Trend insights, networking and education await you at Coverings in New Orleans

Welcome to Coverings 2020! I’m looking forward to an exciting few days in New Orleans! It’s one of my favorite cities to visit, and I hope you get a chance to enjoy all it has to offer, including some great architecture, culture, and food (Beignets and a good bowl of gumbo are a must!).

Photo courtesy of Bruce Starrenburg

Get ready to see over nine miles of tile, showcasing some of the latest trends in the industry. This year, you can expect to see:

  • Mixed geometric shapes 
  • Retro looks in bright patterns and colors 
  • Concrete looks with an industrial vibe 
  • Lots of large-scale patterns 
  • Precious/gemstone looks 
  • More gauged porcelain 
  • A mixed color palette of terracotta, sage green, classic blue, dusty orange and even blush pink. 

In addition to the tile and countless education opportunities offered at the show, this year marks the return of some show favorites, like the Installation & Design Experience, and Installation Demonstration Stage, along with some great new features. The Brand & Business Building Zone will provide opportunities to attendees to learn how to take their brands to the next level, including a headshot station, great tips and a video station, to make customized 30-45-second elevator pitches for their businesses. There also will be two great awards events happening, where you can cheer on your peers, and see some amazing design and installations with tile, including the CID Awards, and support emerging young talent in the tile industry at the Rock Star Awards. Registration and education are complimentary. You can learn more and register at

There’s so much to see, and I hope to see you on the show floor! Enjoy the show!


Tile Trends for 2020 and “Trend Strategy”

Trends in 2020 – what’s hot and what’s not? Before we embark on this journey let’s make sure we define “Trend” vs. “Fad.” A trend has stamina and builds up over time, while a fad fills a niche and is not a broad selling category. We have seen those come and go in our industry, but this article focuses on solid trends. The tile industry is obviously one that rides the trend cycle as it changes but we also experience the trend stages. For those who may have just been in the business for the last few years they would know that wood, marble and concrete are still categories we would call trendy, but the difference is what stage are they in. Below are a few different stages of trends.

  • Brand-new trend – Is it real and does it have staying power in the tile industry?
  • Emerging trend – This is the part of the trend where thought leaders emerge and set the tone.
  • Peaking trend – It’s frenzy time. Everyone will be excited about the trend.
  • Backlash – Everybody is aware of the trend. People think the trend is overdone.
  • Trend Maturity – There’s a lot less excitement than there used to be.

For example, when concrete looks were initially launched, this was a brand-new trend. Now concrete looks have evolved into what we may say is its “backlash” or “trend maturity stage.” “Emerging” or “peaking” trends are where we look to see what’s upcoming, and today many in the industry point to gauged porcelain tiles (GPT) or gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP). This product category has emerged from the 3mm and 3.5mm thicknesses initially launched to 6-, 12- and 20-mm products that continue to grow. Once we conquer the installation education, we will surely continue our excitement on this trend.

While we all would love our trend stage to be emerging or peaking, it’s important to understand we also “live” in the backlash or maturity stage. A perfect example is wood looks. While different looks are in different stages it’s important to look at your product mix to ensure you have your portfolio balanced to your market requirements. It’s vital to have something you feel is a brand-new trend to make certain you’re delivering your customers something that may be that next trend, because if you’re not, someone else will.

When pondering trends, we all think of visuals, yet Mark Seal with Emser Tile noted that “the adoption of the Ceramic Factory 4.0 model – which is the next generation of the ceramic tile factory – will feature previously unseen levels of efficiency and technology.” Essentially this has allowed manufacturers to take the current trend to a new generation of looks via technological advances with even more realistic textures.  He also said, “it has allowed us to be better positioned to meet the needs of our clients from the inside to the exterior of their homes.”

Now for the trends we see today:

Wall tile

Mediterranea’s Key West offers subtle shading of handmade tile, but technical advantages of porcelain tile. 

The year of the wall is here! It is imperative that distributors invest in a variety of wall tile lines as this is a growth category for our industry, vs. just focusing on floors. One of the reasons is right in front of us: as we continue to watch the growth of LVT and compete against other floor coverings the walls are ours to dominate! Come on, who can’t sell against wallpaper and paint? While we traditionally focus on white wall tile, we see cool tones beginning to evolve with Pantone’s Classic Blue (a calm, cool color that is the beginning of a new decade) as it’s heralded 2020 Color of the Year, a definite departure from 2019’s Living Coral.

Marazzi Zellige embodies handmade looks, imperfections and undulating style with a Moroccan flair. 

Mediterranea’s Michael Mariutto, one of our industry’s emerging trend leaders, developed the new Key West line as yet another example of wall’s growing popularity. Additionally, Mediterranea’s VP of sales George Larrazabal added, “The Key West series offers the beauty, subtle shading and colors of hand-made tiles but with the technical advantages of a porcelain rated for floors, walls, and wet areas. There are 10 colors covering traditional and modern styles and size package that can move from the wall to the floor in many applications, featuring 4” x 8”, 4” x 12”, and 8” x 8” sizes, which is in line with continuing trends for smaller formats and decorative tiles.” 

Shelly Halbert, Director of Product Design for Marazzi, commented, “Marazzi’s new Zellige collection reflects the currently hot trend of ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ as embodied in Zellige’s handmade looks, imperfections, and Moroccan style while the undulated surface and variation in color tones accentuates the natural imperfections and hand-crafted look of Zellige.” Furthermore, she noted, “In general, designs are getting bolder. We are seeing a Moroccan influence in new products as well as global destinations like Portugal, Italy and Spain, as handmade tile continues to be a top trend.”

Additionally, Tressa Samdal, Florida Tile’s Director of Marketing and Product Management, remarked, “The wall space is an area where consumers and designers are starting to be tastefully expressive. They are no longer shying away from fashion colors, textures or unique shapes. We are seeing larger-format wall tiles and more elongated shapes. While hexagon and picket shapes are still very popular, we are now seeing some interesting trapezoids, circles and triangles.”

