A&D Q&A – TRENDS 2016

Today’s trends and fashion direction in tile

Direct from the designers

How are design professionals viewing today’s trends and fashion direction in tile? We asked the four design professionals who are participating in the Installation Design Showcase about their views on what’s hot in our industry, as well as their thoughts on partnering with suppliers and NTCA Five Star Contractors in the Installation Design Showcase (IDS), being built in real time on the show floor at Coverings. For information about the vignettes and the teams, see Coverings Industry Ambassador Alena Capra’s welcome on page 8 of this issue.

Participating in this Q&A are:
Raegan Porter IIDA, LEED AP ID+C/
Louise Kowalcyzk, AIA, LEEP AP, FGM Architects (FGM)
Susan El-Naggar, ASID, NCIDQ, LEED Green Associate/Tarik El-Naggar, Healing Environments (HE)
Alena Capra, CKD, CBD, Alena Capra Designs (ACD)
Sharon Exley, MAAE ASID/
Peter Exley, RIBA, Architecture is Fun, Inc. (AIF)

The accompanying sidebar gives more information about our design professionals and their work.

– Lesley Goddin

TRENDS: What is the most dynamic trend you see emerging in tile today and in the foreseeable future? How do you incorporate this trend into your work residentially and/or commercially?

FGM: Large porcelain slabs vs. tile or planks would be what we see as the most dominant trend at the moment.

HE: The wood-look plank tile is still very popular, but this year we will see it utilized in creative ways such as painted patterns, distressed look, and interesting cross grains. The brick-look tile is also “in” this year. It will give an Urban Metro feel on floors, and can appear painted and also aged. The concrete-look tiles are great because they come in large sizes and are versatile for a traditional look or can be used in contemporary spaces to give a sleek look. All of these trends can be incorporated into residential and commercial spaces to give an updated look.

ACD: I believe the wood tile trend has become more than a trend, but a staple in the industry. Every year since this type of tile has been introduced, the printing technology has gotten better, and the style choices and cool offerings have really become quite broad. With many of my projects being located in south Florida, I incorporate wood tile in flooring throughout the entire home, as well as for accent walls, bathroom walls and/or floors, etc. For commercial flooring this is also a great choice, due to the high traffic areas, and the durability of this tile. Everything from the new colors – right now I’m loving more of the taupe, washed-looking woods – to the textures and patterns keeps the product fresh and exciting. I cannot design without it!

AIF: We are excited to have the opportunity to play with scale and shape. Manufacturers are developing product that allows designers to think about tile in more than 4” x 4” or 12” x 12” units. We can be complex or simple. We can clad walls using super-sized tile – super clean sets, and juxtapose that against small jewel-sized tile. Or we can go BIG or little. For designers, this new trend of scale and size options allows us freedom to tell stories of home or work that begin with tile and end with the client’s comfort and delight.

TRENDS: How are new products and designs expanding the application for tile other than traditional kitchen/bath/foyer applications?

FGM: Tile feature walls are being incorporated more and more. The thin porcelain veneer can also be used in lieu of traditional wall protection products to create a more modern/ minimal look.

HE: In the past, we traditionally saw tile in wet areas e.g. bathrooms, locker rooms, and kitchens. Tile is now expanding into luxury areas e.g. the master bedroom, living room, and commercial applications such as waiting rooms. Tiles are being used in these luxury areas on the floor, as well as on the walls to replace paint and wall covering. Darker shades on the wall create a dramatic effect, which many consumers are looking for. Metallic tiles are still trending and look great as an accent tile. 3D designs are big this year in a neutral palette which will add texture to the walls.

ACD: Some of the amazing new 3D tiles, stacked stone, and even some of the wood tile have allowed me to work tile into other areas of my clients’ homes. I love using tile to clad columns, or as an accent wall in a family room or entryway of a home. It’s more durable than a wallpaper, and some of the new prints actually look like fabric and wallpaper prints! With the increased technology of the digital printing, this has made tile an easy choice for that type of application.

AIF: Once you play with tile, you understand it can enrich, enhance, and envelop spaces other than the norm. For example, the open kitchen is living space that can be informed by tile reaching out into the public space from the backsplash. Tile can become the unifying element – adding color, form and beauty throughout. Tile can also call attention to treasures, adding contrast and curiosity to a special collection.

TRENDS: Please speak to the state of sustainable design as relates to tile. Has demand increased? How have EPDs/HPDs made tile a more viable product selection? How often do you seek Green Squared Certified® tile products in your work?

FGM: Sustainable design is a best practices for us. We feel like it has just become a standard in the design industry.

HE: Sustainable tiles are becoming more popular as consumers are becoming more educated about their environments. Many are seeking “healthy spaces” since we spend 90% of our time indoors. As a company that creates “Healthy Environments,” we are continually seeking Green Squared Certified® tile products. Lifecycle assessments (LCAs) study the impact of a product on the environment from sourcing through manufacture, distribution, use, removal/disposal and renewal (through recycling or other means). Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are individual product summaries, similar to nutrition labels on foods, that present a snapshot of key information gained from LCAs to allow designers and architects to clearly evaluate the sustainability of a particular product over its entire life cycle. Together, these two tools help standardize sustainability reporting across industries, and make the process of choosing eco-responsible products simpler, smarter and more transparent.

We are currently working with Crossville. Crossville is the first manufacturer to earn Green Squared® Certification – the highest sustainability standard in the industry – across all of its U.S.-manufactured porcelain tile product lines and its entire production process.

ACD: As mostly a residential designer, I do not get asked as often about the sustainability of the tile or products from my clients. Although, if a tile has that feature, I do point it out, and definitely try to use them if I can. Most of my clients’ choices in tile for residential application still revolves around look, durability, size, availability and price point.

AIF: While many clients are still not motivated by “green” product, or feel over “greened,” it is always important to design responsibly. Certified product makes sourcing healthy and sustainable products easier and provides access to information.

TRENDS: Qualified labor language has been incorporated into the Master Spec. Why do you think this is important and how do you incorporate qualified/certified tile installers/contractors into your projects?

FGM: All of our specifications are written utilizing Master Spec and maintaining the language requiring qualified/certified tile installers/contractors is language we keep in all of our projects.  We have been requiring a qualified/certified installer/contractor on our projects resulting in a better final product for our clients, as these contractors have gone through the manufacturers’ training programs on how to properly install their tile product. 

HE: The “qualified labor language” is important when bidding a project so that we are selecting high-quality tile contractors who have experience and are committed to their craft. Instead of going with the lowest bid, it is important to select the tile installer that is the most qualified for the scope of the work. A portfolio and references that show the installer’s experience, along with a bid, will help to determine if the installer is qualified for the project. A short interview is also helpful.

ACD: It is very important to me to have qualified installers in my projects. So much time and detail goes into the design planning and materials selection that it is imperative to have the right execution of the installation. My install team knows my work well, and is very talented in their craft, so there are never any surprises. We keep in constant communication throughout the jobs, which is also key.

AIF: We often work on publicly bid projects where we actively advise clients to pre-qualify certified installers. For us, that means that the “gene” pool is knowledgeable and experienced and can meet or exceed the standards and installation criteria we specify. Highly trained, experienced installers are essential to the success of our projects as poorly installed work reflects upon our design and opportunities to specify preferred, high-performing products in future.

TRENDS: Concerning the IDS project, why did you choose to participate? What do you hope to learn from this experience? What do you hope to express with your design and collaborative work with contractors and sponsors? How’s the experience so far?

