ABOVE: Working with Lea Ceramiche, architect Ferruccio Laviani developed Segni, a series of sketched grid patterns and linear motifs.
Home to the oldest university in the world, Bologna, Italy, is a lesson in longevity. Heading out for dinner during the city’s annual ceramic tile fair each September, it’s not unusual to wind up in a restaurant that has spent several decades operating out of the same centuries-old building. During this year’s 40th edition of Cersaie, one of the spots on my own after-hours pasta crawl was Trattoria Trebbi, which has served heartwarming bowls of tortellini in brodo since 1946. Contrast that with the average North American dining establishment, which is lucky to make it just five years.
All of this came to mind in the wake of a presentation held on the second day of Cersaie by Mauro Rullo, head of sustainability for the Italian ceramics association. Because of the heat needed to fire ceramics, tiles remain high in embodied carbon even as manufacturers work to reduce their energy consumption. (Since 1995, the industry has decreased its CO2 emissions per square metre by 57 per cent, helped in part by manufacturing innovations that allow thinner tiles to achieve the same strength as their thicker counterparts.)
The sustainability merits of ceramics emerge only once you factor in their long-term durability. As Rullo put it during his talk, thanks to the 50-plus-year lifespan of ceramic tile, a lot of the time, “You decide its end-of-life.” (In another eco perk, discarded material can then be recycled into aggregate to be used in asphalt or for railways.) With that in mind, the real challenge becomes investing in a design that can hold its own for long enough to leverage these performance benefits.
That said, it’s important not to equate timelessness with safe design. To evolve into a true institution, a restaurant must cultivate a distinct sense of place — and memorable, evocative finishes play a key role. Inspired by everything from freehand sketches to melted wax, Cersaie’s most poetic introductions had the potential to set the scene for beloved spaces that will look just as inspiring in 2024 as they will several decades down the road. And if you’re working on a restaurant project and want to bolster your client’s chances at prolonged success, tell them to put tortellini in brodo on the menu.
Below, we cover three top new tile trends for 2024.
Moving beyond realistic stone- or wood-look offerings, designers approach the industry’s non-ceramic material palette as a muse for more idiosyncratic styles.
Available in 21 lacquered colours and two extra-large formats (60 by 120 centimetres or 120 by 280 centimetres), Sodai’s surreal pattern mimics the veining of marble but in playfully unnatural hues like Denim or Musk (shown above).
Ceramica Vietrese partnered with Milanese design studio (A+B)’s Annalisa Dominoni and Benedetto Quaquaro to adapt stained glass cathedral windows into hand-painted geometric squares that look straight out of a Wes Anderson film.
41zero42 honours decorative Roman mosaics with a jumbo 120-by-120-centimetre tile offered in six different colourways and suitable for use on walls or as flooring in areas of light traffic.
Ethereal designs with a subtle sense of movement capture the quiet beauty found in moments of deep reflection.
Decoratori Bassanesi’s collaboration with Nendo uses rows of chiselled grooves to mimic the gentle ripples formed as gusts blow over still waters. Choose from four different compositions and four neutral shades.
Degradé, a standout pattern from Marca Corona’s new pastel-themed collection, reinterprets a sunset in a calming gradient pattern. Adding to the wallpaper-like look of the 50-by-120-centimetre tiles, each one is imprinted with a subtle grosgrain texture.
Suitable for both walls and flooring, Ceramiche Refin’s soft to-the-touch tiles evoke the waxy remnants of a candlelit evening. Offered in three colourways, the design achieves a sense of depth with a blend of light and dark areas.
Playfully abstract geometric expressions are an invitation to view the world through fresh eyes
1. ITALIAN LANDSCAPE
Working with Ceramica Fioranese, 23Bassi looked to the landscape and architecture of three Italian cities — Florence, L’Aquila and Siena — to develop a series of blue- and terracotta-tinted graphics that can be mixed and matched on walls or flooring.
2. MARVEL MERAVIGLIA
Zaha Hadid Architects brings the firm’s signature deconstructivist style to Atlas Concorde’s marble-effect Marvel collection, exploding a two-toned crystalline pattern into a series of stray diamonds.
Ceramica Bardelli pays tribute to the elements: water, earth, wind and fire (shown). Hand-painted with a stencil, the 20-by-20-centimetre tiles feature a mix of glossy and matte-finished portions that make for dynamic reflections.
At Italy’s annual showcase of ceramic tiles, collections designed for the long haul imagined a future that never goes out of style.