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Tile Unlimited

Tile may be one of the world’s oldest building materials, but hot new hues and touchable textures make it extremely different and exciting. That excitement includes applications far beyond flooring. Be on the lookout for bold new approaches for building facades, interior walls, columns and other structural elements, too.

What are the key trends to watch? We asked three top design bloggers — experienced kitchen and bath designers who focus on tracking industry trends. They agreed that most of the tile innovation is centered in Europe, and they cited examples of European products now being imported to, or manufactured in, North America.

Tile, hot new hues and touchable textures make it extremely different and exciting

Faux Wood

“Wood-look tiles are not new, but inkjet technology keeps improving their style and versatility,” says Anater. He saw a number of such innovations at Cevisama, Spain’s annual tile and bath trade show. “Vives showed how great wood marquetry can look in tile," says Jamie Goldberg of Gold Notes. Peronda and Grespania showcased tile that looks like rustic, reclaimed wood.

Wood-look tiles are not new, but inkjet technology keeps improving their style and versatility

Format Changes

Expect to see larger and thinner tiles with less emphasis on square shapes. Kelly Morisseau of Kitchen Sync is seeing everything from larger-format porcelain — 12 x 24 or larger — to strip tile mosaics in varying sizes and material combinations. She says homeowners seem to want a greater variety of patterns, such as running bond or hopscotch.

Some manufacturers, like Apavisa, are introducing wall tile that dispenses with right angles and flat forms. “The effect is spectacular and about the last thing anybody would expect a tile wall to look like,” says Goldberg, who notes that Natucer has 3D cast ceramics that look stunning as room dividers, shower niches, furniture legs and wall art.

strip tile mosaics in varying sizes and material combinations

Though North America tends to lag behind the rest of the world in ceramic innovations, that’s beginning to change. In addition to watching the international brands coming on the market here, Anater sees American companies producing similar products. With so many inventive options, builders and designers can easily move beyond the bland tile ideas of yesteryear.

tile design and innovation