For the last 33 years, the Bologna Exhibition Center in Bologna, Italy, has been hosting Cersaie, the International Exhibition of Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings. This year, the show was held from September 28 to October 2. It attracted the largest crowd since its inception — with almost 102,000 visitors — proving why it remains one of the most important global tradeshows for professionals within the tile industry.

Last year, nearly half of the show’s visitors traveled from foreign countries, but this year’s show saw an even stronger international presence, with an increase of 3.5% more international attendees. There was also a stronger presence of international exhibitors, with more than one-third of the 872 total exhibitors deriving from other countries — an increase of 1% more than last year.

This year, Cersaie also saw an interesting rise in its media attendance — specifically Italian journalists, whose audience increased by more than 27% — which was attributed to the new setting the show created for one of its most crucial and well-attended events, the Ceramics of Italy International Press Conference.

Exposing the “global capital of ceramics”

In prior years, the International Press Conference always had a formal setting within the Exhibition Center, but in order to spice things up this year and give professionals a new venue to explore and appreciate, it was held outside of the city at the renowned Ducal Palace of Sassuolo, which is just south of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region. Referred to as “the global capital of ceramics” by Armando Cafiero, Managing Director of Confindustria Ceramica, Sassuolo truly embraces the rich history and architecture that’s been embedded in the small town for centuries.

Walking into the Ducal Palace can be described as somewhat of a magical experience. With a large, portico-style entry, the 16th century Palace unfolds with intricately carved, oversized stone statues of mythological figures, including Poseidon, and an enclosed, outdoor courtyard, which features a central fountain and additional stone statues. The Baroque-style villa originally served as a summer residence for a wealthy family known as the Ducal’s, who transformed the Palace into their very own getaway, but was restored over the last five years to serve as a public museum. With its recent restoration, 374 works of art, including 311 paintings and 63 sculptures, from the storage of the Galleria Estense in Modena, which had never previously been unveiled to the public, were placed throughout 13 of the estate’s rooms and incorporated into a new exhibition.

“Sassuolo still represents the history of modern ceramics in the world,” said Claudio Pistoni, Mayor of Sassuolo, while welcoming all of the visitors to the Palace during the intimate press conference.

Since Sassuolo is such an industrialized city, with tile production still serving as its main focus, the show organizers stated how they hope to hold the International Press Conference at the Ducal Palace for future years to come. They also explained a new initiative — the “Cersaie Business” program — which was developed this year, where almost 200 journalists, architects and designers from all of the continents were invited to the show for the first time as a collaborative unit to explore the many facets the show has to offer. Organized by Confindustria Ceramica, in collaboration with the Italian Trade Agency (ITA/ICE), this initiative was created “in order for the Italian agency to be more popular abroad,” according to Emilio Mussini, Chairman for Promotional Activities for Confindustria Ceramica, who clarified the goals of the program at the conference. “Cersaie is not only about ceramic tiles; it is also a cultural tradeshow,” he said.

Revamping popular trends

Back at the Exhibition Center, it was surprising to see that many of the trends TILE observed while perusing the show floor this year were very similar compared to last year’s show. Stone-, wood- and cement-inspired looks, which still remain popular, have evolved to incorporate more realistic surfaces, but less subtle textures. With its new Gea collection, Italian manufacturer Settecento reinterpreted the cement-inspired tile with different shapes and multi-color decorations. Available in five earth tone colors and three sizes, this porcelain collection highlights the hexagonal shape and was created to offer unique elements for a timeless “Deco-Chic” atmosphere.

Lea Ceramiche offered a new interpretation of the stone-look with its Cliffstone collection, which was inspired by the popular stones of Jurassic Era, including Jurastone and limestone. Available in four colors and seven different sizes, Cliffstone is offered in a variety of five textures that range from very smooth to fairly coarse. NovaBell, a company within the Italgraniti Group, also introduced a new stone-inspired collection, Firestone, which evokes a very realistic look with its 3D graphics, as if it were real stone. Applicable on both floors and walls, and available in a number of formats, this porcelain stoneware collection had a very even texture, compared to the other stone-inspired looks.

