Industry Forum: What's trending in tile
Tile trends are constantly evolving. Although they don’t necessarily change from year to year, new designs are always being created. And wheels are always spinning. After all, whenever you travel to another tradeshow or event, don’t you always manage to find something new?
To learn more about the trends that are prevalent in 2018, we sat down with a group of seasoned industry professionals. Panelists include Vance Hunsucker, national sales manager of ceramic tile/stone for Shaw Floors in Dalton, GA; Feras Irikat, director of design and marketing for Lunada Bay Tile in Harbor City, CA; Jeffrey Johnson, owner of Jeffrey Design, LLC in Dallas, TX and Glendale, CA; Scott Jones, director of product management for Crossville, Inc. in Crossville, TN; Matt Karlin, president and CEO of Nemo Tile & Stone in New York, NY; Arthur Mintie, senior director of technical services at Laticrete in Bethany, CT; Andrea Morton, principal architect at aMorton Design in Somerville, MA; and Toni Sabatino, owner of Toni Sabatino Style in Long Island, NY. Here’s what they had to say.
TILE: What are the top three tile trends you’ve observed for 2018?
Sabatino: Textural white that plays with the light was my first observation. White is a classic and constant staple, but these new textures give white a fresh look. Secondly would be digitally printed marble that creates a luxurious look with low maintenance. This is also true for the digitally printed woods. Lastly, Art Deco patterns, geometric shapes and “tile art” for accent walls.
Johnson: Cement tile with bold patterns is hot and creates a fantastic personality to any space; even more than that, it brings a smile to your face. Secondly, I would say patterns such as 3D, herringbone, Geoform scallop tiles, mixing different size variations and angled patterns for the floors and backsplashes. People are taking more risks now than ever. It is a blessing for designers to mimic the client’s personalities bring it to fruition in their home and not worry what others think outside of their home. Lastly, I’d say metallic, which tend to be very strong, whether they’re part of a pattern or trim; it’s a way of being the primary focus of a design element.
Morton: Metallics, custom printing and dynamic surface textures. What we are seeing from clients is a strong interest in new textures and finishes. Tile has such versatility right now in terms of base material, finish, printing and color that clients are rediscovering it beyond kitchens, baths and mudrooms.
Karlin: Right now, the biggest trends we’re seeing are large slabs of tile, cost-effective porcelain alternatives, and white and gray colorways, particularly in Metropolitan locations. With the rise of porcelain and ceramic alternatives, along with the advancement of digital printing providing organic textures and authentic looks, tile seekers can find almost any style of tile while remaining well within budget. Large slabs of tile and stone like our Think Thin and Studio collections, are easy-to-maintain, install and are cost-effective as they allow for less tiles to be used.
Mintie: With consumer preferences continuing to lean towards a sleek, no-nonsense aesthetic throughout commercial and residential spaces, we have seen continued requests for specifications and installation requirements for large-format tile and large, thin-gauged porcelain tiles and panels. With open floor plan layouts currently on-trend, large-format tiles are the ideal choice when needing to seamlessly integrate indoor and outdoor spaces such as the kitchen to the patio. Additionally, tiles of this size mean far fewer grout lines and thinner grout joint widths, resulting in an easy-to-clean, uninterrupted finish. Thin-gauged porcelain tiles and panels are half the thickness and weight of conventional tile, making them lighter to carry on the jobsite and easier to work with than actual stone slabs.
Jones: We’re focused on a few trends this year that translate across our industry. First is the contrast of collections that beautifully recreate natural materials from products that offer looks that are imagined. Another trend is its use on such a wide range of surfaces. This is directly related to the growing preference for tile in general, as well as the increasing popularity and installation expertise available for gauged porcelain tile panels. Of course, tile is a top choice for floors and walls, as always — but we’re seeing more featured vertical installations, applications for solely decorative, aesthetic purposes and we’re bracing for more countertop usage as the porcelain tile panel market introduces options that fully compete with slab alternatives. Shapes and sizes of tiles continue to grow and become more varied, and I mean that literally and figuratively. We’re seeing the marketing use unique sizes and shapes — such as hexagons, pickets and elongated subway tiles — as both design focal points and accents. The 12- x 24-inch format remains the go-to floor tile size, yet larger formats are gaining momentum as the market’s getting accustomed with the look and contractors are adept at installing them.
Hunsucker: The top three tile trends we’re seeing for 2018 are larger subway tile formats with high-gloss, textured or antiqued finishes for walls, structured 12- x 24- and/or 8- x 24-inch high-gloss, white wall tiles and encaustic patterned tiles that range in size from 6 x 6 to 10 x 10 inches.
Irikat: We are seeing a lot of geometric patterns becoming more popular, and we are seeing that trend come through in glass, ceramic and concrete in one- or two-piece patterns. We are also seeing herringbone and chevron becoming leading patterns. This interest in pattern is emerging because the consumer is becoming bored with squares and rectangles, and they are hungry for everything different and unique. We watched the square shape become less important than the rectangle and this movement to other shapes is the next natural progression.