Gauged porcelain tile panels and large-formats

As mentioned previously, gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs (GPTP) are gaining popularity with the increased decorative capabilities, from traditional looks to stone and thicknesses for countertops. The large-format sizes – which are not necessarily new – are being used more and more with commercial applications driving the volume. However, this has found its way to the residential market with the 24” x 48” formats taking the lead. 

From a design standpoint, the marble look has risen to the top as it replicates the real marble with superior performance characteristics. Not to mention the 6mm panels allow designers to use this on walls more easily than a traditional marble slab.

A brand-new trend

BreakThru Backers by 3D Stone and Tile. 
New shapes like trapezoids, triangles and half hexes are on trend, such as American Olean’s NeoCrete.

While I like to feature trends that drive volume, I also mentioned the importance of having a brand-new trend. For this I turn to a small company in Salt Lake City: 3D Stone and Tile. Rod Katwyk, owner, operator, and NTCA member, has developed a patented technology called BreakThru Backers™ to create 3D tiles from any field tile you choose, which creates an endless opportunity for designers for feature walls, backsplashes and a vast array of other installations. Katwyk declared that focusing on this trend does not impact his current positioning and therefore does not alienate his key customers. “In the past the only alternative for creating true 3D stone and tile installation was purchasing expensive stone or tile that had been specially milled to create pre-cut wedges or pieces of alternating thicknesses,” he explained – a fact that drove installers like Rod out of their minds. But his special innovation enables a dynamic wall treatment of any material the customer desires.

According to Sean Cilona, Director of Product at Virginia Tile, “Importers search for new mosaic suppliers with the recent anti-dumping imposed upon China, but that is for the traditional mosaics. Many suppliers feature new shapes like triangles, trapezoids and half hexes; options like American Olean’s Neocrete 3D mosaic cube.”


And don’t ignore exteriors! The industry has seen an influx of porcelain 2cm pavers, yet the key is understanding who the customer is for this type of product. MSI is one of the leaders in exterior products and Emily Holle, MSI’s Trend/Design Director, explains, “Our new Arterra Porcelain Pavers bring the look of natural stone into the exterior paver market. High-definition glazed ink jet pavers offer all of the features of natural stone pavers, with the added benefits of porcelain including enduring the freeze-thaw cycles.” Likewise, MSI’s Dekora Porcelain Ledgers feature the same freeze-thaw benefits over natural stone, yet still emulate the beauty of the stone. Holle went on to say, “Our Dekora line gives you everything you love about ledger panels, but without any of the maintenance. Dekora features five different porcelain ledger panels; these panels come in a familiar 6” x 24” size to fit perfectly into your outdoor or indoor design.”

MSI’s Dekora Arterra pavers bring the look of natural stone to the paver market, in hard-wearing porcelain. 
MSI’s Dekora Arterra line also includes 6” x 24” ledger panels to fit into indoor or outdoor design. 

Wood looks

Crossville’s Story Teller, here in Serious, achieves a mirrored, light-and-dark woodgrain appearance.
Crossville’s Jazz Age in Duke, shows the nuances of timeworn waxing, scuffs, and undulations from foot traffic. 

Yes, woods are still in the backlash or maturity stage of trends, Terri Marion, Product Manager – Crossville, pointed out. “With over 50% of the world’s population now living and working in urban areas surrounded by steel, cement, artificial light, and recirculated air, we crave connection with nature,” she said. “Current tile trends answer the desire for sensory-rich environments that remind us of natural elements.” A perfect example is Crossville’s Story Teller that achieves a mirrored, light-and-dark woodgrain appearance.

In addition, Crossville’s Jazz Age lends itself to the traditional hardwood flooring that bears the nuances with timeworn grace. The high-low sheen of endless waxing, scuffs from chair legs, and subtle undulations from nightly foot traffic mark these floors with character and style. Now–in your newest designs, you can incorporate this authentic, aged hardwood patina.

Keep in mind there is a reason 90% plus of LVT sold in the U.S. are wood looks – those manufacturers haven’t developed the technology to create the subtle and complex looks we can achieve in ceramic. So, continue to sell the benefits of tile over LVT, since – like tile – the LVT “wood look” is in its trend maturity stage, yet tile can offer many more beautiful options.

Mix of mediums

Portobello America’s Ms Barcelona fuses materials like limestones, cements and basalts into a striking, minimalist surface. 

Many manufacturers have attempted and failed to accomplish the mix of different mediums; however, Portobello America’s Ms Barcelona was developed with the goal to fuse materials like limestones, cements and basalts. Michael Ward Portobello’s VP of sales points out, “Ms Barcelona creates a striking but minimalist surface that may use veins and elements of natural stones or cement textures with aggregates, in a balance that converges to something unique and synthetic.”

Quest, shown in Gray from Yurtbay, is available in both polished and matte finishes in the popular 12” x 24” format, plus 24” x 24” and 24” x 48.”

I would also note that marbles and concrete are still trends in the industry that will continue to “wow” the consumer and commercial specifiers. Most manufacturers feature a variety of options for both looks that continue to evolve with new generations of aesthetics. Just think of where we were 20 years ago when we were “selling” the feature of how many “flat screens” were used to manufacture our marble patterns.

Semih Susleyan USA General Manager for Turkish producer Yurtbay Seramik observed that, “Consumers tend towards sleeker stone looks – such as Carrara, Calacatta and Statuario looks – rather than busy marble looks. We see more people looking for rectangle wall and porcelain tiles in different (mainly small) sizes for backsplashes and shower walls, mainly in light colors.” In order to meet demand, Yurtbay Seramik increased its small size wall tile capacity in the last quarter of 2019. “We have also made a new investment to increase our polishing capacity, which will be up and running towards the end of the first quarter of 2020,” Susleyan said.

Yurtbay’s Ral 4” x 12” wall tiles in glossy and matte finish are on trend. 