FGM: The experience has been great. We thought it would be an interesting experience and a great way to collaborate with contractors and manufacturers that not everyone has had the chance to do. We hope to express the variety of ways that you can use tile through our Golf Club Bar/Lounge. The challenge we saw is how to design a space that incorporates a great deal of hard surface tile and still make it warm and inviting. We use a lot of tile in our regular designs, but that (warmth) is always the challenge, so we wanted to take it to the extreme here and see what we could do.

HE: We chose to participate in the “Coverings ‘16 Installation Design Showcase” because it is North America’s largest and most prestigious event for the tile and stone industry. We felt it was a great opportunity to showcase a “healthy environment” that promotes healing and inner peace to the mind, body, and spirit by focusing on a sustainable and highly versatile material.  We are enjoying collaborating with the team to create a high synergy for the “Spa Lobby.”

ACD: This is exciting for me to once again participate in the IDS. I was a designer in the inaugural showcase years ago, and loved the experience. I am also fortunate to be paired with the same installation team who was absolutely wonderful to work with, as well as Ceramics of Italy. The collaborative experience of design and installation in the showcase is wonderful. I get the opportunity to work with some of the best tile installers in the nation, and to see my design come to life in just a few days!! Nothing better than that!

I am very excited about my design for this year. I am working on a boutique space, incorporating a mix of many of the tile trends that are emerging this year. I wanted to showcase many of the trends such as 3D tile, tile that resembles fabric, graphic prints, as well as lots of the turquoise blue shades that we will be seeing a lot of at Coverings. As the Industry Ambassador for Coverings, I’m presenting about tile trends at several A&D events in the Chicago area leading up to Coverings. I thought it would be fitting to try and incorporate as many as possible into my IDS design. I am so excited to be working with the same amazing team!

AIF: Architecture is FUN. Materiality has always played a big role in the aesthetic and functionality of the public and private spaces we create, for home, for culture and for play. Coverings is an opportunity for us to play with material goods, disrupting the norm and showing how our partner’s tile and stone can reflect a playful spirit. Within our mock boutique hotel lobby, we want guests to “stay and play.” Great public spaces are those you can claim as your own, where you can be rebellious or not, creative or calm and they are always a destination. Our partner and the products we’re selecting will help support Hotel X’s vibe and vice, while shaping an aesthetic that says – this is for you. Come. Stay. Play. Return. Often.

Stone Trends – TRENDS 2016

Transcending civilizations, the use of natural stone in architecture and design evokes a strong emotional experience. Valued for its versatility in format and overall aesthetic, natural stone has the power to enchant in iconic or everyday structures. One can bear witness to this impact, metamorphosing through antiquity from the great temples of ancient Greece into towering structures of the Roman Empire. Stone is eternal, with an ability to be refined, reused, reimagined and repurposed.

Stone’s characteristics are extremely unique, making it difficult to replicate its look and feel in manmade materials. The veining in many copies may appear authentic, however the color, tone and “hand” of a reproduction typically cannot achieve the nuances of a natural stone product. Specifiers will notice this difference. Combining these natural nuances with the desire for an authentic experience by the end user places natural stone at the top of the list of materials when designing any space. Advances in technology have given us new ways to elaborate, design and install natural stone, allowing endless options only limited by the specifier’s imagination.

Lifecycle advantages, monolithic effects

When considering the use of natural stone it is important to analyze the lifecycle cost, a process for evaluating the total financial impact of acquiring, owning and disposing of the product. Due to its extremely long life span, natural stone is a cost-effective material, although initial expenditure may appear higher than other options. As man’s oldest known building material, stone’s potential for a cradle-to-grave lifecycle can be used to the material’s best advantage, supporting its claim as a sustainable building material.

Today, specifiers are insisting on larger and thinner stone slabs and field tile, offering a monolithic effect with fewer grout joints. Tiles measuring 24” x 24” and 18” x 36” by 3/8” thickness are now accessible in many stones. It is possible to acquire cut-to-size panels (from slab) in sizes such as 48” x 48”, typically supplied at 3/4” thickness. Large sizes will command a premium, due to lower production output and yield rates from the block.

Thanks to improved manufacturing techniques increasing the array of available stone, full slab wall installations are resurging. This allows for book-matching or diamond-matching of the slabs, featuring the natural grace of an individual stone to define the space it occupies. Book-matching sharply-veined slabs provides a mirror-like reflection from one piece to the next, creating a symmetrical effect radiating from the joint between the slabs. In order to achieve the desired effect with natural stone slab walls, the slab selection and layout process is vigorous. The use of CAD programs allows the designer to accurately mock up the installation.

White marble, grey tones define today’s design

Historically, white marble quarried in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Asia, and the United States has been highly sought after for both interior and exterior use. This is no different today, with an abundance of varieties that range from clean, minimal veining, to graphically-veined displays. This plentiful marketplace of white marble allows for a nuanced selection that contributes to today’s clean and modern aesthetic. While white remains classic, grey tones are the fashion statement of the moment. Limestone, travertine, marble, quartzite, or soapstone, warm or cool, quiet or veined – the use of grey is the most significant color trend we have seen in recent years.

Quartzite: a good choice for kitchen countertops

In kitchens, the use of marble slabs has also grown dramatically in recent years. Whether honed or polished, clients must be informed of maintenance considerations as well as finish choices that minimize the risk of etching due to acid contact. For clients desiring the look of a marble countertop, but who are not willing to accept surface etching, the use of quartzite has grown in recent years. Although typically not available in tones quite as white as marble, certain varieties of quartzite do offer a light, contemporary color option, as well as grey tones. At the high end of the market, quartzite has largely replaced granites as the stone of choice for kitchen use. When considering a quartzite for a project, it is important to be informed as to its composition and acid sensitivity. Interestingly, despite its popularity in slabs, quartzite tile is still relatively scarce.

Vein cutting expands design options 

Counterpoint to the plethora of white surfaces, vein-cut material offers strong horizontal striped effects with a graphic contemporary feel. Travertine, once hugely popular in cross-cut varieties, now predominates in horizontal vein cut options. Advancement in production techniques, plus the use of reinforcing resins and fiberglass mesh, has allowed for a larger variety of vein-cut and heavily veined materials to be marketed. This gives the consumer access to a fantastic selection of colors and textures. In all cases, the use of fiberglass mesh backing will impact your setting material choice. When designing with vein-cut stones, consider the veining direction to make a space appear wider or taller, depending on the orientation of the tile. The use of heavily veined stones affords the specifier limitless direction in design, ensuring that the end result is a one-of-a-kind work.

Surface finishes add tactile dimension

Another important factor affecting the look and feel of any project is the escalating demand for textured finishes. Stone textures today are more refined than ever before, with inspiration coming from high-fashion fabrics and other textile surfaces. These new finishes are often lightly brushed, closing down the pores and highlighting the natural color in the stone. This is in sharp contrast to the rough, dusty, gritty textured stone finishes of the past.

Another unique benefit of natural stone is the potential for creating surface effects and dimensionality. When studying natural stone, one must imagine any vein or feature in three dimensions. Hand or machine carving patterns exploit these natural features and provide a dramatic backdrop for walls in any commercial or residential application. Visiting a quarry, seeing stone in-situ and inspecting blocks is the optimum method for appreciating these traits. This characteristic has led to the development of many three-dimensional patterns in natural stone, most too difficult to reproduce in man-made materials, especially in more deeply carved designs.

