Setting Material Trends

Trends – not just for tile and stone anymore

Developments in setting materials create options that are functional, fashionable and enable quicker installation of high-performance projects

By Lesley Goddin

If you’ve been paging through this magazine, you’ve seen many beautiful finishing materials of ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal and natural stone, and have gotten a sense of many of the hot styles. Hopefully by now, your brain is buzzing with new possibilities about how to enliven, enhance, refresh and transform your clients’ projects.

But beneath every beautiful project is a support system of underlayments, mortars, grouts and the tools and technologies that make the project secure and long-wearing. And behind this system is an installation contractor who knows best how finishing materials – as well as setting materials – will behave under a range of conditions. You’d do well to hire – or for our contractor readers: become – an industry-certified tile installer through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program or the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT)program. Comprehensive written and hands-on testing for both programs assures competent grasp of basic skills for CTIs and advanced skills like large-format tile installation, mud floors and showers, membranes and more for ACT- certified installers. Find out more at for CTIs and for ACT installers.

baldiniALL installers today have access to a range of ever-evolving products, many with high-tech properties that help speed or facilitate tile and stone installation. In the words of Rick Baldini, of BOE (Best of Everything) Companies, “the best products often come from the installers themselves” – and BOE is investing in ‘contractor-inspired’ products, from methods of back buttering tile, removing surface stains, cleaning buckets, controlling the level of stone enhancement, achieving desired tile spacing, and more.”

In this section we take a look at some of the trends we are seeing in the technical side of tile and stone installations today.

Underlayments, backers and membranes 

With tiles becoming larger – and thinner in many cases – flat, level support is a must for proper installation.

“We currently estimate that between 60-80% of tile installed on floors today is large-format tile, which means it is at least 15˝ on one or more sides,” said Custom Building Products’ Tony Pasquarelli. “This includes wood-look plank shaped tiles, popular 12˝ x 24˝ contemporary rectangular size tiles, as well as oversized and thin tile options. It is critical to begin with a level subfloor before installing large-format tile,” he said. “Self-leveling underlayments should be used to ensure the substrate has less than 1/8” variance in 10’.”

Backer boards are growing lighter, easing the burden on contractors who have to haul them as well as the load on the building structure itself. These lightweight boards offer “contractors speed and ease of installation,” said Lisa Shaffer, Fin Pan. “The technology allows a contractor to carry a whole shower’s worth of backer board to the second or upper floors in one trip without straining the back or knees. Waterproof, strong and lightweight, this newest class of backer board is gaining popularity and use.”

In fact, underlayments, backers and membranes aren’t just about accommodating large-format tile. Water migration in wet areas and showers is the nemesis of tile and stone. Another important material beneath the installation is the membrane, which can come in sheet or liquid-applied forms. These membranes can protect against cracks, waterproofing or noise.

Dave Hanna of NAC Products observed that “it is no longer sufficient to just provide waterproofing for bathrooms. We have received requests from customers, architects, specifiers and others looking for a solution that can provide sound control AND waterproofing in bathroom installations,” so double-duty materials are definitely in demand.

willetAt USG, director Rich Willett has observed the growing trend to use a fully bonded waterproof membrane with a traditional backerboard. “This controls moisture independently of the tile cover, providing added security against damaging shower leaks. Additionally, a waterproofed foam tray is used for the shower base as an easier-to-install alternative to a traditional mud bed system. Custom trays, benches, and curbs provide design flexibility.”

Keeping dry and going curbless

Indeed, modular, customizable systems provide fast waterproofing and structure in shower settings. wedi Corporation’s Bastian Lohmann sees a solution in “development of complete and modular, yet customizable, systems to build shower and wet room substrates prior to tiling. Substrates and installation systems in this application today should be naturally and entirely waterproof, mold proof, lightweight and easy and clean to work with,” – and, he said, adding strong adhesion through the use of cement-based mortars is key.  Success with these systems depends on R&D and engineering as well as enthusiastic acceptance of “new consumer trends such as accessible showers or linear drainage – and by a strong hands-on educational service program for our trades.”

Growing in popularity for aging populations, and openness of design as well as safe footing when using steam showers (no slippery curb to step over) as well as ADA compliance for commercial spaces are curbless showers. “10,000 people a day turn 65 and that will continue for the next 15 or so years,” Fin-Pan’s Shaffer said. “Technology has made barrier-free curbless showers easy to install, affordable and beautiful.”

Linear drains

Linear drains are now flooding the market (figuratively), bringing clean new looks and increased functionality to shower settings. “From a performance and reliability perspective, linear drains need to also be sturdy, functional, and compatible with contemporary installation and waterproofing methods,” said The Noble Company’s Dean Moilanen. “As the popularity and usage of linear drains continues to increase, architects, specification writers, and designers are starting to realize all linear drains are not created equal. As a result, linear drains are not being specified and installed, strictly on appearances. Functionality, durability, and performance are placed at premium. “

Moilanen recommended selecting beautiful drains and also paying attention to drain construction and how effectively they carry water out of the system. He suggested troubleshooting any possible waterproofing issues that might arise from a particular design, the nature of the tile installation and the required level of waterproofing. Choosing to work with a linear drain supplier who manufactures its own hardware may provide more flexibility in connecting the pieces of the system, he said.