Susleyan also noted the favorable effect of tariffs on Chinese tile for Turkish tile producers, which resulted in 48% increase in Turkish exports to the U.S. in 2019 compared to the previous year. “In 2018, the U.S. was the third largest market for Turkish tile manufacturers after Israel and Germany,” he said. “Thanks to increasing Chinese tariffs, U.S. became Turkey’s number one tile export market in 2019.”

Alp Er, of Ege Seramik, another leading Turkish tile producer, agreed. “At Ege, we benefited from this situation since most of our large customers transitioned many products from Chinese manufacturers to us.” Like Yurtbay, small format wall tile and polished porcelain were the two product areas where Ege had the most gain. “Those two were dominated by Chinese manufacturers for years because of the pricing and their factory set ups,” he said.

Our industry is far superior to other wall and floor covering options; we just need to let ceramic’s beauty and superior performance lead the way.

Baha Mar Casino and Hotel

LATICRETE products streamline the largest construction project in the Western hemisphere

There are big projects, and then there are huge projects. And, every once in a while, there are truly enormous projects. The Baha Mar Casino and Hotel in the Bahamian capital of Nassau is one of those enormous projects, earning the label of the largest construction project in the Western hemisphere – and Baha Mar itself is one of Trip Advisor’s top vacation spots for U.S. and global tourists. Given the pure scale of the task at hand, unique challenges related to size, international expertise and the timeline are bound to arise.

Since a grout system that could hold up to high traffic and the Caribbean weather was needed, CCA chose a host of LATICRETE grouts to suit the project’s specific needs throughout various areas of the resort.
Since the Baha Mar Hotel and Casino opened its doors, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler and Luxury Travel Advisor have recognized the as one of the best in the Bahamas.

China Construction America (CCA), the project’s international construction management firm, coordinated the design and assembly of the $4.3 billion resort to include three separate hotels, a 100,000-square-foot (9,290-square-meter) casino and a 30,000-square-foot (2,787-square-meter) spa. A water feature that spans 600 feet (182 meters) in circumference and 50 feet (15 meters) high was also to be built, along with installing tile and stone throughout the resort’s many bathrooms, floors and common areas. 

CCA chose to utilize LATICRETE® products because of the company’s track record, capacity and product portfolio to meet the needs of this massive undertaking.

“The technical expertise of LATICRETE and the company’s international presence lends itself to projects of this size,” said Wayne Hoerning, LATICRETE International Regional Manager for the Caribbean. “We worked with CCA during the Beijing Olympics, so they knew we had a team of experts that could be on the ground within days to deliver high-quality products and service.”

The challenges: shipping, scale and sound requirements

International shipping: The project required CCA to overcome the island’s shipping obstacles to deliver significant orders of materials on time to ensure construction would not be delayed, as many moving parts were happening at once. It was vital to work with a partner like LATICRETE that could ship large quantities of materials from their plant in Florida to the jobsite promptly. 

Scale: While LATICRETE has more than six decades of experience, a project of this scale is still always a daunting task. The construction team required easy-to-use products that contribute to a speedy delivery while promising long-lasting results. 

LATICRETE designed a system to reduce and eliminate sound throughout the hotel’s many floors of tile, which included the use of 170 Sound & Crack Isolation Mat, a high-performance acoustical underlayment.

Sound requirements: At a high-end resort and spa, serenity is the expectation as guests from all over the world pay top-dollar to experience the quiet, relaxing environment. To accomplish this, sound containment was one of the top priorities for the construction team as the hotel floors were constructed almost entirely of tile, typically a non-sound absorptive flooring option. 

To adhere the tiles to the water feature, 254 Platinum in white was selected for its superior strength.

LATICRETE products speed the installation of 2,200 bathrooms

With thousands of bathrooms to be built across the resort, CCA decided to outsource the work to SurePodsTM. SurePods is the leading provider of factory-built prefabricated bathroom pods in North America. They support commercial projects in the hospitality, multi-family apartments, dormitories, and assisted living markets. All 2,200 bathrooms were prefabricated using 254 Platinum thin-set mortar and grouted with SPECTRALOCK® PRO Grout at their worksite and then shipped to the Bahamas. The epoxy-based grout offers superb color uniformity, durability and stain resistance that will stand the test of time. Additionally, the grout is crack resistant and ideal for installation in areas with a wide range in temperatures, perfect for outdoors. 

With 2,200 bathrooms to be built across the resort, CCA decided to outsource the work to SurePods, a leading provider of factory-built bathroom pods in North America, headquartered in Orlando, Fla.

For maximum efficiency, each bathroom was installed as a unit. While this sped up the process, the team encountered the unique challenge of having to waterproof the thousands of prefabricated bathrooms that were shipped from the SurePods facilities in the U.S. to the island. 

CCA used HYDRO BAN®, a thin, load-bearing waterproofing and anti-fracture membrane that does not require the use of fabric in the field, coves or corners. HYDRO BAN is a single component, self-curing liquid rubber polymer that forms a flexible, seamless waterproofing membrane that bonds to a wide variety of substrates including copper, steel, stainless steel and PVC plumbing fixtures. 

“HYDRO BAN is the right product for installing waterproofing under the SurePods prefabricated bathrooms,” said Hoerning. “CCA’s contractors were able to prep the areas for installation in under ten minutes. When you think about it, this is truly amazing. An entire room in less time than it takes to read a LATICRETE Project Spotlight.” 

HYDRO BAN was also used to waterproof the massive water feature that is situated at the entrance of the resort. To adhere the tiles to the water feature, 254 Platinum in white was selected for its superior strength. 

Sound containment was one of the top priorities for the construction team since the hotel floors were constructed almost entirely of tile, typically a non-sound absorptive flooring option

In consultation with CCA, LATICRETE designed a system to reduce and eliminate sound throughout the hotel’s many floors of tile, which included the use of 170 Sound & Crack Isolation Mat, a high-performance acoustical underlayment. The 3 millimeter (.11 inch) thick rubberized membrane was installed with 252 Silver, a polymer-modified, bagged, cementitious thin-set powder that is mixed with water. The tiles were installed over the underlayment system using 253 Gold, a polymer-fortified thinset that was ready to go within two hours. These materials were sourced from LATICRETE’s U.S. plants along the East Coast. 

