Optical Effects

Optical Effects

At Cersaie, which took place in late September, ceramics stood in for just about anything, from quilts to wood and concrete look-alikes.

Last spring, northern Italy was rocked by two devastating earthquakes that damaged many ceramic factories in the region, but none as badly as that of Sant’Agostino, which lost one of its manufacturing facilities and, even more tragically, two employees. Rebuilding the region is still a pressing issue, and it was a hot topic at Cersaie in September, where 474 tile exhibitors filled Bologna’s rambling exhibition centre. The show invited architect Shigeru Ban to speak about the emergency structures he has built in similarly traumatized places, such as Kobe, Japan; New Orleans; and L’Aquila, Italy. If there is a model of resilience to point to, it would be Sant’Agostino, which bounced back with an ambitious booth devoted to Flexible Architecture, Philippe Starck’s first-ever line of tiles. The geometry of this dual-­textured porcelain collection is simple – a box within a box – although, depending on how the tiles are arranged, the variations are endless.

The Paris designer’s mix-and-match concept proved to be a recurring theme, and many other manufacturers aimed to entice buyers with designs that invite self-expression. Refin’s Geometric, for instance, is made up of eight versions of one pattern packaged randomly; and Patricia Urquiola’s Azulej cement tile collection, for Mutina, offers 27 bold motifs that work best when laid out like patches on a crazy quilt.

Almost every company presented a variation on simulated wood planks and grey-hued concrete, making the distinctions between one and the next barely discernible. Yet on closer inspection, variety was found here, too. In Link, by Keope, the concrete texture features a ghostly imprint of carpeting, which adds visual softness; while Blend, by Fioranese, is a square grey slab edged with planks. Why are these two effects so popular? Tile offers what the real stuff cannot: lightness, strength, antibacterial properties, and, with an eye on the future, a much greener option.


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1 Geometric by Refin

Geometric is one pattern in a collection of four that make up Refin’s new Frame series. The 60-centimetre-square tiles come in eight variations, deliberately boxed randomly, so each configuration is unique.  ­refin‑ceramic‑tiles.com


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2 Azulei by Mutina

Patricia Urquiola’s Azulej, a cement tile created for Mutina, marked a renewed interest in designing tiles that actually look like tiles rather than wood or concrete. The series comes in 27 patterns and has a slight worn-in look.  ­mutina.it


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3 Murano by Fondovalle

Fondovalle’s Murano, made of ­double-pressed porcelain in two sizes, comes in six elegant hues, including this Nordic-­inspired cobalt blue.  ­fondovalle.it


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4 Cloud by Brix

Domus Academy Design student Aki Motoyama worked with Brix to produce Cloud, a cluster of five small, box-shaped tiles that are off kilter from one another, an effect inspired by the loose formation of clouds. Available in three earthy tones: bone, clay and mud.


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5 Triennale by Marazzi

When designer Gio Ponti launched his Triennale tile in 1960, its jigsaw puzzle shapes were too complex to put into mass production. Marazzi now offers an inspiring array of col­our options for building into unique designs.  ­marazziusa.com


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6 Flexible Architecture by Sant’Agostino

Philippe Starck’s Flexible Archi­tec­ture for Sant’Agostino isn’t as statement making as it is versatile, with two surface typographies that combine rocky with slightly wavy. The textural differences can be endlessly mixed and matched.  ­ceramicasantagostino.it


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7 Link by Keope

Like most Italian tile companies, Keope offers an array of porcelain stoneware that sports the popular look of distressed industrial concrete. The Link collection includes such effects as the ghostly imprint of a carpet in pale silver tones.  ­keope.com


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8 Base by Fap

Tile patterns made to resemble Persian carpet are another trend that’s gaining traction. Base by Fap offers ancient, muted tones of stoneware with a lived-in feel that works equally well indoors or out.  ­fapceramiche.com


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9 Natura by Antolini

Designers Domenico De Palo and Alessandro La Spada have ex­panded on Antolini’s glamorous Natura Collection of engraved stone with Wave, one of seven attention-grabbing patterns.  ­antoliniusa.com


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10 Studies in Gouache by Lea Ceramiche

Lea Ceramiche is using Slimtech technology for Diego Grandi’s Studies in Gouache, a series of six classic and repeatable dual-­textured patterns, including a loose scribble (shown). The method makes the surfacing extra-thin and super-light.  ­ceramichelea.com


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11 Large-scale slabs by Porcelaingres

The push to go thin and go big con­tinues, with such high-tech com­pan­ies as Porcelaingres of Germany launching slabs that measure three metres long and a mere three milli­metres thick.  ­porcelaingres.com


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12 Blend by Fioranese

As its name suggests, the Blend collection by Fioranese brings wood and cement into one coffered laying scheme. The collection includes a wavy texture that emulates the texture of cardboard.  ­fioranese.it


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13 Vintage by Apavisa

Apavisa has come up with one of the most vibrant versions of simulated wooden planks, inspired by the aged look of sun-­bleached siding and chipped paint on brick. Called Vintage, the tiles come in six vivid colours, including acid green.  ­apavisa.com


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14 I Frammenti by Brix

Brix’s stunning off-site display was housed inside a 14th-­century former orphanage. The installation showcased the five-millimetre-square I Frammenti, billed as the world’s smallest mosaic tile (available as of this month).  ­brixweb.com


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15 Technica by Century

Fincibec’s latest innovation, Anti­bact, significantly enhances the sanitary properties of porcelain, and Technica by Century is the first line to feature the new technology.  ­fincibec.it


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16 Edilgres Stonelab by Kale

Using high-definition inkjet technology, Edilgres Stonelab by Kale re­creates the look of natural stone, with unique surface variations in­tact. It’s nearly impossible to tell that this is a full-body porcelain tile you’re looking at.  ­kaleitalia.com


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17 Wow by Ceramica Colli di Sassuolo

Another plank effect, by Ceramica Colli di Sassuolo, brings together the textures of wood and fossilized stone. The eye-popping collection is appropriately called Wow.  ­colli.it


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18 Minoo by Bardelli

Dutch designer Marcel Wanders brings his campy baroque sensibility to ceramic surfacing with Minoo for Bardelli, a series of five rich arabesque patterns silkscreened onto porcelain.  ­bardelli.it


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19 Root by Caesar

Caesar’s Root collection, a convin­cing oak effect in five shades, allows for the look of wood in spaces where tile is a more durable option, such as restaurants and retail environments.  ­caesar.it


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20 EC1 by Cerdisa

Cerdisa continues to expand its architectural lines for indoor and outdoor use, with more grey to black shades in various sizes. EC1, made with recycled material, is seen here at Milan’s Salone del Mobile – proof that it can handle heavy traffic.  ­cerdisa.biz


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21 Woodays 20mm by Tagina

Woodays 20mm by Tagina can be laid out on almost any surface, including sand, gravel or grass. Its dens­ity makes it ideal for such outdoor spaces as decks and backyard poolsides.  ­tagina.it

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