Many drains today are also tileable, creating an invisible drain option for trench, traditional center or linear configurations.


No matter what your installation, you’re going to need an adhesive to stick the tile or stone down to the substrate.

There’s been a lot of development at all the setting materials manufacturers for creating large-and-heavy tile mortar (previously known as “medium bed mortar”) to support larger, heavier tiles that are in vogue – as well as larger tiles with reduced thicknesses.

“Adhesives that offer optimum physical performance such as high bond strength, non-slump performance and full bedding properties along with exceptional workability characteristics are desired by professional tile contractors,” said Ron Nash of LATICRETE.

“We continue to see a trend toward very large-format, thin, denser tiles with a variety of backing types requiring higher-performance polymer and cement technologies to improve bond, flexibility, open time, sag resistance and fast-drying properties,” added Harrison Gardner, ARDEX Americas Tile & Stone Installation Systems business manager.

MAPEI’s business manager for Tile & Stone Systems Brian Pistulka said these specialized mortars need to wet out the back of porcelain tile as well as the substrate, and offer “superior bond strengths while delivering the deformability to accommodate a higher degree of expansion and contraction experienced as the size of the [large thin porcelain tile] becomes larger and larger.” Other important properties are lightweight and easy-to-trowel formulations that offer extended open times for movement and placement of tile while the product is in the fresh state to accomplish the installation, attaining coverage without voids.”

CUSTOM’s Tony Pasquarelli is clear that these developments are necessary to minimize the risk of lippage, for safety on floors as well as for aesthetics. “From flowable mortars that reduce the need for backbuttering to rapid-setting, flexible and lightweight options, it is important to consider the right large-format tile mortar relative to the overall performance requirements of the job.

“In the end, the design professional wants to deliver a smooth, even, monolithic visual aesthetic that comes from an exceptionally even tile installation,” he added. “You need the right mortar in order to accomplish that goal, so design professionals and contractors should always consult together for the best results.

Another consideration for all building materials are LEED requirements for products that are healthier and kind to our planet while doing their job. Nash said that “the use of both pre and post-consumer recycled content” is receiving a lot of attention at LATICRETE to “yield the best balance between performance and ease of use.


Grout has grown from being a purely utilitarian substance to fill joints to one that offers color, sparkle and many degrees of style. While still a setting material, it’s a highly visible one, and offers aesthetic enhancements.

Curt Rapp of Tile Doctor said that grout is really becoming more of a “fashion choice rather than simply a utility decision. There is lots going on in the chemistry side of grout to produce higher-quality products with greater ease of application and more colorfast grout.

“Designer grouts have been evolving in Europe for years now, with many choices such as brighter colors, metallic effects and glass grout,” he added. “Embracing what is happening in grout can provide you fuel for growth in your business. I like to say, ‘Have you ever met a homeowner who loved their grout?’ It’s long been the most underserved product in our industry and was always the weakest link, but not any longer!”

And as a setting material, it’s got a functional job to do – likely spurning stains and sealing and being easy for contractors to work with and clean up. “End users want a grout that is stain proof and doesn’t need to be sealed or resealed from a maintenance standpoint,” said CUSTOM’s Pasquarelli. “Tile contractors want a grout that is smooth, with creamy, color consistentency, and is easy to install while drying very hard. When matched with the right selection of colors, the design community can specify tile confidently knowing that that the tile and grout will look great now and perform successfully over the long term.”

Profiles, trims; sealers and maintenance

Metal trims have long been used to enhance, protect and provide smooth transitions for tile and stone installations. From Schluter’s new SCHIENE-Step that provides multipurpose transitions for counters, walls and floors to more widespread use of trims, profiles that can add functionality, a finished look and glamour to the project.

“Stainless steel is trending not only in residential kitchens but also in commercial settings,” said Peggy Heuler of Ceramic Tool Company. “More and more we see stainless as the metal trim of choice for commercial projects – for function and design. Harder than aluminum, it can handle heavier loads with fewer scratches and dents. It is more hygienic and less susceptible to damage from harsh cleaners so it is ideal for restrooms, commercial kitchens, hospitals or wherever critical environments exist.” And stainless can be formed into custom shapes, she said.

Once the project is installed, how does one ensure it keeps looking beautiful for a lifetime? Porcelain tile rarely needs sealing, but stone surfaces still often require some TLC.

“The high-end light-colored limestones require special treatment to avoid contamination from hard water, grout and other construction perils,” said Jeff Moen, sales and marketing director for Fila Chemicals USA, Corp. That involves pre-sealing and a grout release, as well as post-grout clean-up with a neutral cleaner followed by a post-installation sealing with a natural-look, penetrating stain protector. Ongoing routine maintenance should also be carried out with a neutral cleaner, he recommended.

“The full-treatment cycle gives the end user – and the stone retailer – peace of mind that the stone system will perform as promised, for the lifetime of the project/home,” Moen said.

And Nash, speaking for STONETECH® by LATICRETE said his company is investing in sealers and cleaners for tile, stone and outdoor veneers, with “high-performance products to clean, protect and enhance the increased usage of large heavy and porcelain tile. New tile materials and designs are requiring that materials used to maintain them are formulated accordingly and are compatible.”