“With so much tile and stone to install, LATICRETE’s sound mat and adhesives were the right choice,” said Graeme Moran, CCA Project Manager. “The workability of 252 Silver and 253 Gold eased the construction process and let us stay on schedule.”

Finally, CCA needed a grout system that could hold up to high traffic and the Caribbean weather. To achieve this, CCA chose a host of LATICRETE grouts to suit the project’s specific needs throughout various areas of the resort.

LATICRETE partnership resulted in project success

“With a project of this scale, we needed a good partner and found it in LATICRETE,” said Dagen Li, CCA Procurement Manager. “LATICRETE helped us refine the design of the project even after construction commenced. Furthermore, they were able to provide the products that met the demanding needs and the specific requirements of this unprecedented project.”

Since the Baha Mar Hotel and Casino opened its doors, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler and Luxury Travel Advisor have recognized the as one of the best in the Bahamas.

At a high-end resort and spa, serenity is the expectation as guests from all over the world pay top-dollar to experience the quiet, relaxing environment.

Updated woods and marble, industrial chic and color punctuate new products

Tile of Spain manufacturers traveled to Italy last fall to showcase their latest collections at Cersaie, the International Exhibition of Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings. As Europe’s number one ceramic production and export, Spain is a regular participant at the show. This year, over 100 Spanish ceramic manufacturers, unveiled their latest offerings in a preview for what’s to come in 2020.

Color of the Year: Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue

The Pantone Institute has chosen its Color of the Year for 2020: a timeless and enduring blue hue, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue. This hue is elegant in its simplicity and suggestive of the sky at dusk. 

The reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight the desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.

Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. Aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue re-centers our thoughts. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience. A red undertone imbues this tone with a feeling of energy and vibrancy. This universal color is relatable around the world and in different cultures.

“We are living in a time that requires trust and faith,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. “It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on. Imbued with a deep resonance, Classic Blue provides an anchoring foundation. A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking; challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication.”

As technology continues to race ahead of the human ability to process it all, it is easy to understand why we gravitate to colors that are honest and offer the promise of protection. Non-aggressive and easily relatable, the trusted PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue lends itself to relaxed interaction. Associated with the return of another day, this universal favorite is comfortably embraced.

For over 20 years, Pantone’s Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design. The Pantone Color of the Year selection process requires thoughtful consideration and trend analysis that culls new color influences from around the world, gleaning inspiration from the entertainment industry and films in production, traveling art collections and new artists, fashion, all areas of design, popular travel destinations, as well as new lifestyles, playstyles, and socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from new technologies, materials, textures, and effects that impact color, relevant social media platforms and even upcoming sporting events that capture worldwide attention.

Customers clamor for color, size and marble looks

As trends heat up in the beginning of 2020, we take a look at what’s selling in different regions of the country.

At Arley, beige and color are taking prominence in the market. Shown is the Qualis Palace Ceramica series.

NE/SE/MW: Arley Wholesale

We start with Arley Wholesale, headquartered in Scranton, Pa., with a broad territory that covers northeast states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland; Midwest states of, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio; and southeast states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. 

Scott Levy, president of Arley, said that beige and color both are becoming more important in the market, with customers cherry picking from product lines to create more “eclectic and unique installations than in years past. Marble is still popular but stone looks that use digital technology and glazes to heighten authentic looks are really the main direction now. And though traditional formats are the big sellers, larger formats are gaining importance.”  

When it comes to installation products and contractor habits, Levy observed that “installers are migrating to the better products.” Premixed grouts simplify and expedite installation by eliminating issues that come with mixing with water such as component ratio and temperature. They also allow an installer to do larger areas with a guarantee of color matching,” he said. “The larger format tiles necessitate using better mortars and installers have responded.  The slight cost upgrade is negated by the quality and speed of the job with no callbacks.”

Midwest/Flyover States: Virginia Tile

With a slight overlap with Arley’s territory, Virginia Tile distributes to Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Sean Cilona, Virginia Tile’s new Director – Products & Suppliers – gives us insight into what is selling in this part of the country. 

Larger formats are gaining ground in Virginia Tile territory as in this Arpege line by Cerdomus. 

He’s observed that acceptance for ceramic tile application in areas outside of kitchens and baths is starting to slowly emerge in the flyover states.

Glossy and matte wall tiles are turning heads, in elongated formats, larger-sized subway tile like 8” x 20” and larger square wall tile. Formats other than planks are breathing new life into wood looks, and conversely rectangle looks in non-wood designs are gaining favor. Travertine and traditional wood looks are gaining ground, as are larger square and rectangle formats. 

Cilona says natural stone is fading, since better technology is bringing even more realism to manufactured slabs, and cost and care create concerns. Commodity wood in smaller formats is waning, and 12” x 24” sizes – long a favored format – are going the way of the 12” x 12” as bigger formats gain prominence. 

Florida and Caribbean: D&B Tile Distributors

At D&B, hex formats provide interest without being too outlandish. Pictured is Atlas Concorde Marvel Edge Calacatta Gold Hex. 

With respect to the south Florida market, D&B Tile Distributors CEO Harold Yarborough said expanded formats larger than 24” x 48” are percolating, beating out sales of the traditional 24” x 24” tiles – even for bathrooms. And hex formats are giving customers something different without it being outlandish or overwhelming. In terms of shapes, “Different types of mosaics with new innovative shapes in glass or ceramic,” are getting attention.   

The porcelain Calacatta look is sweeping the country in a range of formats. Shown are Marvel Grey Fluery rectified tile from Atlas Concorde and Salsa glass tile from Crossville on the back wall.

Yarborough said the porcelain Calacatta look is sweeping the country in all formats, and is very strong in Florida. 

Wood is being used in innovative ways in Yarborough’s market, such as “wood-look porcelain being used on exterior vertical surfaces for high-end residential and commercial buildings,” he said. But although the wood-look is still popular overall, sales are flat, he reported. Larger sizes of wood planks and formats that take wood beyond the traditional are keeping the look alive. Overall, though, tile is king in Florida. 

