Ceramic: Trends look to the future while referencing the past

HomeInside FCNewsCeramic: Trends look to the future while referencing the past

August 31/September 7; Volume 30/Number 6

By Amanda Haskin

Trends in tile continually look both forward and back. They steal from the past to paint the future while influencing and being influenced by other flooring categories. Perhaps more than any other category, tile has the ability to play with shapes and colors and draws inspiration from the fashion world.

According to Donato Grosser, president of D. Grosser and Associates and industry consultant, recent housing growth indicates that tile consumption is projected to hit between 10% and 15% in 2015.

As the tile market grows, ongoing trends are gaining popularity while new trends are emerging that add modern twists to classic designs. “We are seeing these sometimes centuries-old looks being iterated in very vibrant, fresh ways,” said Ryan Fasan, Tile of Spain consultant. “We’re taking our newest technology and marrying it with some of our oldest technology.”

Wood looks

Wood plank tile has established itself as a mainstay in the tile industry and its popularity continues to build momentum. “Wood was the most specified flooring in 2014 and the trend hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down,” said April Wilson, director of brand marketing, Dal-Tile. “Wood-look tile provides the look and feel of real wood without the risk of water damage and wear and tear. This has translated into wood-look tile being incorporated all throughout the home, but making it especially functional for bathroom and kitchen designs.”

Wood visuals’ rise in popularity can be attributed to significant advancements in digital printing, including higher resolution imagery, variation from plank to plank and texture. “Designers [can] replicate natural looks exactly, making it difficult for the consumer to distinguish between printed porcelain and the natural material,” said Terry Marchetta, director of residential styling, Mannington Mills. “Provided in long, wide plank formats and classic herringbone layouts, today’s wood looks have moved away from the heavy, rustic, handscraped techniques to more of a refined bleached or painted surface where the focus is on the intricate detail. Colors range from very light, whitewashed gray and ebony to more traditional light browns and reds.”


Vance Hunsucker, national sales manager of tile and stone, Shaw Floors, said, “Carrara and Calacatta marbles were prized by the ancient Romans as much as we love them today. But marble is no longer segregated to large, cold museum halls and has instead seen resurgence in residential interior design. Designers are playing with shapes and shades to bring a contemporary element to a classic material.

“High-gloss natural marbles are back to focusing on classic charm,” Marchetta said. “Timeless stones such as Calacatta, Carrara and Crema Marfil provide an elegant visual by capturing a sleek, urban look in cool grays and white while larger tile sizes and rectangles seem to provide a fresh feel to this subtle material.”

Hunsucker added, “The classic look of marble can add simple elegance to any home. Providing that look with the attributes of porcelain is a great match with pristine white cabinetry and fashionable color schemes alike.”


Contemporary interpretations of an age-old design, today’s modern hexagons are using various colors, patterns and unexpected mediums to lift them out of the past. “We have been seeing hexagons entering the market over the last couple of years but they have now proven to be a desirable shape,” said Shelly Halbert, director of product design, Dal-Tile. “We are seeing multiple types of designs using the hexagon shape from concrete/cotto, natural stone, wood parquet and decorative.”

Marchetta added, “In terms of shapes, almost every manufacturer has embraced the hexagon. Ranging from small to large, this geometric pattern moves away from the traditional square tile format allowing the consumer to play with color and pattern, creating custom one-of-a-kind installations.”

Extreme sizes

Mikeal Jensen, residential design director for Crossville, said he is seeing a broad spectrum of sizes on the market. “It’s on trend to incorporate tiles [that are] both very large format and very small mosaics. The trends in sizing encompass polar opposites. This incorporates the growing popularity of porcelain tile panels—tile that is measuring in feet, not inches.”

In large-format tile, sizes continue to grow and push limits. “Larger tiles allow for more continuity in an open floor plan, allowing furnishings and décor to define the space,” Wilson said.

Mosaics are pushing limits themselves, in both size and style. At Coverings, Sicis unveiled a collection called Wee Mosaics, so small they are applied with tweezers. And designers are pushing the envelope when it comes to style with three dimensional, mirrored and even wood-look mosaics.

“We have seen mosaics evolve beyond traditional medallions or glass 1 x 1 pieces into exciting and intricate designs that can elevate a space from ordinary to unforgettable,” Wilson continued. “Mosaics are becoming more and more sophisticated, incorporating and mixing various materials and designs to create that unique accent piece homeowners are looking for to make spaces their own.”


With the growing popularity of urban and industrial spaces, brick looks are popping up all over. The ability to play with size and layout in installation adds to the appeal, as brick-look tile can be laid in various patterns like herringbone, chevron and basket weave designs.

“Brick [looks] are so universal in design style,” Halbert said. “They’re urban yet traditional and are being used in areas you wouldn’t typically install tile such as accent walls.”

Marchetta explained rectangular brick has been very popular over the last few years. “So the natural progression toward classic materials in their accustomed layouts seems to fit. Brick/cotto looks are hitting the market in both flooring and wall installations. These masonry looks are rustic and worn, focusing on painted or sanded textures in soft colors.”

Accents, decorative tiles

Accents and decorative tiles are playing new and featured roles in various installations. “We’re seeing more comprehensive inclusion of accent elements—a contrast to the past ‘mosaic band in a field of plain tile’ look that had once been the staple,” Jensen said. “Some designers are [featuring] walls that are covered in decorative or dimensional tiles, while the rest of the space is covered in more basic tile selections.”

Marchetta added that decorative tiles allow vintage inspired looks to stay nostalgic while giving them an edgy twist. “Today’s vintage floors are either simple decoratives inspired by encaustic tiles in soft grays, contrasting blacks and neutrals or classic inset patterns provided in a bold, black and white color scheme. We haven’t seen decoratives on the floor for years, so this seems to be a welcoming approach to an over-saturated wood and stone market.”

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