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The humble yet versatile ceramic tile truly gets around, from cladding walls and floors to furniture and even building exteriors. In fact, it’s such a go-to product type in both residential and commercial projects that ceramic tile consumption in the US alone amounts to more than 2.75 billion square feet every year.
Widely considered a leader in ceramic tile as well as natural stone tile and glass mosaics, Italy is one of the largest exporters of such products to the United States. It’s easy to see why: the country’s tile manufacturers have been creating stunning, innovative and original designs for years. That said, brands in Spain have been pioneering their own distinctive ranges, as too have manufacturers in America itself. Spotlighting some of the many options available, here are some of the standouts from past editions of America’s premier tile and stone expo Coverings, categorized by country:
When last we saw this young company, it had unveiled its single-color imprinted-pattern ceramic series Signs for the crowd at Cersaie (Italy’s biggest tile show). At Coverings, 41zero42 introduced new complementary patterns: Navajo is another imprint that recalls Native American textiles while WigWag is more of a relief of projecting bars or ribs that visually creates movement.
Like Signs, both of these new designs are offered in single-color families of White, Grey, Mud or Black. The company has also introduced kits for each color containing sets of all the coordinating tile designs in that family.
Part of its Do Up porcelain range, which can be mixed and matched if so desired, ABK’s Feel sports a dimensional relief of uneven gentle waves that draws the eyes while begging to be touched. The tiles come in two rectified formats of 12 or 24 by 48 inches and in Matte or Glossy White, Matte Ivory and Matte Antracite.
Design studio Pininfarina may be best known for a history of auto design (for companies ranging from Ferrari to FIAT), but in recent years it moved into design for the home including kitchens for Snaidero and, now, tile for Casalgrande Padana. Its first tile collection, EARTH by Pininfarina, is really a system that includes large-format porcelain stoneware slabs and coordinating decorative trims in metal, veneer or stitched leather.
The former boasts intriguing textures — some with shimmering flecks or formed by textiles — and comes in a range of earth tones. EARTH by Pininfarina slabs can be specified with the manufacturer’s Bios Self-Cleaning® or Bios Antibacterial HYDROTECT® treatments.
Brick has been almost as big a trend as wood-mimicking tiles in recent years, and some manufacturers presented painted-brick designs to differentiate them from the rest at Coverings. Emil Ceramica’s Brick Design Paint was one of the most impressive: The units, offered in two sizes, can be specified in ANY Pantone color as well as custom hues so long as the order is for a minimum of 34 pieces.
The wood look seems to be here to stay in tile design, but some of the manufacturers are offering new takes on faux bois. Fioranese, for one, introduced Dekap, which presents a weathered or distressed appearance complete with saw marks and paint. A triangular-pattern version creates more visual interest.
Flaviker’s NO_W line seeks to reproduce natural stone down to the shade variations that can be seen in slabs sourced from different quarries. The same state-of-the-art digital printing also recreates subtle hewn edges that give the tiles both a contemporary and rustic feel. NO_W is available in four colors — Sand, Earth, Grey and Coal — and three rectified and two pressed formats. It also comes in an extra-thick version for outdoor paving applications.
We’ve seen some COR-TEN-mimicking porcelain tiles come out over the last few years, but Florim’s Vintage Plates take weathered metal to a new level. Available in six colors — Black, Taupe, Ivory, Cobalt, Dark Grey and Light Grey — these tiles evoke oxidized metals found in industrial environments but with more contrasting decay.
A striking glass tile series, Luminescence fools the eye into seeing dimension but is actually flat to the touch. That’s because the poured-clear glass modules feature bevels behind the glass. Each rectangle measures 3 by 4 inches but is mesh-mounted in groups of nine to form 9-by-12-inch sheets for easier installation. Luminescence comes in Champagne, Violet, Silver, Blue Patina, Pearl, Caramel, Sage or Charcoal back colors.
The Transition collection presents a not-so-gradual gradient effect tile called Fade. With tonal bars in a single unit, Fade tiles can create some rather striking, unique compositions on floors or walls. The 24- and 48-inch-square units come in five color palettes inspired by their namesake’s landscapes: Ostuni, Lecce, Matera, Turin and Milan.
Another notable design is that of Pennies, from Mirage’s Noon collection. The whimsical mesh-backed mosaic puts a literal spin on the classic pennyround by digitally printing the face of each round with a copper penny’s head (Lincoln profile) or tail (Lincoln Memorial building).
Photography by Sheila Kim
Sicis’ mural designs are fashioned out of glass and natural stone mosaics. Among our favorites are Library, which weaves floral decoration into a bookcase composition; Mirage Flamant, a gleaming gold backdrop with flamingos; and Caribe, a very “Pirates of the Caribbean”–influenced design.
Inalco’s super-large dry-press tile program is called iTOPKer. Developed for use as tabletops and countertops, the 12-millimeter-thick slabs come in sizes of up to 1,500 by 3,000 millimeters. It offers high resistance to impact, scratches and low and high temperatures, requires no tile joints and is available in a wide range of colors, finishes and designs.
With an artisanal bent, this Spanish company boasts an amazing assortment of patterned tiles, some imprinted, some color-scratched on and some embossed via same-color glaze. Most of these intricate tiles come in hexagonal shapes, though there are also rectangles, chevron cuts (essentially parallelograms), elongated hexes, arabesque shapes and hexagons with uneven surfaces or thicknesses, the latter of which can produce striking tessellated focal walls.
In addition to the patterned offerings, Natucer also showed 3DHEX, a faceted hexagon tile that comes in both neutral and eye-popping hues.
Three of the most fun tiles designs come from Spanish producer Peronda. First, design studio DSIGNIO conceived an ingenious hex tile with a simple line and arc motif that can be configured and combined in several ways to achieve different overall patterns.
In a similar vein, Bowl is a square tile with a raised quarter-circle relief that can be used in multiple permutations.
And finally, Scale boasts varied widths and vibrant, neon painted edges, resulting in both color- and dimension-play.
Saloni Cerámica’s series can be utilized in two different ways: Cover entire walls or just dot them with Slide, Quick, Bend and Optic tiles. These dimensional modules, part of the manufacturer’s Up collection, offer sculptural reliefs that range from asymmetric facets to simple curves. The units come in bronze, white, black or steel and measure 5.8 inches square.
Beautiful colorations, imperfections and raised textures create interest and movement in the surface of these large slabs that blend the look of cotto with cement. The units come in Taupe, Light Gray, Greige and Flamed Gray colors and in 24-inch-square or 12-by-24-inch formats. Bullnose, cove bases and corner pieces are also available.
Newer photography of the moon’s surface, as well as images captured from the Mars Exploration Rover, inspired the painterly colorations and striations in the sandstone-textured Moonstruck collection. The honed, Cross-Sheen® finished porcelain tiles come in 12-by-24- or 18-by-36-inch formats with a thickness of 10.5 millimeters and in five palettes: Apollo, Gemini, Juno, Kosmos and Luna.
A concrete tile series, Lunada Bay’s Contourz features different dimensional units that can be used to form compositions ranging from a hexagonal grid to diagonal-stripe pattern or other intriguing tessellated designs. The collection’s dimensional as well as coordinating field and liner tiles are available in 18 earth-toned colors.
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