New horizons for ceramic surfaces | by Elena Cattaneo

The dominant trends in the sector offer useful insights into the potential design scenarios of the near future and are evolving in different ways in response to a variety of needs, from a skilful interpretation of traditional decorative motifs through to a sweeping and farsighted vision of technological innovation.

The versatility of ceramic surfaces coupled with in-depth technological research is fuelling an endless sequence of trends. Rather than stand still, the ceramic sector points the way forward for architects and interior designers. Each year at the end of Cersaie (this year’s show will take place from 28 September to 2 October 2020), the people responsible for communication in this sector face the challenge of drawing together the many different proposals from exhibitors and incorporating them into coherent guidelines. This is what we plan to do here, based on the enormous range of new products presented by the sector’s leading brands.


Technology and high technical performance

The use of innovative technology has led to the production of ceramic tiles in ever larger sizes and smaller thicknesses. A number of companies have also concentrated on surface processing operations aimed at producing interesting and functional combinations of materials, recreating textures that closely resemble other materials such as wood, marble and stone, or achieving outstanding environmental performance.

01. Limpha, from Casalgrande Padana, belongs to the generation of Bios Ceramics® bioactive materials with anti-bacterial, self-cleaning and pollutant-reducing properties. In the Coral Rose version, a highly realistic digital print transforms the interior and exterior walls into vertical gardens complete with flowering buds.

02. Flaviker has used a three-dimensional graphic effect to reproduce the special qualities of travertine, a type of limestone popular since ancient times, on the ceramic surface of the Navona collection. Navona even comes in two different graphic versions, Vein and Cross, which imitate the directions in which the quarried blocks are cut.

03. Laminam’s new In-Side technology is capable of seamlessly reproducing the aesthetics of natural stone across the body, surface and edges of the slab, a continuous material effect that is maintained even after the mechanical finishing operations. The photo shows a detail of a kitchen composition using In-Side slabs in the black mottled Pietra di Cardoso version.

04. The new StepWise™ technology patented by Marazzi can also be applied to a small, highly decorative format such as that of the D_Segni Blend Crucible series. The result is a floor covering with high slip resistance coupled with a soft touch and ease of cleaning. These properties are intrinsic to new products rather than created through a surface treatment.

05. The Endless porcelain tile collection from Leonardo stands out for its exceptional technical qualities. The Preziosi version brings a touch of colour to spaces, while Forti evokes the timeless classicism of black and white.

06. Delight from Lea Ceramiche is a complete ceramic tile collection offering a choice of four sophisticated marble surfaces (pictured, Calacatta Oro) with novel tactile sensations and exquisite decorations, available in six large sizes.


The outdoors and the need for nature

Outdoor spaces have become increasingly important in recent years. With long-term climate forecasts pointing to long periods of milder weather even in winter, we may find ourselves spending time outdoors for much of the year. In new buildings, the presence of large windows tends to blur the distinction between interior and exterior. This is prompting companies to speed up their research into materials that are tough, practical and durable, as well as aesthetically appealing. Nature is the most common source of inspiration, particularly surfaces that coordinate with or closely resemble natural stone.

01. The Indian Summer rectified porcelain stoneware slabs, produced in a 20 mm thickness specially for outdoor installation, has a distinctive colour inspired by the beauty of Indian slate, a material renowned for its imperviousness. The Bet collection from Gambini Group is available in a 60×90 cm rectangular size and is suitable for installation on gravel, sand or grass.

02. Cercom’s collection of Quarzi ceramic surfaces is inspired by quartzites from the Alps. The outdoor version comes with an R11 Grip surface and in 60×120 cm and 60×60 cm sizes.

03. The new Promenade collection from Serenissima explores the aesthetics of a natural stone from southern France. It is available in an outdoor version with a thickness of 19 mm (60×120 cm and 60×60 cm) and R11 finish suitable for dry or traditional mortar bed installation and can be used to create raised floors on adjustable supports.

04. Suitable for both interior and exterior use thanks to its grip surface, the Stonerock series from Century (Fincibec Group) recreates the vigour of natural materials in a product that is ideal for contemporary architecture. The special TWO 20 mm thickness meets the specific design requirements of pool edge areas.

05. The Pietre d’Europa porcelain tile collection from La Fabbrica is inspired by three different European stones, each with its own identity. Available in innovative sizes, the R11 finish version comes in 10 and 20 mm thicknesses ideal for creating a sense of continuity with outdoor areas.

06. Megeve Cerdisa from Ricchetti is a splendid ceramic material that faithfully reproduces the craftsmanship and natural warmth of the wooden planks traditionally used in mountain resorts.

07. The Loft collection from Ceramica Rondine is inspired by the appeal of industrial cement flooring in its most natural form. The collection is available in six different colours and numerous sizes, including a brand new 100×100 cm format.

