If Cersaie 2019 had one lesson – it was that bold and beautiful is the way forward in tiles, according to international correspondent Joe Simpson.

Cersaie never disappoints when it comes to innovation and trends — and 2019 was no different. In fact, this year’s exhibition was the most “out there” show for several years, with colour, textures and patterns really grabbing the attention.

While greys of all types, white marbles, and wood-effect tiles were still prominent, it was colour and pattern, in varying forms, that really caught the eye. Perhaps the main stylistic direction was the growing use of colour on smaller format tiles, whether repeating patterns, plain, or the latest glazing effect: Zellige. This is a fresh take on the traditional Moroccan terracotta tile, boasting non-uniform, worn-out colours and enticing surface variations.

Overall, Cersaie 2019 offered a plethora of ideas to stimulate creativity and inspire imaginative design thinking, with many original and evocative exhibits.

Encaustic tiles and ceramic versions of the ever-popular hydraulic cement tiles remain significant. In 2019, it appeared to lean towards Art Deco inspired decorative tiles, with a distinctly French feel. It is this season’s interpretation on 20th Century modernism with a cool, contemporary feel. Decoration is central with tiles providing the primary decorative element in the interior, both on walls and floors, instead of serving as an adjunct to wallpaper, fabric, or furniture.

Sober urban style remains an enduring theme. At Cersaie, much of the burden in this area was carried by neutral stone-effect tiles, recalling French limestone, or soft cement-effects that played down the industrial aesthetic. It was interesting to see many manufacturers offering broad ranging stone portfolios. Large format wall tiles had timeless neutrality, complemented by small 3D formats, geometric forms, raised metallic glazed patterns, and matte-satin/gloss contrasts.

Many factories also paired these stone effects, even marble looks, with wood-effect tiles. This resulted in many material mix fusions: a look that is likely to grow in influence over the next few years.

The resurgence of small format wall tiles has led to a string of designs that highlight tiles as ornamental jewels, with striking colours, rich metallic glazes, dramatic inclusions, and borders all adding visual impact. Here, the small format becomes a playful companion to larger tiles, whether for feature panels, decorative stripes, dramatic inserts or contrasting borders.

It reflects the steady growth of maximalism in the tile design world, a heady trend for tile enthusiasts after many years when minimalism held sway. And many of these jewel tiles have clear historical references. As manufacturers explore the outer limits of the creative potential of inkjet printing, digital glues, metallic glazes, and green cutting of unfired tiles, ceramic tile designers seem to have found more ways to be inspired. The result is a period of unprecedented creativity for the ceramic tile sector.

Botanical designs were a common sight, particularly bold leaf and flower prints. Available in a rich variety of patterns and prints, these designs offer an excellent way to introduce bright colours and patterns into any interior.

While facsimiles of natural materials, notably wood and marble, remain dominant in current tile portfolios, they can be softened and made more intriguing by these vibrant botanical designs, particularly those inspired by tropical flora and fauna. Five years ago, such designs were the preserve of a handful of avant garde manufacturers, Cersaie 2019 provided ample evidence that this has gone mainstream.

Maximalist design has seen ceramic tiles evolve from cold, modern hues to warmer, stronger colour choices. From yellows, to greens and blues, adding colour to interiors with porcelain and ceramic tiles can influence the entire space and uplift the mood. The emergence of different options, such as Aparici’s wonderful red metallic glazes, offer fresh designs.

It was interesting that these colour palettes draw on divergent period references, from Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian architecture, right through to the post-war palettes of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. So Cersaie had examples of tiles that would seem right at home in a heritage property through to designs that could have come straight from an American post-war diner, or one of the first wave of European espresso bars.

Radical references to the 1960s and 70s were plentiful, with psychedelic colours, playful geometries, and trippy patterns galore. A trip down memory lane means following Tonino Lamborghini’s Interlagos, Imola Ceramica’s Let It Bee, Ce.Vi.’s Oro di Napoli, Bardelli’s Fleurs, Caesar’s Join, Emilceramica’s Dimore, Marca Corona’s Paprica, Ornamenta’s Décor, or Target Group’s Icon.

