By Kristin Coleman
At the 2022 edition of Cersaie, the world’s preeminent exhibition of ceramic tile, naturalistic was the name of the game. Earthy hues, warm tones and botanical patterns were evident throughout the show while new types of natural material looks presented an element of wonder and surprise. The technical prowess of Italian manufacturers adds another palpable layer to this trend.
Although the concept of porcelain tile emulating wood, marble and stone has been around for over a decade, Italian companies continue to challenge themselves. Many have developed proprietary techniques to make their collections look and feel like the real thing while others play with the characteristics of natural materials to create high-impact designs that are completely unique.
Like all artistic endeavors, inspiration for tile design can come from anywhere. While specific places within Italy served as a muse for some manufacturers—from ancient stones in Sicily to wood used to build traditional boats and bricola in Venice—others scoured the globe for natural and man-made wonders.
Tiles conjuring the pristine blue and green waters surrounding the islands of French Polynesia, the intense black of Sahara Noir marble from the mountains of Southern Tunisia and a rare sky blue onyx found only in Iran are a few examples of the new collections inspired by mother nature. Meanwhile, patterns referencing the inherent character of cities like Hong Kong and New York and historically significant buildings like the Amalfi Cathedral offer interesting visual cues of architecture from around the world.
Although hygge was a huge trend in interiors some years ago, the pandemic spurred a renewed interest in and attachment to the idea of home. With people spending more time inside their abodes, warm and comforting interiors became more than a trend: It was a necessity. Recognizing this, Italian tile manufacturers released hundreds of collections this year to achieve minimal yet cozy spaces within the residential and commercial realm. Warm tones, swirling veins and ultra-soft surfaces were omnipresent at this year’s show, complemented by the warmth of wood, travertine and terracotta rendered in ceramic.
The humble brick was one of the most popular formats in Italian tile this year and with good reason. Its small size conjures the feeling of something handmade while also serving as a module for creating wholly unique compositions. They can be stacked horizontally or vertically to create monochromatic environments with a bit of texture or mixed with different colors to create myriad patterns like stripes, chevron and herringbone. Some collections also offer various finishes and intense chromatic variations, so even if specified in a single color, it generates visual interest for walls and furnishings. Sizes range from 2”x6” up to 3”x15” and designs also include petite wood- and marble-look designs.
Jade, sage, mint and aloe… no other hue conjures nature like the color green. It also has a calming effect, easing stress and forcing the brain to relax, making it a suitable companion to the larger theme of comfort this year. On one end of the spectrum, Italian manufacturers released show-stopping porcelain slabs featuring saturated colors, giant palms and exotic stones like green onyx and Patagonia green marble. On the other end, companies took a more subtle approach, offering large- and small-format tiles in muted shades of green and subtle textures like Moroccan plaster.
With Italian manufacturers reaching new heights in high-definition digital printing, ceramic tile can be seen as a blank canvas for artistic expression. This was never more evident than this year as companies displayed hyper realistic interpretations of natural elements like water and sky, painterly florals—including details pulled from Van Gogh’s work and new material looks not yet explored in ceramic like cork and rammed earth. Companies also released inventive renditions of wood—from beadboard and decorative inlays to rustic grade wood planks—and invented wholly new typologies of materials by combining the characteristics of various stones and woods into one.
The 1970s was a decade defined by dichotomies. On one hand it celebrated spectacle with glam rock artists like T.Rex, Ziggy Stardust and the New York Dolls, flashy prints and metallic accessories from emerging brands like Versace, and all the glitter and glam that accompanied roller disco and boogie nights. On the other hand, it was very naturalistic and breezy. As yacht rock emerged in the later half of the decade, materials and patterns conjuring the sailing lifestyle was not far behind with stripes, wavy patterns and wood paneling entering people’s homes and wardrobes. Warm, earthy tones like brown, mauve and ochre and pop art florals were also very prevalent.
These trend-setting products from Ceramics of Italy members, and hundreds of others from Italian tile manufacturers, are now available in the North American market through an extensive network of tile distributors and retailers. For additional products and inspiration, visit the product gallery on ceramica.info. For information on individual companies across the Italian ceramic sector, visit the new Italian Ceramic Finder.
Kristin Coleman is Senior Vice President at Novità Communications