Stone stars in
waterjet patterns

The incorporation of natural stone into waterjet cut patterns has continued to grow in popularity. Inspired by ancient works from places such as the Church of San Marco in Venice or the Taj Mahal in India, today’s stone waterjet patterns offer the sophisticated union of art and technology. The ability to combine stones in a variety of colors and textures alongside glass, shell or metal, provides a striking contrast to natural stone. Furthermore, a seamless interlock within the overall pattern creates the sophisticated effect of an endless design. Bold geometric forms and elegant curves are at the forefront of current waterjet design.

Stone mosaics: a timeless design option

Stone mosaics employ the traditional technique of hand placing tesserae (small chips) into patterns, and continue to be a popular decorative option. Stone scraps and waste from the production process may be incorporated into the output of mosaics, yet another nod to the sustainable use of natural stone. Mosaic designs often derive their inspiration from ancient sources, adapting the pattern to meet modern design trends. Designers and specifiers often utilize this technique, incorporating new stone colors, finishes or waterjet cut shapes to give a more contemporary look and feel.

Stone: beauty from nature that transcends time

Natural stone use goes beyond trends and is part of the essential fabric of wherever humankind has chosen to live and build. Advances in technology, both in the processing and designing of natural stone, have allowed a multitude of new ideas to evolve. Informed selection and installation means there is virtually no limit to how natural stone can be beautifully incorporated into any space that can be imagined. Nothing is more authentic than to live with the most basic material from nature, the geology below our feet.

Tile Trends – TRENDS 2016

Tile trends of 2016 and beyond

By Joe Lundgren

As you embark on another visit to Coverings in Chicago, you will once again be exposed to the heartbeat of our industry’s new trends including sizes, shapes, thicknesses and new designs.

Our industry has come a long way with the introduction of inkjet technology. It’s also made great strides in the area of installation, allowing our installers to learn the correct methods to install a wide array of tiles. There was a time when 12” x 12” tiles were considered “large-format tile.” As we have seen over the past few years – and will see at Coverings 2016 – things have truly changed and will continue to evolve in the years to come.

First let’s define a trend with respect to the tile industry and not just a niche. A trend is a pattern of gradual change that we see in the industry and not a “one hit wonder” that fills a niche and is not a broad-selling category. You will see in the following article what industry experts have seen and expect to see grow in our market.

Is it thin or thick?
Sizes and shapes to come

Is it thin, thick or a large format? Is it square, rectangular or a new geometric shape including chevron and the everlasting hexagon? Over the past years we have seen the continued growth of the “Thin Tile Category,” and you will see more of this at Coverings as companies focus on training installers to ensure a quality installation of these ultra-thin and ultra-large format porcelains. Sizes will continue to grow in length and width as 24” x 24” and 8” x 36” have become more common and have evolved into 24” x 48” and 8” x 48”. On the other side of the spectrum you will see “thick” tiles as companies enter into the 2 cm category that will further the ceramic tile industry’s growth into exterior applications.

In terms of shapes, Emily Holle from MSI said, “Though hexagons are making a big splash, the hottest shape we see is the chevron. Forecast as the ‘must have’ motif in the upcoming year, dramatic chevron patterns appear as meshed components, printed and embossed details, and tile-works created with tiles sporting clipped corners. Unlike herringbone patterns, chevron patterns are all about the zigzag,” explained Holle. “In chevron patterns, tiles run point to point and the ends are cut at an angle to create a continuous zigzag design. In herringbone patterns, tiles finish perpendicular to each other, which results in a broken zigzag,” she said.

Wall tile comes up to date

Yes, we all know 4-1/4” x 4-1/4” and 6” x 6” tiles have dominated the wall tile category for years. However, wall tile is coming back stronger than ever with the emergence of “subway tile” into larger sizes including 3” x 12”, 4” x 12”, and 4” x 16” as well as three-dimensional shapes. You will also see the chevron and hexagon shapes making their way into wall tiles to allow the consumer a vast array of design flexibility. Even larger formats are being utilized with 12” x 24” sizes and larger now becoming the norm.

According to Sean Cilona of Florida Tile, “These larger wall tiles will begin to appear in new sizes like 14” x 39”. These tiles will include solid colors, but also true marble looks that replicate the actual stone so closely consumers prefer it over the “real thing” for maintenance benefits. While your market may utilize floor tile for wall applications, you will see a resurgence of wall tiles for the ease of installation and the wide range of designs. This lends itself to the minimalistic look that we see in many of the new high rise condominiums. Traditionally this has been in smooth monochromatic colors, but now you will see undulated, handmade looks with a variety of glazing techniques to enhance the appearance.

Wood brings nature into the home

Consumers are drawn to products that emulate the warmth and comfort of natural products like wood. Although this is not a new trend, this generation of wood looks continues to progress into authentic replications of actual wood to the point they are indistinguishable from real wood, with the benefits of easy maintenance and durability we find in tile. The distressed looks you will see are remarkable in terms of the visuals. The sizes – as with other categories – continue to grow into true plank sizes we see in real wood floors. The days of the 6” x 24” have been replaced by the 36” lengths and now 48”. This has not only been a residential focus, but also commercial, where we see architects and designers deinstitutionalizing their client’s environment with the natural products.

Cement continues to evolve

The cement look is no newcomer, but the resurgence of the worn concrete look that is a cool, clean and crisper impression of actual poured concrete will surprise you. The cross between industrial and refined design has come a long way. Initially, cement tiles were only used commercially, and we see these moving into residential applications as designs transcend plain cement looks to include more sophisticated visuals. The tile may look just like cement, but it goes one step beyond to be the perfect complement for the streamlined industrial aesthetic in your home. Manufacturers will continue to focus on the true natural use of colors with a range of large formats and textures.

Anne Demers of Specialty Tile Products, a premier distributor in Georgia and Florida, adds, “Concrete looks are still in high demand, but have become more decorative and soft, moving away from the industrial towards a refined palette, thereby securing their crossover into the residential market.”

Glass continues to shimmer

Glass came into the market years ago and has continued to expand into combinations of different shapes, sizes, and colors.

Sylvie Atanasio of Studio S shared her views on glass: “All that glitters is gold, titanium or luster. Glass tile is no longer about being sleek and contemporary. It’s all about commanding attention, shouting: ‘Hey, look at me! Am I not the first thing you noticed?’ Glass tile has an attitude: look for 3D hand-poured glass with metal and luster finishes and antique or enameled mirror looks,” she said.

Rustic stone 

A large part of our market continues to be the real stone looks. As companies refine the capabilities of inkjet technology, the looks are becoming so realistic that it’s difficult to tell the difference. The ability to create a product with graphics that do not repeat has flourished and become a feature factories have incorporated into the visuals, emulating real stone graphics and colors. Florida Tile’s Cilona said, “We will see more of the stone looks in both soft and strong graphics begin to move into our market from abroad.”

Bricks: Wait, is that tile?

While typically viewed as a category outside of the tile industry, the brick look has roared its way into our product portfolios. The look has mirrored that of the feel and aura of vintage brick, bringing nature into the fold as consumers move to the urban look and feel in their homes.

According to Michael Mariutto from Mediterranea, “We are doing extremely well all across the USA with our original Chicago and New York Brick series, and I believe that this is just the beginning of a design trend that could last for many years to come. Porcelain brick has a multitude of diverse applications such as driveways, home entries, pool decks, back splashes, accent walls and main floors and baths. It is quite clear that porcelain brick is here to stay, and is one of the most unique and versatile products currently on the market!” he explained.


2016 invites surrendering to the complexity of whites and greys in both the residential and commercial markets. While considered neutrals, we will see more whites and greys used with an edgy approach in design. The white/grey trend goes with everything and comes in hundreds of shades and tones. Warm, cool, dark, light – you name it and it’s yours. Black and white schemes will also continue to be popular. The beige and browns will reign supreme for the natural stone looks but with more soft, subtle and stable hues. Neutrals as the basis of the kitchen allow you to accent with color and as a result will continue their popularity.



