The latest trends in ceramic tiles are moving the category toward urban simplicity and comfort and away from rustic informality. The biggest movement seems to be in color. As warm, smoky chocolates, muddy grays, and other varied browns and neutrals work their way into manufacturers' collections, they are replacing the bland vanillas and beiges of recent years. According to independent certified tile consultant Patti Fasan, who presented a report on tile trends at the Coverings show this year, homeowners are more willing to experiment with color than in previous years because they are staying at home more frequently and want to surround themselves with interesting spaces.
As Americans become more comfortable with tile throughout the home, size matters, too. Large-format tiles, such as Spanish manufacturer Inalco's 13-by-26-inch Gondola wall tiles (shown at right), are gaining ground, literally, on floors. They're also being used on walls, where large tiles lend a more urban appearance that adds overall sophistication to a room, Fasan says. Large-format tiles also help to open up a room. Installation is faster and fewer grout lines appear than with smaller tiles. Small tiles aren't going away, but now they're used more as design accents.
The once trendy rustic look is moving toward the more refined and urban. The heavily antiqued surfaces that have been so favored are receding into the background, but they're not disappearing. Instead, manufacturers are simplifying their rustic tiles with fewer and lighter clefts in tile edges and less-variegated surfaces. The variations are still present, but manufacturers like American Marazzi are applying them with a lighter hand. "People are now turning to something a bit sleeker, more sophisticated," Fasan says. "They want a look that translates better across all types of architectural styles."
This sophistication includes an emphasis on textures, which are becoming increasingly important and more refined. Today's technology allows manufacturers to emulate nearly every material on the market: woven leather, reed basketry, concrete, loosely or tightly woven fabrics such as linen or tweed, brocade patterns, and even simulated wood grains.
Mixing different finishes and textures is another popular design choice. "The tile industry understands that in fashion, whether clothing or decor, everything is about bouncing one texture against another," Fasan says. That means combining nubby or "woven-surface" tiles with sleek, smooth tiles; playing matte finishes off high-gloss surfaces; and pairing faux concrete with metal or glass accents.
"The market is expanding for higher-priced tile, because people now understand the quality of tile that's available," Fasan says.
Meredith Art Tile. Designed to coordinate with the maker's entire line of field tiles, the Arts and Crafts-inspired Square Rose Series consists of a glazed ceramic border measuring 15/8 by 75/8 inches, an accent dot measuring 15/8 inches square, and a liner measuring 3/4 inch by 6 inches. The series is available in more than 50 hand-painted colors. (330) 484-1656. www.meredithtile.com.
Westminster Ceramics. The American Potters Collection comprises more than 3,000 items in a vast array of sizes, shapes, decorative pieces, accessories, and finishes. Gloss, satin, matte, and crackle finishes in all tile types allow an infinite range of design possibilities, says the maker. The collection comes in field tiles, harlequin and embossed liners, bas-relief decors, moldings, arches, bath accessories, and precut mitered sets. (770) 938-8360. www.westminsterceramics.com.
Walker Zanger. The Gramercy Park handmade ceramic tile collection features high-relief designs with braids, beads, and florals inspired by New York City's Gramercy Park Historic District. Various field tiles, bullnoses, dots, decors, borders, cornices, corner beaks, and sink caps (front counter edges) are available in 12 colors, including Hamptons Beige (shown). (877) 611-0199. www.walkerzanger.com.
Rex Ceramiche Artistiche. Concreate Series porcelain stoneware tiles feature straight edges to create sharp, smooth surfaces. Tiles come 12 inches by 12 inches, 18 inches by 18 inches, 6 inches by 24 inches, and 12 inches by 24 inches. The tiles come in six colors and coordinate with the maker's Metropolitan aluminum and steel mosaics and decors. (212) 980-1500. www.italytile.com.
American Marazzi Tile. Casali glazed ceramic wall and floor tiles feature random color deposits, surface concavities, and distressed edges for a rustic, old-world appearance. The tiles are available in 13-inch-square and 16-inch-square field sizes, 61/2-inch-square modulars, and a 3-by-13-inch mosaic listelli border. The tiles come in four colors: brown Cascina, beige Fattoria, almond Maso, and rust Masseria. (972) 226-0110. www.marazzitile.com. Mirage. Through-body veining in random patterns gives Granito Ceramico porcelain stoneware the appearance of natural marble and granite. Available in large-format tile slabs measuring 125 centimeters by 178 centimeters (approximately 50 inches by 71 inches), the tiles resist scorching, abrasion, acid corrosion, and staining, making them well-suited for kitchen countertops. The material comes in 12 colors. (212) 980-1500. www.italytile.com.
Crossville Porcelain Stone. The new Le Ville Series of matching floor and wall tiles replicates the look of marble in three colors: white Statuario, cream Crema Laguna, and beige Botticino. Wall tiles measure 8 by 13 inches; floor tiles are 13 inches square. Various decors and trims are available. (800) 221-9093. www.crossville-ceramics.com.
Grespania. Venecia Series white porcelain, 12-by-12-inch tiles simulate the appearance of a mosaic. Each glazed ceramic tile is scored to create the look of individual mesh-mounted pieces and features faux grout lines. The tiles are available in ochre, blue, and green. (305) 446-4387. www.tilespain.com.
Diago. Produced using Ligeramica, a lighter-weight and resilient tile body, large-format Habitat wall tiles re-create the appearance of linen in a glazed porcelain tile. The 12-by-23-inch, through-color tiles are available in blue (shown), sand tobacco, and ochre. (305) 446-4387. www.tilespain.com.