Wood is being used in innovative ways in the Florida market. Here’s Atlas Concord’s Arbor in Cognac, from D&B Tile Distributors. 

“Our customer base will run tile throughout the house and into the bedrooms and the living space outside,” he said. 

In terms of setting materials, Yarborough said, “Due to the large format tiles, we are selling the LHT type mortars.” Ready-to-use grouts, which D&B values and has been selling since they hit the market years ago, are still a struggle with less-openminded tile setters. 

Also up and coming in D&B’s market are “manufacturers promoting the waterproof shower systems that improve the overall shower experience to the builder or consumer,” he said. “The issue is getting municipalities to approve these systems. This system will continue to grow.” 

CA: Westside Tile and Stone

Mathew Weiner of Westside Tile and Stone, Canoga Park, Calif., described the conditions on the West Coast, with a booming Los Angeles housing market. “The tile industry continues to evolve to accommodate everyone’s taste,” he said. Many home owners are spending more time in their homes and want to create an oasis in their bathroom and a kitchen that will make their friends and neighbors drool. With the increasingly abundant tile options available in the marketplace, sustainable goods are becoming more sought out along with unique materials that will differentiate one installation from the next.”

Bold colors and ceramic patterns are gracing West Coast new and remodeled homes, like this Euphoria from Sonoma Tilemakers, available at Westside Tile and Stone. 

Though ceramic tiles, Carrara marble or white marble porcelain slabs reign supreme, Weiner is “happy to see bold colors and patterns starting to pop up.” New construction and remodeled homes vie for ceramic tile in a wide array of colors and patterns installed in traditional and contemporary layouts including chevron, herringbone or staggered brick. 

In the LA region, Carrara marble is a unique, timeless blend of colors and tones that is as “popular as ever in a variety of sizes, finishes and mosaics that allow it to be used in all sorts of residential applications,” Weiner said. It’s used in kitchens and bathrooms to bring a beautiful blend of cool and warm tones that blend and bridge styles together. 

The popularity of Carrara marble has also spawned a vast array of porcelain look alikes made even more authentic and by varied digital-print technology. “Just like the wood-looking tiles, these marble-looking tiles allow for easy maintenance without having to worry about staining or discoloration that can occur with real marble,” he said.

Speaking of porcelain, Weiner said “porcelain slabs have taken the market by storm,” especially for homeowners who choose to remodel their homes with large porcelain slabs that create stunning effects in showers. “The advantage of porcelain slabs is not only the jaw-dropping effect of having large pieces of seamless tile in your shower, but also the cost advantage versus purchasing real marble slabs,” he said, also citing how durable they are and easy they are to clean. “With the higher demand of porcelain slabs taking over the market, we’re seeing a multitude of marble-looking as well as onyx-looking slabs in the marketplace that fit every style and need for the market.” 

Residential customers are clamoring for natural Carrara marble in a range of sizes, finishes and mosaics, like this selection of natural marble from Artistic Tile. 
Carrara marble lookalikes, like this porcelain slab from Apavisa, are popular at Westside Tile and Stone. 

The impact of LVT

The tile industry is feeling the impact of luxury vinyl tile (LVT) development – but just how much is it really influencing sales?

In much of the country, LVT IS affecting sales, with Cilona saying the wood plank business is experiencing the most negative effect. But distributors are getting creative on fighting this competition. 

Arley’s Levy said, “We are promoting the Why Tile campaign and working with our customers to show why tile is a better and long-term more economical option than LVT.”

D&B’s Yarborough admitted that LVT is encroaching on commercial and residential sales, saying “It is here to stay until customers understand the limitations of it. It is a cheap flooring solution like carpet…a short-term solution to tile.”

On the West Coast, LVT isn’t having a tremendous impact, said Westside’s Weiner. For some of Westside’s LVT-leaning customers, the distributor is “able to show them the true benefits of tile versus that product.”

The lack of durability is an issue, he added. “Most of the areas that have installed LVT after awhile have lots of scratches, and tremendous wear, frankly leading to having to be replaced much faster than if tile was installed. The most important aspect is for us to educate our clients on what is needed for their application and not necessarily a price factor.” 

Mara Heras, Vice President of Marketing for Emser, chimed in, adding that LVT “has created confusion around ‘waterproof.’ End users and consumers need to understand that although the product itself is waterproof that does not mean the installation is waterproof.”

There’s reason to continue to have confidence in ceramic and porcelain tile. “We continue to drive home the message of quality and longevity and applications that LVT cannot perform in,” Cilona said. “As we see this rush of commercial business being driven to lower cost products like LVT, I believe that in a few years, the failure of those products to stand up to the demands of the applications will drive those customers back to ceramic tile. I think that products like LVT do have a value and position in the market, but I believe that in an effort to grow in an environment of cost savings, they have been oversold.” 

The outlook for stone in 2020

Natural stone has been with us for millions of years, and it is still going strong.

In 2020, natural stone might not match up well with the Color of the Year announcements of Sherwin-Williams: Naval (SW 6244), Behr: Back To Nature/Light Green S340-4, Pantone: Classic Blue 19-4052 or Benjamin Moore: First Light 2102-70. Although there are blue, green and pink marbles and granites, I would expect that the tried-and-true whites, beiges and grey natural stones will continue to be preferred for floors, walls, and countertops this year.  

Quartzites have become much more readily available in a much broader range of colors and ranges. The leather finish, which has a slight undulating surface with a soft sheen, seems to be popular. Quartzite is an extremely hard material and often is harder than granite. It is tough on diamond cutting blades as they wear much faster. Taj Mahal is a popular choice as it is beige with a white background and a lot of vein movement. 

Taj Mahal quartize on the exterior walls and limestone flooring again star in this posh home.