NKBA awards “2015 Best Bath” to Allure Designs, LLC



The National Kitchen and Bath Association has awarded its coveted “2015 Best Bath” to designer Luz Marina Selles, CKBI, founder/owner of Allure Designs, LLC (www.allureinteriordesigns.com) of Gilbert, Ariz., for a stunning master bath oasis in Phoenix, Ariz.

The inspiration for the award-winning project came from nature, Selles said. “Bringing all the possible elements of nature to my design was my goal. Blissful plants, beautiful river rocks, calming water, and open space were essential motifs in my aesthetic goals for the bathroom.”

The 286-square-foot project prominently features Perfect Pebble Tile in the Bird’s Egg Blend from Island Stone (www.islandstone.com.).

nkba-2“I was looking for a design that would make my clients feel as if they were bathing amongst a beautiful river pebble bed,” Selles said. “Thankfully, the pebble tile brought me all that I needed for my design. It is a natural stone and this gave the bathroom a nature-based appearance and a relaxing ambiance. “

Selles discovered the product in her local Daltile showroom. “The stone design caught the eye of my client, and when she pointed it out I knew it was the perfect choice,” she said.

The Pebble Series is Island Stone’s original and largest range of tiles, with stones gathered from worldwide locations, carefully hand-sorted for color, then laid into an exclusive interlocking format to create an easy-to-install tile. The soft appearance of Bird’s Egg Blend Perfect Pebble Tile featuring “idyllic colors of green, gray, and white helped me bind together the rest of the aspects of my design,” Selles said. “The unique sizes and flow of the pebbles complemented the nature-based design.”

nkba-3The Perfect Pebble Tile traces a path along the floor to a curbless, open-air shower, as well as on the vanity backsplash, walls and an outdoor bench. ELG’s Quartz series 12˝ x 24˝ porcelain tile, in Sand – sourced from Tanner Materials Co., Phoenix – was installed on walls and floors in combination with the Perfect Pebble Tile. Arizona Tile’s 7.75˝ x .75˝ Glass Dome Liners in Steel were used to frame the pebble stone. Glazed Astra-Glaze-SW+® masonry units in Snow White from Trenwyth Industries give a clean look to the exterior patio wall.

nkba-4Allure Designs is an award-winning residential interior design firm that offers customized design services that run the gamut from large projects to small rooms that need refreshing, including bathroom remodeling and kitchen remodeling.

“We strive to achieve perfect synchronization of all the elements of design to create a pleasing display of harmony and unity, where beauty and functionality are essential parts to the success of your remodeling or renovation project,” Selles said.








Variety belongs here

Today’s tile trends offer style to tantalize every taste

By Lesley Goddin

1-variety As you visit the various tile exhibits at Coverings, you will find a vast range of new tile looks, colors, trends and themes – the lifeblood of any trade show. Following is a general overview of what you might find on the showroom floor – largely in the North American Pavilion and at select distributors in your area.

No trend report is all-inclusive, but this will give you a general idea of what manufacturers and suppliers are dishing up for Coverings 2015 and beyond.

I remember a couple of decades ago speaking to a designer about using ceramic tile (porcelain wasn’t a household name yet, except in dishware) in residential or commercial projects. She was not a proponent of tile – and not a participant in the show-that-became-Coverings – because she believed all tile had to offer were “salt and pepper looks.”

How times have changed! Today tile, enhanced by high-definition printing, a spectrum of sizes, thin technology and a range of materials from cotto to ceramic to porcelain to glass to metal and more, offer practically any look your creativity – and your client – desires.

2-varietyPatterns, materials and technology

Jared Becker, vice president of design and marketing for Walker Zanger, shared a few of his thoughts about design influences on interiors, tile and stone.

“Patterns in stone and tile continue to expand in all directions, from modern to ‘new traditional,’ which takes historical patterns and strips them of their superfluous details, creating clean and graphic all-over decoration,” Becker explained.

It’s also clear that sophisticated floor or wall patterns using a range of materials, from stone to porcelain to glass and metal, are enhancing interior and exterior installations.

Ben Mednick, president of Best Tile, is observing the trends and developing products that layer in “digital ink-jet technology, multi-format sizes, and composite screen blends that allow for a wide range of aesthetic application in commercial and residential projects,” he said. “Working directly with Italian, Spanish and American factories, we have developed digital screen techniques that take standard wood, stone or cement backgrounds and recreate blended combinations of material. The result is an expanded range of precision screens that a designer or architect might consider.”

3-varietyMurals, medallions

“The phenomenon of being able to create amazing murals, medallions or images of almost anything that can be drawn using high-tech waterjet technology, gets better and more widespread every day,” said Jim Belilove, president/founder of Creative Edge Master Shop, a waterjet design and production company in Fairfield, Iowa. “With today’s tile installation systems, putting waterjet fabricated ‘artwork’ on either vertical or horizontal surfaces should no longer be questioned by professional contractors. It’s really no different than installing everyday tile and/or stone projects,” he said.

“The design possibilities when combining natural stone with porcelain tile and glass and metal are limitless,” Belilove continued. “And now that waterjet technology is so advanced and thus, grout joints are almost invisible, a top-flight waterjet installation – unless looked at from inches away – can appear almost monolithic.”


The industrial/cement look still is a clean, contemporary trend that is winning favor in commercial settings, said Sean Cilona, director of marketing for Florida Tile. Freshly returned from a product development trip to Italy – and also influenced by some of the looks seen at the Cersaie show in Bologna, Italy, in the fall – Cilona noted that “Monochromatic designs that are slightly distressed, stained or polished in larger formats are still strong,” especially in metropolitan markets. And combining the minimalist aesthetic of cement with “rust, textures of raking, brushing, crackling and slight metallic sheens” adds depth and warmth, added Lori Kirk-Rolley, vice-president, brand marketing at Dal-Tile Corporation.

5-varietyAlong with the cement look are greys and neutral tones, Cilona added. And some of the patterns show greyed hues such as powdery blues, roses and greyed-out blacks and browns as well.

“Grey is the thing,” observed Kirk-Rolley. There is a grey influence in all products, to the warm side, paired with white.”

Added Walker Zanger’s Becker, “While white and grey remain the dominant


colors of choice right now, the palette is starting to simmer, starting with warmer greys, and then moving to beige and tans supported by cream.” And yet moving along the spectrum from industrial concrete looks to encaustic-inspired cement tiles, vibrancy and artisanal influences of ancient tribal designs can evoke Old-World patterns and timeless ambience.


7-varietySize matters

Size trends run the gamut from tiny mosaics to sprawling panel-like large-format tiles, the latter of which are moving to thin porcelain tile technologies.

Best Tile revealed that it’s “distributing products cross an ever-expanding format range – starting with [the] 2015 backsplash collection (in sizes from 3˝ x 6˝ to 4˝ x 24˝) and extending all the way to the StonePeak Plane program that is 5´ x 10´ and suitable for both floor and wall applications,” Mednick said. “We have devoted significant time and resources to the importing, transporting and training requirements of large thin porcelain tiles and continue to see this as a strong trend.”

8-varietyBecker added, “As larger homes are being built again, larger-format stone tile in 16˝ x 32˝ and 24˝ x 36” formats are in demand.” Porcelain tile is allowing these larger sizes and long-wearing lines.

