At the end of September more than 450 ceramic tile companies gathered in Bologna, Italy, for Cersaie 2019, the annual trade show focused on new product and upcoming trends in the ceramic tile industry. Bologna is located in the heart of northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, an area historically known for its production of ceramic tile. Thanks to Ceramics of Italy, I had the opportunity not only to attend Cersaie, but also to visit the Lea Ceramiche factory for a behind-the-scenes look at how its tile is produced.
I’ll admit to not knowing much (well, really, anything) about ceramic tile before my trip, but by the end of the five-day event, I had a new appreciation for flexibility and sustainability of the material. Italian ceramic tile is made from mixtures of clay, sand, and other natural materials that are shaped into slabs and fired at high temperatures—the patterns and finish choices are infinite (patterns are printed on and can be anything from a photograph to a realistic representation of marble, wood, or other stone), and its durability makes it a good choice for any room in the house. Although I obviously didn’t hit all 450 vendor booths, here are some highlights and ubiquitous trends from the ones I saw.
1. Metallic Accents: Silver, gold, or bronze—in this case every shade is a winner. From intricate, large-scale designs that cover an entire wall, to smaller bars of shine, as seen in this Bubble tile from Imola, metallic moments were a hot look at Cersaie. In every example the metallic elements were kept to a minimum, even on the bigger installations, so they felt richer and unexpected and didn’t overwhelm the room.
2. Terrazzo for the New Millennium: Although it originated in Egypt, terrazzo as we know it today is an Italian development, a composite material made of chips of marble, quartz, granite, glass, or other stone held together with concrete. The look is making a huge resurgence in everything from home goods to accessories, and terrazzo-look ceramic tile was present in a dozens of booths at Cersaie. Darker backgrounds and bolder colors (I also saw many a millennial pink and mint green combo) like this backsplash from ABK, jettison the dated ‘70s look and replace it with a modern interpretation.
3. Everything from 41zero42: This isn’t a trend, per se, but this company is definitely one to watch. Launched in 2013 by the young duo Martino Manni and Antonello Di Leonardo, 41zero42 is challenging the traditional aesthetics of the established ceramic industry. From large-format photographs (a wall featuring tile with an array of palm fronds against what looked like frosted glass appeared in quite a few Instagram stories) to its new Spectre collection—the holographic finish causes the color of the tiles of shift with changing light—the company’s youthful, bold product is shaking things up in a way that will hopefully push others to do the same.
4. Textured Finishes: If unlimited possibilities in color and pattern just aren’t enough for you, why not throw in texture? Whether taking a strong approaches with heavily textured finishes (the MADE +39 CUBE collection comes to mind), or using a more subtle, barely perceptible raised pattern such as this look, ROCKET, which is a collaboration between Decoratori Bassanesi and Australian creative agency Brandless Studio. As they note in a press release, “ROCKET draws its inspiration from and pays tribute to compositional boldness, bright colors and the use of the geometric shapes and textures designed to inspire optimism typical of the Memphis Group and of its post-modern exploration, from the banality of aseptic design.” That’s one way to approach tile design.
5. Large-Scale Pattern: We’ve all heard the phrase “Go big or go home,” but an apt twist for Cersaie would be “Go big IN your home.” Minimalism has been a thing for quite a while now, so it was refreshing to see so many companies producing ceramic tile with big, splashy, bold patterns that instantly draw the eye. Perfect for an accent wall accompanied by understated decor—a successful example is seen here in the Bloom pattern from Del Conca—these showstoppers work best in shades of black, white, and gray.