International correspondent, Joe Simpson, has contacted the leading tile manufacturers who normally would grace the halls at Cersaie to find out what they had planned to launch at the 2020 event. As well as selecting some eye-catching ranges, he has produced a virtual Cersaie trend report that explores the most popular colours, material influences, finishes, and formats for 2021.

The Italy-based Cersaie 2020 event fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic after organisers decided that under the current circumstances, it was impossible to organise a safe exhibition or one that could guarantee the presence of tile professionals from around the globe.

The Coronavirus has accelerated what was already shaping up to be an era defined by social change and the emergence of new technology. National lockdowns, and the need to work from home, has radically changed the way we now consider our domestic space. The rise in smart working, which was already taking place, has been turbocharged.

Today, many homes are no longer dedicated to nurture, rest, family activities, and entertainment, but are also workspaces. The impact on how houses are organised and furnished has been, and will continue to be, profound and far-reaching.

In response, one of the emerging trends in the ceramic field is surface finishes, including porcelain worktops, that contribute to the creation of stylish and versatile open living spaces.

Open plan kitchens and living rooms now need to add an extra function: a part time office. One solution is a kitchen with a peninsula that separates the cooking area and can be used as a table or desk. In this way, the kitchen becomes more than just a place to cook and, but also somewhere to work, study, gather and entertain. XXL porcelain in all its forms have addressed this emerging need and made its pitch for the traditional kitchen worktop market.

Home office

Cersaie 2020 would have seen a return to lighter and more minimalist floor tile designs, as manufacturers respond to the way that COVID-19 has already started to influence other aspects of housing design. One trend has been the vertical division of houses to create mezzanine floors for use as home offices.

Concrete- or wood-effect porcelain stoneware floor tiles — simple surfaces in warm, natural shades — are ideal for these spaces. At the same time, opening up living areas for multi-purpose living also extends the appeal of lighter floor tiles and minimalist furnishings that create a sense of consistency. Cersaie 2020 would have been awash with examples of large ultra-thin tiles being used to cover worktops, tables, furniture, wardrobes, and partition walls to ensure design continuity. It is a contemporary twist on the minimalist monolithic look.

The industrial look generally features cement-effect floorings in subtle shades, or antiqued wood-effect strip tiles with minimal joints. Exposed bricks, beams, ducts and pipes, large windows, rough perimeter walls with light plaster, high ceilings and mezzanines are other distinctive features. Furnishings usually include recovered objects that emphasise painting and welding imperfections. Cersaie 2020 would have seen tiles that play to this vibe, such as simulated plaster- and stucco-effects, antiqued wood-effect floor tiles, and burnished metallic finishes.

When it came to colour, 2020 was a blue year. Just as Pantone predicted, Classic Blue was dominant. When Pantone chose this colour, foremost in their mind was the way homeowners can create a relaxing yet sophisticated home by choosing intense blue for feature walls, or by adding blue furnishings, set against light and natural shades such as cream or nuances of white.

Blue adapts to all styles — classic, modern, contemporary, and rustic — and can be combined with an endless array of materials.

However, the Coronavirus pandemic seemed to amplify this trend and stretch it out.  Blue shows no sign of stopping, possibly because it also speaks of hygiene and health. So Cersaie 2020 would have seen many iterations of blue tiles, alongside other on-trend hues, notably rich pastels, such as powder pinks and greens, the latter in shades ranging from intense woodland green through to light sage.

Another impact of the pandemic was to make the world’s population even more aware of nature. For a lucky few, this could be experienced and enjoyed in their own garden. For many city dwellers, however, the occasional trip to the park had to be supplemented by house plants, or decor schemes that bring nature into the home. Ranges, such as Limpha by Casalgrande Padana, are a great predictor for the kind of tile design needed to project this soothing naturalism into our homes.

For those lucky enough to have outdoor space, many will be seeking ways to make this space work even harder, with inside-out living proving even more popular going forward. Porcelain tiles, with their wide range of designs, choice of installation methods and excellent technical features (frost-, abrasion-, and wear-resistance, light fastness, and flexural strength) are well placed to profit from this still developing trend.

Cersaie 2020 would have included ultra-large plank formats, darker woods, distressed timber effects, stone/concrete mixes, and lighter cottos, alongside bolder patterned tiles that speak of Moorish tradition and the enduring popularity of the Provençal vibe.