One of the new wood-inspired designs, Village, which was introduced by Tile of Spain-branded manufacturer Levantina, offers 1- x 3-meter tiles that look as if they integrate a range of smaller-shaped tiles within. With subtle textures and realistic-looking grains incorporated throughout, including holes and knots found in actual wooden planks, Village is one of the new designs developed for the Deco Collection, which has a backward-looking that instantly transports you to the countryside.

Another wood-inspired look, Maxe, created by Unica by Target Studio, stood out for its handcrafted nature. This porcelain tile collection, applicable on both walls and floors, is available in 11 different colors and a handful of sizes. “All of the tiles were developed without any printing technology,” said Asia Belli of the Export Department for Target Studio, when explaining why the tiles in Maxe have a very smooth finish, with very little texture and grain.

Brick and geometric shapes, such as hexagons, also proved they were here to stay, since more companies seemed to be adding them into their new product lines in some way. Del Conca, a major player in the Italian and U.S. market, introduced its new Cantina collection, which embraces a brick look, but which has corner tiles with the unique capability to “bend” and wrap around walls, providing a continuous design with no interruption.

Ornamenta, an innovative Ceramics of Italy-branded manufacturer that’s constantly pushing design boundaries, introduced a very creative rendition of the hexagon-shaped tiles with its new Cocciopesto collection. “Cocciopesto,” which translates to “terrazzo pieces” in Italian, is a porcelain tile that was developed to look like actual terrazzo. Available in six different colors and a range of sizes, the “beauty of this collection is its ability to mix all of the different patterns together,” according to company representative, Antonio Vacondio, who explained how the tiles incorporate a design that looks like tiny broken pieces of glass or terrazzo, hence the collection’s name.

One of the brick-inspired collections that really stood out for its ingenuity was created and developed by a younger Italian company, Brix. Although most brick-inspired tiles mimic the size, feel and look of an actual manmade brick, Brix took a much more contemporary take on this trend with its new Micro-Brick porcelain tile collection, which was designed by Italian designer, Nendo, who is known for his pure, minimalist aesthetic. Produced in 12- x 12-inch “nets,” where the seven different patterns offered are physically pressed into the tiles, Micro-Brick emerges from the idea of reducing the dimension of the classical brick usually used for buildings. Tiny designs — which are literally “micro-sized” versions of regular designs — are pressed into each of the tiles, which each have a thickness of only 3 mm. The small patterns, which reinterpreted the idea of mosaics, recall a simple brick wall or more intricate things like stone pavement.

Exploring new trends

Although TILE observed a range of tweaked old trends at Cersaie this year, there was an array of newer styles that companies had on display. Textile- and fabric-inspired designs, as well as 3D designs with raised surfaces — ranging from wavy to floral-inspired patterns — seemed to be the fad this year, as they were intermingled throughout each company’s collection in some way, shape or form.

Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola, which is composed of three brands, introduced a range of new collections, from stone- and wood-looks, to more contemporary, pop art-inspired looks. One of the more popular looks, introduced by Imola, was seen with Kiko, which means “material” in the Maori language and which was inspired by the various textures of materials. In this collection, catered for wall use, linen, silk, hempen cloth and cottons were blended with eight cutting edge colors to create unique and extremely original spaces with a slightly 3D finish. Each color, featuring nine different textures, can be combined with the other nuances or can be diluted with the three neutral colors with a smooth finish, including white, gray and beige. “In Europe, it’s impossible to do a wall tile without a deco,” said Mauro Favaron, Area Manager of North America for Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola, when explaining how the company derived its inspiration for the new collection. “For every line, we go deep. We add different kinds of decorations to each tile.”

