What's new in tiles can be summed up in buzzwords that seem more akin to TV talk: ultra thin, 3-D, HD and green.
At the recent Coverings trade show in Orlando, Fla., manufacturers of wall and floor surfaces from Italy, Spain and the U.S. underscored their commitment to sustainability, some producing up to 80 percent recycled content.
Much of the design excitement centers on the continued blossoming of porcelain tile, which, despite its delicate-sounding name, boasts amazing durability that extends to its frost-proof properties, paving the way to myriad outdoor uses. Production processes can also be added to create antibacterial tile or exterior tiles that react with the sun to reflect heat.
Micro-thin is in
Production of ultra-slim (3 mm — about 1/8 inch) tile allows cost-effective installation over existing floor or wall materials, and less weight translates to more savings in transport. The easy-to-handle porcelain is a plus for DIY-ers: Scoring and cutting with glass cutters is simple.
HD and 3-D
Advanced digital printing technology features enhanced high-definition reproduction, allowing mimicking of stones and wood, down to a realistic tactile grain. A dead ringer for quartzite replicates its rough-hewn texture and sparkle. Avant-garde designer Karim Rashid showed off signature graphics with a new line of decorative tiles for Tau's Porcelanatto.
Three-dimensional tiles (high and low relief), even woven effects, lend surface interest to walls. Some undulating wovens can be crafted into freestanding screens.
Manufacturers are pushing the envelope for large formats. Some are almost slab size — up to 5 feet squares or 2-by-5-foot rectangles. The look is clean, modern and sophisticated — ideal, for example, on a dramatic fireplace wall.
Besides conventional geometrics such as octagons, water jet technology has opened the door to more complex shapes such as fish scales, waves, rhomboids and Escher-like forms.
Between the lines
Besides developing more green grout products, manufacturers are looking to an expanded color palette and special effects. One metallic option looks as if a tube of glitter has been sprinkled into bold hues such as turquoise.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times