Jaw-dropping tile breakthroughs


Did you know that there is a massive tile exhibit every year? Manufacturers from all over the world come to show what will soon grace our floors, shower walls and backsplashes. Last year, the building was packed with ceramic masterpieces.

After wandering the show until my feet were sore, two trends became head-smackingly obvious.

An argyle pattern from Walker Zanger. COURTESY PHOTO

An argyle pattern from Walker Zanger. COURTESY PHOTO

First, the ceramics world is making masterpiece-quality tile forgeries. There are tiles that look exactly like aged copper, quarried marble, wide planked barn board, stained concrete and even even fresh cut grass. It’s crazy cool.

These tiles are so authentic-looking that when you see them, you’ll be in a perpetual state of awe.

None of these fantastic fakes would be possible without the invention of the digital inkjet printer (which is able to produce tiles that you would swear were made by Mother Nature). These tiles are photographic, kiln-baked marvels.

Want to a use recycled barn board for your bathroom floor? Now you can tile up a water-safe version. Love the thought of using stainless steel to deck out a fireplace wall? There are tiles that mimic the look of metal that look insanely beautiful, without the fear of getting scorchingly hot.

Ten years ago, this type of realism was not possible. Rollers and screen-printing were the most common way to decorate ceramic tiles. These methods stamped out simple repetitive patterns. You may remember a few years back seeing stacks of tiles with the same exact markings.

In comparison, digital printing is only limited by the size of the memory of the printer. So today, you could have a trunk load of the same tile, but each has its own unique markings, giving it a brilliantly authentic look.

The second big thing in trends — and I do mean big — is super-sized tiles. The industry refers to it as “large format tile.” You may be wondering: How big does a tile have to be to be considered large format? Well, according to a Custom Building Product article, “it is any tile or stone that has one side longer than 15 inches.”

However, what I found to be “large format” at the show was far more impressive. One tile could easily cover an entire wall of your shower … now that’s big!

It was common to see tiles that were two to four feet long or wide. They came in countless styles and most were “rectified” (which means they have a smooth edge that allows them to butt up tightly against another tile with only tiny grout lines). When you see these big beauties laid out, they look expansive and extraordinary.

Heads up: While these supersized tiles may be to easy find, they are tricky to install.

It is helpful that whoever installs the tile comes with experience, patience and super-hero strength. Lifting some of these humongous tiles is like bench-pressing a Volkswagen.

If you are curious if any of these super-sized and masterpiece forgery tiles have been incorporated in my new nest, the answer is ...


Amy Archer

Amy Archer is owner of Sarasota-based Creating Inspired Design and writes the Barefooted Designer blog. She can be reached by email.
Last modified: March 25, 2016
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published without permissions. Links are encouraged.