Tile Trends

Following is an extensive list of products that represent the trends in tile that we’ll see at Coverings and beyond. Coverings exhibitors include booth numbers.tile-AO

American Olean

A glazed porcelain featuring the company’s Reveal Imaging™ technology, Concrete Chic™ refreshes the popular stained cement aesthetic with updated graphics and a contemporary color palette in a product that is made in the U.S. with recycled content. Perfect for modern residential settings and commercial spaces, in five contemporary neutrals, including Current Cream, Trendy Tan, Elegant Gray, Stylish Charcoal and Vogue Brown, Concrete Chic’s floor sizes include a 12˝ x 24˝ and 12˝x 12˝, while coordinating trim sizes include a 6˝ x 12˝ cove base, 3˝ x 12˝ bullnose and 1˝ x 6˝ cove corner.

tile-artoArto Brick 

The Southern California-based creators of hand-crafted tiles and brick veneer have announced a collaboration with visual artist David Shipley. The collection of ceramic tiles feature Shipley’s abstract paintings, allowing customers to bring Shipley’s art into their homes. “I’m excited about my work being seen in people’s homes, on their floors and walls and not just on gallery walls,” Shipley said.


Best Tile

tile-bestMajestic and substantial, the company’s Trace collection is inspired by the aging materials of history’s great structures. By refashioning colors and textures, Trace combines bronzed metal and opaque cement screens to offer an industrial look with touches of oxidized copper. It employs a highly innovative approach to screen development and surface finish. A full range of contemporary sizes are available from 12˝ x 24˝ to 30˝ x 60,˝ all exceeding technical requirements.

Crossville, Inc.
Booth #3818

The Ready to Wear porcelain tile collection mimics the look of textiles, capturing the warp and weft of fabric in tactile and visual representation, and featuring “woven” detailing enhanced with strands of shimmer to achieve a dimensional appearance. It’s suited for interior walls and floors and exterior walls in commercial and residential applications. Ready to Wear can be dressed up or down. It has authentic details including an understated shimmer that follows the woven effects of the texture. Ready to Wear comes in eight colors, including cool and warm tones, and 12˝ x 24˝ field tiles are complemented by 2˝ x 6˝ tiles, as well as bullnose. Made in the U.S. utilizing Crossville’s EcoCycle Tile Process™, Ready to Wear contains a minimum 4% recycled content and is Green Squared Certified®.


Crystal Shores mosaics blend colored crystalized glass and blocks infused with metallic texture for truly radiant designs. An array of colors available in two sizes amplifies the ambience of relaxing bathrooms and dramatic accents.

tile-delconcaDel Conca
Booth #4815

Del Conca USA’s new Wine Barrel collection features a realistic, wood-look porcelain tile design with a contemporary spin, including authentic saw marks and watermarks. The collection’s “plank” sizes, 6˝ x 24˝ and 8˝ x 32˝, are offered in three colors: Noce, Gray and Bianco. Complementary mosaics are also available. The collection is suited for hospitality, retail and other installations.

tile-imolaImola Ceramica
Booth #5006

Inspired by the Pop Art movement and the work of Roy Lichtenstein, Imola Ceramica’s newest wall tile Pop Tile illustrates 10 different Pop Art images and tells a story: a glamorous policewoman is chasing a mysterious criminal around the walls of this new ImolaCeramica collection. Pop, a double-fired ceramic tile, is composed of 10 different illustrated tiles that alternate with a color range of 10 bright hues to recount this exciting adventure of facial close-ups, cult symbols and explosive exclamations. Imola Ceramica is a brand of Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola North America.

Booth #1038

The Australian-based manufacturer of glass, stone and metal decorative tiles is bringing handmade Aussie Dream Glass™ to market. Available in 12 stylish colors, Aussie Dream Glassis offered in 2˝ x 2˝, 4˝ x 4˝ and 2˝ x 12˝ modular formats. Inventoried at the firm’s Dallas warehouse, the materials featured expedited delivery due to Maniscalco’s state-of-the-art shipping program. It’s ideal for vertical installations in residential and commercial environments, as well as wet areas.


Marazzi USA
Booth #5000

Knoxwood glazed porcelain tile makes a definitive statement with its hardwood graining, sumptuous colorations, authentic knots and variations from plank to plank, all showcasing random characteristics of wood, in a durable porcelain body.

tile-tileshopThe Tile Shop

Arte Gris is inspired from stamped concrete, but this porcelain tile provides a stylish twist on the industrial design trend, adding a modern ambiance to floors or walls. It embodies the popular color grey, and comes in six distinct patterns with a texture-like appearance. Each packaged box of Arte Gris tile includes a unique blend of patterns, so no two projects will look exactly alike.


President’s Letter – TRENDS 2015


Tile is the most exciting design element from my perspective, for there is nothing else that has such a powerful impact in transforming a space.

The first issue of TileLetter TRENDS as part of the TileLetter family of publications supports my belief. This year there’s just about everything designers and architects could hope for in the tile marketplace. What I’ve seen is big emphasis on geometrics like the hexagon; size and scale like thin porcelain tile; texture and pattern like we see in three-dimensional, uniquely-shaped and wood-look tile; and bling and shimmer like we find in the new metallic and glass products.