08. Even the name of this new collection from Cotto d’Este refers to the material that inspired it: Lithos, the Greek word for rock. The highly distinctive porcelain surface is the result of an in-depth study of the most prestigious natural stones combined with the brand’s technological expertise. It comes in five different versions, including Grip and Sabbiata surfaces specially designed for outdoor installation.


Decors for the most intimate space

The design of domestic and hotel bathrooms is progressing in leaps and bounds. Without question, the bathroom is the space that has attracted the greatest interest from interior designers. Ever larger in size, it is seeing growing demand for custom designs and dedicated functions, while in many cases it is the surface coverings that determine the way spaces are subdivided. The bathroom is the space where we can indulge in decorations, colours and textures that would be difficult to use successfully in any other interior.

01. Rectified porcelain embraces the art of illumination thanks to the mother-of-pearl onyx effect finish. Akoya from Ceramica Sant’Agostino is available in four colours, a range of different sizes and a thickness of 10 mm.

02. The Glitch porcelain tile collection from Ceramiche Piemme was designed by the London-based firm Benoy. The meaning of the collection is inherent in the name itself, the word “glitch” referring to the flicker that is produced on a computer screen by an unforeseen error. The intention was to recreate the errors of digital technology in material form.

03. Colour takes centre stage in the new Hub collection from Naxos, a series of ceramic surfaces with powerful shades and linear designs. The combination of white-body wall tiles with porcelain floor tiles makes it a complete solution for design applications.

04. Concept 1 from Gigacer creates a harmonious living space with a high level of uniformity between the different rooms. It is a hard-wearing, eclectic porcelain tile collection in natural colours, available in five background shades, five surfaces and three thicknesses.

05. The new Tele di Marmo Revolution collection from Emilceramica consists of large slabs with a marble effect that brings a touch of elegance to architectural spaces.

06. Matter, one of the new products from Settecento, is based on an exploration of handcrafted materials by Massimo Nadalini. The idea was to return to the original value of ceramics, recreating imperfections in particular through the production of a series of plaster casts.


Legacy of the past

We noted the resurgence and rapid diffusion of ceramic surfaces inspired by early twentieth century cement tiles, but in reality this was just the beginning of a broader trend. A number of Italian companies are devoting time and energy to the study of materials and decorations typical of previous historical periods, in most cases associated with their own local traditions. This has given rise to a number of highly original collections produced in accordance with contemporary criteria but inspired by traditional aesthetics.

01. Play 2020 is the new decorative porcelain tile collection from ABK devoted to the 20×20 cm size. Concrete Retrò, in particular, is inspired by early twentieth-century terrazzo floors and even reproduces their aged appearance.

02. Marble has now become widely accepted for the decoration of contemporary spaces, and thanks to porcelain stoneware can be used in the most diverse living contexts. Bloom from Del Conca is available in the form of large eye-catching slabs in 120×120 cm and 120×260 cm sizes.

03. Medley from Ergon offers a contemporary interpretation of classic terrazzo flooring. The ceramic tile collection comes in two concrete and three terrazzo versions distinguished by the shape and size of the individual chips.

04. The colours and patterns of the Materic series (20×20 cm) from Elios Ceramica reinvent the consistency of terracotta-effect wall tiles, recreating on the surface the unpredictable colour variations typical of handmade products.

05. The Molo Audace stone pier is located in the heart of the port city of Trieste and is a symbol of elegance and culture. The Molo Audace collection from Cir was designed to capture that unique world with its wealth of traditions, combining the neutral colours of stone with accent colours that personalise the glazed fine porcelain stoneware surfaces.

06.  The bevel edge wall tiles, popular for large-scale projects at the beginning of the last century, are the result of extensive research and study by Etruria design. In the new Concetto Spaziale collection, stylistic experimentation has led to a fresh interpretation of three-dimensionality based on a continuous interaction between craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology.

07. Luxury and sophistication are reinterpreted in the Arcadia marble-effect porcelain tile collection from Monocibec. The series originates from a selection of premium varieties that stand out for their veining and intense colour contrasts.

08. Produced by La Faenza, the Terra coloured-body porcelain tile collection offers a contemporary interpretation of one of the world’s oldest forms of craftsmanship, the production of terracotta.

09. Heritage from Viva aims to recreate the appeal of Montpellier stone, a material used in past centuries to lend prestige to castles and cathedrals: The collection comes in six field tile sizes and two floral decorations with relief surfaces.

10. Panaria Ceramica’s new concrete effect collection is named after the street number in the town of Finale Emilia where the company first began operating back in 1974: Opificio 22/A. The concrete effect is available in 5 colours and is accompanied by numerous decorative elements inspired by cement tiles.

11. Among its new products, Refin is introducing Risseu (meaning “pebble” in Genoese dialect), a collection of porcelain tiles inspired by the typical pavings of Genoa’s church squares and urban gardens. The delicate relief texture accentuates the highly realistic effect of the pebbles.


Other Italian ceramics collections can be seen in the Products Gallery.


March 2020