While my focus in this column has been on nuts and bolts of residential design, I want to show you some insight as to why your mid-to-high-end designers, architects, and contractors hesitate when you ask for tile. There are so many options that sometimes we barely know where to start!
Here’s why: In the past 5 years or more, the tile industry has made some stellar breakthroughs in technology, manufacturing methods, and customization. Insider buzz has been worldwide, but the average homeowner hasn’t a clue.
So let me bring you into an insider’s view of what I saw at Coverings and what you’ll see in tile over the next 5 years or so.
1. DIGITAL IMAGERY
Simply put, the advances in digital inkjet technology haven’t only revolutionized the printing industry, it’s also revolutionized the tile industry. How?
Because the tile manufacturers have figured out a way to photograph stunningly realistic images of stone and wood onto porcelain tile. The European tile industry was amply represented this year with huge pavilions from Spain and Italy with US and Mexico not far behind.
If you don’t know about porcelain tile, consider researching it for your next project. It’s more durable than ceramic, non-porous, and perfect for wet areas such as a bathroom, or rugged for high-traffic areas such as a busy kitchen.
Digital imagery has made porcelain appear like anything you want it to be — marble, limestone, or even wood — but without the care associated with those products. While a lot of high-end projects might shun not using the real thing, commercial projects and those of you with busy (and not always careful) families might love to see this happening!
Cinema HDP, Ivory Lace from Florida Tile.
Stone look porcelain from Vitromex
Yes, this is “wood” tile: American Heritage, Marazzi USA
You already saw it above with the Marazzi wood tile – the ability to add 3 dimensional texture onto the tile. What we’ll see in the coming years is a combination – either different tile thicknesses:
The Europeans and by extent, Mexico, love their hexagonal tile, but I’ll put myself out on a limb: I don’t think it’ll catch on in residential design here: Lamosa Tile Madeira Cortex
…or embossing and texture:
Villeroy and Boch’s Opulent Chic.
Monocibec wood and texture combination
3. LARGE FORMAT TILE
Large format tile was everywhere. In another breakthrough, manufacturers are able to create increasingly larger tiles. I’ve been specifying larger scale tiles for the past 3-4 years, but some of these are LARGE: 24” x 36”, 36” x 36” and even full wall panels.
American company Stonepeak PLANE – look at the size of this piece of wall/column paneling. Made to look like marble and surprisingly thin.
The above piece has more commercial appeal than residential, although I could see a stunning wall bumpout or fireplace. Perhaps not the best application for those of us in earthquake country, but great for the contemporary enthusiasts elsewhere.
Fiandre’s 30” x 60” porcelain tile sheets
For residential, I saw 24” x 36” panels like those below. You’ll need a GOOD tile installer, one familiar with installing large-scale tile (even better if they’re familiar with the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) installation recommendations.) The amount of preparation for larger scale tile to make sure the subfloor and walls are plumb and square are sometimes more labor than installing the tile itself.
But look, Ma, no grout! Well, very little, anyway.
Grupo Lamosa Tile, 24” x 36” dimensional Coral de Ulua
Italy’s Ceramica Viva is known for flowery tile images on ceramic tile.