Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Italian Made: Fashionable Tile, Design

The Italians are famous for their design sense. From the clothing and accessories they design to their timeless architecture and art work, and of course their legendary sports cars. There is no limit to their imagination.

The same determination applies to their design sense when it comes to tile. From Venetian glass mosaic tiles, to ceramic tile that closely resembles heavy brocade patterns, to the crispness of summery linens, it seems the Italians have perfected the art of mimicry.

During the recently held Coverings tile and stone show held in Atlanta, Italian tile manufacturers unveiled their creativity and ingenuity with new twists on patchwork type styles, state-of-the-art anti-bacterial and self-cleaning tiles, time-tested encaustic and majolica patterns, fabric-like textures and embossing, large-format tiles, and quick-installation ceramic tile systems.

Matching is Overrated
Patchworks tiles, such as “Minoo” by Marcel Wander for Bardelli, feature ornate 8”x8” porcelain floor tiles in five silkscreen patterns reminiscent of Persian rugs.

For Mosaico+, renowned mosaic artist Carlo Dal Bianco used mosaics from the company’s various lines to create a series of new decorations. For the “Lacquer” and Inlay” series, he used iridescent mosaics from the Perle collection and square glass chips from Concerto to invoke ancient Chinese dynasties.

For a mixed color palette, Ceramica Sant’Agostino’s “Abita” collection of 8”x24” white body wall tiles boast a diamond effect in three chromatic mixes of beige, lilla and menta.

Philippe Starck also played a role within the ceramic tile sector with the launch of “Flexible Architecture” for Italian manufacturer Ceramica Sant’Agostino. The decorative, modular tile can be specified on one to four sides of the tile or on no sides at all to create an endless array of architectural compositions.

“Minoo” by Marcel Wander for Bardelli.
“Minoo” by Marcel Wander for Bardelli.

"Lacquer" by Mosaico+
"Lacquer" by Mosaico+

Philippe Starck's “Flexible Architecture” for Ceramica Sant’Agostino
Philippe Starck's “Flexible Architecture” for Ceramica Sant’Agostino.

Antibacterial & Self-Cleaning
Ceramic tile is inherently hygienic. It contains no VOCs, so it was only natural for Italian manufacturers to collaborate with biotech companies to offer products that promote the antibacterial, antipollution and self-cleaning properties of ceramics.

Among the latest to develop these types of tiles are Fincibec with “Antibact”, Century with “Technica”, Mirage with its “Sundeck” (its zero maintenance decking product), and Panaria, Lea Ceramiche and Cotto d’Este (all part of the Panaria Group) with their antibacterial floor and wall tiles for residential and commercial applications.

Further, as an industry first, Casalgrande Padana unveiled “Bios Self Cleaning Ceramics” that uses HYDROTECT technology from the Japanese brand, TOTO, to create self-cleaning, anti-bacterial and pollution-reducing tiles. The HYDROTECT coating contains two active agents: titanium dioxide, which is photo-catalytic; and a well-balanced formulation of metals that offer antibacterial and antivirus properties. The technology is especially useful for exterior cladding and can be applied to all Casalgrande Padana products.

Lea Ceramiche BioPlank
Lea Ceramiche's "BioPlank"

Vintage Encaustic, Majolica
Inspired by vintage encaustic and majolica tiles, old world historical charm has been renewed with new fervor thanks to high-tech printing methods.

Of these unique collections is “Azulej” – the latest porcelain tiles designed by Patricia Urquiola for Mutina. Inspired by ancient handcrafted majolica made of hydraulic cement, the 8”x8” glazed porcelain tiles are available in three neutral base colors (white, light grey and dark grey) in a choice of nine patterns or as a combination of 27 different designs. Following this trend is the Majolica pattern of Refin’s “Frame” collection. Designed by graphic design firm Studio FM, the large 30”x30” square tiles feature traditional decors from majolica tiles of the 19th and 20th centuries but presented in a more graphic light.

“Vintage” by Cerim, “Cotto Vogue” by Cir and “Concept” by Ragno are a few other collections featuring this unique look.

Vintage by Cerim.

"Azulej" by Mutina designed by Patricia Urquiola.

Planking with Style
The lines of wood and ceramic are blurred once again with a wide-range of plank-sized tiles that made an appearance at Coverings. Not only do these longer tiles resemble wood, but they are now taking on the look of concrete and stone.

“Sunrock” by Atlas Concorde is available in a range of formats including 6”x36” and 9”x36” while Coem’s “Pietra del Friuli”, inspired by stones found in the northeast of Italy, also comes in a 6”x36” plank size. ImolaCeramica’s “Vein” collection mimics vein-cut or cross-cut marble, and Ceramiche Caesar’s “Wabi” is inspired by oak.

Wabi by Ceramiche Caesar.

Tactile Textiles
Textiles and ceramic tile seem to be enjoying a heavenly relationship within the Italian manufacturing arena. From Raw Edge’s second collection for Mutina called “Tex,” a rich, three-dimensional and multi-colored collection of 4.5”x8” rhombus-shaped glazed porcelain tiles, to the “I Tessuti” collection created by Elena Strafella for Cottoveneto, the range of fabric-inspired patterns are not only realistically breathtaking, but they also capture the essence of the designer’s soul.

Additional textile-inspired products include Marazzi’s “Silkstone” line whose decorative ceramic wall tiles are inspired by Indian saris, Japanese kimonos, tulle and silk.

Marazzi's "SilkStone"
Marazzi's "SilkStone"

"I Tessuti" by Cottoveneto
"I Tessuti" by Cottoveneto

Large-Format Tiles
In their continuous evolution to better serve the A+D communities, large-format tiles are becoming increasingly comfortable in various settings and environments.

For example Novabell’s “Avant” collection is available in a heavy-duty 20mm paving version in a 24”x24” format and special R12 anti-slip finish while Ceramiche Keope’s “Pecorsi SMART” tiles are available in five stone looks and a 24”x24”x¾” size. Pastorelli’s new 2cm-thick “Quartz Design” series features the same sparkling reflections as quartz flecks, while “Sunrock” from Atlas Concorde gets its inspiration from Travertine.

Further innovations in the large-format tile circle come from Cotto d’Este’s Kerlite series, “Exedra”; Panaria’s “LightQuartz”; “Micron 2.0” by ImolaCeramica; “Gli Alabastri di Rex” by Rex; and “Industrial” by Floor Gres, which reinterprets cement in porcelain slabs as large as 1.2m x 3m.

"Industrial" by Floor Gres
"Industrial" by Floor Gres.

Lastly, “Studies in Gouache” a tile product designed by Diego Grandi for Lea Ceramiche – is the first slim tile with a contemporary bas-relief design. The four decors (grid, scratch, weave and moire b) feature geometric and abstract patterns engraved and sanded into the 3mm tiles. They are offered in the same chromatic range as the company’s “Gouache.10” collection.

“Studies in Gouache” by Lea Ceramiche.
“Studies in Gouache” a tile product designed by Diego Grandi for Lea Ceramiche.

So, which of these Italian tile designs is your favorite? How and where would you use it in your next project? 

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