What colors are most popular? Does it vary in different regions?
Mintie: Bold colors have been a popular trend for 2018 around the world. Not only are they a great way to add personal style to any space, but can easily enhance the feel of a room. For example, the color blue has been regarded as one of the most popular colors in bathroom design history. This year, the color has made a comeback as people move away from basic neutrals.
Karlin: White and gray have been the most popular colors to date for 2018, especially within the tristate area, Boston and D.C. We’ve also begun to notice a rise of black and gold pairings, which is why we’re excited for our metallic collections such as Metallica. We’ve also noticed the popularity of colors does vary by region; white and gray is very metropolitan and will almost always hold the top spot within the city, but our other locations such as the Red Bank, NJ showroom sees our ceramic coastal-inspired collections like Cape Cod rising in popularity.
Jones: The warming trend continues for tile, as it does for design overall; even grays are dialing warmer. We’re also seeing an energized appetite for more color on both the commercial and residential sides. Our recently launched Retro Active 2.0 collection with its 13 color options is an answer to the market’s love of contrasting and varied colors. But of course, you won’t go wrong with tried and true classic looks such as wood, stone and concrete. The market finds these looks, coupled with the performance promise of porcelain, very appealing.
Sabatino: Gray tones for common spaces seem to continue to dominate. Carrara marble tones are a classic that continues to be prevalent and the new tiles mimicking this look are popular. I think that the wood tones and organic grieges will grow in popularity as I see a rise in the streamlined look of organic modernism. Simple lines with organic looking tones and textures.
Irikat: Grays in all their values continue to lead the color trend, but this year we are being hit with the inception of some really nice chromatic colors, especially blues. These are really nice blues that come into play for both floor and wall tiles. White is still important, but now it is more of an accent. Consumers are living more interesting lives. In the past, they were worried more about resale and chose neutrals, but today they are interested in personalization. The use of color and pattern is allowing them to take ownership of their environments.
Morton: In New England, we still see a lot of neutrals, gray, white and the occasional pop of restrained blue or orange-red. New York City is more adventurous with bold color and high contrast compositions. In smaller projects, we find clients willing to invest in a feature wall in entry areas or at a hallway focal point.
Hunsucker: Tile visuals with multiple colors of inlaid clay to create patterns are continuing to grow in popularity. However, the colors are staying the same overall; we see most of our demand for the encaustic style in the traditional colors of white, black and gray.
In terms of regional popularity, hardwood-look tile trends often mimic those in hardwood surface categories. For instance, trends on the West Coast are toward larger, wider hardwood planks due to the presence of more open floor plans. Our hardwood visual tiles also follow that demand in the West Coast region. In the Northeast, our smaller-format tiles are more popular. Areas like Arizona and Texas trend toward medium to darker colors with rustic styles, as seen in our Petrified Hickory collection. In Florida and other southern coastal areas, Shaw Floors collections like Architecture Polished are more popular due to their lighter color tones. In floors and backsplashes, we’re seeing a resurgence of blues as a trending design element, which are now appearing as more vibrant, sophisticated hues.
Johnson: Civara (orange), Radicchio (deep purple), Cooking Apple Green (mint green), St. Giles Blue (bright blue), Life is Good (neutrals) and Casual Day (light blue). When picking a darker color in the New England or the Northeast area, there is not a lot to choose due to mood and weather.
Are you seeing more texture and enhanced finishes in tile designs?
Irikat: Texture is great. Concrete is the top texture we're seeing this year, but we're also seeing woven, leather and paper-like textures, as seen in our Shinju ceramic collection. Designers are looking to be inspired and they are looking at textiles as a main point of inspiration.
Morton: Absolutely. Pattern, printing and convincing simulation of other materials is greatly improved which makes tile versatility and durability unbeatable.
Sabatino: Yes. I am seeing lots of texture and finish over finish. The looks are beautiful for wall designs and give tile a place as a wall covering outside of the traditional residential uses of kitchen and bath.
Karlin: We are seeing more textured options available and coming to market. Digital printing has really elevated how true to life certain lines can mimic natural materials, and it keeps getting more and more refined. From wood to terrazzo to cement, and even marble, there are now digitally enhanced porcelain and ceramic collections that can achieve a variety of desired looks.
Mintie: Enhanced and textural finishes have remained popular because they add variation and color depth when installed, often making a room much more visually interesting. In the past, these types of tiles were reserved for main living areas that see heavy traffic, such as the family dining room. Today, they have gained more traction to be used throughout bathrooms and other more private areas of the home as well.
Johnson: It will eventually become the norm due to the advanced technologies and I don’t ever see it slowing down. It is entirely a blessing adding more personality to a space. It is also about educating consumers about the benefits and purpose it brings to the area.
Jones: We’re seeing more of everything in tile design today. Our technical capabilities have led in creating amazing variety, and the market demand has fallen in line with our potential offerings. This includes nuanced surface visuals, interesting finishes and varied shapes and sizes.