Lindsey-Ann Waldrep, vice president, marketing for Crossville, Inc., – which supplies the Laminam by Crossville large thin porcelain tiles – said she is seeing “really big and really small sizes – the tension in the space results from the relationship between them.”

At Florida Tile, the company’s Thinner tiles have just launched, with 3+ (3.5mm) recommended for residential and light commercial floors and all walls, and 5+ (5.5mm) recommended for heavy commercial, all with fiberglass mesh backing. Multiple sizes starting at 8˝ x 39˝ planks will be stocked, and aesthetics will coordinate with regular-thickness body porcelains to create packages that will expand use.

9-varietyRustic and reclaimed; wood porcelain prevails

Florida Tile’s Cilona predicted ‘resurgence’ at Coverings both in rustic stone looks and reclaimed effects.

Though we won’t be seeing chiseled edges in the U.S., for this new incarnation of stone looks, Cilona said, there will be more rustic stone effects in terms of graphics and in surface texture.

“In Europe right now, there is a resurgence of everything old, unrefined, and the reclaimed look,” Cilona said. There’s an emphasis on “clean and refined,” he said, but also “taking something old and reclaimed and rustic and mixing it together.”

This means a return to terra cotta, reclaimed stone, more textures – and combining distinctive properties of different types of stones and mixing them together to get a never-seen-in-nature hybrid look that focuses on movement and tone throughout the pattern. These designs can beautifully complement a contemporary setting.

10-variety“NOW is wood, and the stained concrete cement look,” Cilona said. “The next wave is stone, rustic reclaimed stone, terra cotta, more textures,” combined with a lot of patterns that are derived from classic styles and designs.

Reclaimed looks also include “vestiges of paint on wood-look tiles, authentic wood textures like knots and sawmarks ,” added Kirk-Rolley.

11-varietyPairing beautifully with this rustic, reclaimed trend is the Modern aesthetic, with Mid-Century modern influences,” Becker observed. “This shows in popularity of geometric patterns and organic patterns with a ’50s and ’60s feel to them. ‘Urban Modern,’ incorporating cement, raw or reclaimed wood and mixed cultural elements, is popular with younger designers and consumers.”

12-varietyShape up! Hexagons and planks rule

If there is ONE shape that is all the rage right now, it’s the hexagon. The finish can be earthy, with terra cotta treatments or busy as a bee with overlaid patterns that layer textile influences, geometric enhancements in bold hues or light, tracery patterns that can be tone-on-tone.

13-varietyArmen Alajian of Arto Brick observed the popularity of the “hexagon or just any polygon that interlocks. It is seen in nature with the honey bee and cooling of lava like Devils Post Pile,” and Giant’s Causeway, in Ireland.

14-vrietyWhile the square will always have a place in traditional formats, and mosaics, also trending are plank shapes, and anything rectangular –subway tile, rectangular wall tile, and long, lean slivers of metals and glass mosaics.

16-variety“It used to be ‘hip to be square,’ but now there’s mixing of rectangular and plank formats,” said Dal-Tile’s Kirk-Rolley. Cilona added, we are seeing “plank sizes in non-wood looks in anything from natural stone to very contemporary monochromatic planks.”

15-varietyJockeying for position with their more angular cohorts, circular shapes are also competing as decorative elements and making a resurgence with mosaics in penny round shapes with different material and finish treatments – glass, metal, ceramic, stone and porcelain.

Gloss, glass, glazes  and metallic glints

Gloss, glass and glitzy glazes appear in many forms, from the glamor of highly polished marble looks with high-gloss finishes to translucent glazes that give added depth to finishes, Dal-Tile’s Kirk-Rolley says. Glass can be paired with any material – porcelain, ceramic, natural stone, metal – to give a suggestion of shine and to captivate and convey color, dimension and luxury. Kirk-Rolley adds that in addition to traditional 1˝ x 1˝ and 2˝ x 2˝ shapes, glass is coming in more linear, rectangular shapes, or even printed with patterns.

17-variety 18-variety 19-varietyAnd glass is being combined with mirrors, porcelain or natural stone for opulent effects, as a shimmering bridge to the marvelous luster of metal in a range of forms. From PANTONE®’s Bijoux palette, to Alena Capra’s emphasis on gold, metallics continue to shine (see related stories in this issue).



20-varietyClothing cues, textured surfaces and dimensionality 

Textile influences are also growing, with the plasticity of ceramic and porcelain tile enabling authentic takes on the look of linen, tweed, herringbone and hound’s-tooth patterns and more, evidenced by textile-centric launches recently by Florida Tile, Crossville and Daltile.

21-varietyTextured surfaces also extend to those that have a handmade feel, with molded, clay textures or even highly-dimensional, sculpted, carved or formed shapes that allow peekaboo effects.

22-varietySustainability soars

Among the trends that Tile Council of North America sees emerging from their member companies are sustainable products, more than ever before, fueled by the EPD for Ceramic Tile. In addition to the EPD, Green Squared® Certification is being recognized by green building systems, so more products are joining the Green Squared Certified® ranks every day. A&D professional can gain greater access to these products by looking for the Green Squared logo and the EPD logo.


Color trends: tugging at the emotions

color_trends_headerYou can’t talk about trends without talking about color. Color is a way to both evoke and express emotion, to make feelings visible.

“After a recession, the first indicator of recovery is color,” said Lindsey-Ann Waldrep, vice president, marketing for Crossville, Inc. “Next comes designers taking more risk.”

1-colortrendsOver the last few years, color choices have been starting to brighten and deepen and form a bridge into more inventive uses of hues.

“2015/2016 appears to be a period of some transition, as warmer colors are starting to creep into what has been a pretty cool, white world,” said Jared Becker, vice president of design and marketing for Walker Zanger. “Specific to tile and stone, this means that white marble will still be the most popular color, but that greys and warmer beige and cream tones are beginning to trend,” added Becker. “One can see this in the fixture world as well, with brass starting to trend for bathroom fixtures. Navy blue is becoming popular in ceramic tiles, and can be combined with both white and or beige for classic looks.”

As color has grown more daring, from last year’s brilliant and vibrant Radiant Orchid PANTONE® Color of the Year (COTY), to 2015’s deep, earthy, grounded Color of the Year, Marsala, color is literally on everyone’s lips – from cosmetics to clothing, to – of course – home furnishings and finishes like tile and stone.

“Color is a huge trend,” said Cindy Haley, store manager for the Albuquerque, N.M., Tile Shop, which boasts over 50 vignettes that showcase a range of tile and stone in classic and contemporary materials, applications and colors. “We are seeing a return back to green-blues, sky blues and red reds. “

PANTONE VIEW: 9 palettes that sizzle

2-colortrendsThe fascination with color is why there’s excitement bubbling around The PANTONE® VIEW home + interiors 2016 – Innovation and Impact, a trend forecast highlighting color trends for the home and interiors marketplace in 2016, that was unveiled at the International Home & Housewares Show 2015 last month in Chicago. These nine palettes are predicted to impact color and style directions in all facets of interior design into 2016 and beyond.

“As media continue to move toward more evocative, imaginative and innovative uses of color to woo consumers, unexpected color stories are emerging,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “To capture attention and keep product lines relevant in the consumer’s eye, it’s important to understand the impact that this always-morphing innovation will have on color and design trends for 2016.”

3-colortrendsThe nine palettes for 2016 are: Natural Forms, Dichotomy, Ephemera, Lineage, Soft Focus, Bijoux, Merriment, Footloose and Mixed Bag.

Unambiguous colors, including shades that are plumbed from natural sources such as warm rosy clay and sheepskin beige, give us Natural Forms.

