February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18
By Nicole Murray
When it comes to emerging trends in tile, the prevailing theme seems to be the larger the format the better. Suppliers say bigger tiles translate into greater design options for the consumer.
“Larger tiles continue to grow in popularity, especially planks sized at 5 x 10,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing at Emser Tile. “People are looking for fewer grout lines; in some cases, a monolithic look can make a room look bigger.”
However, new product formats require educating installers on how to properly lay the larger tiles on site. “A major challenge of larger planks is the installation process because it will now take two people to install as opposed to one,” Haaksma explained. “In the long run, you will need more people to lay fewer pieces so everything will balance itself out.”
Suppliers credit technological advances as the primary driver behind the trend toward larger sizes. So say experts like Lori Kleinert, director of Internet sales for LTL Home Products—parent company to Solid Floor, which assisted with the re-release of Solid Floor’s high-end design flooring set, the Chevron collection.
“The older version of the collection is much smaller,” Kleinert explained. “New techniques and advanced machinery allow us to produce bigger products in larger dimensions from natural materials. The process is very precise, and each day our abilities are getting better.”
Massimo Ballucchi, director of product design, Daltile, also attributes today’s advances to technological leaps. He said suppliers have been able to use tile to develop more comforting looks while still maintaining the material’s durability.
“Textures provide a simple way to add warmth to surroundings, and many of these offerings are scanned from actual fabric and engineered to be textured when touched,” Ballucchi explained. “From squares to decorative accents, new textured tile is designed for mixing colors and creating an eye-catching design. This is truly the new generation of textured tile.”
But it’s not just floors that are benefitting from these advancements. Larger formats are also finding their way on vertical surfaces. “People are getting tired of painted walls and want the mosaics, accents, subway and porcelain tiles—which is a great way to expand the business,” said Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, MS International (MSI). “It is architectural detail that sets you apart from your neighbor, and our Domino collection does just that. The series is indestructible and contains 3 x 6 wall tiles available in black, white or almond colors to give a style neutral kick that everyone is looking for.”
Haaksma agrees, adding wall tiles as architectural accents also allows manufacturers to differentiate themselves in much the same way they do with flooring. In Emser’s case, adding a three-dimensional twist via its Code series is one way to achieve this.
“Code is a collection of tiles that allows you to create your own aesthetics using different shapes, colors, surfaces and dimensions,” she explained. “By simply facing tiles in different directions, you can have a completely different design. It’s simply using material that has been around for a long time, just in a different way.”
Another hot trend when it comes to tile visuals is the replication of wood looks. In tile, these wood visuals can be manipulated so consumers can get the precise look they want—be it traditional or rustic—and still have a floor with the low maintenance and longevity of tile. “Wood continues to gain in popularity,” Haaksma said. “Wood planks can provide a variety of looks but they need a little upkeep and can last for a long time.”
As the development of realistic wood planks continues to improve, observers foresee an even greater variety of products coming down the pike. “Richer colors are going to emerge and new wood species will be included in product offerings,” Ballucchi said. “There is such a strong focus to create a product that looks authentic.”