Hunsucker: Current tile designs include several textural and enhanced visuals. Demand is high for large subway tiles with antiqued finishes, allowing for greater design possibilities with this tile format. Another unique visual gaining popularity is intentionally corroded or weathered finished metallic visuals.
Are matte finishes preferred over glossy finishes?
Karlin: Most definitely. This is primarily due to aesthetic and maintenance purposes. Although there are plenty of options available, there is a subtleness to a matte finish customers look for and continue to request.
Hunsucker: Matte finishes are more popular with customers right now, but we are seeing some increase in demand towards high-gloss.
Mintie: The choice between matte and glossy tile finishes is typically a matter of taste and determined depending on the designated tile area. Although some may have thought matte tiles were a fad, in 2018, they appear to be a lasting trend. For both interior and exterior flooring applications, matte tiles are preferred due to their durability and slip resistance. Matte tiles are also preferred when homeowners or businesses are seeking a contemporary or rustic aesthetic, as these tiles are paired effortlessly with natural stone.
Glossy tiles bounce light around a room and can often help make a space appear large. Glossy tiles can also create a more dramatic effect with a more high-end feel, which is why they remain so popular. Because the gloss finish has a slippery nature, these tiles are typically used in areas such as bathroom walls and kitchen backsplashes that can be wiped clean with ease.
Morton: Matte is definitely growing in client awareness and interest. We like that it feels soft and warm. But we are seeing an equally strong response to mid-range satin finish preferred. Satin gives depth to the color without the gloss which can introduce glare and impact the lighting design.
Sabatino: I see matte use growing with the understated, organic modernism look. Gloss and shine will always have a place in the market though; the gloss adds light reflectivity to dark spaces.
Johnson: Matte finishes will stay in the market as an option, but not preferred over glossy finishes. Maintenance can be an issue for matte finishes as space will never shine, but it provides a more natural, subtle look. The matte finishes can drive people crazy, as they do not look “clean” and don’t provide the same vibe as the glossy finishes.
Irikat: Generally speaking, matte is becoming more popular, but I think the more important trend about texture is the surprising mix of matte and glossy finishes. It is developing more interesting environments, and by the end of the year, we will see both equally, working in harmony.
Jones: Crossville offers many lines in both polished and unpolished finishes, as we find designers like to interplay the two for really customized looks.
Do you think large-format/gauged tile panels/slabs are rising in popularity? Are they being specified more often nowadays?
Jones: Gauged porcelain tile panels are definitely on the rise. The market is more educated of these options than ever before, more contractors are trained and ready to successfully install these products.
Hunsucker: Popularity of large-format gauged tile is on the rise for many reasons: ease of installation, the ability to print and replicate the visual throughout the space, fewer seams and increased durability — and therefore, longevity — for consumers. Gauged porcelain is manufactured with the Continua Plus process, which provides manufacturers the ability to produce tile in excess of 5 x 10 feet. The larger slabs mean fewer seams, which results in a cleaner visual upon installation.
Porcelain slabs are now being specified for use as countertops. Because these slabs are made thinner than traditional countertop materials like quartz and granite, they weigh less and are easier to transport and install. Due to inkjet technology, porcelain takes on any visual the consumer desires. This innovation allows a porcelain countertop motif to be incorporated into other areas of the home. Porcelain backsplashes, cabinet end caps and even flooring can be printed to match, producing a beautiful design theme.
Karlin: Absolutely — it’s one of our top three trends for 2018. Large slabs and panels require less grout and more tiles; that means cleaner looks, less lines and cost-effectiveness, which are all positives for the customer. Large-format slabs and panels are most popular with customers looking to cover the flooring of large spaces with the least amount of tiles.
Morton: Large-format is definitely going strong in commercial and hospitality applications and continuing to grow for residential. The biggest growth we see is in the indoor-outdoor flush transition from living space to patio.
Johnson: Yes, the only issue is the cost factor once the demand is rising the cost will take a nosedive, then you are in a position to afford. I highly recommend it because the labor is less time to install and much easier to maintain long-term.
Mintie: From our discussions with tile manufacturers, large-format/gauged tile panels/slab finishes are expected to continue gaining popularity. At Laticrete, we have seen this growth and a rising demand for specification generation and assistance. To keep up with the trend, Laticrete offers tutorials through Laticrete University to effectively learn about new products, modern technology and best practices from the comfort of their home or office. Laticrete also offers in-person training for hands-on learning.
Sabatino: I see the large-format porcelains to be a growing market. The look is simple and understated but very luxurious. The large-format book-matched panels have a special appeal for dramatic but clean walls.
Irikat: We are only at the beginning of the trend of gauged tile panels and slabs. What we are seeing is really beautiful and is resonating with consumers, designers and architects. They see the sustainability component and how these large tile surfaces can do less harm to the environment than mining large slabs of natural stone out of the Earth.
Right now, the United States is lacking a bit of education and training on installing these panels, and they require a bit of care and technical expertise. However, we all recognize the longevity these surfaces can provide and the industry will continue to move in that direction. Manufacturers and associations are developing educational opportunities around the installation of these products, and it's just a matter of time before they become more commonly specified.