Talk about texture

Texture could be seen in an increasing number of ranges, particularly plain stone and neutral wall tiles, are now produced with tactile 3D surfaces. This subtly enhances the neutral, adding texture and interest to any space, particularly as the direction and angle of sunlight changes through the day, or when artificially lit at night.

Geometric tiles and pattern were enduring at Cersaie. It saw the introduction of new shapes and variations on established favourites like hexagons and chevrons. Using patterned tiles within an interior scheme draws the viewer’s eye and can be used to make a powerful statement.

Manufacturers were keen to show how it is possible to create infinite tile designs by combining different sizes and colours, or using tiles with geometric lines. With so many sizes, formats, and colours to choose from, Australian tile retailers can leverage this trend to inspire customers on how geometric tiles can be used to liven up otherwise characterless spaces.

Over the past year, one particular shape, the hexagon, has ruled the roost. At Cersaie 2019, many factories combined same-size hexagons with different designs – marble-effect, wood-effect, stone-effect – to create additional decorative choices. But single design hexagonal were shown in a multitude of sizes, colours, and textures, especially on floors, where they offer almost limitless design potential.

This year’s event proved that terrazzo has not run out of steam. Perhaps this is not surprising as this is a quintessential Italian look, and the event is the main showcase for Italian floor tile manufacturers.

At the show, terrazzo came in a vast number of designs. The stands had terrazzo with micro inclusions in very neutral palettes right through to macro inclusions in bright primary colours. There was even a terrazzo formed using reclaimed terrazzo: an ingenious way to repurpose old floors without any loss of quality or design impact.

Some of the latest iterations included dazzling speckled colours, while retaining all the age-old virtues of this hard-wearing and long-lasting surface.

Micro and macro fragments, technicolour dots, and playful interpretations of terrazzo all played a starring role. Great examples included Casalgrande Padana’s Macro, Refin’s Risseu, Leonardo’s Overcome, and Marca Corona’s Foyer.

Cersaie was awash with stone-effect collections deserving of attention. As ever, marble-effects were dominant. There were many timeless grey and white shades all featuring excellent marbling effects created using digital printing on porcelain. Gold hues and black and white marble effects caught the eye, but there were also some very appealing blue and green tinged marbles. This could well be a design direction for the future.


The event saw subtle upgrades to many of the more established design directions. Overall, the dominant trends remain white marbles, sophisticated wood-effects, industrial concrete-effects, burnished metallics, terrazzo, and encaustic-inspired patterned floor tiles. In wall tiles, there were more traditional small formats such as 100 by 100mm, 200 by 200mm, 100 by 300mm etc., plus thin format rectangular designs in plain, patterned, and coloured alternatives.

Worktops and fabricated tiles in many different guises, were shown alongside ventilated tiled façades and, notably, 20mm exterior grade floor tiles.

Cersaie 2019 also saw many more photographic panels displaying how the high definition digital facsimiles of almost any image or surface can now be reproduced on tile using the latest digital decorating techniques.

Colours included saturated pastels, especially greens, blues, and green-blues, with warm pinks or subtle purples adding contrast. One innovation that got noticed was luxe metallics. Aparici’s Cherry was an outstanding example, but it was in good company with many manufacturers experimenting with subtle coloured and aged metallic glazes.

Super-exaggerated decors based on natural inspirations, first seen as colour-washed wood-effects with black veins, have emerged. Notably white marbles with heavy black veining.

Another key word this year was melange. Manufacturers threw different together patterned tiles of the same format to create a patchwork quilt effects. But there were also many unusual material mixes such as terrazzo tiles with timber inclusions, or parquet floors with marble inserts. To get a feel for this style, take a look at Provenza’s Alter, Piemme’s Materia, Del Conca’s Timeline, Fioranese’s Sfrido, Emilceramica’s Millelegni Remake, Sant’Agostino’s Timewood, or Vallelunga’s Nolita.

