TSJ’s Editor, Joe Simpson, evaluates the appeal of contemporary fabric-effect tiles; a design category that Ceramic Sant’Agostino set alight with the launch of Digitalart in 2015.
Two years ago, at Cersaie 2016, the hottest new tile design trend was fabric-effect tiles. Many of the leading Italian factories had clearly invested considerable design and technical expertise into this promising design strand; the end product being some outstanding new wall and floor tiles.
This new generation of designs that were far superior to the neo carpets and faux fabrics of the past, with manufacturers exploiting the full potential of digital ink jet decoration and digital glazing technologies.
Step forward two years and, at Cersaie 2018, fabric-effects had taken somewhat of a back seat; edged out by the latest generation of marble- and concrete-effect tiles. However, in the shadows, fabric-inspired tiles are still evolving, with the possibilities of 3D ink jet printing now seen in new leather-look tiles and other designs with subtle surface relief.
The big daddy in the fabric-effect design arena remains Ceramica Sant’Agostino, who launched the craze with the +Art concept, which has subsequently evolved through several increasingly-sophisticated iterations.
Starting with 2015’s denim-look Digitalart range, Ceramica Sant’Agostino moved on to Tailorart; a classic collection featuring finely textured surfaces, and an elegant colour palette. Here, the different colours and formats can be combined in many effective ways to create arresting, yet restful, interiors. Sant’Agostino also led the way in patchwork-effect tiles, a design trend that has come on strong in 2018.
But they are far from the only leading manufacturer to have introduced strong new faux fabric ranges over the past two or three years. Atlas Concord’s Room range - inspired by masculine clothing fabrics - offers a sober, yet often surprising, colour palette. In this collection, furnishing fabrics, wallpaper, and rich carpets have inspired a range of co-ordinated floor and wall tiles that can deliver warm, appealing interiors full of character.
Textile textures also feature in Trame from Lea Ceramiche; one strand of which was inspired by the informal elegance of canvas. Trame is a composite project that harmoniously fuses colours, materials, and shapes. Three basic tactile effects reinterpret three different textures, both visually and through the sense of touch.
Plaster recreates a soft, spatulated surface; Matter, a grainy concrete-effect, is more rough and opaque; while Canvas has a linen-like texture with a delicate graphic relief that enhances its 3D nature.
Other eye-catching fabric-effect ranges include Sintesi’s Digital Tweed which comes in six colours: Beige, Grey, Ivory, Jeans, Smoke and Walnut. The formats are 600 by 600 and 300 by 600mm; plus Rainbow, Patchwork, and Jeans decors.
Other impressive options include Canvas by Sichenia, a Phorma porcelain stoneware design series for floors and walls that offers a modern surface that reinterprets fabric-effect surfaces. The tiles, available in three different formats, can elegantly finish residential or commercial environments, combining soft colours - Rope, Tobacco, Avio, Silver, and Pearl - embellished with decorations that highlight different textures. The formats are 600 by 600mm, 300 by 600mm, 100 by 600mm, and 100 by 300mm.
Other fabric-effect highlights from Cersaie 2016 included Juutan by Kalebodur; Aria by Verde 1999; Next by Rako; Imperfetto by Fioranese; Tussor by Edimax; Rug by Gambini Group; and Trame by Tagina.
An interesting feature of the 2016 generation of fabric-effect tiles, and many since, is that so many used a restrained, masculine palette dominated by grey, smoky green and deep beige; underlining the prominence of grey-based hues in interiors over the past few years. Other on-trend colours are greige and a rich smoky blue that works well with the lighter greys, beiges and cement tones.
In general, fabric effects fall into three main categories. The main group draws inspiration from clothing fabrics, from rough linen right through to sensuous silk. Then there are tiles inspired by wallpaper, with more textural diversity and deeper relief, plus a plethora of floral decors. Finally there are those fabric-effects that look to other natural materials - such as leather, coir, seagrass, sisal, and bamboo - for inspiration.
The past few years have also seen the emergence of fusion design concepts, with fabric-effects combined with ceramic interpretations of other materials, most notably cement and limestone.
Search the halls at Cersaie or Cevisama hard enough, however, and you can find everything from tartan and Worsted, through cotton and satin, to lace. One can even discover designs influenced by fabrics such as Jersey, Silk, Crepe, and even Velvet.
Other material inspiration include Bamboo, Batik, Bouclé, Burlap, Calico, Canvas, Cashmere, Chintz, Corduroy, Damask, Denim, Gingham, Harris Tweed, Hemp, Houndstooth, Jacquard, Jute, Matelassé, Moleskin, Paisley, Rakematiz, Sailcloth, Sharkskin, Suede, Tapestry, Tartan, Tweed, and Viella.
For the determined Cersaie tile sleuth, all of these textile inspirations could by found this year in one form or another, with the key design directions for fabric-effect tiles including damask and lace, alongside a strong influence from both paper and the more tactile textiles.
