first modern buildings in the historical center of Sofia, and its eight stories were the seat of commercial activities,” said Francesco Lucchese of Studio Lucchese Design. “Its front was mostly made with glass and aluminum, which gave the whole building a cold feeling.”
Lucchese went on to explain that with the intentions of converting the building to a hotel, the “cold” image had to be changed. “The first objective of the project was to give the building a new look - a sort of new skin,” he said. “During the preliminary meeting to define the project, the committee told us that they wished to identify this boutique hotel with a refined, elegant image, but at the same time, wanted it to be realistic. I thought that the ‘language’ of flowers would be perfect. When I went to deliver my presentation, I brought a bunch of flowers with me to visualize my concept.”
To create the interior design, which depicts a different kind of flower in each room, approximately 15,000 square feet of glass mosaic tile from Trend was selected. “The result is that every room is unique in its colors, materials and general image,” explained the architect, adding that the intention was to create a luxurious ambience.
In addition to the guest rooms and public spaces, the glass mosaics were also used for the hotel’s exterior façade. Given the fact that the Hotel Les Fleurs is on a busy corner, the colorful mosaic exterior attracts attention from those passing by and enhances the overall architecture of Sofia.
According to Lucchese, the mosaics created depth and character to the surfaces of the building. The reflective quality of the tiles also added a shimmering effect inside and outside the building.
Creating a MoodAnother example of mosaic tile’s creative use can be found at the Chifley Hotel in Sydney, Australia, which was recently renovated. Prior to refurbishment, the hotel was in disrepair. The property was bought by Australand in 2007, and because of its prominent location at the apex of Kings Cross - with views of the Sydney Opera House - extensive plans were put in place to redevelop the site, including a new hotel.
“The central design concept was to absorb and reflect the deeply sensual, moody nature of the surrounding area, but also incorporate the sophistication and beauty of the classic Victorian terraces adjacent,” according to a design statement released by Marchese + Partners in collaboration with AHL Design. “The essential theme running through the concept was to take the viewer on a journey from dark to light.”
A significant component of the design were Italian glass mosaics from Trend, which contributed to the sultry atmosphere of the establishment. The tiny shimmering pieces clad entire walls in the hotel’s public spaces - creating striking patterns.
“Moving from the dark metallic atmosphere of the lobby, the hotel patron is transported into an original 70s lift to the reception area where there is a playful reversal of color,” according to the design statement. “The mosaic-tiled wall in the entry lobby and reception area is a perfect example of this transition. The use of [mosaic] tile played a significant role in producing the sophisticated and vibrant interior throughout the hotel.”
An Urban FeelLarge-format metallic tiles were incorporated into the design of a Springfield retail store in Madrid, Spain - providing a sleek, hip look for the clothing store. According to the design team at JGA in Southfield, MI, who worked on the project, the objective was to create a “city-living” feel.
Selling “contemporary, active and comfortable apparel for the fashion-forward young man or woman,” Springfield is an international retail store with locations throughout Europe, Asia, Canada and Mexico. “[The objective was to] create a vibrant environment that reflects the Springfield philosophy: ‘Life is an ever-changing set of experiences, shifting attitudes and evolving points of view on a journey to find my place, and for my place to find me,’ “ stated JGA.
The Porcelanosa Ferroker tile with a metallic finish added to the overall urban environment that was desired for the store’s design. The muted colors and sheen of the 3.6-by-1.8-foot pieces brought a cool vibe to the retail outlet, while also withstanding the wear-and-tear of heavy foot-traffic.
“Graphics and communication are key components to adding scale and also provide an opportunity to integrate local interests and icons to the shopping environment,” stated JGA. “Exposed stock space and street market fixture presentations with the tiered-down display and exaggerated height of stock shelving bring the outside in.”