From large hotel chains to small boutique hotels, it is evident that there is a shift in the look and feel of hospitality designs. While aesthetics has always carried weight, owners of hospitality establishments are now heavily considering issues such as sustainability and hypo-allergenic environments. With these objectives in mind, they have realized that ceramic and porcelain tile is an ideal choice for interior applications.

“Starwood is really starting to understand hard surface and wants to promote hypo-allergenic rooms,” said Ryan Fasan, Tile of Spain Technical Consultant. “They are going with a porcelain plank from Porcelanosa. Hilton is also looking at going to a much more hard surface versus carpet.

“One of the key deciding factors is that hard surfaces -- and ceramic tile especially -- make a big impact, mostly in guest rooms,” Fasan went on to say. “They are commercial spaces, but not high-traffic, so you can use a fully glazed tile. In the aesthetic department in the tile field, you can have an exquisite wood look. It looks pristine. I’ve seen stone in bathrooms that has stains. A lot of chains are starting to get the benefits of tile, and [they are] using it in a lot of suites.”

According to Fasan, he is finding that large formats are all the rage -- especially on walls. “I started talking to architectural firms that specialize in hospitality design, and they are starting to see merits of the wallpaper look,” he said. “After two or three years, wallpaper starts peeling and looks horrible. With inkjet [technology], you can have a handspun silk wallpaper look, and it lasts. It also doesn’t add VOCs to indoor air -- promoting a healthy air space to guests.”

As for colors, Fasan believes that hospitality establishments are focusing on high design. “The palettes are getting more interesting,” he said. “They are not going for the same boring vanilla and beige. I’m seeing a lot of gray tones and warmer beiges.”

In addition to floors and walls in guest rooms, tile is now being utilized for innovative applications. “NH Hotels in Europe are starting to do quite a few headboards and platform beds in tile,” said Fasan. “They are promoting a clean hygienic space rather than leather or fabric that no one wants to touch.”


Added benefits
Using ceramic or porcelain tile in hospitality designs also allows for easier maintenance. “One of the biggest concerns for hotel owners is the turnaround time for cleaning rooms,” explained Fasan. “With tile, a cleaning staff can go in with a hot bucket of water and a mop and squeegee. If they even can shave off one minute [per room] and there are 300 rooms, that’s a big time savings. It makes a big difference having rooms ready for guests. [Also], with more tile, less perfumed cleaners, which many people are allergic to, have to be used.”

Fasan also pointed out that using tile for hospitality applications can also be more energy efficient. “I’ve been talking with some small boutique hotels, and they are looking at tile for energy savings,” he said. “If there is tile throughout with radiant heat then in each guest room, people will tend to set their thermostats lower because it feels warm on their feet. Radiant heat is just pulses and never comes on full blast, so it saves on heating costs. It makes a lot of sense when they have 100 rooms. Electrical radiant heat tends to work better in smaller spaces, so it is efficient and cost effective for hotels.”


Changing perceptions
Sharing similar views, Jerry Joyce, Commercial Sales Director of Marazzi USA in Dallas, TX, is pleasantly surprised with the rise in popularity of ceramic and porcelain tile in hospitality design. “Our new program is Marazzi Architectural, and we have a couple of ideal hospitality products,” he said. “Our wood interpretations are doing extremely well. They are being used in a lot of hotels and restaurants. I’m really surprised how well they are doing. I never expected the style to take off as it has.”

Joyce went on to explain that he is currently witnessing a great deal of interest from architectural firms specializing in hospitality design. “Firms who had sworn it off before saying that they don’t want something fake or that it didn’t look real, now have done a 180-degree turn and have come back to us,” he said. “Treverk has gone so well that we are going to start producing it in our Alabama factory. It was being made at our factory in Italy.”

Marazzi’s wood-look “Treverk” Collection is available in three plank format widths, 48 inches in length, which Joyce feels adds to the product’s appeal. “With high resolution ink jet technology, we have finally captured the styling,” he said. “HD technology has allowed us to get a good-looking wood interpretation. The color palette is more contemporary, and that product in particular is doing well in airports and hotels. It is really fun to see a product take off.”

According to Joyce, Treverk was recently installed in the food courts of several airports. “We have some really nice-sized installations going,” he said. “The sanitary part has become such a big deal for commercial environments. Everyone wants to keep a high profile in cleanliness.”

As hotels complete renovations to stay on top of the competition, it is believed that the popularity of tile in hospitality design will continue to grow. “It has really helped that this part of the business has stayed steady the last few years,” said Joyce. “It is pretty vibrant. Hotels are making upgrades as they compete for occupancy, and they are starting to invest.”

New possibilities
As a specifier, architect Rafael Alvarez of alvarez-brock design llc in New York, NY, frequently turns to ceramic or porcelain tile for his hospitality designs. “There are so many possibilities now with ceramic tiles,” he said. “They can carry an image now. The quality and the scale of the material have significantly improved; that is very important. Pieces can be as large as 3 x 9 feet. Right now, I’m using tile in a new restaurant design where I am covering the whole bar with just three pieces. From an installation point, it is easier.”

Alvarez also pointed out the benefits of wood-looking tile. “It is perfect for high-traffic areas,” he said. “The maintenance is very low, and it doesn’t look like tile.”
For a recently completed restaurant project in the Dominican Republic, Alvarez used ceramic tile on the outside of the building. “It is an interesting material because it is not just your typical ceramic tile anymore,” he said. “The Spanish were using it 500 years ago. We forgot about it.

“For architects and interior designers, it is a good thing because it can keep heat from the outside away from a building,” Alvarez went on to say. “[Also], many people say stone is very cold. Now you can warm [an interior] up. It’s hard to tell the difference. Ceramic tile is an important material right now. It is not just for bathrooms anymore.”