RIGHT AT HOME: Fashion-forward tile for walls and floors

  • May. 15, 2018 4:35 p.m.

One of the oldest materials in home design is now trending like a hot newcomer.

Shelter magazines, design blogs and home renovation stores are featuring tile for surfacing floors and more: Designers are opting for a high-impact effect by cladding stair risers and entire rooms in tile, from interiors to the terrace.

On Instagram, an account called “I Have This Thing With Floors,” where people post pictures of their feet standing on cool floors, has over 840,000 followers.

The appeal stems from an explosion of creative designs and new manufacturing techniques, producing everything from charmingly imperfect artisanal tiles to sleek, sexy slabs. If you can dream it, you’re likely to find a tile that looks like it.

“I’m loving patterned tiles with hand-painted designs,” says Los Angeles designer Amy Sklar . “I’ve seen some really stunning ones that are truly like works of art.”

Sklar also likes ethnic patterns that have been given a modern interpretation: “A continuation of the lovely handcrafted trend we’ve been seeing, but realized with brighter colours. We’re also seeing florals but in a more abstract way, and again with a stronger palette.”

Joan Craig of Lichten Craig Architects in Manhattan has worked with some dramatic marble slabs recently.

“Over the past year, we’ve been selecting many of the vivid and highly figured Italian marbles for walls, floors and tubs,” she says, including “a grey and white marble called Capraia Arabescato with striking veining in the powder room, and a burgundy and cream marble in the bar.”

Italian company Sicis has a collection they call Electric Marble, in which veins of vivid colour are sandwiched between panels of glass.

Mia Jung of the architecture and design firm Ike Kligerman Barkley has 3-D tiles on her radar.

“I see more and more collections from Japan, Italy and other countries. At the simplest level, they’re used to add some texture to plain walls,” she says. “A more elaborate arrangement of 3-D tiles can function as an architectural element like a wall-like screen between two rooms. One can even have an art piece constructed with 3-D tiles serving as a focal point of a space.”

“I think texture in ceramic tile right now is really exciting,” says Nigel Maynard, who tracks builder industry trends as editor in chief of Products magazine.

“There are so many ways the architecture and design community can use it, from fireplaces to indoor and outdoor accent walls,” he says. “And there’s a lot to choose from, including subtle textures, fabric-inspired and deep-relief patterns.”

Metallic detail, a hot commodity in fashion fabrics, is also adding flair to tile — anything from bold swaths to subtle accents.

Walker Zanger’s Ellington collection, inspired by the Jazz Age and Art Deco, traces geometric outlines in gold on an ebony background.

At Italy’s Cersaie tile fair last fall, architects and interior designers noted how far digital printing and manufacturing has advanced. It can create 3-D designs; scallops, hexagons and other unique shapes; realistic weathered wood looks; oxidized metal finishes.

Ceramica Sant’Agostino had a porcelain collection inspired by tailoring fabrics; digitally printed tweeds and plaids had not only a nubby look, but texture.

Ceramiche Refin showed a collection called Voyager, inspired by the aged and rusted metal bridges of Genoa, and the architectural elements of Victorian buildings.

Here in the U.S., at January’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Orlando, Florida, New Ravenna debuted Sara Baldwin’s Ikat tile collection inspired by Uzbekistani textile leaf patterns and crafted of colorful jewel glass. For ceilings or walls, New Ravenna’s Astronomy, Michael and Orion patterns have dream-evoking starry patterns on light or dark background.

Floors and walls, get ready for your close-up.

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