Viva La Ceramica!
If you’ve been under the impression that mouth-watering high-design tiles are out of your reach – you’ve been missing what can only be called a “Tile Revolution!” For those of us in the industry who have been watching the evolution (or revolution) – it does seem as though tile is certainly having its day – and really its year. Having just spent an afternoon at the New York showroom of Hastings Tile & Bath (in the Architects and Designers Building), I had a first-hand look at where the industry is headed. And if I were forced to choose just one style, I’d be in serious trouble!
Bland porcelain tile? It has its uses – but today’s tiles have grown up a quite a bit. New technologies have given birth to a plethora of options. Tiles from Spain and Italy seem to be leading the way as far as design and innovation, and we are happy to present some here.
Exotic animal textures, metallic finishes (shimmering and distressed), raised panel/wood-look, fabric, stone, textured….if anyone thought they were relegated to ‘just’ any one style….it’s time to be amazed.
Certainly there are tiles whose technical make-up is better suited to walls than floors; all you need do is ask your local tile showroom what the tiles PEI Class Rating is. This rating classifies the various uses of tiles, from Class 1 (no foot traffic), to Class 5 (appropriate for use in heavily trafficked areas.) That’s the easy part. The hard part is choosing from the wealth of gorgeous tiles available.
Thinking contemporary? How about these masculine and very contemporary exotic-look animal skin tiles? These ivory crocodile tiles could not be more sophisticated and visually interesting. Available in four colors and four different textures, you have the ability to choose between more subtle or more intense textures.
If you want to add some shimmer, you’d best go with this series: called TFU shimmering metal, it’s available in bronze, black, grey, silver, gold and red. The TFU is approved for use on walls and floors (light commercial) – think of the possibilities.
If metal is too, well….harsh, then we can move along the design spectrum to a style of tile called ‘wood-look.’ These have been garnering lots of attention lately, and it’s easy to see why. If you live in a classic center-entry colonial, or another other antique or older home and you want to freshen it up while maintaining its historic integrity – you could do no better than these raised panel tiles. Glazed porcelain tile, available in white, brown or grey, when seen on a wall they are the most beautiful example of how tiles have grown and matured. Elegant to a fault, the moment I saw these I swore off of wood paneling forever. These are unique in that the ‘molding’ is actually molded into the tile, so the pieces fit together as if they were one piece, which is what produces the clean lines of this series.
If you are intrigued by the look of the paneled tile series and want to take it a step farther – you could go all the way and use ceramic wall tile as beadboard. Yes you can! Taking wainscoting to a different dimension, this series is just mind-boggling in its accuracy about re-creating the look of historic beadboard.
Okay – enough of these ‘harder’ looks….how about something soft? Ahhh…the look and feel of fabric…in a tile? No one is saying that you should use silk on your floors – though if you could, wouldn’t that be fabulous? If not silk….how about damask? Just look at the subtle and elegant design in these tiles – and you can use them on your floor! I think the tone-on-tone design provides just enough visual interest to give a room a boost without being a design-hog.
Want something softer still? This series is called soft wool but unlike wool it’s not itchy. It’s a delicate rendering of fabric’s warm look that upon closer inspection will likely cause people to want to repeatedly touch the tile.
A design trend that we’ve been watching (and loving) is the continued use and maturation of ‘relief’ tiles. Textured, three-dimensional, and completely awe-inspiring, these granite block tiles can really make a statement when used on a large wall. Ultra-contemporary, available in white, dark grey, light grey or black – you may find yourself unable to look away. This particular series is rectified porcelain tile, so it’s okay for use on interior or exterior walls.
Another series of relief tiles, this one made from glazed ceramic is something called the AAB series (hey, we don’t make up the names – we just report.) Available in four relief ‘patterns’; pipe, diamond, wave and cube, these are perfect for use in bathrooms to give your walls a little oomph. Use the coordinating trims in a contrasting color to really have the room pop.
Well…we’ve gone through a number of tile innovations and trends, and the only thing that remains is trying to find the styles that suit your design needs. One thing to remember about using tile is that compared to wood (or fabric or stone), it’s virtually maintenance free – which is why it’s so relevant now. And many tiles have ‘green’ properties; having been made using recycled tile materials. The tile industry has come a long way from those beige porcelain tiles that were considered the standard for so long. Welcome to the revolution.
For further information about tiles and the uses and standards, you can also consult the Tile Council of North America.