Feb. 17/24 2014, Volume 27/number 21
By Louis Iannaco
The ceramic tile segment continued to strut its high-tech stuff at Surfaces. Armed with the latest state-of-the-art technology, porcelain/ ceramic tile producers had popular looks on display, with highlighted wood visuals. Also with a strong presence were the different shapes and sizes now available. From an increasing number of planks to rectangular shapes and larger formats, manufacturers continue to make porcelain and ceramic products replicate other “natural” materials.
Another trend includes the combination of wood visuals with more standard ceramic finishes, such as travertine, slate and marble features, enabling the consumer to mix and match her décor according to the various tones of the floor. Thanks to advanced technology, ceramic producers have now come full circle; they’ve made their products mimic other categories and are now coming back to their own.
“They weren’t ‘tile’ kickers; they were buyers,” said Linda Bedrosian about the traffic the company experienced during Surfaces 2014. A petrified wood look was the star of the show, while another popular offering was its Statuary textured porcelain as well as a parquet visual.”
Epic, a new porcelain wood look, also attracted a lot of attention. “Many people are putting it on their walls and mixing it with mosaics,” she said. “It can be used commercially and residentially.”
Also, concept boards that featured different ceramic and porcelain looks allowed designers to shop for everything they needed with just one stop.
The focus for Crossville was on SpeakEasy, a porcelain tile collection that offers the look of authentic, old barnwood interpreted in a range of contemporary, large-format plank sizes. With its modern take on timeworn wood’s appearance and texture, this line is designed as an alternative to traditional hardwoods.
According to Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville’s vice president of marketing, the name of the product reflects Crossville’s intention to present a product that reinvents wood visuals and is easy to work with across commercial and residential markets. “SpeakEasy is all about ease of selection—a great option for those who specify products and a reliable go-to for those who sell our lines as well.”
Waldrep said various looks and a range of design options are the keys to SpeakEasy’s appeal. “Not to mention it’s porcelain, so it will perform well in various settings, including places where real hardwood may not be the best option.”
The collection’s five colors mimic the tones of stained timber, while plank sizes are designed to enhance the genuine wood appearance. SpeakEasy is recommended for interior floors and walls and exterior vertical applications in commercial and residential environments. Additionally, the line is Green Square certified and contains a minimum of 4% pre-consumer recycled content.
What differentiates SpeakEasy from the many wood-look porcelains on the market today, Waldrep said, is the markings and characteristics of real wood with its saw marks, chatter and knots. “But it does not try to emulate real wood insofar as we offer quarter-sawn, half-sawn and rotary-peeled faces all mixed together. I believe that gives it a lot more visual dimension.”
Another big hit at the show for Crossville was Sideview, a new glass mosaic wall tile collection. Inspired by the art deco period, the line features multi-beveling on metallic-look mosaics. The beveling’s dimensional effect enhances reflection of light, providing an upscale look for wall installations.
North America’s largest tile manufacturer was at Surfaces once again with a full slate of introductions. New products included three colorbody porcelain collections, Season Wood, Acacia Valley and Valor; three glazed porcelain collections, Exquisite, Porada and Avondale, and glazed ceramic Marble Falls and Clio mosaics.
Dal-Tile highlighted each of the current tile trends by labeling them as different vignettes. They included wood, reclaimed wood, planks and large-format tiles.
Season Wood features a reclaimed wood look in five colorways and four sizes. The collection is manufactured at Dal-Tile’s new factory in Italy.
Similar to many tile suppliers, the story for Emser at Surfaces was about size, as the linear look has surged in the last 12 to 18 months for the company. “We’ve seen a percentage of our business really gravitate toward the linear sizes,” said Bob Baldocchi, director of marketing. “What we’ve decided to do, instead of launching more series, is take our best-selling series and introduce more sizes, configurations and choices, and then we’ll add a few more colors into the mix.” Additional sizes include 6 x 36, 12 x 24, 16 x 32 and 8 x 32.
Another development from Emser includes collections featuring both a polished and matte look. “It gives people the flexibility to design rooms a bit differently when they can take a matte product on the floor and see the polished product on the walls,” he said.
Emser has also been working on developing lines that are geared toward commercial but also fit into residential applications as well. “By bringing [commercial] looks into residential, we are finding the best of both worlds,” Baldocchi said.
What people took away from Florida Tile during Surfaces was its large-format wood looks and its digital porcelains, as well as “our multi-graphic digital products, specifically the Mingle collection,” said Jack Bramson, Western region manager. “It features a new level of sophistication I believe is just beginning to take hold.”
According to Bramson, “The people coming to see us have come here to buy. And there seems to be much more optimism as well.”
As far as heading into 2014, Bramson said Florida Tile is optimistic. “We are increasing capacity, investing in new technology, new lines and new looks. We’re bullish about the year.”
Catherine Buehre, Interceramic’s Central region territory manager, said the company introduced several marble looks as well as some glass mosaic collections that garnered positive response. “Our newest marble look, Vesubio, did very well at the show. It’s a floor and wall collection that got great feedback.”
Another highlight for the company was the Trio collection featuring wood, cement and stone looks. “All of the color palettes work together so you can mix and match them,” Buehre said. “And the cement offering has some real visual interest to it.”
When considering the coming year, Buehre couldn’t be more excited. “We have some new introductions coming and our Coverings launch will be very large. Our new plant in Mexico is producing much of our large-format tiles.”
Like many others, the focus at the Mediterranea booth was not necessarily new products but new sizes, according to Don Mariutto, vice president of marketing. “The biggest change is in one of our all-time series, American Naturals,” he explained. “We’ve now moved into the 8 x 48 format, rectified. It used to exclusively come in 6 x 24. We are relaunching the collection with new marketing materials and display sets for the new larger format.”
The company’s Bayside collection, a rectified, four-color series, also introduced a new 24 x 48 size. “This is currently being produced and is in stock right now,” Mariutto said. “Designers are requesting larger formats. We can do more from a design perspective. Using the latest inkjet technology, we can do everything we thought was cool on a 6 x 24 on a 24 x 48.”
The company is currently considering adding more sizes to some of its newer series, including 6 x 36 and 18 x 36. “These will be added later in the year; sizes for Mediterranea that we’ve never offered before,” he said. “Rectangles remain very popular; we’ve seen a decline in the market for the old 18 x 18. People have been saying they like the larger sizes.”
Attendees also responded well to the two new series offered by the company—Ocean Drive and Flow. Mediterranea’s Dynamic HD Imaging design technology is utilized to blend the look of cement with the veining and coloration from stones.
Ocean Drive is available in three sizes with matching bullnose trim and mosaics, and four colors. Flow uses an inkjet manufacturing process to create a blend of design and format— featuring the lines of marble with a texture. The line is manufactured in two sizes and three colors. Also available are mosaics in two sizes along with matching bullnose trim.