Engineered Stone

Quartz stone has continued to grow in popularity. Also known as engineered stone, it’s not a natural stone, but contains about 90% quartzite bound with a resin. It gives a more consistent look than most natural stones. Since it isn’t natural, it doesn’t have all the benefits of a natural stone that is millions of years old, like beautiful variation of colors and veining, although for countertops the pricing tends to be better and it seems to be kind of “trendish” like the way the Corian countertops were popular years ago. Quartz stone is coming out in larger color and veining selection options, and has taken some market share from the natural stone countertop market, but hasn’t had much of an impact for floor and wall applications. Natural granite stone is still the preferred choice for kitchen countertops, and I expect a lot of it to be sold in 2020.


This high-end home interior features Taj Mahal quartize countertops and limestone flooring.

Another product that is new and threatening to take market share from natural stone countertops is gauged porcelain tile panels that now come in 2 cm (3/4”) thick panels. They are being promoted through stone fabricators because they can use the same equipment used to fabricate natural stone countertops. Fabricators can polish the edges or bullnose or miter them like you do with a natural stone. With digital inkjet technology, tile manufacturers can produce panels that look like natural stone and have the durability of a porcelain tile. Of course GPTP won’t have the intrinsic value of a natural stone that is millions of years old and that can be refinished to look like new after years of wear and tear. And all of these products need to be installed properly in order to get them to perform well and provide years of service and beauty. 

Limestone is still very popular particularly with the high-end residences. Many of the tile manufacturers produce porcelain tiles to replicate the soft beige limestones with subtle veining. Limestones often have fossil inclusions that give it a unique look.

Sealing stone

This high-end residence has Taj Mahal quartize on the exterior walls and limestone flooring on the pool deck. 

There is a lot of confusion about whether to seal a natural stone, and if so how to seal it and with what. There are different opinions, but I always recommend sealing with a penetrating sealer. I don’t recommend sealing all sides of a stone since sealers are general bond-breakers. Some companies recommend sealing all six sides of the stone, but require that you use an ANSI A118.15 high-strength thinset to bond the tile since it needs added strength to counteract the effect of the sealer. Sealers don’t last that long, depending on the environment and what wear and tear the stone is subjected to. The rule of thumb is if water beads up on the surface of the stone and doesn’t darken the stone when you wipe it up, the sealer is still there and working. Sealers don’t make the stone waterproof or stain proof, but it does make it resistant to moisture and staining and easier to maintain.

A Carrara quarry mountain in Italy, as natural stone marble is mined.

Natural stone does require more maintenance than a ceramic tile, but it can always be restored to look like new by professional restoration companies. There is something about touching or standing on a natural stone that is millions of years old and has the natural colors and veining with the random variations that give it such intrinsic beauty and value. After all, if you look around the world, the one thing that is always remains from ancient times as the legacy of those generations is natural stone.

Mosaic artist Allison Eden builds a fashion empire from a chance encounter with colored glass

Eden says her work is all about color. “People want different!” she said.

 Life is really, really hard. You need to find a positive outlet.

– Allison Eden

There is an ebullient, vibrant force afoot in the world of glass mosaics. To say she is creative would be an understatement. It might be more accurate to say she is the Lady Gaga of the tile world, bringing to bear a plucky, energetic mix of inventiveness, innovation, cheerfulness, enthusiasm, openness, tenacity, excellence – and fun – to the art and craft of glass mosaics. 

Eden got started in glass mosaic making when she was captivated by colorful sheet glass in a Greenwich Village store window. 

To talk with Allison Eden is to get swept up in how much she is in love with what she does – creating custom designs for a wide range of applications, from residences to retail, hotels to hospitals, to community centers to restaurants and everything in between. Her custom designs have been featured in Architectural Digest, Interior Design Magazine, Architectural Record, Metropolitan Home, New York Cottages and Gardens, and Elle Décor and grace the homes of such celebrities as Elton John and Kris Kardashian. Her passion is palpable, and by the time you’re done conversing with her, you are sold on how her colorful designs help make the world a better place. 

Case in point: Eden was commissioned to bring a pop of color to a hospital in Barrow, Alaska, to fight the high suicide rate. Barrow – the subject of the 2012 movie “Big Miracle” – is the northernmost city in the United States, and has 67 days of darkness in the winter. After the hospital, her work enlivened a hotel, community center and school. Her dedication to her work is such that she wound up flying for 72 hours on five flights to lend some direction to the initial hospital installation after the tile contractor was mauled by a polar bear. 

Captivated by color

All of Eden’s designs are hand-cut, using nippers and pencil cutters: no waterjet or power tools.

Eden got her start at the Fashion Institute of Technology in the 1990s, graduated with a BFA and went to work designing a women’s line for Nautica in New York City. Captivated by some colorful sheet glass displayed in the window of a store in Greenwich Village one day, she bought some, took it home and experimented with it on a wall. Then she broke it with a hammer, glued it with Elmer’s to a piece of cardboard, and brought it to the tile store that was just opening up across the street from her apartment. They loved it.

She opened up a studio, and started growing a business, putting ads in the Yellow Pages in every single category into which she thought she might fit: architect, interior designer, fashion, designer, contractor. It worked: she got a call in 1995 to tile a Burger King floor in three weeks. 

“No problem!” she said. “You’ve come to the right place.” She bought a video on how to tile a floor, then showed up in the middle of winter at the job site to create a Brazilian Wave mosaic on the floor, in 20-degree weather, while it was raining and snowing inside. She hired installation help, got it done on time, and invoiced her client with a form she bought at Staples. 

She continued pounding the pavement, carrying Polaroid photos of her “fabulous new product” to companies in the Garment Center she knew, asking if anyone was looking to renovate or redecorate.

“I got one job after another,” she said. “I learned a lot on every project.” Eventually she moved to a studio across from Macy’s until the rent skyrocketed from $6,000/month to $30,000/month. Eden and her husband, who manages her studio, were able to get help from the city as artists and manufacturers who were keeping jobs in New York, and moved their operation to Brooklyn, employing 14 people to cut and assemble the pieces. 