As a professional tile contractor, my job is to make sure the vision of the designer and architect come to life through a beautiful and technically-sound installation. When a client invests in a designer and/or architect they place a lot of trust in that individual’s team. Having qualified installers on the team means a designer or architect is placing their reputation in the hands of the most knowledgeable people in the industry. Hoping to cut job costs by choosing non-certified installers indicates “quality-cutting” is acceptable, but such a decision often results in problem installations.

1-presQualified installers are CTEF- and ACT-certified. That means they are experienced. They stay on top of industry standards and methods. They know setting technology is an ever-changing part of their profession. They understand the nuances of working with contemporary tile products that have new handling and setting requirements because products are manufactured differently than they were in the past. Attitude is critical, too, because it means a professional contractor is committed to customer service and getting a job done right.

A highly qualified installer is a knowledgeable resource to designers and architects because he/she can, among other things: answer questions about where specific materials can and can’t be installed; explain why certain products shouldn’t be used in a wet area or high traffic area; and present what grouting options are available such as a simple sanded grout to a single-component grout with sparkles.

2-presSo it could be said that while designers and architects predominantly focus on the trends that deal with form, qualified installers focus on staying on the trends in function. It is through mutual respect and teamwork that the trends from each area meld to bring creative design concepts to life and transform spaces with installations that stay beautiful for many years to come.


[email protected]

Learn more about highly qualified tile installers at:

3-pres 4-pres

Editor’s Letter – TRENDS 2015

Lesley psf head shot“It is the old, the new, the made, the hand-me-down, the collected, the worn (but loved) things in your home that make it your own.” – Stacy Risenmay 

What’s new?

It’s one of the most popular questions we ask each other. It’s the reason we attend trade shows and conferences, read magazines and watch remodeling shows.

What’s new and fresh – or classic materials used in original ways – fuels us with passion to design, sell, create and install with excellence. A new product or a new perspective inspires us and invigorates us, and in turn our readers, customers, clients and colleagues.

With that in mind, we developed this special annual TRENDS issue of TileLetter magazine. We culled up-to-the-minute influences in color, style, materials, tile and stone designs, and emerging developments in setting materials that you will see here at COVERINGS ’15 and beyond. It’s our intention that this collage of the new – and redefined classics – will inspire and inform while giving you the tools to work smoothly and beautifully with tile and stone finishes, in addition to providing vital information about materials needed to install them to best effect.

Within these pages, you’ll read about color trends from Leatrice Eiseman and The Pantone Institute, view international tile trends from Italy and Spain, domestic trends from spokespeople in the U.S., and learn about innovations in stone use and application from CTaSC’s Donato Pompo. COVERING’s Industry Ambassador Alena Capra presents an A&D view of accessing and utilizing trends, and industry experts in setting material, sundries and maintenance products outline the direction many of these materials are taking to support today’s finishing materials. What’s novel is not the only thing on the radar screen – TRENDS also examines the tension between the timeless and the trendy.

To support each section – tile, stone and setting materials – we’ve included a product section that includes original introductions from industry suppliers, many of whom are showing at COVERINGS (look for their booth number in the blurb!) and web information to connect you if they are not.

NTCA supports the collaboration of the A&D, manufacturing, distributing and installation sectors working together for beautiful installations that perform flawlessly. Stop by NTCA booths 3830 or 3015 to find out more or visit the Installation Design Showcase in booth 461 to see that collaboration in action, as tile and stone for four locally-designed vignettes are installed in real time by NTCA Five Star Contractors.

The Coverings Installation Design Awards and Opening Night Reception also celebrate this collaboration. Come join the party at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, April 15 in room S310!

As always, we value your input and feedback. What did you see at the show that was a standout product or what trends did you sense emerging from the show floor? Email me at [email protected], and your comments may appear in an upcoming issue of TileLetter.

Enjoy the show, and be inspired!

Lesley – [email protected]


lat-perma-6LATICRETE’S PERMACOLOR® Select revolutionizes the business and logistics of grout

Premier dispersible dry-pigment grout solution provides more options for A&D professionals

lat-permacolorIn a world where warehouse and display space is at a premium, while the demand for an expanding palette of grout colors to augment and enhance tile and stone installations is growing, LATICRETE has developed an innovative solution that addresses both concerns.

LATICRETE recently introduced PERMACOLOR® Select, the industry’s first dry dispersible-pigment grout solution that separates colored pigment from the PERMACOLOR Select Base. This advanced, high-performance cement grout is designed for virtually all types of residential and commercial installations and offers optimum performance on the most demanding exterior and interior applications.

In addition to offering industry-leading performance, PERMACOLOR Select comes in the widest range of colors available. It also sets a new standard as the first product to innovate the business and logistics of grout–providing specific benefits to architects, design professionals, distributors and contractors alike.

lat-perma-1Two-part solution for A&D desires

The ground-breaking product comes in two parts: a Color Kit and the highly engineered Base powder. The process of preparing the grout begins with the dispersible-pigment packets included in the Color Kit. When added to water, these packets dissolve like laundry or dishwasher packets. When the neutrally colored Base is added to the pigment-water mix, a color-consistent grout is formed that does not require sealing.

The Color Kits come in all 40 existing LATICRETE grout color options as well as the top selling competitor colors. The Base powder comes in 12.5 lb. and 25 lb. options.