Dichotomy reinforces the concept that opposites do and can attract as silver metallic, sunny yellow and bright cobalt blue combine with calmer versions of the hues.

Pastel-focused Ephemera blends delicate shades of wan blue, pale peach and tender yellow.

Lineage is a palette where shades of navy, black, tan and regimental green co-mingle with touches of brighter colors.

Soft Focus reveals subtle and/or muted colors, sometimes being described as “smoky” and always versatile.

In the French language, Bijoux means “jewelry” – a fitting title for this palette that gleams with drama and intensity across many jewel tones.

Merriment is full of joyful shades including vibrant greens and yellows contrasted with pinks and oranges.

Capricious color combinations with vacation-destination blues and blue-greens create Footloose – a palette that supports the idea of throwing off the constricting scheduling of everyday life and simply enjoying the freedom of the outdoors.

Mixed Bag is an assortment of eclectic patterns and prints, with exciting and unique colors like pirate black and mandarin red as well as violet and florid orange.


Color: enlivening the classics – inspiring choice

In an exclusive interview with TileLetter TRENDS, Eiseman told editor Lesley Goddin the forecast takes color influences and prevalent lifestyles and paints a macro picture that inspires, spurs emotion and generates fresh new ideas.



“What trends do is to help inspire you, and allow you to bring something in that might be a new touch – at retail level and display,” Eiseman said. “Maybe the customer will buy the grey slab again, but they might be able to use a pattern or new shade of yellow-green. It’s about how to engage your customer. “

Trends blossom from a myriad of sources – natural landscapes, flowers, cultural influences, said Eiseman, explaining that in addition to copious travel in the U.S. and Canada, she also travels to other countries where her group “gleans information from several levels of the marketplace and we try to relate that to lifestyle.”

6-colortrendsFor instance, in one of the 2016 palettes – Dichotomy, which juxtaposes opposites for stunning effect – there is the concept that “you can combine ancient artifacts with a pendant light on the interior that is very modern, but the colors are the same and tie the whole palette together,” she said. “Trends are inspired by nature, architecture, hot travel destinations – what colors are inspired by that location or even worldwide events celebrating sports, like the host country of the Olympics. People see the way colors are used in that area of the world.”

It all comes down to providing a range of choices that engage the emotion in a customer. “One direction will not suit everyone,” she said. “If everything in the showroom speaks to clean and modern and that person is traditional, there is nothing there to appeal to them. You must show a selection.”

7-colortrendsShowrooms that offer a range of vignettes – like the 50+ vignettes this writer recently experienced at a visit to the local Tile Shop – offer a fertile field of ideas, colors, shapes, sizes and combinations to tantalize the imagination and excite the customer into trying new blends of materials to enliven their surroundings.

“People won’t walk in and do a sweep with their eyes and decide this isn’t me,” Eiseman said. “If you have vignettes – there is something there that will give the emotions a tug.”

International Trends from Spain

spain-logoArtisanal know-how + high technology = stunning tile for  innovative uses

By Ryan Fasan, Technical Consultant  for Tile of Spain – USA

Design trends today shift as fast as prevailing hashtags on Twitter or Instagram. The global market has never been smaller or more connected and so, we are constantly bombarded with new ideas and innovations in staccato tempo. Macro design trends rule today – reaching for timeless interpretations that leave a lot of leeway for personal expression and creativity.

All of this is wonderful news for tile. With decades, if not centuries, of artisanal know-how alongside a highly innovative R&D sector, ceramics offer today’s consumer so many of the aesthetic answers we are looking for with the added value of unparalleled hygiene and durability. The ceramic industry today is like one of the giant cats, kings of the cladding domain, surveying the landscape with the supreme confidence that they have every answer to any challenge that may arise.


Even though trends are becoming more nebulous, there are some over-arching themes and innovations that are evident across multiple leaders in the industry.

Harmonious anarchy

Speaking of leeway for personal expression, this macro trend is evident across multiple collections within a manufacturer’s offering. We are seeing a unified color palette of contrasting but complementary tones flow through multiple collections with widely varying inspirations. We might see a classic hydraulic cement tile paired with a modern wood and a weathered metal to create a setting that looks harmonious, like they were meant to be together despite widely varying influences from material to time period.

spain-fanalAnother interpretation of this trend is the creation of wholly new stone looks that are only possible due to the digital decoration of ceramics. We are seeing new stone look collections that are taking a huge variety of images of multiple stone varietals and toning them to a unified palette to create something even more varied than Mother Nature can achieve.











Metallics are back with a vengeance! The advent of metallic inks utilized in HD inkjet printers is making metallic finishes much more cost effective, and allowing for precision accents in amazing new ways. Metallic additions wary widely in aspect but are frequent additions to add that little sheen to snag the eye and imagination for 2015. Metallic accents may be a mirrored finish across a heavily textured tile like a wave or sand dune, or it could be just a hint of oxidized metal fleck here and there in a stone or wood collection to create something surprising and new.

spain-grespaniaWith a vast array of revival metal finishes making their way back to faucets and lighting fixtures, there is almost no limit to the coordinating options in tile thanks to the new glaze and ink technologies.




spain-natucerGraphic Symmetry

Shapes, shapes, shapes! Hexagons, octagons and rhomboids are everywhere, on floors and walls and often paired with more traditional rectangular formats to coordinate and create even more dynamic spaces. Geometric shapes are so hot right now that they are seen in almost every collection of tile today from stone looks to traditional ceramics. Depending on the modernity of the collection, the shapes may be traditional or stretched and warped to create something new and edgy while retaining a calming comfort of something instantly recognizable.

spain-riftDecorative tiles are often found in these geometric collections, with an eclectic mix of patterns spanning florals, fabrics and organic patterns, often with a distinct feel of a graphic designer’s touch.









There’s a reason why 501s are an American icon. When something durable is built and designed well it only gets better with age. Tile is the perfect medium to embrace the vintage and revival trends thanks to it’s inert and nearly indestructible nature. Ceramic collections today are taking the perfect amount of distressing in stone, wood, metal or concrete and freezing it in time to remain forever captured.

Inspiration for these collections varies from ancient fishing wharves to Persian rugs to COR-TEN steel or even city cobblestones.


spain-allegraTiffany Timeless

There is no replacing classic elegance. Many of today’s polished porcelains even surpass the capabilities of the natural materials they emulate. Often porcelain sizes are bigger than natural stone available today due to degradation of quarry sites and over-harvesting of stones. Softer and more delicate stones like Crema Marfil, Calacatta and Onyx are created in some of the most technical porcelains available. In commercial or residential spaces, there’s no substitute for the gravitas and elegance of an exquisitely executed polished stone look.


spain-luxorThrough Thick and Thin

Ceramicists are always looking for ways to grow specifications beyond the bounds of showers and backsplashes. These new thick or thin formats create nearly limitless possibilities for expanded adoption of ceramics.

Thin formats of 4-6mm make a fantastic cladding material for cabinetry, millwork, doors and even drop ceilings. The production method of this material can create slabs of up to 5’x11’ and thicknesses up to 11mm, creating a whole new option for worktops that offer unmatched performance at a very competitive cost.

spain-inalkerThick formats of 20mm expand our specifications and lower installation costs for exteriors, especially decking situations. With the capability to be sand, grass or pedestal-set, these workhorse tiles offer the ability for seamless interior/exterior transitions at a much more approachable price.

For more information visit www.tileofspainusa.com and @Tile_Trends on twitter.

