Each year, there are many different developments in the industry, from colors and designs to textures and finishes. The wood-look aesthetic has seemingly dominated the market for the last decade, while soft, neutral colors remain popular. But, what does the future hold for these current trends? Will they continue to flourish or become a thing of the past five years from now?

TILE had the chance to speak with a range of designers and tile manufacturers from all around the country, who gave us some more insight as to what today’s customers want and where they see the industry going.

“Neutrals have always dominated tile use, as they are the easiest to live with,” said Rita Carson Guest, president and director of design at Carson Guest in Atlanta, GA. “When we use color, it is typically only for accents.”

Alike Guest, Alena Capra of Alena Capra Design in Fort Lauderdale, FL, is currently using a lot of neutrals in her designs. “I use a lot of grays, light beiges, whites, charcoals and taupes,” she said. “I think they make up for a large portion of my work, but I’m also using some pops of color as accents,” she said.

“Neutrals, especially taupe, were dominating this spring at High Point Market,” added Linda Holt of Linda Holt Interiors in Boxford, MA. “I saw very few showrooms featuring the previous popular cool grays.”

Even on the West Coast, neutrals find themselves at the center of most designs. “Clients like that beige has a spa-like feeling and white has been an overwhelming demand for years, which continues,” said Christopher Grubb, president and founder of Arch-Interiors Design Group in Beverly Hills, CA. “White has dominated clients’ requests for the look and feel of how crisp it is, as well as its timeless nature. But, we have been incorporating more grays for people who want something different that still has that spa-like feel but is warmer than white and a departure from beige.”

Designers and manufacturers seem to see things through similar lenses, agreeing that neutrals are the most popular choices amongst customers currently. “Neutral colors and earthy tones — ivory, beige, taupe, black and brown — have always been more popular in North America more than anything else,” said Semih Susleyen, sales manager at Ege Seramik America, Inc.

“This is particularly true in marble looks, as we are seeing white, gray and black trending, as well as traditional marbles in beige and brown,” added Shelly Halbert, director of product design at Dal-Tile Corp. “The ‘greige’ color family is also popular right now, as it adds warmth while still giving a contemporary feel. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we are seeing bright, vibrant colors rising in popularity, particularly in commercial settings. Blue is emerging as the top color of the year.”

Guest and Capra agreed with Halbert. “The most popular accents continue to be blues and greens,” said Guest.

“I’m using mostly blues, though I am interested to see if clients will lean towards some of the beautiful blush tones and soft greens in tile I saw a lot of at Coverings in April,” added Capra.

Holt, who utilizes a variety of colors throughout her designs, also sees brighter colors rising in popularity. “I am known for my use of color,” she explained. “At the moment, blues, greens and pinks seem to be dominating in my designs. My style, though, is that I like to use more neutral colors on the walls and fixed surfaces such as countertops, tiles and cabinetry, but bright pops of color in textiles, carpets and accessories.”

Although gray is mainly requested by his clients, Grubb has been branching out to incorporate more colors into his designs. “I have been using darker brown tones in several projects,” he said. “For those who are more daring, even zebra-striped marble.”

In demand

While natural stone remains a “go-to” option for many clients because of its timelessness, porcelain tile is being specified a lot more now because of its cost efficiency and comparable durability. “I use a lot of porcelain in my south Florida and New York projects,” explained Capra. “Wood-look porcelain is a staple in many of my projects. Some regions prefer natural stone and certain projects lend themselves towards that. It’s a mix, depending on many factors, including client preference, project location, design style and durability aspects. In a lot of my commercial projects, porcelain and wood-look porcelain tile are most popular. In the residential projects, it’s a mix.”

“I use more porcelain tile than anything else,” said Holt. “Mosaics are not as popular in my area, but that just might be my specific location. New Englanders tend to be more conservative and go for safer choices over a statement tile like a mosaic. But overall, I would say tile edges out stone among my clients. The wood-look porcelain tiles are especially popular at the moment.”

“We most often use porcelain tile,” added Guest. “We often use large-scale white porcelain tiles for wet walls for ease of maintenance and a clean look.”

“I love using mosaics because I like mixing in various-sized pieces, even in an all-white bathroom, for visual variation,” said Grubb. “I like that mosaics aren’t necessarily just square- and rectangular-shaped and feel more updated and interesting. I also like how a lot of mosaics are a combination of polished, honed and chiseled finishes. It provides both a physical and tactile feeling to the room.”

Manufacturers can also agree that the porcelain tile dominates the market. “Our best selling products are porcelain tiles, not only in North America, but all around the world,” said Susleyen.

“Wood looks are one of the fastest growing categories of tile and it makes up almost 25% of our tile sales,” added Halbert. “There’s a reason for this. Wood works with almost any style — and no one style fits everyone and every need — so that’s why this category continues to grow.”

Emerging trends

Designers and manufacturers can also agree that the market is ever-changing and constantly demanding new products. “People are always looking for something different. On the other hand, distributors tend to invest in products that can sell every day,” explained Susleyen. “So our aim is to bring those two aspects together in the same product. Textile, wood and stone combinations are still popular. They now come with different surface finish options for the same product (polished, honed, satin, etc.). I think 8- x 8-inch porcelain tiles with retro deco pieces are also very popular.”

“Several trends are emerging, most notably the large-format slab and panel trend,” said Halbert. “We are also seeing smaller formats in handcrafted looks coming to the market, particularly in 8- x 8-, 12- x 12- and 6- x 12-inch sizes. While wood looks have been a popular trend for quite some time, this category has evolved, as new graphics and sizes are introduced. We are seeing the merging of rustic wood graphics on heavy structures and the reinterpretation in modern colors. Smaller plank sizes, such as 4 x 28 inches, are emerging, allowing designers to create the popular herringbone design.”

Guest agrees with the large-scale tile trend, as she’s seeing more of their availability, while Holt is observing the same, as well as the use of some other types of tiles. “The use of encaustic tiles, whether cement or porcelain, is a trend I see,” said Holt. “Powder rooms, laundry rooms and mud rooms are where homeowners are willing to do something more fun and make a statement.

“I also see laser-cut tile in a variety of shapes becoming more popular,” she went on to explain. “Shapes such as fish scale, hexagonal- and arabesque-shaped tiles are all very popular. Larger scale tiles are also trending. Even the most basic subway tile has grown in size and now 6- x 12-inch or 6- x 18-inch pieces are very popular for kitchen backsplashes.”

While others are paying attention to size and detail, Grubb and Capra have observed the resurgence of blue tones at recent industry events. “At the last few tradeshows I’ve been to, I do see more color, especially blue tones,” said Grubb. “I think it is for the client who wants a departure from white, beige or gray, and it’s a color that is gender neutral, which doesn’t feel trendy.

“I also see strong physical patterns on individual tiles, that when installed, can act as an ‘area rug’ in a room and really create that ‘wow’ factor,” he added.

“Trends we’ve seen at Coverings this past spring, such as the terrazzo looks and the softer tones like blush, may start to become more popular in the year ahead,” said Capra. “Everything in fashion I have seen emerging has been in blush hues, and fashion and design go hand in hand. I think blush is a new neutral, and pairs well with already popular soft grays, whites and taupe.”