Today’s top fabric-effect ranges
Marazzi’s Fabric collection of wall tiles, just 6mm thick, is available in a 400 by 1,200mm format. Fabric is inspired by natural fibres, evoking both their texture and basic shades; enriched with 3D structures, decors and mosaics. The collection, available in five colours, is suitable for domestic bathrooms, and living rooms, as well as public spaces.
Topps Tiles’s Fabrix range draws on the long heritage of carpet, believed to have originated in West Asia, probably in Armenia, as long ago as the 3rd or 2nd millennium BC. The range is aimed at homeowners who want to inject warmth and comfort into their homes but without the wear and tear, and difficult cleaning, associated with carpet.
The Fabrix range replicates the weave and texture of a woven carpet. Available in soft neutrals, it is close in design spirit to modern carpet while offering all the benefits of a porcelain tile. For more daring home owners, the complementary plaid decor tile makes a bold statement. When used in a snug or nook it creates a zoned area without alienating the rest of the room. Alternatively it can be used in a hall to create a practical entryway.
As noted above, fusion tiles are starting to enjoy greater prominence. At Cersaie, Ceramica Sant’Agostino displayed a wide range of fusion ideas. The result was an alchemy of material synthesis exploring derivations, intersections, and compositions. The collection included two cement-fabric fusions: Dress and Tartan. In Dress, the weft of entwined stripes of a cotton carpet were set in concrete, available in elegant shades of grey: Dark, Grey, Pearl, and White. The format options include 900 by 900mm, 600 by 600mm, 600 by 900mm, and 300 by 600mm.
Ceramica Fondovalle’s Rug Home is a collection of porcelain stoneware wall and floor tiles with a delicate texture inspired by fabric. This is a very versatile range that suits both residential and commercial spaces. Rug Home is available in four colours - Polar, Steel, Ecru, and Shark - and two surface finishes - natural rectified and honed rectified. Added visual interest is provided by 600 by 600mm rosone decors, that complement the 400 by 800mm, and 600 by 600mm Field Tile, Decoro 3D and Decoro Square Dark/Light tile options.
Harmony by Peronda turned to designers Yonoh for Textile. Inspired by the weave of fabrics, Textile is a 200 by 200mm design that features a subtle elegant mesh-like pattern made up of smaller meshes. The version with a white background features different overlapping layers of colour in randomly-combined compositions, while the plain-coloured designs come in the same background shade as the white version’s overlapping colours, thus creating a visual interplay that is evocative of different superimposed textile weaves.
Another of TSJ’s fabric-effect picks is TexTile by Marca Corona. This is a dramatic range, built on layered, alternating, and changing surfaces, that is particularly effective in the darker tones. TexTile seems to jump from one inspiration to another in a continuous exchange of cross-references: from the essential appeal of concrete to the delicacy and lightness of fabrics, from geometrical shapes to the intense structure of stone. The accessories and the richness of metal decors contrast with the simplicity of the concrete and fabric effects. With this range, as with most of the best of today’s fabric-effect tiles, surfaces develop on different levels and surprise at every glance.
Marca Corona’s TexTile Extra is a new porcelain range that skillfully blends textile patterns with concrete. With this mix of materials, TexTile Extra adds a touch of urban and industrial appeal to interior residential and commercial environments. The neutral range of colours allows colourful furniture and fabrics to capture the attention. The range is completed by two geometric patterns with a fade-out effect, adding a touch of urban energy to this restrained range.
As noted earlier Ceramica Sant’Agostino leads the way in fabric-effects. Digitalart, launched in 2015, and Tailorart, launched in 2016, set the benchmark. The Digitalart collection of porcelain stoneware wall and floor tiles with a textile effect made an instant impact on the world of interior fashion using the artistic graphics of tissue and defining a new ornamental code for the most advanced ceramic material.
Digitalart did not just translate the style of texture but interpreted it artistically via graphics and powerful chromatic contrasts. Digitalart comes in 600 by 1,200mm, 900 by 900mm, 600 by 600mm, 300 by 600mm, 150 by 600mm, and 100 by 600mm rectified modular formats, all 10mm thick. The colour options are White, Ecrù, Grey, Denim, Night, and Mix: sewing the softness of fabric on the strength of the stoneware.
The Kilim collection of white-body wall tiles was inspired by antique tapestries hand-crafted in Asia. In this range, Ceramicas Aparici has captured the essence of these tapestries, developing an ethnic character that enhances interior atmospheres with unique patterns and chromatic variation. Both multidesign, and single pattern, options are available in a choice of natural and polished finishes.
The last of TSJ’s fabric-effect picks is Damasco from the Modus collection by Brennero : a twice-fired ceramic wall tile range that reinterprets satin. To achieve this, Brennero used digital technology enriched by precious glaze textures.
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