Setting Materials

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

Education and forensics


Ceramic Tile And Stone Consultants (CTaSC) provides expert witness, forensic investigations and inspections, testing, specifications, quality control, training, market research and business planning. A professional consulting company, CTaSC is led by industry expert Donato Pompo and includes a team of accomplished installers, architects, engineers, general contractors, construction scientists and other industry specialists. Services are available throughout North America and internationally. CTaSC inspectors are located in or near most major U.S. cities. CTaSC operates the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (www.UofCTS.org). UofCTS provides online tile and stone training courses and provides hands-on training to tile installers. The UofCTS online courses teach all the basics for understanding ceramic tile and natural stone, including product and technical information, and sales techniques. There is a four-hour ITS tile installer course for teaching tile installation standards and practices for adhered tile applications. www.CTaSC.com

Floor Warming


MasterHeat floor warming mats are designed to warm tile and stone floors in bathrooms, kitchens, entries, and sunrooms of any size and layout. MasterHeat floor warming mats are rolled onto the subfloor, then the white mesh is cut to fit room dimensions. The mat can be fastened with tape or staples, then tile or stone can be installed with thin-set mortar. The kits include one of five thermostats, an installation warning monitor and instruction manual. www.masterheat.com


Booth #3843

Bostik has launched HXD™ Technology, which Bostik claims offers the highest performance resin system of any pre-mixed grout available. HXD (High Cross-Linking Density) polymer chemistry contains a high concentration of cross-linking molecules that create a unified polymer structure that is durable and resistant to penetration and staining from fluids. The technology is further enhanced by proprietary additives that repel stains. Initiated when Bostik launched its RapidCure™ formulations, HXD has been further refined over the past 12 months and Bostik has engineered this exclusive resin system, available in its TruColor™ RapidCure™, QuartzLock2™, RapidCure™, Dimension™ Rapid-Cure™ and Neverseal™ products.

Custom Building Products
Booth #3057

setting-customCUSTOM® recently unveiled a strategically-developed palette of 40 colors available in all its grouts along with the launch of eight specialty options in the new Fusion Pro® Designer Series, that feature reflective color accents. The refreshed collection of grout colors includes nine hues that were inspired by nature elements like water, sand and fog. The enhanced palette matches today’s tile trends, with darker brown tones that “complement wood-look tile, grey tones that blend well with weathered or distressed tile themes, and subtle blues and greens that harmonize with glass tile,” said director of marketing services, Tony Pasquarelli.

Booth #3635

setting-laticretePERMACOLOR® Select is a paradigm shift in both grout performance and in the business/logistics aspect of grout, offering the industry’s first dispersible dry pigment solution, which is separated into a bag of neutral Base (either 25 lbs. or 12.5 lbs.) and separate dispersable Color Kit pigment packets, drastically reducing the space needed to warehouse a full array of 40 LATICRETE colors, plus top-selling competitive colors. Each Color Kit contains two Color Packets – simply mix two Color Packets for one 25-lb. bag or one Color Packet for one 12.5-lb. bag. PERMACOLOR Select comes available with a physical performance and a Lifetime System warranty.

Booth #3042

setting-tecThe TEC® brand empowers people to create more functional and personal spaces, and continues to develop innovative new products for the tile and flooring industries. TEC serves its contractor customers by developing products that combine usability, convenience, performance and efficiency. The brand offers a full system, including surface preparation products, mortar, grout and caulks. www.tecspecialty.com

The Tile Doctor/STAINMASTER®
Booth #2859

etting-tiledrAlready sold in 90 countries worldwide, Tile Doctor is bringing a unique grout product to North America for the first time. Collaborating with a world leader in technology, the company is introducing the product to the market under the STAINMASTER® brand, aligning it with a true consumer brand – a rarity in the tile and stone industry. Designed to be easy to install, STAINMASTER grouts include more than 120 design elements including Classic Colors, High Chromatic Glamour Colors and Metallic Grouts. There is an option to add Shimmer Finishes to many colors. Crystal Glass Grout is available in translucent and now in five new colors. www.tiledoctor.com



Booth #3233

Ideal for large-and-heavy porcelain tile installations in the most demanding environments, ARDEX X 77 is a smooth, creamy and easy-to-trowel polymer-modified mortar formulated with MicroTec Technology that offers outstanding strength, flexibility and sag resistance. Ardex X 77 is a fiber-reinforced solution for the most difficult installations in any environment, including large-format thin tile installations. Offering true 60-minute open time, unmatched sag resistance, unique creamy consistency and ease of application, it’s ideal for high-traffic areas and exterior facades. It has a pot life of three hours, and offers outstanding coverage. www.ardex.com

Booth #2835

setting-mapeiMAPEI’s new thin-set mortar for large thin-tile installations, MAPEI Ultralite™ S2, addresses the major issues involved in getting a perfect fit between large, thin tile and its substrate. MAPEI Ultralite S2 addresses main challenges of working with thin tile, as identified by contractors, including the need for: lighter setting materials to make the handling of large, thin tiles more controllable; mortars with more open time to accommodate needs of the installation environment associated with back-buttering tile and applying it to the substrate; and easier troweling and better wet-transfer properties to provide full coverage with improved bond. This highly deformable, polymer-modified mortar is formulated with Easy Glide Technology for ease of application. MAPEI Ultralite S2 features a long open time, extended coverage and superior transfer properties to enhance back-buttering. Ultralite Technology provides twice the coverage of a standard thin-set mortar per pound/kg and is manufactured with 20% recycled content. www.mapei.com

Booth #2627 

setting-sgmWhen installing large format tiles, 100% coverage to both the panel and substrate is essential. Full-contact SGM Multi-Lite mortar is a premium, lightweight (40% lighter than traditional mortars) latex-Portland cement mortar for floors and walls in interior and exterior settings for residential, light commercial and light industrial applications. SGM Multi-Lite re-dispersible powder additives and plasticizers are used to improve adhesion, provide greater bond strength and resistance to impact and shock allowing for latitude in time, working conditions and temperature. www.sgm.cc


setting-merkreteMerkrete’s 720 Rapid Set mortar is a solution for large-and-heavy porcelain tiles. This premium grade, rapid setting, polymer modified medium bed mortar is specifically formulated for the installation of large-format ceramic tiles, gauged porcelain and irregular-thickness stones that require faster setting times of 90 minutes or less. Merkrete 720 Rapid Set is designed to be used for interior or exterior walls and floors, on either residential or commercial projects, and exceeds ANSI A118.4 and ANSI A118.11 standards. www.merkrete.com


Profiles and transitions

Ceramic Tool Co. 

setting-ceramictoolIn response to the upsurge in stainless steel trims, Ceramic Tool Company is able to fabricate thresholds, corner guards and wall wraps to order. CTC offers multiple gauges/thickness of material and will work with customers to design exactly what’s needed. The company can supply product information sheets, CAD drawings, and photos. Samples are available upon request. www.ceramictool.com

Schluter Systems
Booth #3236

setting-schluterSCHIENE-Step is a finishing and edging profile for ceramic tile and natural stone installations on countertops, stairs, and tile-over-tile wall applications. The top of the profile features a vertical wall section that finishes and protects the tile from damage, while the vertical leg covers the edge of the sub-assembly, top of the riser, or existing wall tile edge. A stainless steel version is available in three vertical leg lengths to accommodate countertops, stairs and tile-over-tile installations. An anodized aluminum version is intended for light-traffic residential stair applications, available in two vertical leg lengths. The ribbed vertical leg covers the sub-assembly or top of the riser. An integrated joint spacer establishes a defined joint cavity between the tile and the profile. www.schluter.com


