Cersaie 2008 - November 2008

By Darius Helm

This year’s Cersaie, the International Exhibition of Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings held annually in Bologna, Italy, showcased both innovations in surface technologies and artistic brilliance from the world’s leading ceramic tile designers. The show, which ran from September 29 to October 3, featured a record 1,074 exhibitors, including 230 from foreign countries.

However, while international attendance for the first time accounted for over 30% of the total, the number of visitors, 84,537, was down 8% from last year. The drop was largely due to a decrease in the number of Italian visitors.

In 2007, ceramic tile exports from Italy to the U.S. dropped by over 15%, and France moved ahead of the U.S. as the largest market for Italian tile. Together, the U.S. and France account for 30% of all Italian tile exports.

Despite global economic conditions, and despite all the attention on the U.S. housing slowdown, for the leading ceramic tile producers, most of which focus exclusively on porcelain, it was business as usual. The halls were teeming with crowds, showrooms were overflowing, and enthusiasm was high.

Over the last few years, the Italians have made tremendous breakthroughs in creating looks no one would have thought possible a mere decade ago. The microscopic level of precision that can now be achieved on the surface of the tile has led to a profusion of stunning designs, some mimicking wood, stone, fabric and leather and others simply creating looks that have never even been imagined before.

What’s remarkable about so many of these new looks is that they were achieved with no glaze and no surface additives. In fact, several of the metallic looks were created on through-body unglazed porcelains by small-scale etching designed to reflect light in the same manner as metals, and so create the same visual. There were also plenty of stunning glazed products, as well as color-body tiles with additives for surface effects.

Atlas Concorde’s Tune, launched at this year’s Coverings, is a great example of strides in surface texturing. The through-body porcelain tile is etched with a very small scale meandering ribbing reminiscent of fingerprints. In the darker colors, like charcoal, the reflected glimmer creates a metallic effect. Another great Atlas Concorde product is Plan Indoor, a through-body double-loaded unglazed porcelain with a metallic mica glitter in the second loading. The surface micro-texture, which looks like a crisply woven small scale grid, conveys a slip resistance that meets ADA standards. Plan Indoor comes in a range of earth tones, from charcoal and lighter grays to a medium brown and a yellowy gray. Plan Indoor’s Optical features the same design, but overlaid with a bigger grid design that expands in the four quadrants as though it’s being magnified.

Also worth noting is Doga, a color-body glazed porcelain with a textured wood look. The tile was designed for the commercial market, and comes in colors ranging from vanilla and almond to smoky green, cocoa and bluish hues. Doga comes in three plank sizes—36” by 9”, 6” or 4-1/2”. All of Atlas Concorde’s porcelain tiles are rectified and single caliber.

Marazzi used state of the art inkjet technology to produce Gemstone, a polished porcelain that’s gently but vividly striated with subtle color variations that give a strong sense of translucency. The line comes in pale earth tones like creamy white and beige as well as a stunning blue green.

Another noteworthy Marazzi tile is Materie, which has a low luster finish and the layered surface irregularities of a painted concrete floor. Colors range from burnt orange and near black to putty, gray and a dull blue. Materie comes in large format sizes, including 24”x24” and 24”x48”.

Ragno, a separate Marazzi brand, had some of the coolest products at the show, including Multiline, an unglazed through-body porcelain with a matte finish and a very small scale linear ribbed design. Like so many of the most intricate designs, Multiline is at its most dramatic in the deeper colors like dark gray or red, and it also comes in light gray, a medium brown-gray and beige.

Porcelain meets special effects in Ragno’s Textile, a through-body porcelain with a woven surface design. The fabric design already makes for a stunning product, but the dark gray version includes a hidden damask pattern that, depending on the light, appears and disappears or shifts from light to dark as you walk across the floor, as though the damask is covertly infiltrating the weave. A close-up look reveals that the effect is achieved through the use of short, angled score marks, even though it’s not clear how they translate into the damask design nor how it appears and disappears.

Sicis, the mosaic specialist, was at the show with a new program of laser cut marble called Cosmati, in three colors—white, gray and a light brown gray—for a dramatic monochromatic look. NeoGlass, which can be specified in high traffic commercial applications, is an iridescent glass mosaic collection that comes in 11 colors ranging from pastel shades to more saturated vivid hues, and it’s available in three shapes: squares, circles and ovals.

Edimax came out with a range of products, all in 12”x24” and 24”x24” formats. Base is an unglazed rectified porcelain with a lightly textured surface and the look of volcanic rock, and it comes in an off-white and basalt. Xsite is a polished and rectified glazed porcelain with a woody striated look, and it ranges from an off-white to a near-black. Shine is a fabric look, though with an unexpectedly higher gloss, and it’s better in the deeper tones, where the metallics are more visible.

Move is another striated design, made of rectified glazed porcelain, that lies somewhere between fabric and linear grained wood, and it comes polished or matte. Here the lighter shades, like an antique white and neutral gray, work as well as the darker browns.

Brazil’s Eliane was at the show with a raft of new products, including Contemporanea, a glazed porcelain with a satin finish in colors ranging from charcoals and purply blue and a paler smoky blue to a mid-range rusty orange, a paler rust, gray and off-white—subtle color variations give the tile depth and play. Millennium is a glazed porcelain with a brushed metal look, and the accompanying wall tile is the same look, but with an open design of bamboo stalks in a darker gray with deep reddish orange leaves.