“Recently, we’ve seen architects and design professionals demand greater color choices and LATICRETE is getting ahead of this trend,” said Sean Boyle, director of Marketing and Product Management. “With PERMACOLOR Select, these professionals can offer clients the widest array of options while ensuring industry-leading performance.”

The innovations of PERMACOLOR Select allows architects and design professionals the ability to:

Offer expanded color availability and options – With PERMACOLOR Select Color Kits, architects and design professionals can offer clients the widest array of color choices from a single supplier. This includes the existing LATICRETE grout color options as well as the top-selling competitor colors.

Deliver industry-leading performance – PERMACOLOR Select exceeds ANSI A118.7 and achieves ISO 13007-4 CG2FAW. Equipped with STONETECH® Sealer Technology, PERMACOLOR Select offers enhanced stain resistance with no sealing required. PERMACOLOR Select offers anti-microbial protection and vibrant consistent color that resists efflorescence. PERMACOLOR Select is also reinforced with Kevlar® to resist cracks and shrinkage.

Virtually eliminate worries about color variation – The PERMACOLOR Select advanced-pigment technology is manufactured to tight standards and reduces variation between batches.


Two pallet spaces and one shelf is all it takes!

Distributors and contractors also benefit from the introduction of this pioneering product.

For example, PERMACOLOR Select is the first product to innovate the way grout is ordered, inventoried and sold – resulting in distributors running their businesses more efficiently and much more profitably. Only two pallet spaces are needed for the PERMACOLOR Select Base and one shelf for the PERMACOLOR Select Color Kits. This saves dozens of pallet spaces in a warehouse by eliminating inventory of individual bags per each color stocked. The logistical innovations of PERMACOLOR Select allow distributors to:

• Reduce grout pallet space requirements by 80%, grout inventory value by 50% and increase turns by 100% Distributors need only carry only the inventory they require.

• Improve order pick time and accuracy – Picking and packing orders is easier with PERMACOLOR Select. Warehouse personnel will not need to waste time searching for colors or move of bags and pallets.

• Fulfill orders quickly and directly to customers – If a distributor runs out of a particular color, Color Kits can be shipped directly to the customer through the
LATICRETE Rapid Fulfillment Center.

“Our Rapid Fulfillment Center drastically improves the ordering process,” said Boyle. “Through this new service, dealers, distributors, and contractors can rapidly and economically fulfill their customers’ needs.”


Fast-setting grout ready for feet in 3 hours

lat-perma-5Finally, the benefits for contractors are significant as PERMACOLOR Select is suitable for joints 1/16” to 1/2” wide on floors or walls. The fast-setting grout is ready for foot traffic in three hours. GREENGUARD® certified, PERMACOLOR Select is also low VOC. A lifetime warranty is available when used with other LATICRETE products.

The logistical innovations of PERMACOLOR Select also enhance the contractor’s business by:

• Reducing grout inventory value, waste and breakage – Contractors can carry only the inventory they need and greatly reduce grout breakage through less handling and moving of inventory.

• Reducing grout pallet space requirements – Leftover stock from previous jobs is virtually eliminated with PERMACOLOR Select.

• Expanding color availability and options – Contractors can easily and inexpensively stock all 40 LATICRETE colors plus the top selling competitor colors.

For more information on PERMACOLOR Select, visit



International Trends from Italy

Italian style sets tile trends for 2015 and beyond

For those who missed this coverage in our TileLetter and TADA magazines at the end of 2014, following are some of the hottest trends by Italian manufacturers to come out of Cersaie 2014 as identified by Ceramics of Italy. As always, the Cersaie exhibit in Bologna, Italy showcases cutting-edge design, setting trends worldwide for the year to come.

italy-1Black & white: Classic black and white with added effects such as fading reliefs and op art graphics offered a timeless, fresh look.

italy-2Boom. Pop. Wow! Graphic, playful wall tiles reflect influences and images from comics such as Lupin the 3rd (Del Conca) and kings of pop art Roy Lichtenstein (Imola) and Keith Haring (Ascot).

italy-cementiCementine: The inherent charm and beauty of encaustic cement tiles from the turn of the 19th century inspired many collections. Putting a modern spin on the classic tiles, some were overlaid onto concrete, terra cotta and stone designs while others presented crisp or fading patterns.

italy-bordelliCustom made: Tile manufacturers partnered with designers to develop flexible systems for creating tailor-made compositions. Robert Dawson’s Arianna series for Bardelli features a silkscreened pattern that can be freely rotated and randomly combined, while Lavinia Modesti and Javier Deferrari developed hexagonal tiles line for Mirage’s Xgone that can be studded into each other or configured into countless combinations. Two tile lines developed by HOK for Lea can also be used in a myriad of layouts while Ornamenta’s Salepepe tiles offer customizable geometry and a range of 33 colors designed to match MAPEI’s Ultracolor Plus grouts. Tagina’s entire Atelier team creates custom-made ceramic products for architects, even on a large commercial scale.

italy-taginaHexalove: Contemporary hexagons include macro and micro sizes, rhombille tiling effects, irregular cutouts, and encaustic, concrete, marble, wood and brick designs.

italy-muralesHigh tech tiles: Advanced use of technology moved ceramic tiles from beautiful and functional to smart surfaces. ABK Group unveiled a revolutionary technology that adds elasticity to porcelain tile, ensuring perfectly flat installations, while Piemme launched a series of high-tech tiles with embedded photovoltaic cells to create self-illuminating outdoor flooring. Florim showcased some of the largest thin slabs in the industry (5.5´ x 11´ and only 6mm thick) and Faetano introduced a new tile specially designed to wrap corners.


