In the weeks preceding Coverings ’21, we explored trending tile styles that we highly anticipated seeing in-person at the show: large hexagon tile, assorted aggregates (terrazzo) tile, green tile, XXL tile, and biophilic styles.
Instagram style influencers did not disappoint with sneak peeks at what were indeed this year’s hottest trends on the show floor. Likewise, energy from the return to an in-person showcase further focused these trend predictions and a few new style stars emerged.
Hexagon tiles have gotten BIG — and we mean literally. This year, we are seeing hex tiles as large as two feet in diameter. These generous shapes can be playful (as we are familiar with in smaller sizes) or can create high-impact and a unique elegance. Additionally, large hexes are conducive to staggered transition layouts that have also been trending for all kinds of applications, from bathrooms and kitchens to commercial spaces.
Large hexes can easily be the star of the room. The clean lines and geometric angles can be accentuated by mixing colors in a creative layout (patterns can double as wall art), or the hex shape can play a secondary/understated role by keeping to one pattern.
Either way, the novelty of the size won’t go unnoticed.
Depending on the size and color of its flecks, the aggregate style (or terrazzo look) can be subtle or bold, neutral or dramatic, traditional or modern. This wide variety in color and scale gives terrazzo looks tremendous versatility — from a realistic city sidewalk to a chunky colorful mod appearance — that is easy to incorporate into any design.
We witnessed speckled surfaces emerge as a trend in 2020 and this year, we’ve seen the style come into its own by breaking from traditional terrazzo expectations and playing more with color and shape.
Undeniably, XXL tile made a statement on the show floor. Advances in tile manufacturing have resulted in extremely large and thin tiles — as thin as 1/8 inch and measuring up to 15 feet long. Also called gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs, XXL tile has opened up a new range of applications, from countertops to feature walls and seamless backsplashes in a number of styles, such as wallpapered looks, custom designs, and natural stone looks. You can also cover — or create — just about any custom furniture with gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs, including tables, benches, booths, shelves, and desks.
Aside from the design possibilities, another reason XXL tile has taken off is an update to the international building code (IBC) that gives designers the option to use larger exterior-adhered porcelain tiles — as large as 48×48 inches or 36×72 inches — on building facades without requiring a code variance process.
Marble looks are always in vogue, and they’re only getting better. Now that the scale of tile has grown, so too can the scale of the veining.
XXL tiles serve as larger canvases for creative veining designs, and we saw many striking variations at Coverings — angular to flowing, subtle to high-contrast, minimal to abundant — in singular tones or color combinations. Many dramatic and magnified veining styles can only be achieved on such large tile.
We’re seeing marble looks evolve in two directions. Some styles have fewer and wide, river-like veins with flowing movement and clean edges (commonly with gray veining on a white background). Another direction in the marble style involves more angular, frenetic, and high-contrast veining patterns. In either case, good luck finding a repeat pattern.
You can have the dramatic effect of large seamless swaths of natural stone, with the durability and easy maintenance of porcelain, and you’ll have achieved it in a more sustainable way. Large-scale veining patterns can go on and on without interruption, sometimes running a floor-to-ceiling course, thanks to the vast tile sizes.
When a year spent indoors leaves us longing for more of a connection with nature, in comes a slew of design options to help with the greening of our interior spaces: green in every shade and texture, marbled or oxidized, from zellige to terrazzo looks.
Whether making a bold statement or serving as a neutral base, green tile lends a natural feel to a space, hence green’s starring role in biophilic design. We are sure to see much more green tile in 2021 — and we’re not just referring to the fact that ceramic tile is environmentally-friendly.
Biophilic tile brings nature inside by using natural colors, designs, materials, textures, and more. With trending tile shades of greens and earth tones, natural stone and wood looks, organic shapes and textures, and variegated colors, ceramic tile is encompassing biophilia in both functionality and theory.
Connecting with nature has been shown to promote physical health, cognitive function, and psychological well-being. Incorporating biophilic design elements into the bathroom, for instance, can give you a mood-boost at the beginning and end of your day.
Additionally, ceramic tile is composed of naturally occurring materials and is one of the most sustainable surface options available. Lauded as a green building component, ceramic tile is leading the surface industry in publishing material ingredient transparency so you can feel good about how your materials impact you and the environment. The Tile Council of North America released at Coverings ’21 the TCNA Material Ingredient Guide. The guide is the first of its kind by any building product industry and provides information about the material ingredients used industry-wide by North American tile, mortar, and grout manufacturers and provides in-depth health assessments of those materials.
Beyond our Expectations
One of the most impressive aspects of bringing such a large collection of designs and innovations together at Coverings is the consummation of trends you can observe in real time right on the show floor. New trends emerge, some combine, and others form a bridge to the future.
Perhaps due in part to our collective focus on cleanliness, high gloss surfaces were a popular offering at Coverings ’21. Combined with dimensionality, glossy surfaces present a feeling of movement and water.
As colors have eased their way back into decorating trends with a biophilic palette, more colors are also gaining interest, such as turquoise. Likewise, the organic biophilic shapes of nature are bringing more curvaceous forms and florals into tile design.
XXL gauged porcelain tile technology impressed us not just with the ability to create a singular large surface but also to use the technology to surround ourselves with color and texture in ways we never could before. Living large was certainly an underlying theme at the show, both with big tiles and big ideas on how to use materials. So, the natural pendulum swing from large shapes is — you guessed it — skinny shapes.
It’s no surprise that greens and biophilia are simpatico in a trend toward healthier, more natural environments. In fact, an overarching trend toward healthy materials for our families has also become a call for healthy materials for our planet. The show introduced products with antimicrobial properties as well as a Material Ingredient Guide for ingredient transparency, presented sessions on green building, and discussed hygiene in a post-pandemic retail environment. It is more accurate to say we have witnessed a transformation toward health from which manufacturing innovations and design trends (such as biophilia) will continue to emerge.
Loudly on display at Coverings ’21 were the benefits of using ceramic tile — one-of-a-kind installations that can be truly considered works of art both in their manufacturing and installation skill, the sustainability of ceramic tile’s naturally occurring materials, and the hygienic benefits of a surface both easy to clean and naturally inhospitable to mold, mildew, and bacteria. We expect these benefits to continue to inspire innovations and trends.
So, what can we expect from Coverings ’22? We’ll go out on a limb (because per Mark Twain, that’s where the fruit is) and predict to see more color, specifically more turquoise/teal variations. Veining creativity is already evolving in all kinds of directions and showing more and more depth, thanks to the latest glaze application methods.
We also predict more checkerboard patterns that showcase the beauty in combining trends, such as the checkerboard terrazzo-look tile pictured above. And, while we’ve been driven to surround ourselves with nature indoors with biophilic tile design, ceramic tile is poised to make a bigger splash outdoors with thick paver innovations.
Stay tuned! Coverings 2022 is just months away, April 5-8 in Las Vegas, NV.
Viva Las Vegas!
Where to Buy Tile
Use the search tool at the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) to find a ceramic tile showroom in your area for a more individual, one-on-one shopping, design and education experience, or visit a home improvement or flooring retailer.