Another trend playing to concerns about or health and well-being are anti-bacterial and self-cleaning tiles. Tile options, such as Casalgrande Padana’s Bios self-cleaning technology, use the sun’s power to allow porcelain tiles to reduce air pollutants and decompose dirt deposits, which are washed away from the tiles’ surface by rainwater, due to the super hydrophilicity of the ceramic surface.

Using Bios self-cleaning tiles on a 1,000sqm façade purifies as much air the size of a soccer pitch, and eliminates the equivalent nitrogen oxides to that emitted by 70 petrol engine cars in day.

But what is really holding homeowners’ attention these days is the fact that tiles factory-finished with this technology can kill up to 99.99% of the main bacterial strains, while also eliminating odours.

PoMo revival

Bolder colours and maximalist mixes would have provided the main eye-candy at Cersaie 2020. In addition to Mutina with its exuberant Mattonelle Margherita collection, the event would have seen plenty more post-Modern designs.

These bold new PoMo designs offer a welcome counterpoint to slavish natural imitations. From big floral patterns and playful geometries to striking synthetic colours, these eye-catching designs are dramatic and yet elegant.

ABK is one of the leaders here with the bold solid colours and geometric patterns of the Art Shapes collection evoking Memphis. These digital designs make a statement but drown out the background noise.

41zero42 is now one of the companies competing with Mutina in the coolest design stakes. The company’s daring aesthetics for 2021 build on the contemporary frescoes of the Paper41 Lux range: from floral patterns that emerge from a white mist to large-format tiles depicting Ming vases, this is graphic design at its greatest.

Other trends

Fun by Ceramica Sant’Agostino pairs intricate 1970s patterns with bold colours to create eye-catching flower power tiles. Elaborate and slightly baroque, the intricate patterns are paired with a palette of solid pastel tones that underline a surprisingly tasteful sense of psychedelia.

Floral wallpapers would have been real head turners at Cersaie 2020. I filati di rex by Florim is a great example of this look. It has the tactile appeal of wallpaper but recognises no aesthetic boundaries when seeking inspiration. So retro floral patterns, pastel backdrops, blowsy bouquets, and verdant greenery are all fair game, with rococo swirls and other graphic embellishments.

Alongside these PoMo creations, another high-end theme is deceptive design, a surface trend made possible by new decorating technologies that allow unexpected material melanges, such as oxidised metals and Venetian silk.

Atlas Concorde’s Blaze, for instance, is a ceramic collection inspired by the industrial-chic and raw-luxe character of oxidised metals and weathering steel in an extensive range of colours.

Graniti Fiandre’s Rock Salt Maximum is a refined architectural range reproducing the shades and the crystals of Himalayan salt with great realism, while the Amazonite range was inspired by the Brazilian river’s complex bed.

Cotto d’Este‘s Cement Project is a system of colours and surfaces that faithfully recalls the aesthetics and texture of cement in those Brutalist architectural projects of the 20th century.

The Rustrial trend combines rustic and industrial, as seen in such ground-breaking collections as Marazzi’s Crogiolo Zellige. This translates Moroccan terracotta azulejos into 100 by 100mm glazed tiles that feature all the imperfections of the original.

Ceramic surfaces and fine fabrics come together in the I Filati di Rex collection by Florim, created in collaboration with Venetian textile company Rubelli. The range combines the most advanced ceramic production technologies with a centuries-old heritage in the art of silk. Iconic decorative patterns from Rubell’s archives come to life on the ceramic surface in an elegant interplay of relief effects that reinterpret the texture of the fabric.

Past and present are perfectly balanced in Raw, the Atlas Concorde concrete-look range that recreates the material feel of worn surfaces, reproducing the flaked plaster effect through art. The warm, earthy colours of Sand and Mud are supplemented by the colder, more material hues of White and Pearl. Four porcelain tile colours that can be mixed and matched, taking up the many tones of plaster and the signs of ageing over time.

The range of white body wall tiles features a palette of six colours, with three neutrals that reflect the shades of stoneware and three brighter tones, Blue, Rose and Petroleum, that co-ordinate with the mood of the collection.

A particular feature of the collection is the possibility to choose the most suitable plaster for the project, whether Twist, Flag, Block or Castle. This sets a new standard in terms of customisation, transforming grout line filler from functional necessity to an integral part of the décor.

Terratinta Ceramiche has explored the delicate nuances of Vicentina Cenere, using harmonious graphics and rich hues to produce an authenitic reproduction of Pietra of Vicenza stone. The large 6mm thick 1,200 by 2,800mm slabs, and 12mm by 1,600 by 3,200mm slabs, can be used for tables and kitchen worktops. The 800 by 800mm floor tiles with a vintage edge, give an antique look to the surface of the floor tiles.

