What’s trending in porcelain and ceramic tile? And why should builders, designers, architects, homeowners and even real estate professionals care? Tile is a versatile, multi-surface, time-tested material that can enhance the sustainability, wellness potential and resilience of the homes it clads.
“All of the above are important considerations when selecting tile,” emailed Jennifer Richinelli, editorial director of TILE and Contemporary Stone & Tile Design magazines that cover these realms for the building industry. “Sustainability is very important to many specifiers, and I have noticed that more and more manufacturers are promoting their sustainable campaigns – some even now having carbon-neutral products,” she commented.
Homeowners are seeking materials and spaces that enhance serenity, suggested Tileometry industry blogger Arpi Nalbandian in an email. “Designing with tranquility in mind is key to achieving success with any wellness-focused project.” She added that a focus on wellness, and its related elements of outdoor living, biophilia and aging in place, have significantly increased post-Covid. “A personal oasis is what any homeowner strives for.”
“With health and wellness currently at the forefront, the antimicrobial/non-allergenic component of tile is definitely a benefit,” noted Richinelli. She pointed out the prevalence of carpet being replaced with tile in hotel rooms. This is also a major trend among homeowners, something that real estate pros often tout in listings.
“Tile’s hard surfaces do not permit odors, allergens, molds and bacteria,” observed Alena Capra, a South Florida-based interior designer and ambassador for this month’s Coverings ceramic tile industry expo. “Unlike many other materials, tile’s natural ingredients do not have harmful chemicals and irritants. There are no VOCs, formaldehyde, phthalates, organotins, allergens or plastic,” she noted in her emailed response to questions, citing elements that can harm health and indoor air quality in competing manufactured surface materials.
Large format porcelain slab countertops are also integrating induction hobs, a healthier (and more sustainable) alternative to gas cooking burners. Richinelli has seen them in Europe and at US trade shows, but not yet widespread here. “Trends such as these usually start in Europe before making their way to North America,” she observed, predicting growth in our market. “They are a great addition to a contemporary design,” she commented.
“This is one of the coolest innovations I have seen for the kitchen,” declared Capra. “We shared a demo on a local home design show that I host, and we got a lot of great feedback. I think the more homeowners see of this concept, the more this will be incorporated in kitchen designs.” (Nalbandian is also bullish on its potential to expand in a few years with more architect and designer awareness.)
You wouldn’t think a material with more than two thousand years of architectural history would incorporate new technologies, but this is the case even beyond the large format and induction capabilities that began more than a decade ago. “The inkjet printers have advanced – allowing for the more authentic aesthetic of the wood-, stone- and concrete-look tile, among other designs,” noted Richinelli.
Slip-resistant finishes have also improved, she shared. “One Spanish manufacturer explained how slip-resistant surfaces were always rough, and people didn’t want that in their homes. Now there is a finish that appears smooth. It only becomes slip-resistant when water hits it. I thought that was pretty amazing,” she added.
Large format production technologies are also improving. “While there still is a learning curve for fabricating and transporting these slabs, they are being employed for countertops and walls and manufacturers are making efforts to educate fabricators and installers,” noted the editor.
“My clients are really loving the look of porcelain panels and slabs,” shared Capra. “We are using them for accent walls, shower walls and cladding furnishings,” she added. Smaller format tile is also being used in these nontraditional applications for bedrooms and other spaces that would often get carpeting in the past.
“Outdoor kitchens and fireplaces have become quite popular. Not only aesthetically pleasing, but the durability of tile also makes it perfect for enduring outdoor elements,” wrote Richinelli. This includes decking and wall surfacing materials, as well as countertop and cabinet cladding.
Capra noted that tile has long been a popular flooring choice for the South Florida homes she helps design, given its superior moisture-friendliness. She’s welcoming the outdoor offerings now too. “It’s exciting to explore more options of bringing it to the outdoor areas of the home with porcelain pavers,” she said.
“The same floor tile can flow from the interior design to the outdoor area – making a smooth and coherent transition between the two parts of a home,” observed Richinelli. Manufacturers are pairing standard indoor tile with weather-resistant, slip-resistant outdoor tile in the same colors and patterns to create those seamless transitions. (A barrier-free door adds accessibility to the space for anyone using a wheelchair.)
“I am also noticing systems for installing tile facades on buildings are becoming more popular,” Richinelli commented. These tile facades bring resilience benefits to a building’s exterior. They are low maintenance, durable and – especially notable in an era of increasingly prevalent wildfires – flame resistant. As Capra noted, this material does not burn, feed flame spread or produce smoke.
Tile’s moisture resistance makes it an ideal surface for homes at risk of flooding. “Having tile flooring on the interior of a home is always a great option for better resilience against water damage,” commented the designer. “I usually talk to clients in condos about this; in the event of water coming in from another unit, tile flooring is the best bet.” She also recommends it as a flooring option for clients who rent out their homes, given its durability.
“Warm tones are making a comeback!” heralded Richinelli. “Although subtle, shades of gold, brown and terracotta are seeping into new tile collections. White marble-look tile lines are now showing hints of these colors as veining, compared to the gray and black veining that has been popular for so long.” She is also seeing multi-surface finishes trending. “Tile manufacturers are layering textures on tile surfaces for a unique and three-dimensional aesthetic,” she reported.
“Neutral tones no longer mean beige, taupe or cream,” commented Nalbandian. She’s seeing an increase in mosaic tile, stone murals, and large-format porcelain tile panels that showcase elaborate designs or patterns. “From pattern-matching the complicated veining, to mimicking gems found in nature (think lapis, onyx, jasper), it’s both captivating and mesmerizing,” the blogger shared.
Biophilia designs that evoke plants, animals and landscapes also remain popular. “People want to connect to nature to bring that sense of serenity into their homes. Floral patterns and shades of deep blues and emerald greens are being used for both accent walls or to clad an entire bath or bedroom. Advances in technology allow for high-quality detailed designs, which make these patterns resemble wallpaper,” commented the editor. Of course, these wallpaper alternatives are much more durable.
Biophilia is enhanced by the popularity of nature-inspired green tiles that evoke watery depths, leaf patterns and cool forests and jungles. “There are so many gorgeous shades of green tile to incorporate,” wrote Capra, who has been using this hue heavily in her designs, she noted, and is glad to have green accent tiles to incorporate.
At the other end of the style spectrum, she also likes cool cement looks for neutral design palettes.
“Tile is an ideal choice for residential designs for so many reasons,” declared Richinelli. “It meets the demand for both beauty and function. There are vast options in colors, shapes, sizes and textures to benefit all design styles.”
Contributors Capra, Nalbandian and Richinelli will be sharing more tile trends in an hour-long Clubhouse conversation tomorrow afternoon (April 5, 2023) at 4 pm Eastern/1 pm Pacific. You can save the date and join this WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS discussion here. If you’re unable to attend, you can catch the recording via Clubhouse Replays here or the Gold Notes design blog here next Wednesday.