Marble. Granite. Wood. Thanks to rapid advances in digital printing and 3D fabrication, ceramic tiles can look and even feel like just about anything. But where is the fun in that? While evolving technologies allow manufacturers to better mimic natural materials, they also offer designers the freedom to reimagine these finishes in bolder, even over-the-top ways. Witness the latest from Cersaie, the Italian tile expo staged annually in Bologna. The most recent iteration, held last fall, saw a host of manufacturers use nature as a springboard to create daring surfaces that were exuberantly — and unapologetically — faux.
Bold florals are a ceramic mainstay, but Casalgrande Padana’s Limpha collection dials this motif up a notch. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, the 120-by-240 centimetre slabs are finished in hyperrealistic patterns that evoke everything from climbing plants to green walls. Fittingly, the large-format tiles operate much like their botanical inspiration by featuring Bios Self-Cleaning technology, which reduces air pollutants and decomposes dirt deposits. Accented with blooming pink bulbs, the elegant and charmingly surreal Coral Rose (shown) is a highlight of the portfolio.
Onice Fantastico, the most striking design in Del Conca’s new Boutique collection, playfully hints at the exaggerated natural inspiration in its moniker. This isn’t just onyx — it’s fantastic onyx. The vibrant bands of colour and dramatic veining mean there is no mistaking these ceramic tiles for real stone. Available in a range of large formats (up to 120 by 260 centimetres), the statement tile is also offered in 30-by-30 centimetre modules that create a sumptuous mosaic pattern when combined and give this deliberately outré product an identity all its own.
Architect Luigi Romanelli’s Ghiaia series for Ceramica Fioranese is a contemporary take on terrazzo that combines seemingly real stones with conspicuously flat blue accents. These collage-like floor and wall slabs nod to the relationship between the natural and the artificial, all while conveying a surprising sense of honesty in the process. Together, the digitally printed tiles — 120 by 260, 60 by 60 or 30 by 30 centimetres — create a relatively seamless effect even in large spaces. They are offered in three aggregate sizes as well as white, grey or graphite matrix options.
Tile that mimics marble has become old hat. A newer (and more fun) trend: obvious over-the-topness.