Tagina Ceramiche d’Arte was also on the forefront of new designs with its new porcelain tile collection, Details, which is ideal for both floors and walls. The tiles are geometrically-shaped alike hexagons and rectangles, among other shapes, and have an irregular 3D form and soft texture, which add a dynamic aspect to the usual geometric-shaped tiles.

41zero42, a well-known Italian company whose name is derived from the zip code of where they originate in Modena (41042), introduced an extremely ambitious and highly distinctive collection, Signs, where the various patterns are physically pressed onto the tiles, creating an interesting texture and design. This full-body extruded porcelain collection, which is available in four different colors and only applicable on walls, was created specifically with interior designers in mind, since every tile is different from one another. “We tried to think of different graphics for every region, but only ended up choosing six final designs,” said company representative, Antonello Di Leonardo.

Naxos, one of the three brands within the Fincibec Group, introduced a new porcelain stoneware collection, Surface, which interprets a new decoration concept “based on the structures and light contrasts that can be created through so many finishes that the ceramic matter allows,” according to Raffaella Borelli of the Export Department for Fincibec, another brand within the Fincibec Group. Applicable on both walls and floors, these tiles are offered in seven different colors, with a variety of geometric decorations and 3D designs, to provide a host of design opportunities.

“Mix and match”

Another popular trend amongst exhibitors throughout the tile sector was the idea to “mix and match” different collections, which a lot of companies seemed to embrace this year, whether it was mixing stone- and wood-looks together, or intermingling a unique, patterned look with a basic stone or cement aesthetic. Fap Ceramiche, a Ceramics of Italy-branded manufacturer, was one of the many companies that showcased this idea at the show — intermixing newer trends together to create different design combinations that piqued the interest of everyone walking by. One of the most dynamic collections, Lumina, incorporates new finishes, sizes and 3D textures. Applicable on walls, the new 3D-shaped Diamante structured tiles, available in both matte and glossy finishes, complete the full range of geometric offerings and delicately complement the other wood and stone looks the company introduced this year.

Emil Ceramica Group, which is composed of four brands, was another company that embraced this idea wholeheartedly, mixing and matching a number of their old and new collections together to try and appeal to every market possible. One of the group’s major brands, Emilceramica, introduced a new collection, Brick, which entails exactly what its name portrays — a textured, brick look — and which was designed specifically for the American market. The series, however, was created to allow the designer to come up with any color desirable so that it can be easily combined with other looks, according to Debora Laterza, marketing director for Emil Ceramica Group. “We can make any color [designers] want,” she explained. “We can produce up to 150 colors. And, we can make the decoration fit anywhere.”

Ceramica Sant’Agostino took a different approach to the mixing and matching idea, introducing a handful of new colors — from “light” to “dark” — that were used in different ways throughout three of the company’s new porcelain collections, which each embrace a different look. “Shadewood,” “Shadestone” and “Shadewall” — all of which incorporate the five new colors — draw inspiration from natural elements, such as wood and stone, incorporate different textures and were developed specifically to cater to architects and designers. “They can mix different sizes and colors, and create different designs for different environments,” said Simona Labbate, who heads the press office for Ceramica Sant’Agostino. “They can also play with different styles.”

Another popular Ceramics of Italy-branded manufacturer, ABK Group, which is comprised of four brands, showcased this idea with a bunch of new collections it displayed. “Our philosophy is that every collection can be put together,” explained Cristian Nizzoli, Communication & Retail Manager for ABK Group. Interno 9, a new colorbody porcelain collection from ABK, draws inspiration from “the industrial mood of today’s most popular materials” — stone, wood, concrete and even oxidized metals — and is offered in six colors. Applicable on walls and floors, both indoors and outdoors, the extensive option of designs offered in this collection allow the ability to create any type of classic or contemporary look.

Although this is only a snippet of what was on display at this year’s edition of Cersaie, TILE had the chance to observe a multitude of other looks while walking the various show halls. From revamped wood- and stone-inspired tiles to the range of geometric-, pattern- and 3D-inspired looks that seem to be taking their place as the new trending designs, this year’s show had something to offer every design personality.