As COVID-19 re-shaped daily lives — and design priorities — the world over, the sanitary properties of ceramics have become an increasingly vital attribute for creating safer spaces. Easy to clean, naturally hypoallergenic, free of harmful substances and resistant to even the most aggressive chemical cleaning agents, ceramic surfaces are a hygienic haven for a pandemic world. What’s more, Italy’s forward-thinking manufacturers have introduced everything from self-cleaning technologies to expansive slab formats that all but eliminate grout, marrying innovation and centuries of heritage.
And then there’s design. Alongside the exceptional technical properties that make contemporary ceramics an exceptionally safe choice for settings ranging from homes to high-traffic environments, the aesthetic possibilities are every bit as inspiring. Under the Ceramics of Italy banner, the country’s world-leading firms are continuously refining — and reinventing — ceramic surfaces, with the latest innovations set to be showcased at next month’s Cersaie tile fair, taking place in Bologna from September 27 to October 1. Below, we’ve rounded up five trends that epitomize eye-catching new directions for Italian ceramic and porcelain tile.
Marble. Basketweave. Small formats. Warm colours. They’re classics for a reason. And while these styles never went away, our pronounced need for comfort in uncertain times has brought timeless designs back to the forefront — with a hint of 21st century flair. Consider Ceramica Vogue‘s Riflessi collection, which riffs on the handmade square tile with a range of hues inspired by Moroccan ceramics. The traditional aesthetic is paired with an advanced frost-resistant glazed finish — a highly light-sensitive gloss that also expresses each nuanced variation in light.
Ragno‘s Mélange collection offers a similar update to the traditional square format with a tactile, tonally varied nod to handcrafted tiles. Fine variations in hue create a varied presence, precisely finished with an elegant gloss. Inspired by traditional marble finishes, Ceramiche Coem‘s Baly collection adds an interplay of elegant hues to the classic design, while Verde 1999‘s Livingstone series integrates marble striations into both mosaics and solid tiles to elegantly recreate the look of well-worn stone. And for the outdoors? Imola‘s Trail collection is a ceramic take on traditional paving stones.
As we gradually re-emerge from our pandemic-era shells, fun, expressive style is on the agenda. From the red carpet to residential and commercial interiors, big is back. And for ceramics manufacturers, the possibilites are endless. Lea Ceramiche‘s Synesthesia series does justice to its namesake phenomenon with a bold series of marble-inspired designs, defined by vivid striations that awaken the senses. Similarly exuberant marble patterns also define Flaviker‘s Supreme Treasure tiles, as well as Nuovo Corso‘s aptly dubbed Big Slabs.
The Glam collection is another appropriately named series, with the Panaria tiles taking floral inspiration to bold new heights. Sichenia‘s Mus_eum and Mus_art collections are also a highlight, integrating floral motifs into a hand-painted aesthetic elevated by tactile surfaces and vivid colours.
Natural materials like wood and stone have long been a basis for ceramic design. As fabrication techniques continue to evolve, the tile treatments are becoming virtually indistinguishable from their inspirations.
From the deft textures of La Fabbrica‘s Imperial to the subtle marble pattern of AVA‘s Marmi Calacatta tiles and Cotto d’Este‘s Green Wood surfaces, ceramics offer a durable, flexible design option with a soothing, organic presence.
While advancing technology allows for increasingly larger slab formats — some now ranging up to 4 metres in height — smaller tiles are a perennial locus of experimentation. And manufacturers are (literally) stretching the boundaries with svelte formats. Case in point, Colli di Sassuolo‘s Shanghai, which accentuates its 5-by-20 centimetre slabs with ultra-thin pencil tile accents. The Faetano Terro Garzate collection by Del Conca also draws the eye to its slender proportions, accentuated by variations in colour.
Purity never goes out of style. Creating a sophisticated palette for any space, pared down, solid-colour ceramic tiles are an aesthetic mainstay. What’s more, advancements in tile formats and chromatic science allow fabricators to produce larger slabs with more even colours, refining a timeless style. From the careful spackled details of Gigacer‘s Light to the subtle textures of Casalgrande Padana‘s Metropolis, simplicity is a springboard for quiet standouts.
The pared down aesthetic helps minimalist tiles blend seamlessly into a variety of settings. Whether it’s the poolside deck or full showers and bathrooms, Cercom‘s Infinity is well suited to a range of bathing spaces, while Italgraniti‘s muted Nuances collection similarly lends itself to a rich variety of outdoor contexts. Fostering a distinctly unified ambiance, Refin‘s Play is equally well suited to floors and walls.
This content was published by Azure on behalf of Ceramics of Italy with support from the Italian Trade Agency and Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about the health and safety benefits of ceramic is available here.
Italy’s tile manufacturers continue to bring new technical sophistication — and style — to a centuries-old tradition.