Tiles & Ceramics: Joe Simpson says... These are the trends I expect to see at this year's major exhibitions

Sensory seduction

Sensory seduction – the feel of textured surfaces – is one of the top 10 trends Joe Simpson expects to see as he visits some of tile's major international exhibitions.

As Joe headed off for visits to three of the World’s major tile exhibitions he contemplated the trends he was expecting to see.

Hard Surfaces exhibition

Read Natural Stone Specialist magazine to find out what else is going to be setting the interior design agenda in the months ahead. And for a hands-on experience of ceramics and other hard surfaces making their way to the UK, be sure to visit the Hard Surfaces exhibition running alongside the Natural Stone Show at ExCeL London on 6-8 June. I will be curating the seminars being run in association with the exhibition and I hope to see you all there.

This is the time of the year when my thoughts turn towards trends. While Cersaie in Italy, always held in late September, remains the world’s foremost showcase for ceramic tile innovation, February through to April is when it becomes clear if the tiling sector is following the design direction set out in Bologna.

Three shows – Cevisama in Valencia, Spain, at the end of February, Revestir in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in mid March, and Coverings in Orlando, USA, just after Easter – will establish what’s hot (and what’s not) for the rest of 2023 and beyond.

I am attending all three events and reporting back for Natural Stone Specialist; but advance trend predictions were arriving in my inbox before I boarded a ’plane. I’m happy to take most with a generous pinch of salt, but the latest communication from Coverings – North America’s premier tile and stone exhibition and conference – has real credibility.

It sets out the top 10 ceramic tile trends for 2023 as forecast by the three leading international tile associations – Ceramics of Italy, Tile Council of North America and Tile of Spain.

“From sustainability, safety, and hygienic properties to the durability, stylishness, and beauty of tile, this year’s trends manifest every imaginable merit of tile,” observes Alena Capra of Alena Capra Designs, one of Coverings’ official spokespersons.

Alena is right. These top trends really capture the diverse influences that are driving today’s ceramic tile sector.

Predicted: The Top Tend Trends in Tiles
Tiles Top 10 Trends, according to Ceramics of Italy, Tile Council of North America and Tile of Spain.

It starts with bricks. In this trend, the launch pad is the humble house brick which conjures a hand-made feel while also serving as a versatile module for many different compositions.

With this format, ceramic tile can be stacked horizontally or vertically, used monochromatically or in careful colour mixes, arranged into stripes, chevrons, herringbones or many others.

Some brick-effect collections offer finishes and intense chromatic variations to generate even more visual interest in walls, worktops, and beyond.

The next trend – Cemented – is a continuation of a long-established design direction.

Designers appreciate that concrete looks can bring visual harmony to a space and still evoke a raw urban energy.

A worn patina effect, sometimes layered, sanded, or tinted, tells a story. The subtle colour variation and texture of cement-effect tiles make them versatile enough to suit a wide range of applications.

The third trend is Cobbled, an aesthetic featuring large-scale aggregate looks ranging from time-worn terrazzo through cobblestone to Byzantine mosaics.

This look can ground a space with a foundation of history, while offering the modern technical performance of porcelain panels.

Another long-term favourite that still has legs aplenty is the Wood-Look. In this design space, the natural world is made even more wondrous. Ceramic tile companies have perfected the art of timber-effect tiles offering a very naturalistic vibe, but one that provides the ease of maintenance of ceramics.

Colour is to the fore in Emerald City, a trend that celebrates jade, sage, mint, and aloe. No other hue conjures nature like green, and select manufacturers have released show stopping porcelain slabs featuring saturated colours, giant palms, and exotic stones like green onyx and Patagonia green marble.

Others take a more subtle approach, offering large- and small-format tiles in muted shades of green and subtle textures like Moroccan plaster.

Trend six is Enduring Elegance, with subtle shading and colourways and creative use of naturally forming striations that give added depth. The result is large-format ceramic tiles that make a real design statement and deliver elegant and enduring aesthetics.

The Mother Nature-inspired Indoor-Outdoor trend has been one of the dominant themes in house design for several years now – one that has been given added impetus by pandemic lockdowns and the trend for home working.

Designers increasingly understand the need to create environments that nourish the soul. Connecting interior and exterior living spaces with ceramic tiles inspired by Mother Nature blurs the line between the built environment and natural settings, which encourages a better, more-flexible use of available space.

In trend eight, Sensory Seduction, every ceramic surface begs to be touched and experienced. This trend is experienced in many types of tiled settings that beckon the senses and create a desire to experience the space to its fullest, often giving rise to a feeling of relaxation or excitement, depending upon the chosen application and essence of design.

We step back in time to head forward with trend nine: The 1970s. This was a decade defined by dichotomies. On one hand, it celebrated spectacle: with glam rock artists, flashy prints, and metallic accessories. On the other, it was naturalistic and breezy, materials and patterns conjuring the sailing lifestyle becoming popular, including stripes, wavy patterns, and wood panelling.

Earthy tones and pop art florals were also prevalent, which can be seen in today’s version of this ‘groovy’ ceramic tile trend.

The final trend identified by these three leading trade associations is Undulated. This recognises a current desire for goods made for a human by a human.

You could define it as artisanal authenticity. Subtle undulations in the surface emulate manually applied thick glazes. Gently uneven surfaces draw the eye and create the sense that each tile was intentionally crafted by a skilled artisan.

Hand-pressed or not, the visual is so authentic you could expect a hand-written note from the maker to accompany each tile.

As I headed off I anticipated seeing examples of all 10 of these trends in Valencia, Sao Paulo and Orlando.

Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson has been an award-winning influencer in the tile industry for 30 years. He created the Diary of a Tile Addict blog to shine a light on artists, architects and designers as well as sharing the work of talented and inspiring individuals who help make the ceramic tile world so creatively diverse, technically advanced and intellectually fascinating. He was the Founding Editor of Tile UK in 1996, has edited Tile & Stone Journal and The Specifier’s Guide to Ceramic Tile & Calibrated Natural Stone, and acts as International Correspondent for Tile Today and Discovering Stone in Australia. Joe will be leading the seminars at the Hard Surfaces exhibition running alongside the Natural Stone Show at ExCeL London in June 2023. You can catch up with Joe on his TileCast podcasts on diary-of-a-tile-addict.castos.com.