From September 23 to September 27, the halls of the Bologna Exhibition Centre in Bologna, Italy, were packed with exhibition booths showcasing the latest ceramic products. Thousands of visitors from all over the world came to seeCersaie'svery eye-catching attractions.

There was a tile collection to appeal to all tastes at this year's show, which celebrated its 31st edition. Fueled by technological advances, tile manufacturers continue to expand upon the popular stone- and wood-look tiles — with refined textures and patterning. Moreover, contemporary-patterned graphic-designed tile surfaces created visually stimulating displays, the expansion of tile sizes was apparent and quick installation tiles also showed a growing market.

An evolving fashion

Upon stepping onto the exhibition floor, it was easy to recognize that the popularity of stone- and wood-look ceramic tile has reached an all-time high. Many exhibitors were featuring their company's unique version of these looks. "In the U.S., there are two main trends -- wood look and stone look," said Maurizio Turrini, Export Area Manager for Cerdisa. "We followed that trend introducing at Cersaie a new wood look, Formwork, and a new stone look, Stardust."

The Stardust Collection is a color body porcelain tile that is available in 12 x 24 and 20 x 20 inches as well as special trim pieces. The digitalization of stone varieties on the surface of the tiles gives this product line a very natural feel.

Also exuding tones of nature, Cerdisa's Formwork Collection comes in five sizes: 24 x 48, 12 x 48, 6 x 48, 16 x 32 and 8 x 32 inches. The aged look of the tile offers a "shabby chic" aesthetic that pairs well with many materials -- complementing various design styles.

Another Italian manufacturer, Lea Ceramiche, presented its spin on the wood trend with its Type-32 Collection. "Lea Ceramiche supplies to almost all of the 50 states, with the exception of three or four," said Enrico Guazzi, Area Manager of Lea Ceramiche North America. "Type-32 is a new tile line we are introducing to the U.S. that we are featuring at Cersaie." Tile collections replicating a hardwood surface are popular not only for their aesthetic, but also for their strength and durability. And with product lines available in a range of sizes, including a plank format, they are becoming an ideal choice for many design applications in both residential and commercial settings.

High-gloss surfaces

Another trend that was obvious at Cersaie 2013 was glossy finishes. Product lines reflecting the appearance of polished marble were prominent. Advances in technology allow for intricately detailed veining that resembles the natural material. With the elegant look of marble, but the toughness of porcelain, this style can be marketed to residential or public sectors such as hotels, spas or office buildings.

Mirage displayed its polished marble-look tile collection at Cersaie, which is named the Jewels Collection. It consists of six varieties: Bianco Statuario, Calacatta Reale, Royale, Travertino Classico, Emperador Selected and Fumo di Londra. Catching the attention of visitors, Mirage had a stunning display of two Calacatta Reale slabs bookmatched together to demonstrate the attention to detail and advances in technology.

Italgraniti debuted its own version of the trend in its Marmi Imperiali Collection. "Marmi Imperiali is brand new -- just introduced at the show," said Gianni Ruberti, Northeast-Midwest Sales for Italgraniti Group. "Italgraniti's research and skills have created six amazing varieties of marble for walls and floors. The collection was instantly recognized as one of the highlights of the whole Cersaie show."

The eye-catching Marmi Imperiali Collection comes in glazed porcelain stoneware for the floor as well as white-body wall tile. A notable feature of the collection is its wealth of accessories and trim features.

Customized graphics

Exhibitors were also eager to present their company's ceramic tiles with custom-made graphic designs, as advances in technology allow for intricate details and unique patterns.

Tagina's Deco Perlage Collection was inspired by the beauty of precious fabrics. It features repetition and sequences coming from contemporary decors. A range of blues, reds and yellows color the grid and floral motif designs, and many delicate and elegant nuances are present in the collection's design patterns. The visual effect moves from ancient floorings of oriental inspiration to geometric patterns.

From a working group of international style and interior design leaders comes Refin Ceramiche's Frame Up Collection. Developed with Studio FM Milano as an evolution to the previous Frame Collection, Frame Up includes four new varieties: two geometric patterns inspired by the artistic avant-garde circles of the period between the two world wars and the early sixties — Vanguard Circle and Square -- and two reminiscent of the sinuous graphic patterns of Emilia majolica tiles of the late 18th century — Emilia Flower and Tradition.

The fragmentation and decomposition of the design transform historical research into a new contemporary-graphic language, creating a highly original elegant product.

Rapid installation

Installation without glue or mortar is possible with Del Conca's Fast Collection. Also featured at Cersaie last year, this quick, dry-laying ceramic tile can be installed over any floor surface without the use of mortar or grout. The tiles of this line are just snapped in and laid over any flooring. Del Conca's Fast Collection has a tongue and groove system. The main export target of this product is to the U.S.

The 31st year of Cersaie was full of creatively designed tiles. It will be interesting to see what products will be used on different projects around the world. Reported improvements in the demand for tile products is a sign of the global financial market getting better, and a reason to celebrate the coming of more beautifully tile-designed projects to be installed around the globe.