italy-marvelproMarble 2.0: Luxurious white marbles such as Calacatta, Carrara and Statuario, creamy Travertine and darker hues like Saint Laurent and Berimbau were represented at the show. Novel hexagon and chevron shapes overlaid designs, with three-dimensional surfaces like pillowed edges and linear folds were added to the mix.


italy-fusionMetallized: Metallized tiles exhibited the sheen of platinum and bronze or the weathered effects of rusted steel and oxidized copper.


italy-aleaModern Mosaics: Mosaics reflected fresh treatments of traditional penny, hexagon and brick mosaics to completely new formats such as linear, diamond and organic-shaped tesserae.

Neu wood: Displays of ceramic wood ran the gamut from rustic and recycled lumber, charred wood, or the luster of a polished or glazed finish for a touch of sophistication and glamour.



A&D Q&A with Alena Capra

capraTapping into trends

A Q&A with Coverings’ Industry Ambassador, Alena Capra

Alena Capra is Coverings’ newly appointed Industry Ambassador, a liaison to the local industries related to tile and stone as well as media. Capra has been sharing her tile and stone trend insights through media interviews and presentations at trade association events for builders, contractors, installers, distributors, as well as architects and designers, leading up to the show.

Capra brings more than 12 years of experience as a residential designer to the role, and is accredited through the National Kitchen and Bath Association as a Certified Kitchen Designer and Certified Bath Designer. Capra’s design expertise has been leveraged by various design shows around the country as a speaker, and her work has been published in several national and regional media outlets. A proponent of developing healthy partnerships between the A&D community, suppliers and installation contractors, she also was enlisted as a designer for the inaugural Installation Design Showcase at Coverings 2010. Since then she has continued to expand her role with the event.

Being intimately familiar with Coverings and its exhibitors, education and special programs and a talented designer in her own right, she’s in a perfect position to provide an overview of tile and stone trends that will be evident at the show and how they can be best utilized by members of the A&D community.

capra-1Do you feel that the materials tile and stone companies are producing tend to follow design trends…or are they setting the trend?

I have spent a great deal of time attending design events around the country and around the world, and have seen a great deal of connection between what is trending in tile and overarching design trends for furniture, fixtures and decor. But, I would say that there are certain instances where tile and stone manufacturers have the opportunity to set trends for the industry, such as with the continued development of technology that creates wood porcelain tile.

capra-2What are some of the most inspiring or exciting trends you have encountered recently?

Across the board, metallic gold is making a strong return as an accent from fixtures to tiles. Hexagonal shapes are reemerging as a huge trend from tile to wall covering patterns, furniture designs, and fabrics. It’s a classic shape, and I love that it is a look that can be used in modern to traditional designs

I’m also very excited about using many of the new wood porcelain looks that have come out recently. This product has become a true staple in the tile industry, and the technology developments have allowed for the designs to be even more realistic and innovative. When sourcing wood porcelain tile there are so many amazing options to choose from now, from high gloss looks to printed designs, and an incredible variety of colors and textures. Every year there are more and more new wood porcelain looks to choose from, and the possibilities are really endless!

capra-3As a designer, how do you incorporate trends into a design while remaining true to a client’s style?

When incorporating trends into designs for my clients, I try to keep trendy products as accents. This allows the rest of the materials to be more timeless. For example, I may incorporate an accent or border in a trendier tile, and keep the main tile in a classic shape and color.

When specifying tile, a key rule to keep in mind is to look for shapes and materials that work best for the client’s personal sense of style. You should always be mindful of whether your client is comfortable with bold, trendy statements, or if they gravitate to more understated, classic pieces.

If a client loves a modern aesthetic, I will offer 3-D or textured pieces, or tile in bold colors and finishes with clean lines. If they are more traditional, I would show them hand-painted or natural stone options.

capra-4How do you recommend using trending products, colors, materials in projects in a way that will stay relevant or ‘timeless’, even as trends change or evolve?

Designing in a way that will stand the test of time is truly about executing a trend in whichever material that works best for your client, and using it in just the right amount. As I mentioned, I like to use trendier tile for accents in the overall design.

The key is mixing it up in just the right amount. By anchoring the entire look with tiles that are more classic, and adding that pop with something trendy, you will find a solid balance. I would say 75% classic sizes, shapes and colors and 25% trendy accent is a good ratio to consider with tile.

It’s also important to think of how classic shapes that have been around forever, like a 3˝ x 6˝ subway tile or a 1˝ x 1˝ or 1˝ x 2˝ mosaic, can be reinterpreted into trendy designs. Mixing materials, colors or sizes can create a look that is trendier than a traditional white subway tile backsplash.

What resources/sources do you rely on as a designer to keep up with trends?

I have found that visiting industry trade shows, like Coverings, is the best way to keep up with trends. Walking the show floor can keep you right on the front line of everything new. If you can’t make it to shows in person, design magazines are always great resources, as they are reporting from these shows and offering breakdowns of the “best of the best” seen there.