Speaking of which, all of Eden’s designs are hand-cut, using nippers and pencil cutters: no waterjet or power tools. She crafts painterly details of shadows and highlights, all hand-cut and then assembled with plastic front mounting. “I need to see everything!” she said. “You peel the plastic off like tape. It lets you be sure the joints match up perfectly.”

Shoes at Bloomies

Bloomingdale’s department store sought Eden out to create permanent glass mosaic sculptures for the store: a perfume bottle that towers nine to ten feet tall in the entryway and a “monster shoe” for the shoe department. “My shoe gets more hits on Instagram than anything else in the store,” she said. While she was there, she was approached by LebaTex to develop a line of Pop Art fabrics based on her tile designs. 

Eden’s permanent sculptural mosaics at Bloomingdale’s Manhattan flagship store.

She asked the Bloomie’s CEO to take a meeting to discuss her textile ideas. “I went in with the fabric pillows and clothing and decorated the entire room with how I wanted the Allison Eden Department to look,” she explained. “We had a huge pop-up event and sold out of everything. Then they asked me to make a shoe and handbag to match the mosaic shoe. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive. Maybe someone will believe and see your vision!” Bloomies has continued to support Eden, featuring her designs in their famed windows. “Mosaics speak for themselves,” she said. “They are bright, happy and different. I love being in the tile business!”

Inspiration is everywhere

Eden’s tile and interior designs have inspired a line of fabrics by LebaTex. 

How does Eden come up with her designs? Partly she is influenced by her interior designer mom, the glitter and glamour of the 70s and 80s and all the over-the-top styles of that age. “It’s shaped how I design – big, bold,” she said.

Other inspirations come from her travels or simply from walking about the “very vital city” that New York is. “You find the beauty of other places and the beauty of your home,” she said, recording her inspirations in a book she carries with her everywhere. She also grooves on fashion and textiles, spending time in fabric stores and attending shows during fashion week. 

Her very first collection was filled with things she loves: lips, palm trees, unicorns, rainbows and lip gloss. “My husband Gary said, ‘Why can’t you make anything saleable?’” she said. “I will sell more of this than anything. Your home needs to be positive. People want to live in a place that is happy.”

Eden says her work is all about color, talking about the popularity of the Moroccan tile and all the color it embodies. “People want different!” she said. “People may tell me that’s not true, but we have never been busier with custom projects.”

The trend to social media is a key driver for her business too. “People want a feature wall so they can take pictures in their home with their fabulous lifestyles and their fabulous walls,” she said. “And restaurants are doing that now – creating something unique and wild so their clients can be wowed. It sets them apart from others.”

Eden’s first tile collection was filled with things she loves, including unicorns and rainbows. “People want to live in a place that’s happy,” she said. 

Quality products, quality installation

Eden is keen on U.S. – made materials for her designs, often from family-run glassmaking businesses. “I collect a lot of old glass and use that in my designs,” she said. “When a factory closes, I try to buy all the glass.” She lamented about the cheapening of products and the growing propensity to buy cheap, low-quality products, often shipped from China.

“If we could be like we used to, we could be an industry that is self-sufficient,” she said. “I keep a really high-end business. I take such pride in every single piece I make; it has to be perfect.” 

Although she observed that the Art Tile Village at Coverings has gotten smaller over the years, she makes it a point to be there to see her clients and stores (she’s represented in over 400 outlets around the world), and you can find her in New Orleans this year at booth 4107. “We get wonderful support from our tile stores,” she said. 

Though Eden once did her own installation, she lets the pros handle that now. “You need a good installer to do tile,” she said. “[NTCA member] Rod Katwyk did one of my installations years ago and visits me at Coverings. And LATICRETE has been very good to us.” 

Elizabeth Lambert of Lambert Tile & Stone, an NTCA Five-Star Contractor in Colorado, installed Eden’s mosaics years ago, and found them very easy to work with. “We follow the instructions,” she said. “You give her the exact dimensions of the space and she numbers all the pieces so they interlock the way she designed it. She sends a bunch of extra pieces, and whenever we call she is on the phone in seconds. She is very accessible. And she understands the need for qualified labor to install. The last thing she wants is a failure with her name on it.

“She is a total artist,” Lambert continued. “There are not that many vendors in the U.S. that do work like that. It’s unique and delicate. She can create anything – send her images and she’ll find a way to make it happen.”

From pop art to classic figures to celebrities and abstract designs, “She can create anything,” said NTCA Five-Star Contractor Elizabeth Lambert. 

Visual and tactile texture, speckled surfaces, terracotta and sage color combos tantalize in tile

The Fall-Winter Trend Report has emerged after Cersaie in Bologna, Italy, last fall, and it predicts what Italian tile manufacturers will be producing in the year to come, in terms of style, color and format. 

One of the dominant trends is a leaning towards warmer tones, including terracotta and sage, and other earthy colors like olive, blush, ochre and rust. And this year among the Ceramics of Italy booths, warm blush tones and muted green hues definitely took center stage. The palette included a wide variety of iterations – from blue-greens and dusty jades to rich corals and earthy oranges. 

Read on for more information about this trend and six others. From a design standpoint, the new collections from Italian tile producers were full of striking patterns, saturated color and interesting surface effects made possible by new technologies and collaborations with famous design studios and fashion houses such as Mendini, Lissoni, Versace, Valentino and Rubelli. Italian brands also demonstrated their expanding library of product offerings with sinks, shower floors and kitchen countertops made of porcelain tile slabs.

Islands are the crown jewel of kitchen renovations, Houzz study finds

Backsplash feature walls are strong areas for tile

This year we take a departure from a straight color story to explore the 2020 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study*. Yes, tile and stone are used in more areas of the home than kitchens, but kitchens are a key space for tile, and trends in kitchens will help shape the direction of tile style for the next year. 

Large islands continue to be a prominent feature in renovated kitchens, according to the 2020 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study. The survey of nearly 2,600 U.S. homeowners using Houzz who are in the midst of, are planning, or recently completed a kitchen project, found that nearly two-thirds of renovated kitchens feature an island (61%). One third of homeowners add an island during renovations (33%), while nearly a quarter upgrade an existing island (22%). Islands are sizable features in kitchens, with a third measuring more than seven feet long (32%) and another 39% six to seven feet long. In addition to their substantial physical presence, islands are a hub of activity from dining (58%) to entertaining (49%) to socializing (45%).

