Size really does matter

Size really does matter

November 2017

A personal take on the key design trends at Cersaie 2017 by Peter Vann, Director of Ceramique Internationale.

Hiking boots, motability scooters or, perhaps, a hover-board next time, as this year’s Cersaie saw Cameron Fraser and myself clock up a combined 50km in three 16-hour days and meet with over 50 different factories and contacts.  But, in the words of David Bowie, it was all in the name of customer service Fashion, as Cersaie is the only place to be to learn what the factories have decided will be the big trend for the next year.

And 2017 was no exception, packed to the rafters with new ideas, innovations and products.  This year there was no doubt what the major trend was as it dominated the halls: the extra-large format slab.  It appears size really does matter for 2018 with these enormous porcelain slabs (typically sized between 1.2m by 2.4m and 1.5m by 3.0m) featuring on literally dozens of stands.

The emergence of these large-format, ultra-thin porcelain stoneware tile slabs is a natural extension of the large format trend that has grown in recent years.  A great number of the new products debuted accurately replicate Statuario; the chic white Italian marble with darker but sparser veining, which is already popular in the UK.

Now, many European factories (particularly the Italians) have invested in the new continual feed press technology to create the huge sheets that meet the demand for minimalist and seamless floors in kitchens and other large open spaces.  And already we could see at Cersaie that manufacturers are looking for alternative uses for these large formats, such as backing on kitchen walls, sink surrounds and even worktops.

Casalgrande Padana claims its Kontinua collection, which includes 1,200 by 2,600mm, and 1,200 by 2,400mm sizes, just 6.5 mm thick, takes the concept of ceramic cladding to the next level; one where beautiful textures, and marble or stone effect finishes, can be incorporated into cutting-edge architectural projects.

In our opinion, this extra-large format will create its own market because it is going to be so widely available.  In the UK for the short and medium term, however, it will almost certainly be more suited to contract and commercial projects, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, the majority of UK homes are not big enough to accommodate such large tiles, and secondly, there are a range of practical challenges that need to be addressed.  Transporting, lifting and packing these tiles will require specialist training and equipment.  They are heavy, and, despite being made of a very strong material, need to be handled like large panes of glass.  They will also require specialised fixing.  It goes without saying that we’re currently working with our suppliers to pull together a tailored specification guide and delivery package.

Another of our favourite occupations at Cersaie is assessing how the ‘big trends’ of previous years have fared, which is usually reflected in their level of continuing presence at the show.  Recent years has seen a prevalence of wood effects and, while they were still in evidence, one manufacturer, in particular, was keen to point out the complete absence of wood on its stand.

All that said, a couple of exhibitors were keen to talk about their new ‘wood’ developments: one even displayed a collection inspired by a Venetian Gondola pole, which we think might be a niche that is challenging to explain … there are not many Gondolas on the Leeds Liverpool canal!

Italian designer 41zero42 (named after their postcode) had one of the most visually impactful stands, showcasing the new Technicolour collection; a small format wood effect tile available in a rainbow of colours.

In another development, several of our key suppliers displayed collections reminiscent of hessian, although with a softer milder texture and designed for use on both walls and floors.

Italian manufacturer Ceramica Bardelli’s stand offered the striking Palladiana collection for both wall and floor.  The matt porcelain tiles feature a combination of material, stone and concrete finishes.  Using special manufacturing techniques and leading-edge glazes, with some areas of the surface enriched by fine cross-hatching, the tiles are tactile with a unique look.

The trend for geometric patterns is not abating with monochromatic tiles featuring heavily with a lot of new products introducing small amounts of soft colour to create a worn-out effect. This is exemplified by the Pobles series by Spanish manufacturer Saloni, which mixes artisan aesthetics with cutting-edge technology.

2017 has seen the rise of the chevron tile for floors and so it was only a matter of time before chevron wall tiles emerged. We were particularly enamoured with the glossy pre-formed chevron wall tile – almost boomerang shaped – by French factory, Bati-Orient.

You may need to take the same lessons in geometry that we undertook in order to interpret trapeziums, and equilateral triangles.  Hexagons: well they are apparently passé now.

As ever Cersaie was a physical challenge, eased by some highly agreeable social gatherings and the odd glass of grappa (AKA networking), but very worthwhile. So, as our shoes are being re-soled, we face the task of reviewing the new products and applications ready to do it all again in 2018.

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