Blogs and social media are great resources. Be sure to follow your favorite designers or architects, your must-read design magazines, your vendor, manufacturer and showroom partners. Most share content on Twitter or Instagram live from trade shows, and always share great trend reports. There are so many great ways to stay connected!!



Following is an extensive list of products that represent the trends in stone that we’ll see at Coverings and beyond. Coverings exhibitors include booth numbers.

stone-aoAmerican Olean

Ascend™ Stone is inspired by the emerging trends driving today’s residential and commercial designs, providing long, linear planks, neutrals like grey and white and comprehensive size packages. The Ascend collection includes two marbles, Open Horizon and Candid Heather, both offered in honed and polished finishes, as well as two limestones, Honest Greige and Gray Virtue, both available in a honed finish. All four stones feature beautiful directional veining, mapping to today’s linear trends in the market.

Sizes include a 12˝ x 12˝ along with three on-trend linear formats, including 12˝ x 24˝, 6˝ x 36˝ and 8˝ x 36˝. A complementing 3˝ x 8˝ wall tile size and a contemporary pencil rail and chair rail are also available. To help create a complete, cohesive look, several exquisite and unique mosaics round out the collection in shapes such as textured hexagons, modern stacked stones, leaves and a chevron pattern.

stone-annsacksAnn Sacks

Ann Sacks has updated its Beau Monde collection with two new patterns, two colors and a new finish. The Beau Monde collection represents two tile mosaic categories and three designs all total – the original Beau Monde, a stone mosaic series with 31 designs inspired by the ancient mosaic art form of Pietre Dura, and Beau Monde Glass, that carries 12 waterjet-cut glass designs. Joining the Beau Monde stone portfolio is Clark, a linear 11-9/16˝ x 11-9/16˝ mosaic designed to be laid up on the diagonal to create textural dimension within a room and Madelyn, an 11-7/8˝ x 11-3/8˝ stylized, repetitive abstract design that adapts to horizontal or vertical installations. Also making its debut is the handcrafted finish, Della Mano, its pillowed surface and appealing hand and undulating surface achieved through a labor-intensive hand finishing and polishing process. Rounding out the Beau Monde additions are two new colors, Cashmere, a cream-to-caramel hue, and Shell, a soft white-to-grey blend. Both can be specified for any Beau Monde stone or glass pattern.

Arizona Tilestone-arizona

Bardiglio is quarried from a bedrock quarry in the Apennine Mountains near Carrara, Italy, and is often called Bardiglio Scuro, indicating its darker tones. Bardiglio features a mix of light and dark grey tones within a slab, along with some areas of white, and sweeping veins and movement which change on every shipment. Due to the qualities of the stone, the slabs are book-matched; meaning slab one and slab two are cut and polished to create a mirror image of each other. These are then kept in sequence, which allows for a consistent flow in pattern. Sizes include 4˝ x 16˝ x 3/8˝, 12˝ x 24˝ x 3/8˝ and 2˝ x 2˝ mosaic.

stone-artisticArtistic Tile
Booth #611

Three-dimensional Piatti Polished Dimensional Mosaic is engineered to emphasize the geometry of its pattern, inspired by the jeweler’s art of faceting stones. Shown here in exquisite Calacatta Gold marble, it can be fashioned out of a choice of natural stone. With a V3 moderate tonal variation, it is suited for interior walls including shower and steam shower walls and exterior walls in non freeze-thaw environments.

Booth #5065

The Luxembourg Collection is inspired by its namesake, a prosperous modern day city built on old world style and charm. The collections include three artistic motifs, Arabesque, Jardin and Lily, which are available in four stone blends: Palais, Louvre, Tuileries and Paris. This collection showcases both limestone and marble stone varieties in white, ivory, grey and taupe tones and brings both a touch of classic and modern flair to any space. From a distance the soft colorways of the stone evoke the feeling of suede but on closer examination one can see and feel the delicate raked surface texture. These bold patterns and harmonious color blends can make a statement in any kitchen, bar, bathroom or wall application in residential and commercial settings.

stone-crossvilleCrossville Inc.
Booth #3818

Yin + Yang, a collection of natural stone tile, is inspired by the allure and balance of Eastern art.

Yin + Yang is designed to represent the beauty that happens when opposite elements come together. The collection has contrasting colors, an abundance of sizes, shapes, and decorative touches. When these elements join forces, the resulting designs are on trend and modern yet also timeless and classic. Yin + Yang is offered in eight stone shades in varying sizes, including .5˝ x .5˝ mosaic, .5˝ x 1.5˝ stacked mosaic, herringbone, elongated hex, 1.5” x 7.75˝ brick, 3˝ x 12˝ plank, and linear mosaic. Yin + Yang is recommended for interior and exterior walls and interior floors in commercial or residential settings in natural or polished finish.

stone-diamondtechDiamond Tech Tiles
Booth #3808

The Countryside Slate series melds an array of neutral colors, including steel grey, desert gold and black. Accented with frosted glass tiles and listellos, this new slate tile will step up the style in both rustic and contemporary designs.

stone-islandstoneIsland Stone
Booth #2445

The Island Stone cladding series is a range of natural stone tiles designed to create stunning walls, inside or outside. All tiles in this series are made from individual pieces of stone that are precision-cut and fitted together to produce a remarkable result. Available in a range of different stones, colors and surfaces, the Cladding Series seeks to enhance the natural beauty and drama of the raw material, and transform it into a design element for use by those in search of something truly unique.

