Coverings 2015 filled the South Hall of Orlando’s convention center last month with the latest offerings in tile and stone. If you’re not able to travel to Spain or Italy to see the even more massive expos there, then this is the show for you. Coverings brings the best of the world to the U.S. market every year.
Both Ceramics of Italy and Tile of Spain, two leaders in the industry, along with the Tile Council of North America and exhibitor groups from Turkey, Brazil, China and other nations were represented around the show floor. Whether you were looking for high style or low cost, new technologies or recent trends, Coverings 2015 had something to offer.
Wood looks continue to dominate the fashion tile scene, with a major emphasis on reclaimed styles. Enhancing the distressed look at this show were worn edges, designed to make the wood look even more authentic, and a very realistic burnt wood look. COI member Sant’Agostino, Mirage and TOS brand STn Ceramica nailed these details. Mirage offered an added feature with a rectified miter-cut for angled installations.
Rustic, textured and fabric looks were also a major style trend across the show floor. Tiles with pitting, ribbing, concrete, oxidized stone, brick and fabric looks showed up everywhere, and have the potential to create fabulously interesting designs.
TOS member brands Keraben Grupo showed off wood-look tiles that were so strongly ribbed you could consider them to be dimensional. Either one would definitely create a dramatic wall treatment.
Those who want real fabric can have that, too. Renaciente, a 68-year-old Ecuador-based manufacturer, was showing beautiful tiles made of genuine leather. They can be installed permanently or on Velcro for removal when desired.
For those who prefer their fabric-look tile to be porcelain or ceramic, there were plenty of choices on the show floor. COI member Sant’Agostino had the most unique look with its eclectic modern DigitalArt series.
Bricks showed up everywhere on the show floor in an incredibly array of looks. Whether one is looking for reclaimed brick for an historic project or modern gloss for a contemporary one, there’s an option available from clay to metal.
Metallics also ruled the show floor, especially (but not exclusively) gold. COI mosaic star Sicis showed off a $40,000 tile rug in 24 karat gold mosaic. It also showed off its Diamond Series with elegant metallic accents. On the more modern (and moderate) side, Crossville debuted a handsome addition to its oversized slab series called I Metalli. It has the look of warm and worn woven metal. TOS brand Apavisa went metallic with mini gold hexagons, tying into three popular show trends.
Terrazzo hasn’t been on the European radar much in recent years, so it was an unexpected – and welcome – mini-trend at Coverings. There’s a definite benefit to having an easy-to-install, low-maintenance production source for that look. Interceramic of Mexico and Texas, as well as TOS member Tau, were both offering terrazzo selections.
Polished texture, embossed and dimensional looks were also strong trends at Coverings 2015. If one’s projects call for gloss, there were plenty of trends to fill those specs, too. You could opt for either delicately embossed patterns or playful bumps and penny rounds.
COI’s Petracer’s Tango and Charisma Italiano delivered embossed style subtly and elegantly, as did German brand Agrob Buchtal with its Imago Series, while COI Imola member went playful with its dimensional Pop Series.
American Brand Lunada Bay debuted a dramatic dimensional series with its Concrete Line, scheduled to launch in June.
Penny rounds could be found everywhere at Coverings, from tiny bumps like Candy Buttons from German brand DSA/Jasba (?) to modern metallics scattered around the exhibit hall.
Retro styles weren’t limited to penny rounds either. Encaustic and hydraulic looks continue to be a strong trend, with some oversized, colorful twists on the tradition. Hexagons and Arabesques remain popular, too, with modern interpretations of their own. Retro also played out in colorful pop art looks and black and white series.
The most intriguing pop art collections were created by actual artists. COI brand Ascot is licensing the work of the late Keith Haring to produce tiles featuring his iconic works (these are available exclusively through Hastings Tile & Bath). CR Studio 4 and Street & Smith are two tile lines designed by women artists working today. CR brings playful shapes and color to its tiles, while Street & Smith plays with retro images for a pop look. Both are worth exploring for those with clients seeking something unique.
Polished stone and classic looks showed up widely again for those looking for something less rustic. Most notably, Fiandre USA showed off its Nero black polished slabs and COI member Rex Ceramiche (Florim) showcased a magnificent Alabaster slab.
Thin slabs continue to grow in popularity, with more nations adding the technology to produce what Italy and Spain have been duopolizing for years. Even the American brands that sell them are importing the product from Europe, but that’s starting to change. Fiandre USA, an Italian-owned brand, is getting set to produce oversized slabs in its Tennessee factory by the end of the year. Dubai has a brand, RAK, that is manufacturing these in that Gulf nation.
Another interesting technical advance was showcased in COI brand Del Conca’s Murales and Cantina series of brick tile for both inside and outside corners. Another COI member, ABK, showed off its new Auto-Leveling series at the show. These tiles can be installed grout-free as a floating floor or on top of existing flooring. With grout, they can go into a bathroom or be used for outdoor applications. (A YouTube search for ABK and Auto-Leveling will show more.)
A few years ago, we started seeing book-matching being offered in marble-look porcelain tile. That trend continues to expand in ever-more-realistic stone-look slabs, offering designers more choices with each year.
Interestingly, one of the most revealing trends at Coverings was not driven by style or technology. Global economics has meant competition from upstart competitors offering savings as their primary benefit, while they mimic popular trends. This has resulted in some established players offering affordable series to win over price-sensitive clients. They’re often the ones with the largest projects and budgets. Crossville and Vitromex were two large brands showing off their budget lines. Expect to see more in 2016 and beyond, and more signage warning against unauthorized booth photography. Imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery; sometimes it’s copyright infringement.