Tiles that are not only beautiful, but which also implement significant technological advances to ensure a standard of excellence beyond expectation.

Every year, the Tile Africa team travels to Cersaie, the tile and bathroomware industry exhibition in Bologna, Italy. The fair covered over 160 000m² of exhibit space, featured over 900 exhibitors and attracted more than 100 000 visitors.

“This annual show is an explosion of inspiration and design and it helps us keep abreast of the latest international trends,” says Vaughn Dyssel, National Contracts Sales Manager at Tile Africa Contracts. “All the knowledge gained provides us with a competitive edge as we are able to conceptualise fresh and on-trend designs with a South African twist to appeal to our commercial and residential markets locally.”

One prominent trend identified draws its inspiration from sophisticated city life where less is more and prints are paramount. According to Vaughn, interiors are clean, minimalistic and masculine while wood-look tiles are simple with close-grained lines.

Another notable trend regards a revival in traditional terracotta floors made from glazed porcelain. These require no sealants, unlike the old terracotta floors of yesteryear. In addition, printed patterns are mimicking traditional encaustic designs. “These tiles have a commercial appeal as they can be customised with corporate customers’ brand colours and logos to create striking features in office park entrances, reception areas as well as retail spaces,” highlights Vaughn.

New designs in flooring include wood-look plank tiles that are weathered and printed, with some parts of the plank painted. “These worn wood-look tiles are extremely realistic and one cannot really tell that they’re indeed tiles,” he continues.

Turning to sustainable attributes, the eco-nature trend is exactly as the name implies – it’s all about nature. Designs are drawn from beautiful forms found in nature with items such as pebbles, leaves, water and sand. Vaughn reinforces that Eco Nature is all about respect for the environment, sustainable living and pulling elements of nature into applicable designs.

Luxurious Living

Elegance, luxury and glamour describe this theme which draws its creative design inspiration from celebrity lifestyles.

The most popular tiles that tie into this trend are polished marble in all colours, including rich, dark colours and classic white, black and grey. Inkjet technology allows for reproductions of real marble and agate in a high-gloss finish. Other tiles feature super-realistic prints and highly polished finishes, while richly embellished décor and trims were also prominent.

A surprising theme making its appearance is that of corrosion and decay, which has become a growing interior design trend. “In this theme, beauty is found in rusted and corroded patterns,” says Vaughn. “The city, industrial landscapes, and even graffiti, are some of the inspirations behind this theme.”

Faded, worn colours and designs that feature on tiles have been identified as another unique trend. “Rust finishes on tiles draw inspiration from abraded metal while wood-look tiles imitate fossilised surfaces that are also worn and splintered,” he continues. “Stone prints show exposed aggregates and concrete tiles are rough and pitted. Tiles that look like bricks and brick-shaped metro tiles replicate this theme.”

Not all the fashion trends seen will make inroads into the South African market as they may not complement our local tastes and styles. However, Tile Africa Contracts customers can look forward to combined materials and finishes as well as the return of colour.

“Tile Africa definitely see an increased uptake in inkjet technology tiles, especially customised designs that are tailored to corporate customers’ requirements,” he says.

Vaughn is of the opinion that wood-look tiles will grow in popularity, particularly in retail spaces and restaurant interiors. “Tile Africa successfully specified wood-look tiles for customers in the hospitality and financial services sectors and their feedback has been extremely positive,” he continues. “These tiles are also prevalent in the residential market.”

Vaughn emphasises that inside/outside applications, where smooth and slip-resistant finishes are available in the same design, are also popular as they create a homogeneous look. “These tiles are now manufactured locally, which has an added cost benefit,” he concludes.