Anna G. Larson, Published October 17 2012
Home tile options continue to expand
“It’s not just your old 4¼-inch square white tile anymore,” said Shelly Richard, a certified interior designer at Foss Architects & Interiors. “You can come up with really intricate designs.”
Jo Jensen, an architectural representative for Ceramic Tileworks in Fargo, estimates that almost every mid- to high-priced home in Fargo has custom tile work in it somewhere.
Tile trends make their way to the U.S. after distributors and interior designers attend international trade shows, like Cersaie in Bologna, Italy.
Jon Zachman, the owner of Ceramic Tileworks, recently returned from Cersaie, where he handpicked the tiles that will adorn homes and commercial spaces in the Midwest.
Lighter colors, wood-look tile, large-format tile, concrete or concrete-inspired tile and 3-D tile were popular trends at Cersaie and will or have already translated well to the Midwest, Zachman said.
• Lighter colors. Customers in the Midwest generally don’t favor cool colors like steely grays and blues, he said. Instead, light, taupe-y browns and colors with warmth sell well locally. He said it could have something to do with the cooler climate – the only time cool-colored tile sells well is in the hot late-summer months.
• Wood look. Unlike natural wood, wood-look tile isn’t easily damaged, Jensen said. Also unlike wood, the tile can be heated. “Once you have heated floors, you don’t go back,” she said.
Wood-look tile doesn’t require finishing like natural wood, and it is known for its durability.
“People don’t even realize that those ‘wood’ floors they’re walking on are probably wood-look tile,” said Melanie Clark, the merchandise manager for Ceramic Tileworks.
Other natural materials, like slate, are replicated onto porcelain as well. Real slate shales over time and needs to be resealed every few years, Jensen said. The natural slate and faux slate tiles look almost identical.
• Large format. “There’s a trend toward a larger plank format,” Zachman said. “We saw that universally.”
Tile planks in dimensions like 6-by-24 inches and 6-by-36 inches are becoming more accepted for their contemporary appeal, he said.
• Concrete and concrete-inspired. Concrete or concrete-inspired tile gives a space an industrial feel, Zachman said.
“Residentially, concrete or concrete-look tile in smaller sizes might catch on,” he said. “But it will definitely have traction commercially.”
• 3-D. Basket woven, wave-like, turned-up edges – 3-D tiles can add oomph to impact areas, Richard said.
“They’re very artistic,” she said.
A chapel wall, above a registration desk or a kitchen backsplash are key areas where decorative 3-D tile might be used.
One major industry development is responsible for most of the recent trends – inkjet printing.
“We’re really seeing the input of technology,” Clark said. “Inkjet has made it possible for wood-inspired tile to look so real.”
The image of a design, such as wood, is first scanned, and then modified on a computer. Next, it is transferred to an ink-jet printing machine, where tiny drops of ink are propelled onto the tile. Unlike a traditional paper printer, inkjets never touch the tile, according to the StonePeak Ceramics blog.
The quality of the product depends on the abilities and experience level of the operator running the machine, Clark said.
“The best products will always come from the best factories – just because a factory buys a digital machine doesn’t mean that they can produce great product,” she said.
In the tile industry, price correlates with quality.
“The most expensive tiles are often going to be the best,” Zachman said. “But there are tiles for every price range.”