Booth #2218

Crema Marfil marble from Levantina’s Coto quarry offers a rich color, polished finish, physical qualities and impact resistance that make it a preferred choice for architects/project owners. Levantina has now launched a Crema Marfil marble tile that has never been lighter in weight. The new Crema Marfil Coto® 24˝ x 24˝ tile is available in 1/2˝ thickness. Crema Marfil Coto’s light, thin format offers improved storage (due to 58% extra material in every crate) and reduced transportation costs, since it’s 40% lighter in weight. The thin stone also facilitates installation on existing flooring, speeding project work and reducing waste. It can be used indoors or out, on floors and walls.

stone-tileshopThe Tile Shop

The Hampton Carrara stone Hex (shown here in 5” x 5”) is an elegant white stone with dark gray speckling and veining, pictured with the Midtown Glass Collection, a contemporary take on the classic micro mosaic. The brick pattern features three different sized pieces that create the appearance of waves.

stone-walkerzangerWalker Zanger

Villa d’Oro is a stunning collection of stone mosaic and intarsia patterns inspired by the artistic heritage of countless Mediterranean cultures. In Villa d’Oro, decorative influences from Moorish Spain mingle with Venetian Gothic and Medieval Egypt, echoing the mélange created by the eons of cultural overlap in the ancient Mediterranean world. Working from historical sources, each design was stripped down to its graphic essence and then rebuilt it in contemporary colorways and scale, keeping in mind how people use patterns today. Each pattern in Villa d’Oro is carefully cut and assembled from stones fittingly sourced in a variety of Mediterranean countries, creating new decorative art to enliven modern surroundings.


Demand for natural stone continues


Natural stone is the true original that so many other products copy

By Donato Pompo, CTaSC

The demand for natural stone has not let up. Not only is more natural stone being consumed in the USA, but everyone is emulating the natural-stone look including: porcelain tiles and large thin porcelain tile; concrete tiles; vinyl flooring and luxury vinyl tile (LVT); laminate flooring; and various sheet and paint wall coverings. In fact, now there is thin stone laminated over porcelain tile and other types of backings referred to as “stone composite tiles” and paper-thin sheets of natural slate that can be adhered to walls.

stone-layerstone-courtyardNatural stone is still preferred by many for countertops, particularly the granites. There has been a surge in using quartzite (a class 3 sandstone) for countertops, which is very hard and dense and can be polished. Some importers have been selling dolomitic marble that looks like quartzite but isn’t stain-and-scratch-resistant as is true quartzite.




stone-quartzQuartz stone outpacing natural stone for counters

“Quartz stone” (previously referred to as engineered stone) has grown significantly for use on countertops, eroding the market for natural stone in this application. Quartz stone is about 90% quartz suspended in a resin that can be fabricated and polished like a natural stone. It is sold as a floor tile as well, but is known to be moisture-sensitive and subject to warping, so it requires special care during installation.

stone-quartz-1As a manufactured product, quartz stone has more consistency, but it doesn’t have the inherent beauty and intrinsic value of being millions of years old, with the beauty of natural variations in its appearance.


stone-concreteConcrete – the great imitator

Concrete is being used to simulate a wide range of tiles and natural-stone configurations. It may be known as cultured stone, faux stone, manufactured stone or stone veneer. One of the more popular configurations of this manufactured stone is the dry-stack type used in random shapes on exterior or interior walls, stacked on top of each other and adhered to the substrate (see TileLetter, November 2014 for “Stacking the deck: manufactured/natural stone veneers pros and cons”). These concrete tiles are also used on floors, giving a stone look.

stone-terrazzoNew developments in terrazzo

Terrazzo has made a big resurgence. Terrazzo is normally a poured-in-place mix with marble and/or glass chips embedded in its surface, then polished. Originally, it was a cement-base product, but today chips are embedded into a relatively thin epoxy base. It is used mostly on floors in commercial and institutional applications. It gives a very flat and smooth seamless surface. Traditional divider strips are not required, but it’s necessary to plan for and allow for movement joints during installation. Resin vapor barriers must first be installed, along with crack-isolation coatings if needed. Today, terrazzo can be installed with a plethora of colors and designs to create a very attractive and functional floor.

Large slabs in demand

As with ceramic tile, there is an increase in demand for larger size stones. 24” x 24” formats are becoming much more common, and tiles as large as 2’x 4’ and as thick as 1” to 2” are being used. Also more common is supplying slabs of stone and larger stone tiles with a resin-web backing to help stabilize the stone from cracking during shipping and fabricating. These backings require the use of an epoxy adhesive to ensure a good bond.

stone-medallionsLong, lean lines and medallion accents

Speaking of stone size, rectangular and modular random-sized shapes are very popular today. The rectangular shapes are often installed in staggered patterns. The modular random shapes are being installed in Versailles patterns where the stones are off-set from each other. Adding stone medallions at floor focal points is becoming more common. The medallions are normally a creative design that includes a variety of stone types, shapes, and colors.

stone-artistictileThere is no end in sight in the demand for stone or in the multiple ways it can be utilized.

For more information, contact Donato Pompo of CTaSC at (866) 669-1550; [email protected] or visit www.CTaSC.comtone-annsacks



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