The peculiarity of the metal effect combined with the ductility of the concrete makes the Betonmetal collection from Terratinta Ceramiche both original and impactful. Urban and contemporary, it features small scratches and a translucent effect that both add value.

The allure of the metal surfaces is developed in four sizes: 1,200 by 1,200, 600 by 1,200, 600 by 600, and 300 by 600mm. There are three colours: Aluminium, a light and delicate grey, and two stronger colours; the dark Black Steel, and the rust coloured Copper.

To sum up the Cersaie that might have been, this was a show where Maximalism — bolder colours and patterns — rubbed shoulders with new interpreations on practical minimalism, and the deliberate imperfection of Wabi Sabi. Many leading European manufacturers revisited the glaze effects, patterns, and formats of tiling’s long heritage, with historic design influences spanning Art Deco, Arts & Crafts, Modernism, Brutalism, Art Nouveau, and Bauhaus.

The show witnessed oiled and planed wood-effects and many tiles with a hand-finished vibe, a plethora of exciting metallic embellishments, sculpted 3D wall tiles, and numerous Moorish and Middle Eastern patterns.

Real eye-candy came in the form of hyper-realistic wallpaper-effects, many expanding the idea of natural subjects, notably tropical flora and fauna.

Posters, pop art and disco brough psychedelic colours, playful geometry, and trippy patterns, while seminato surfaces also took tiles in bold directions with micro and macro fragment mixes, technicolour dots, and colourful inclusions.

Cersaie highlights

Mattonelle Margherita by Mutina is the tile of the show. In this versatile and playful range, Mutina has worked with colour, along with the artist Nathalie Du Pasquier, creating a complex project featuring a blend of different aesthetic and formal means of expression.

The collection is characterised by a dual concept. On the one hand, a simple, minimalist style, evident in the plain-coloured elements, and on the other, a courageous, creative approach, characterised by a large variety of graphics. In total, it is composed of 41 patterns designed by hand, available in two sizes.

The elements are created in glazed porcelain stoneware, with a traditional industrial production method of the kind used in the past. To obtain the best possible result in terms of finish and colour, careful research has gone into the glazes, in order to identify the most reactive, so as to give a bright, vibrant finish to the satin-effect surface. The combination of pure white glazes and transparent, waxy glazes guarantees a natural-looking surface, on which colour is absorbed, maximising its effect.

The Mattonelle Margherita universe is composed of 41 different patterns, designed by hand: 27 graphics and six plain elements in the 205 by 205mm size, six patterns and two plain elements in the 101 by 205mm size. The two sizes are modular, with a joint of 2mm. Mattonelle Margherita tiles have a satin-finish surface as standard, although a special anti-slip finish is available on request.

Metallic effects, including oxidised patinas, would have been one of the strongest trends at Cersaie 2020.  At the more masculine end of this spectrum, Temper by Cercom combines the industrial allure of steel slabs with the technical qualities of porcelain stoneware.

Temper comes in five colours, plus decors, for use on both floors and walls starting with Frost, the lightest and brightest, through the Argent and Golden shades, the deep greys of Iron and Coal, right through to Rust, a finish with colour tones inspired by corten steel. Temper is offered in the wide range of formats, all rectified.

Terra by La Faenza is a contemporary reinterpretation of terracotta, with surfaces that simulate the passage of time. It offers warm, dark, deep colours like ochre and red as well as contrasting colours, like silver and original nuances such as Prussian blue.

Full-body coloured porcelain stoneware, Terra comes in 900 by 900, 600 by 1,200, and 600 by 600mm formats, for both cladding and flooring applications. It is designed to complement La Faenza’s Oro project, a collection of four marbles with considerable personality.

Two of the Oro designs are absolutely on the money. Blue Lace Agate is inspired by a stone from South America. This laced-featured agate appears semi-transparent, with large bands that range from white to blue with different shades. Ocean Blue stems from a spectacular onyx from Central Asia. Grey/dark blue shadings mix with bluish-white surfaces, with ochre and gold.

This range to range compatibility is something seen more in the portfolios of today’s top tile manufacturers. White body wall tiles are paired with matching porcelain floor tiles, stone- wood-, and concrete-effects produced in complementary tones and decors that work with several different base tiles.

This shows a welcome level of pragmatism by manufacturers and provides clear evidence they have both listened to, and reacted to, the needs of the market world-wide.