Countertop renovations were cited by 89% of respondents. Jessica Cain © 2018 Houzz

This is an important detail for tile setters, since installing tile around a kitchen island takes planning and layout savvy. It’s fortunate then, that NTCA is offering a new workshop topic in its 2020 national road shows – “The Ins and Outs of Layout.” In the March issue of TileLetter, Becky Serbin, NTCA’s Education and Curriculum director, explained that islands will be addressed specifically in this new workshop. “We will have a mockup of a room, and contractors will do a layout with foam blocks to simulate a kitchen island, to help them figure out how to install around it,” Serbin said. 

Cabinet colors inform tile selection; countertop colors contrast

Countertop renovations were cited by 89% of respondents, followed by 84% who upgraded backsplashes, the two top areas for updating, and both a target for tile and porcelain slab products. When it comes to appearance, many choose island finishes that stand out from the rest of the kitchen. Two in five homeowners adding or upgrading their island cabinets opt for an island cabinet color that contrasts with their main cabinets (39%). Top island cabinet colors are:

Backsplash feature walls are making a statement in kitchen renovations, with ceramic or porcelain tile dominating. Marni Epstein-Mevis © 2018 Houzz
  • Gray (26%) 
  • Blue (19%) 
  • Black (11%) 

Contrasting countertop colors are also common among those updating their kitchen island countertops (29%), including white (23%) and medium wood (21%). Among homeowners choosing contrasting countertop materials when updating their island (26%), butcher block tops the list (41%). Nearly all new islands have storage features (98%), and over half (52%) have built-in appliances including microwaves (32%), dishwashers (31%), garbage disposals (24%), cooktops (21%) and beverage refrigerators (9%). 

Kitchen upgrade spending impacted by tariffs on Chinese products

Financial investment in kitchen projects continues to grow, with median spend on major kitchen remodels** completed in mid-2019 at $35,000, up 17% from a year ago ($30,000). However, while many homeowners opt for complete kitchen overhauls, the breadth of kitchen renovations has been scaled back for the second year in a row. For example, upgrades to countertops and sinks are not as widespread (89% and 83%, respectively) compared with two years ago (94% and 90%). Similarly, structural upgrades are not as frequent, including opening the kitchen to other interior rooms (46%), changing kitchen layout (46%), or adding square footage (35%).

Ceramic or porcelain is chosen for kitchen floors by 23% of respondents. Jours & Nuits © 2018 Houzz

“It is remarkable to see median spend on kitchen remodels grow by double digits for the third year in a row,” said Nino Sitchinava, Houzz principal economist. “Combined with a two-year decline in the scope of kitchen remodels, spend increases confirm our findings of significant price inflation in the home remodeling industry due to changes in international trade policy. Homeowners are dealing with increasing product prices by substituting materials, as indicated by slower growth in the use of engineered quartz and a decline in the popularity of engineered flooring materials, highly impacted by tariffs on imported materials from China.”

Trending styles in kitchens 

Houzz reported the following trending kitchen styles, features and finishes. Customers are looking for a wow factor with tiled kitchen backsplashes that rise from countertops to ceilings. And though vinyl flooring is on the rise in kitchens, 23% of respondents said ceramic or porcelain tile is still their top choice for kitchen floors. 

Styles trend transitional: Among the 85% of renovating homeowners who change their kitchen style, transitional, contemporary and modern top the list (21, 16 and 15%, respectively). Farmhouse style appears to have peaked last year, with a surge in 2018 to 14%, then falling to 11% in 2019.

Backsplash feature walls make a statement: One in ten homeowners upgrading a backsplash goes bold, installing it all the way to the ceiling (11%). Another 63% install tile from their counter to upper cabinets or range hood. When it comes to color, white is the most popular (35%), followed by multi-colored (20%) and gray (15%). Ceramic or porcelain tile continues to dominate in kitchen backsplashes (57%), followed by marble (10%).

Vinyl flooring on the rise: Vinyl flooring, the third overall choice in renovated kitchens, continues a three-year climb from 10% in 2018 and 12% in 2019 to 14% in 2020. Leading flooring choices, among those upgrading their flooring, are stained or unstained hardwood (29%). Ceramic or porcelain tile holds the number two spot for floors thought it dropped 3% from 26% in 2019.

White and shaker cabinets hold steady: White continues to be the most popular cabinet color (45%), followed at a distance by medium wood (11%) and gray (10%). Shaker cabinet door styles are by far the most popular among upgraded cabinetry (61%), followed at a distance by flat-panel and raised-panel (21 and 18%, respectively).

Margaret Wright Photography © 2018 Houzz

Recessed lights reign: Recessed lights continue to be the most popular light fixture upgrades (69%), followed by under-cabinet and pendant lights (65 and 56%, respectively). Not surprisingly, 92% of homeowners upgrading their islands choose new lighting above the island, with pendants being the most common option (66%).

High-tech growth slows: While high-tech features remain popular among those upgrading faucets and appliances, their growth has slowed slightly. Half of upgraded faucets are high tech (51% versus 57% in 2019), boasting water efficiency, no-fingerprint coating or touch-free activation. Similarly, a quarter of major appliances feature high-tech features (25% versus 30% in 2019), with wireless controls leading the pack. 

Hiring of professional help has remained steady over the past several years, with more than four in five homeowners hiring professional help for their kitchen renovations (85%). General contractors top the list (51%), followed by kitchen designers (22%), interior designers (13%), architects (11%) and kitchen remodelers (10%).

Download the full 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study at

Lauren Andersen © 2019 Houzz

*The “U.S. Kitchen Trends Study” is an online survey that fielded 2,598 U.S. Houzz users between June and July 2019. .

**A major kitchen remodel refers to a remodel in which at least all the cabinets and appliances are replaced.

Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. For more information, visit

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