Revigres, a Portuguese tile producer, fused texture and digital printing for Ritual, a small scale ordered design of pebbles that look and feel like the real thing. It’s best suited for outdoor applications, though it could also be indoors as accent décor, like framing a hearth. The glazed porcelain tiles, 16”x16”, come in a broad color range dominated by earth tones.

Porcelanosa, one of the leading Spanish tile producers, came out with Pietra Basalta, a through-body unglazed porcelain in an extra-large 48”x48” tile, along with smaller formats. The rectified tile comes in burnt beige, stony mid-gray and anthracite. The dull finish and subtle color irregularities, along with the large format, make the tile ideal for high end commercial applications.

Porcelanosa, as well as its Venis brand, introduced hardwood plank designs, including exotic wood looks. The best of the bunch, Toscano Negro, was a matte finish outdoor plank of through-body rectified porcelain in a deep brown distressed oak design, installed with narrow recessed grout lines to create the deck plank look. Brasilia Gris and Fresno Natural are two more Porcelanosa wood look products for outdoor use, and they’re designed to be slip resistant. 

Karim Rashid, a leading designer who last year created a luxury vinyl tile line for Azrock, came out with a big, bold collection for Refin. It’s a wall tile line in trademark Karim colors with shiny squiggly lines against matte white backgrounds or tiles with colors in a range of retro patterns. 

GranitiFiandre’s new products included Stone Forest, an unglazed through-body porcelain with the look and heavy texture of stylized tree bark. Stone Forest comes in colors like smoky black and cool medium brown. Sizes range from 19”x45” to 45”x45”. Also new is Jewel, a double loaded product with metals and crystals throughout the top 4mm layer in a patented process. The small scale speckled texture is very dynamic, particularly in the darker colors like black and deep blue. It’s a more subtle effect in pearl and white.

The Florim family of brands came to the show with a wide range of looks. Rex added to its line of animal skin designs with Galuchat, a double pressed porcelain with a design of ray fish skin. It comes in tones ranging from off-white and light gray to dark green and a metallic combination of silver and copper.

Florim’s Cerim unveiled Beton, with a polished indoor finish and a matte outdoor finish, in khaki and medium gray. The subtle overall look of the through-body porcelain is enhanced by a minor glaze. 

However, the best product came from Florim’s Floor Gres. Globe 1.0 is a through-body unglazed large format stone look with broad but understated wavy bands that penetrate the entire tile—and there are absolutely no repeats. Close up, it doesn’t look like much, but when installed it transforms into a powerful sweeping design. Globe 1.0 comes in matte, rough and polished finishes and in six pale earth tones and neutrals—three cold and three warm. 

Cotto D’Este, a Panaria company, came out with Kerlite. At just 3mm, Kerlite is the thinnest porcelain flooring available, and it can go over substrates or over existing floors. The tile comes in a range of sizes, up to a whopping 40”x120”—20”x20” is the smallest format. Kerlite, which is constructed with a fiberglass layer, comes in a range of earthy and industrial colors with subtle speckling and color movement. Kerlite is priced comparably to thicker porcelain, but it costs a lot less to transport. The product meets U.S. requirements for coefficient of friction.

Also new from Cotto D’Este is Calacatta, a marble look that the firm claims is the highest resolution in the market (50 billion pixels per square meter). The marble design, a pale background cut through with broad veining in greenish and yellowish grays, lends itself to the precision of the design. Calacatta, which is a glazed porcelain, comes in sizes ranging from 24”x24” all the way to 9”x9” and 9”x4-1/2”.

Caesar, which makes only unglazed through-body porcelain, came out with several new products, including six new colors to the More collection and a new design called Absolute, but its most compelling introduction was Change, a tile with linear microtextures that give it a low-key metallic shimmer that shifts a lot in the light. Change has a 40% post industrial recycled content and it comes in four colors—soft white, bronze, multi-hued black, and iridescent blue. The tile comes in 12”x24” and 24”x24”.

Del Conca unveiled Brand, an unglazed through-body porcelain with a design inspired by lava rock. What gives the tile its unique allure is a subtly textured matte finish with a sparse scattering of high gloss flecks that suggest a fiery history. Brand comes in four rectified sizes—24”x48”, 12”x24”, 8”x24” and 24”x24”—in a range of earth tones, along with decos with eye-catching stainless steel oval inserts.

Keope came out with Ti-Led, a lighting system that can be used on all Keope products. The system uses LED emitters and efficient solid state technology of such a high caliber that Keope says there is no need to replace them. Transparent polycarbonate caps that protect the lights come in seven colors: white, amber, blue, green, red, magenta and fluorescent green.

Mapei showcased a range of products at Cersaie, including its Kerapoxy line of adhesive and grout designed for different functions, like swimming pools, high chemical resistance and large industrial applications. MapeGlitter is a metallic glitter that can be added to grouting mortar like Kerapoxy Design to achieve dramatic effects. Another problem solving product is Kerapoxy CQ, a two-component acid resistant epoxy mortar that works well in tough chemical environments like industrial kitchens.

U.S. based Laticrete was also at the show with its adhesives, grouts and sealers. The firm, which recently partnered with Ecore as its exclusive source of sound control underlayments, also just opened its first fully owned plant in China. The facility near Shanghai is Laticrete’s first plant outside the U.S. 

Copyright 2008 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:CERSAIE , Coverings, Florim USA, Laticrete, Mohawk Industries, Marazzi USA