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Creating art with tile is not a new phenomenon. Archaeological excavations have uncovered magnificent artworks on floors and walls dating back millennia. It’s likely that beautiful paintings were created at the same time on parchment and other more delicate media, but the durability, hardness and weather resistance of ceramic tile ensured its long term survival.

Designers today are just as inspired by this medium, selecting artistically-rendered tiles and creating their own decorative artworks with unique patterns and placements. Coverings 2022, the global tile expo that landed in Las Vegas last week, provided acres of inspiration. Even those design pros who couldn’t attend have been savoring images shared by their colleagues and trade press on social media from the show floor.

Trends Overview and Applications

Among the trends this year is colorful tile — especially blues and greens — with oxidized finishes, nature-inspired designs, geometrics, bold stone patterns and vintage looks. A skilled designer can create a focal point wall, insert, shower surround or countertop with these offerings. And many do!

San Diego-based designer Rachel Viloria Moriarty is one such pro: “My clients tend to like bold statements in their homes, whether we’re designing a colorful beach house or leaning into one of their interests.” One such client was inspired by all things space, she recalls. “We designed a 24-foot tall fireplace that we call the Death Star.” Moriarty has also incorporated tile to evoke mermaids and clouds and other elements for a variety of spaces and clients.

Her San Diego colleague, Susan Wintersteen, uses geometrics to add artistic interest in her projects. “Using a mix of shapes, textures and color makes a simple tile extraordinary,” she shares. The designer particularly likes to add artistic accents for an unexpected pop, as she did in her new showroom with penny dots. “It is always a discussion point for guests!”

Lubbock, Texas designer Allison Fannin points out that ceramic tile lends itself to artistic expressions in locations like showers and pools that are inhospitable for other materials. She likes to run tile from floor to ceiling in bathrooms, she notes. “It’s one of my favorite methods of bringing in texture, color and drama where it’s least expected. This is good for a wet space also instead of wallpaper or just paint.”

San Antonio designer Shea Pumarejo also uses tile as an artistic medium. “I see the space as a blank canvas,” she comments about her approach to room planning. Pumarejo uses tile to achieve “rhythm and balance,” she adds.

Graphic Updates

There were numerous options at Coverings to achieve graphic style in design projects with fresh looks and energy. While the encaustic looks were still present around the show floor, geometrics got more contemporary updates with new shapes, sizes, patterns and finishes. Retro in these offerings evoke Midcentury and Roaring 20s more than Medieval Europe.

Natural Inspirations

Nature continues to make a strong showing on the trend front. Plants and animals decorated tiles throughout the expo, and will enliven any project they clad. But the strongest look was natural stone.

Tile production technology has evolved to mimic onyx, marble and other treasured rocks without their upkeep, fragility, excavation or expense. These great imitators can be rendered in slip resistant floor tiles for wet areas or book-matched wall surfacing to continue the stone’s movement across slabs as you’d see in historic installations.

Blended Looks

Mixed media enthusiasts can use tile in much the same way as they would in art installations, but with simpler requirements. That capability showed up at Coverings in ceramic series that blended geometrics with oxidized or plaster finishes. Plaster looks, also a hot trend, showed up next to stippled textures. The show floor was a stew of healthy colors, materials, shapes and patterns providing visually nutritious combinations.

There were numerous blends to explore, depending on your needs and inspirations. Perhaps because of the pandemic’s stifling effect on life these past two-plus years, this season’s expressions are bursting with creativity and energy.

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