COVERINGS 2006: Significant Trends from the Expo Floor
May 1st, 2006

May-June 2006

Form followed fashion at Coverings 2006, where the hottest looks on the expo floor came straight from the popular consciousness and current styles. Some tiles were textured to look like animal skins while others incorporated their own bit of bling. Products included precious metals and rare stones, sleek minimalism and ornamentation to the max, fresh candy colors and graphic black and white, photorealistic prints and traditional damask designs, earthy natural influences, and tons of texture, pattern, and dimension—in scales from small to large. Vertical surfaces were everywhere, too, as tile manufacturers introduced all sorts of fabulously inventive and decorative options to pave the wall.

Donato Grosser, a longtime consultant to the ceramic tile industry who presented one of the 70 free seminar sessions during the four-day international trade show, predicts that the future of the ceramic tile market in the U.S. is increasingly at the high end and strongly becoming a fashion business. Customization and the luxury looks that end-users demand are becoming a greater reality thanks to technological innovations, such as the water-laser jet cut.

Ceramic tiles are putting on a stone face, these days, mimicking everything from granite, marble, and basalt to flagstone, schist, and shale. Many of them are textured, such as an elegantly routed version from Tau. Porcelanosa, in its L’Antic Colonial Collection, has stone mosaics, large, shale-like pavers with textured surfaces, and even mini bricks, called Brick Butan, which can be used to construct a vertical surface that resembles traditional Pennsylvania fieldstone.

A reverence for wood was everywhere, with ceramic styles so realistically resembling wood grains and species, from bamboo to mahogany, cherry, maple, and teak that showgoers were doing double-takes. But, with the advantages of ceramic vs. wood so compelling—resistance to moisture, bug infestations and wear, and requiring minimal upkeep—the ceramic editions were winning fans easily. Among the most impressive exhibitors of this genre were Caesar, whose Feel collection was shown in a variety of shapes from square tiles to planks and trims, in colors that range from the palest neutrals through such saturated shades as jade, ocean, and moonlight, with the option of insets glass strips that add both design interest and a little luminosity to the surface underfoot. Exelle was offering Yacu, a wood-like tile with a Japanese feel, which it is showing with Decoro Flower, a decorative tile with a floral pattern influenced by both William Morris and Japanese textile design.

Don’t forget the bling

Metallic surfaces were popular; shiny titanium, chromed or brushed stainless steel, and gold teased the eye, as did the patinated bronzes and corten steels that have taken the market by storm. Furthermore, insets were everywhere—from colored glass “jewels” set randomly or in patterns to metal-finished mini-moments for visual interest. Deltaker’s Plasma Series and Special Pieces, for example, were sporting iridescent metallic finishes, in brilliant saturated colors such as magenta and cobalt. Geleite Building Material Co., Ltd., a relative newcomer from China, was offering a range of stainless steel finished tiles and mosaic patterns from traditional interlocking lozenges and herringbones to circles. Iris also was showcasing a metallic surface that dazzled with its semblance to steel.

A continued infatuation with mid-century modern design along with the ‘70s retro revival also had an impact, effecting color palettes, textures, and surface patterns. Viva’s Central Station collection included the Simple Emotion series of inserts, with sophisticated nostalgic patterns that range from poppies to branches to sunbursts—in the flame reds, teals, and avocados of an earlier era. Royal Mosa, from The Netherlands, reissued its Kho Liang le Collection, a ‘60s classic of gloss white tiles with a relief of circles, arcs, diagonals and triangles that combine to create unusual effects. Tau was introducing Tissue Dec Pop, a delightfully pop-art-inspired pattern for vertical surfaces in a range of cheery colors. Vitra, the Turkish firm, offered the Koz Series, designer Defne Koz’s inspired abstractions of Iznik patterns from the Ottoman Empire and cypress motifs, styled for contemporary bathrooms. They are quartz-glazed for added durability and light reflectivity.

Wallpaper and Textile Lookalikes…

Another clear-cut Coverings trend were tiles imitating wallpaper and textiles, from flocking to damask to grasscloth and linen. Venis offered Venezia, a traditional Venetian damask that contrasts matte and gloss finishes. Exelle’s Decoro wave is another vertical design with a mid-century modern feel. Tiles also showed some skin, from leather and reptile-inspired surfaces to ostrich and leopard. One of the finest was Cerim’s Croco, a bold, gutsy pattern finished in rich, elegant glazes. Florim Cermiche’s Ma Touche Collection also wowed attendees with four faux textures suggestive of leather, elephant and crocodile.

Candy Colors from Viva’s Bloom, a circular mosaic for vertical application to Vitra’s Penny Round Mosaic made a comeback, yet black and white, was as strong as ever. Etruria Design presented Optical Haring, a collection of beveled black and white tiles (some black with white incisions, some white with black outlines) based on the pop art and graffiti movements launched by the late Keith Haring. Natucer offered Techno, a dimensional tile with an abstracted rose pattern that scales the wall in matte black, gloss white, and a handful of other colors.

The arts and crafts movement also was palpable, especially in glass mosaics and tiles. Oceanside Glass Tile presented Facets, a mini-mosaic field tile in three sizes and a cornucopia of colors, and Elevations, a larger-format field tile and geometrically patterned liners. Motawi Tileworks continued to execute its superb reinterpretations of traditional arts and crafts motifs.

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