Materia Prima by Cir Ceramiche is a substantial and distinctive collection, an eloquent investigation of the fundamental elements of ceramics.

This ambitious program spans floor and wall tiles in porcelain stoneware, and has a wide range of colours, sizes, and line decorations. The wall tiles come in 100 by 200, 200 by 200mm, plus hexagon and rhombus. The floor tiles are 400 by 400mm.

Taking inspiration from a collection of furnishing items with the same name, OT07026 by Cerasarda is an exclusive chromatic range that emphasises the link with Sardinia. From the raw essence of the island’s interior, the rugged and area of Barbagia, and the translucent marine setting of the coast. In addition to the beautiful base colours, the many hand-made decorations enhance the manufacturing value of this collection.

A winning mix of warm Mediterranean colour tones, refined decorations, and great craftsmanship make this red body wall and floor tile range a real winner. It is available in various 10mm thick formats: 400 by 400, 200 by 400, 200 by 200, 100 by 100, and 100 by 300mm.

The hottest ticket in stone-effect tiles today is another enduring favourite: limestone. No range captures this better than Atlas Concorde’s Lims, a collection that includes features drawn from different limestones. With graphics nspired by materials coming from quarries located in different geographical regions, this is another example of ceramic facsimiles offering something beyond the scope of nature itself.

The main protagonist is French limestone (Hauteville), but there are also graphic inserts of Portuguese (Moleanos), Belgian (Blue de Vix), German (Jura), Italian (Vicenza), and Slovenian (Lipika) stones.

Lims’ mixture of textures, graphics, and shapes delivers a minimalist and earthy style that is markedly contemporary yet also warm and welcoming.  It is the perfect stone-effect for creating on-trend inside-out living spaces.

The collection offers porcelain floor tiles in Ivory, Beige, Grey, and Desert; and white body wall tiles in Ivory and Beige. Natural, bush-hammered, line and textured surface options are also part of the Lims collection.

Fjord from Impronta, an Italgraniti Group brand, is a graphic interpretation of Nordic quartzite. Bold and versatile, Fjord offers rich and harmonious colour transitions, with alternate circular and straight veining.

Quartzite has been one of the most fashionable ceramic surfaces of recent years. Here it is presented in a matte colour palette of five tones (Ice, Coast, River, Sea, and Creek) and discreet decors. There is a wide range of formats: 1,600 by 800, 1,200 by 600, 600 by 600, and 300 by 600mm. Rounding out the collection are mosaics, and special pieces like skirting boards and steps with bull nose, plus 20mm thick external anti-slip tiles in 600 by 1,200, and 600 by 600mm formats.

Monocibec’s Arcadia collection is typical of the fresh wave of dynamic marble-effects that have swept the tile market over the past couple of years. The range has a contemporary aesthetic inspired by evocative varieties of marble with directional veining and intense colour contrasts.

Arcadia’s modern look is available with numerous surface finishes expanding its potential applications. The honed finish underlines the expressive qualities of the marble through the particular way the eye perceives the light caressing its surface, underlining the subtle waves that accompany the veins of the material inspiring it. Luxury and refinement are represented in a mirror-polished version while the natural surface is a realistic interpretation of marbles that inspired the collection.

The particularly decorative Tecno Mix version alternates different shades of white, black, and grey from the collection to create a dramatic surface characterised by large patches of colour.

The Room by Imola is a collection of rectified, full-body porcelain stoneware tiles in XXL 1,200 by 2,600, 1,200 by 1,200 and 600 by 1,200mm formats, all 6.5mm thick.  It is available in natural and super shiny gloss-honed finishes.

Another range to look anew at marble, The Room offers Grand Antique d’Aubert which was inspired by a stone extracted in France in the northern Pyrenees. It was used on some famous landmarks, including Napoleon’s tomb. Its black and white marks have defined contrasts unsurpassed in nature.

Panda White has a stark white background, accentuated by intense black lines with wider stripes or thicker waves and all completed with a white crystallization that highlights its transparency.

Black Dahlia, based on a stone from central America, belongs to the silicate onyx category. Black with white streaks, it is enriched with details that can vary from yellow to brown, and sometimes red, ivory, and grey. Invisible White, a marble from Asia Minor, is a dolomite rock with a white background widely laced with grey veins.

A full-body porcelain stoneware range, The Room comes in slab formats of 1,200 by 2,600, 1,200 by 1,200, and 600 by 1,200mm, all 6.5mm thick. It has two surface finishes: shiny gloss-honed and natural.

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