Floors through Italian eyes

Italian tile manufacturers have been having a fairly strong spring this year at tradeshows such as Coverings, Hospitality Design Expo and ICFF, and from these and similar events, Ceramics of Italy has identified several trends in Italian tile. Across the industry, digital printing and recycled content are two areas of constant growth while self-laying floors, ceramic “rugs”, gold, concrete, petrified wood, and monochromatic sculptural tiles are a few of the trend-setting themes this season.

Self-Laying Floors

One of the most important technical trends this season is the emergence of self-laying flooring systems. From thick, monolithic porcelain slabs for outdoor spaces to quick laying flooring systems for renovations and temporary spaces, these collections are making life easier for installers as well as DIY consumers.

Many companies are introducing ¾” thick porcelain slabs that can be dry laid over grass, gravel, dirt and sand or easily installed onto patios and terraces using an adjustable raised flooring system. Thicker than the average tile, they are four times harder than regular porcelain and can withstand up to 2,000 pounds of weight. At the same time, each tile weighs less than 40 pounds making them easy to install, without the need for grout or adhesives. Examples include “Due” by Del Conca, “EVO 2/e” by Mirage, “Aextra 20” by Caesar and “Compact” by Tagina.

Another growing innovation is quick laying flooring systems that allow state-of-the-art laying in a few, simple steps. “Clip Tile” by Imola features adhesive-free dry interlocking technology that allows for precise installation over any kind of existing floor covering without the need for demolition work. It is also perfect for new floors as it adapts to concrete screed or any other type of substrate. Also of note is Florim’s “Easy Flooring” tiles featuring a 2mm thick rubber and cork support that increases the grip of the slabs on the substrate. The thickness also makes it possible to absorb slight defects on the underlying surface. Similarly, “Del Conca Fast” is a patented system for quick laying ceramic flooring without joints and mortar. This revolutionary system allows ceramic tiles to be laid without connection spacing to create a continuous surface without joints. No wait time is required after installation, so the flooring is immediately walkable.

Concrete Jungle

Satisfying the desire for industrial-looking spaces, Italian tile companies are producing porcelain tiles that look like exactly like concrete and formwork cement. From textured finishes that recall the effect of a cement gauge box to honed finishes with a soft touch and resin-like effect, these new collections are giving designers complete creative freedom with a wider color palette and a range of decors to match. “Evolve” by Atlas Concorde, “On Square” by Emilceramica, “Reverse” by Floorgres, “Nr.21” by Viva, “Concreta” by Settecento, “Docks” by ABK, “Urban Concrete” by Flaviker, “Architecture” by Casalgrande Padana, “Concreta” by Cisa, “Re-Use” by Provenza, “Nextra” by Monocibec, “Md Wall” by Momo Design Ceramics, “Concept” by Ragno, “Metropolis” by Rondine and “Fabric” by Marca Corona are a few outstanding examples.

Petrified Wood

Italian manufacturers have been producing realistic-looking faux wood tiles for years but are now taking on a more rustic or petrified look. Inspired by the warming effect of aged wood, companies are producing ceramic and porcelain slabs reminiscent of reclaimed wood from antique cabins or old countryside cottages. Now designers can create lived-in environments with all of the technical advantages of ceramics including a wider range of colors and sizes (from square formats to traditional “plank” sizes), digital printing to create “vein” effects and more variation in pattern, anti-slip finishes for outdoor use, easier maintenance and durability for high traffic environments. A few examples of this trend include “Cottage” by Fioranese, “Nature” by Sant’Agostino, “Lodge” by Settecento, “Wood2” by Refin, “Cabane” by ABK, “Wood Talk” by Ergon, “Wood Essence” by Cerim, “EcoDream” by Novabell, “Planka” by Astor, “Urban Wood” by Flaviker, “TreverkHome” by Marazzi, “Vintage” by Serenissima and “Reserve” by Saime.

Monochromatic Sculptures

Colour is not always needed to create visually dramatic environments. We’ve noticed that many companies are introducing three-dimensional ceramic wall tiles in a monochromatic color palette. The light refracts off of the sculptural surfaces, creating constantly changing visual effects and generating movement within a space. Some of this season’s most notable collections include “Goccia” by Kravitz Design for Lea Ceramiche, “Crono” by Giugiaro Design for Mosaico+, “Skyline” by Naxos, “Vulcano” by Giovanni de Maio, “Royal Onyx” by Capri and “Ice Cream” by Dom.

Ceramic Rugs

Tile companies are softening the look of ceramic floors by creating decorative tiles that mimic the look of area rugs. From bold, geometric patterns to designs inspired by ancient artisanal carpets, these tiles offer designers a hygienic alternative to carpets, especially in bedrooms and hotel guestrooms. Some of the collections demonstrating this trend include “Convivium” by Ariana, “Mediterraneo” by Cedir, “FapNatura” by FAP and “Docks” by ABK.

All That Glitters is Gold

Similar to the fashion industry, Italian tile makers are returning to metallics in a big way and nothing lends sophistication and contemporary elegance to a space like gold. “Gold” by Cottoveneto, “Vanitas” by Gardenia Orchidea, “New Stone” by Piemme and “Soli e lune” designed by Piero Fornasetti for Bardelli are a few new collections making their presence known.