For sheer visual impact, massive floral panels, especially tropical leaves, were the clear winners. Rambling roses, large Chinese vases, and even Japanese manga cartoons could all be found as decorative devices.

Designers know that a touch of greenery can add comfort or whimsy to any space – not to mention the psychological benefits of biophilia. This year’s tile collections offer florals from hyper-realistic green walls to playful palm prints. Perhaps the standout collections came from 41Zero42, but there were many examples such as Colli di Sassuolo’s Extra, Florim’s I Filati di Rex, Francesco de Maio’s Verde Verticale, Casalgrande Padana’s Limpha, Emilceramica’s Tele di Marmo Revolution, Fap’s Nux, Ragno’s Maiora, and Vallelunga’s I-Sense.

So, in 2019, tiles were full of compelling patterns, saturated colour, and interesting surface effects made possible by new technologies and collaborations with famous design studios and fashion houses such as Mendini, Lissoni, Versace, Valentino, and Rubelli.

Relief is a centuries-old sculptural technique, and this year’s collections were full of relief, from ridges and creases to more sculptural surfaces, like boiserie. Great examples include Fioranese’s Fio.Block, Valelunga’s Soffio, Made+39’s Drapes, and Atlas Concorde’s Aix.

From designs emulating rare marbles and semi-precious stones to tiles with an iridescent finish reminiscent of Akoya pearls, preciousness was a theme picked up by manufacturers. This gives interior designers a chance to source rare and precious materials without depleting the Earth’s natural resources. Some of the best examples included Valentino by Ceramiche Piemme’s Opulence, Naxos’s Rhapsody, and LaFaenza’s Oro; but it is worth checking out ABK’s Sensi Gems, Blustyle’s Elite, Casa Dolce Casa’s Onyx & More, Coem’s Moon Stone, Decoratori Bassanesi’s Luci di Venezia, Del Conca’s Boutique, Fondovalle’s Infinito, Mirage’s Cosmopolitan, Refin’s Vietri-Lux, Sant’Agostino’s Akoya, and Vallelunga’s Nolita, to name but a few.

Facts, figures and final verdict

Cersaie 2019 attracted a total of 112,340 visitors over five days: a modest increase (0.2%) compared to 2018. This included 52,997 international visitors, while the number of Italian visitors grew by 2.2% to 59,343.

Cersaie 2019 saw a significant improvement in the quality and variety of products, as well as a rise in the number of exhibitors, increasing to 889 stands from 40 countries. There were 458 ceramic tile companies and 214 from the bathroom furnishing sector.

As Cersaie was such a diverse and vibrant show it is hard to sum it up succinctly. There was the return to smaller square tiles based on the old Imperial four and six-inch standard. These petite tiles, now being used in tandem with modern printing and production techniques, have been given a whole new lease of life.

At the other end of sizing scale, ‘artwork’ tiles – from 600 by 1,200mm through to 1,600 by 2,800mm and beyond – x 2.8 metres – are offering patterns more usually found on wallpaper, from tropical prints, to abstract shapes, classical motifs, and panelling effects.

Sartoria, a brand Italian manufacturer Terratinta, was one of a few manufacturers to describe its collections as “ceramic wallpaper”. Designs from the Scenari line included a stunning flamingo print, one featuring parrots, and an array of exotic plants and foliage.

Another good example is Casalgrande Padana which continued its foray into ceramic wallpaper with an expanded collectionthat had Coral Roses and another that perfectly replicates the bark of a tree.

But Cersaie was not all about aesthetics. Marazzi used the show to launch its latest technology – StepWise – which can create tiles with high anti-slip ratings that are also very easy to clean. This technology can be used on a wide variety of designs and applications; something that is becoming increasingly important in this age of personal liability and aggressive litigation.

Finally, it seems that, for the next year at least, blue is the colour. From pale through to vibrant shades, blue was the standout colour of the show in all areas, closely followed by green, with petal pinks and subtle purples were also in evidence.

Pictured: The Karl by Agrob Buchtal mosaic collection