Booth #4006

setting-filaThe company’s solvent-free, stain-proofing protector – FILAMP90 ECO PLUS – offers a high performance penetrating seal, with additional on-site benefits. Part of Fila’s Green Line, the sealant is designed for natural stone and polished porcelain surfaces, and contributes towards LEED credits. It can be applied in interior and exterior settings, and is suitable for use on food contact surfaces. The formula provides a safe, odor-free application and allows treatment of surfaces where residual moisture is present, cutting application time by up to 80%. FILAMP90 ECO PLUS is non-film forming and has a very low VOC content, providing lasting protection against water and oil-based stains, without altering a tile’s appearance, as well as protection against weather and outdoor graffiti. Available in 250ml, one liter and five liter containers; one liter provides approximately 322 square foot coverage on stone and 430 square foot coverage on porcelain. www.filasolutions.com

Shower systems

Booth #2842

setting-finpanThe ClearPath® Curbless Shower Pan System offers a way to construct a barrier-free entry shower that requires no structural modifications to the existing floor joist system. The product is designed to maintain independence in life while offering fashionable and innovative designs in level-entry showers for new construction or remodels. The ClearPath drain plate comes with integrated drain assembly, waterproofing mat and is pre-pitched for proper sloping. TI-ProBoard® is a composite structural underlayment that offers the ability to install ClearPath directly on top of the floor joists. TI-ProBoard was originally developed for tiling exterior decks and offers a commercial floor rating. www.finpan.net

NAC Products
Booth #3436

setting-nacThe Extreme Waterproofing System for bathroom applications combines an NAC sound control membrane with SubSeal® Liquid membrane for bathroom installations that require sound control and waterproofing protection. NAC has developed a series of drawings that show a variety of bathroom installation options and the specific products involved – just visit www.nacproducts.com, click the Technical tab and select Membrane System images. An added benefit of the Extreme Waterproofing System for bathrooms is that the NAC sheet membranes also provide up to 3/8” crack isolation protection. www.nacproducts.com

Noble Company
Booth #3049

setting-nobleValueSeal is a new thin-bed waterproofing sheet membrane that is thin, lightweight and flexible. ValueSeal can be applied with latex-modified thinset and is designed for commercial and residential applications. It is available in 3´ and 6´ foot widths.

Noble Company has also launched FreeStyle™ Linear Drains, featuring a clamping ring that creates watertight installation, is high capacity, low profile (36 GPM) and is designed to be ideal for barrier-free showers. The product also features an internal slope with flat bottom for easy installation. www.noblecompany.com

Booth #3051

setting-usgThe USG Durock™ Brand Shower System is a fully bonded waterproofing system for tiled shower installations that controls moisture independently of the tile covering, while creating a solid base for the shower. It is built from high-performance components designed to work in harmony to stop moisture, thereby creating a shower that will last for years to come. The system features a proprietary drain assembly, interchangeable drain grates, a thin, durable membrane and a high-density pre-sloped shower tray. USG now offers a custom tray program that helps create various shower configurations by using optional benches and niches that deliver added flexibility, making it possible to create a more customized shower. www.durockshowersystem.com; www.usg.com

wedi Corporation
Booth 3839

setting-wediFundo Ligno is a sloped shower base 3/4˝ thin at its perimeter and available in various sizes. Ligno can be field modified as needed. The installation within a 3/4˝ plywood structure requires no cutting into joists. Load-bearing plywood is simply re-installed between floor joists and over 2˝ x 6˝ or 2˝ x 4˝ blocking, then attached to the joists. This guarantees full support and protection of the tiled surface.

The wedi typically-strong, cement-based, reinforced surface is directly tileable with large- or small-format tile. Ligno interlocks with wedi building panels used as waterproof backer board on walls, as well as on the surrounding floor. Optionally, wedi’s Subliner sheet membrane can be used. Both options offer a complete and professional system installation. www.wedicorp.com



Armaly Brands

Since sponges are the last tool used on a job, why not use the best? That’s the mantra at Armaly Brands, century-old producer of an extensive line of sponges. The company’s products have stood the test of time for over 100 years. The line started with Armaly natural sponges and today includes Armaly ProPlus HDQ grouting sponges, formulated to provide longer-lasting strength, a fast wiping and rinsing of excess grout. Made in the U.S.A. www.ArmalyBrands.com

Booth #3443

setting-bellotaThe company has introduced two series of manual tile cutters: PRO and POP. PRO is a versatile, heavy-duty use cutting tool for ceramic and porcelain up to 28˝ long. POP is for cutting common ceramic up to 25˝, as well as mosaic glass. PRO and POP are designed for maximum strength and stability with reinforced aluminum rail bar supports and solid base, including built-in cutting guides and easily- replaceable tungsten carbide cutting wheels with adaptors to accommodate most other tile cutters as well. They offer great precision with consistently clean, reliable cuts and smooth operation. www.bellota.com

Lackmond Products
Booth #3036

setting-lackmondThe Beast™ BP10 Porcelain Tile Blade incorporates the most advanced technology available for cutting porcelain tile as well as ceramics, marble and granite tiles. The Beast BP10 is manufactured using the highest quality diamonds, and performs well on critically hard porcelains ranging from 500 to 1,000-lbs. break strength. It is engineered with a thin-kerf cutting edge that ensures a clean, fast cut while minimizing chipping. The BEAST BP10 utilizes a reinforced, silent core hub which ensures straight cuts and reduces noise. Small slots spaced evenly across the diamond rim reduce vibration and aid in cooling. The Beast BP10 is available in 4˝ through 10˝ diameters. www.lackmond.com

Master Wholesale

setting-mwThe company’s professional grade, variable speed 4˝ RockMaster wet-polishing kit has everything the flooring professional needs to wet-polish marble and get world class results. The kit contains the long-lasting Makita PW5001C 4˝ wet polisher, the RockMaster eight-piece Diamond Resin wet E-Pad set, the 4” wet Velcro® pad holder, and a quick-connect hose kit. The E-Pads provide great results and the set includes a black buff pad for a premium shine. www.masterwholesale.com

Primo Tools
Booth #2730

setting-primoWith all the large-format tiles and stones available in marketplace, Primo Tool (a BOE company), recently added a massive 53˝ size to its line of Big Red professional cutters. Now diagonal cuts of up to 37˝ can be made with ease. Like the 24˝-, 30˝-, 35˝-, and 40˝-sizes, the new 53˝ offering does an excellent job of cutting highly-durable and dense double-loaded/double-fired porcelains as well as 3/4” granite. The spring-loaded table makes breaking tile and stone easy and clean. The two separate breaker bars facilitate multiple cutting widths.” All Big Red cutters come with a swiveling gauge that allows angle cuts between -45 and +45 degrees, and a protractor is included. www.Primo-Tools.com

RTC Products
Booth #3836

setting-rtcThe Great White portable saw is a new super-lightweight saw that allows the user to control the water spray and reduce noise that most typical wet saws in its class produce. Initially targeted for cutting backsplashes and smaller tiled areas, this saw can also cut larger materials, thanks to the optional water containment tub, which also acts as a perimeter support for cutting larger tiles. The new specialty blades are designed for cutting hard porcelain, granite and marble, and more. The new Glass Master blade is perfect for cutting the customized glass popular for today’s growing market. www.rtcproducts.com


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 www.tilecareer.com for CTIs and www.tilecertifications.com 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. www.americanolean.com

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. www.artobrick.com


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. www.besttile.com

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®. www.crossvilleinc.com


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. www.daltile.com

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. www.delconcausa.com

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. www.imolaceramica.com

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. www.maniscalcostone.com


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. www.marazziusa.com

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. www.tileshop.com


1 3 4 5 6