Tile Exhibit Focuses on Mixing of Materials,
BOLOGNA, ITALY Much as Milan and Paris dictate trends in the world
of fashion, Cersaie 2003, the world’s largest exhibition of ceramic
tile and bathroom furnishings, again offered some of the latest
design innovations for the creative use of tile.
So reports Christine Abbate, spokesperson for Ceramic Tiles of
Italy and principal for Park Slope, New York-based Novita
Communications, who says, “The tile industry continues to create
new looks that are both decorative and appealing for designers to
use. [Tile design] is not just for the backsplash and kitchen floor
anymore, it is for different rooms in the house to add color,
warmth and durability to the home.”
She notes that a large trend this year was the mixing of
materials, such as glass, metal and ceramics something we’re
already seeing a lot of in the U.S. Additionally, she notes that
soft, neutral palettes, such as woody browns, were highly visible
at the exhibition.
She adds: “There was also a lot more texture [than last year],
with bamboo effects and Asian motifs. Companies were adding surface
textures that were rich with low relief.”
Another interesting trend she noted was that: “The Italians are
[more concerned about] the environment, using recycled materials
and being responsible in the usage of energy and water while being
aware of the way tiles break down.”
As an example, she cites a company called Gambarelli which
offers a tile named “Oxygena.” The tile which features a titanium
element in the ceramic works with smog to break down pollution and
turn into an eco-efficient salt.
She concludes: “I think there is a tradition to push the
envelope [with European ceramic tile design]. They are always
re-thinking and emphasizing the design process. Therefore, I am
seeing an increasing cross-pollination between the fashion industry
and the design and furniture industry.”
Undoubtedly, the biggest trend
at Cersaie 2003 was the increased use of color; especially earthy,
brown tones, Abbate points out.
“I saw brown tones across the board this year,” she explains.
“They were soft browns, with woody, almost brown washes. It was
really elegant looking for a faux wood.”
She adds: “I saw browns being used with oranges, as well. There
was just more color in general.”
This is a key development, she notes, offering: “The color
possibilities are vast and different colors can be used to allow
yourself the ability to create installations that are different,
sturdy and durable.”
There were also many tone-on-tone applications, such as greens
and black, mixed with varying patterns and finishes, including
floral designs, water lilies and Asian elements like bamboo mixed
with either matte or gloss surfaces.
Another way companies set off neutral tones, she notes, was by
adding a punch of bright color such as blue inserts to create an
According to Abbate, there was a
wide mixture of materials featured at this year’s exhibition, as
“I saw many companies combining glass, metal and ceramics in
interesting ways, such as cutout pieces of glass that were sliced
and inserted into various ceramic fields.”
She adds that more than one company featured glass surfaces that
were affixed to ceramic bases.
“One company had crystal pieces mixed into the ceramic. They
sunk into the crystal and in the glass pieces were little LED
lights,” she explains.
“The same held true with metal, such as with pencil-thin metal
inserts and metalicized effects. Different mediums were being
explored,” she continues.
Stone looks also continue to be hot, she adds, with one company
offering a Jurassic Stone that was pioneered from porcelain into a
realistic stone look.
Cement is seeing a surge in popularity as well, Abbate notes,
stating, “We first saw the cement look last year, and now it is in
a larger format, with softer grades and different inserts.”
For a seamless look, she cites rectified edges as another unique
trend: “Traditional stone fabrication companies are featuring honed
edges or bullnose edges to show more of the countertop
“Now, so many of the ceramics are rectified so designers can
play without having grout lines,” she adds. As an example, she
points to SAICIS’ “Pingo Pallino,” a glittering field of textured
copper disks set off by iridescent grout.
Another development, Abbate notes, was the introduction of
Mirage’s “Granito Ceramico,” or “Ceramic Granite,” which combines
the durability of vitrified stoneware with the natural look of
granite. According to Abbate, its large format slabs can be
fabricated with traditional marble or stone machinery and can be
used for countertops, stairs, shelves and a variety of wall
applications and is offered in polished, honed or unpolished
Abbate notes that there was a varying approach to format this year,
with tile sizes moving in two different directions. For instance,
floor tiles are getting bigger, she says, often with 4’x4′
porcelain slabs blended with medallions and border designs. As an
example of this, she cited Piemmegres’ large-format “Mediterrano”
which paired porcelain with steel and crystal accents.
In fact, she adds: “Many of these huge porcelain slabs can be
used for walls, floors, countertops or floors in the kitchen.”
And while other designs, such as Cerdisa’s stone-look
‘Sandstone,” offset its large format with textural nature-inspired
insets, Abbate notes that the larger formats are well-suited for
The desire for mesh-mounted mosaics especially those featuring
the mixture of glass, mother-of-pearl, wood and porcelain in a
small format also continues to make a splash, she adds.
The retro look is still popular as well, says Abbate, with circle
forms gaining prominence, rectangles remaining popular and hexagons
making a comeback, she notes.
“The rectangles are becoming thinner and longer, almost like
strips,” she describes. “Many companies showed stacked
installations with these thin rectangle shapes that they can make
While trends are currently all the rage overseas, Abbate
believes they will soon be more evident in the U.S. “My impression
is there is a new appreciation for modernism in America. In the
Midwest you can have people discussing Barcelona chairs and Italian
ceramics. People interested in design will discuss something modern
and new if it is a design within reach,” she says.