What’s to come for ceramic and porcelain tile trends? We look to the future of this hard surface category to see what’s on tap for 2018.

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With so many ceramic and porcelain tile sizes, styles and designs on the market, the question isn’t what’s trending in the category, it’s what isn’t trending, said Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville’s vice president of marketing.

“We’re seeing so much variety in tile designs today,” Waldrep said. “This is evidenced in a quick glance at our most recent product launches: the evolution of wood looks, the graphical and textural interpretation of modern materials such as concrete, large format and plank sizes, slightly warmer color palettes that cover the spectrum from light to dark, metallic and natural stone styles, as well as full trim packages for achieving nicely finished installations. Gauged porcelain tile panels—tile that’s measured in feet, not inches—continues to increase in popularity, as well.”

From wood visuals and stone looks to neutral hues, bringing the outdoors in with the use of tile continues to be a popular design choice.

“Forward-thinking interiors are all about bringing the outside in,” said Daniel Levine, trends expert and keynote speaker. “What this means is natural, as opposed to synthetic, colors and patterns that reference water, the sky, plants and animals.”

Although colors depend on the type of project, residential spaces are seeing more conservative colors, while bolder colors are in demand for commercial. In addition to colors and patterns, unique shapes, finishes, textures and glazes are trending as designers aim to design one-of-a-kind residential and commercial spaces.

“Three-dimensional wall tile is enabling endless design opportunities with visual intrigue from the floor to the wall, while metallic-look glazes in ceramic and porcelain are popular for more sophisticated, contemporary spaces,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing for Emser Tile.

Tile sizes are also taking design to the next level. “The sky is the limit with today’s large-format tiles and panels, including sizes up to 63- x 126-inches,” Haaksma said. “Large-format tile continues to be on-trend, visually enhancing the size of residential and commercial spaces, reducing grout lines and maintenance, enabling backlighting, and allowing designers to create unique curved surfaces.”

Driving these and other tile trends are design, durability and maintenance, said Jared Becker, vice president of design and marketing at Walker Zanger. “Designers want the freedom to match the design aesthetic of the home without being limited by the material’s viability. For example, if the home has a rustic, reclaimed look, you could use porcelain tile in the shower to recreate the worn and lovely look of vintage barnwood—something that previously wasn’t possible. Porcelain is also very durable and extremely easy to maintain and clean.”

Looking Forward

“The very definition of ‘trend’ is when you can measure a movement in any particular direction,” Levine said. “Trends have a lot of inertia and, as such, we can be pretty sure that this trend will not only continue, but be even more pronounced in 2018, and beyond. Unlike fads, which are quick flashes that fizzle just as fast, a real trend is something you can create a business plan around.”

With the next generation of designers leading the way, a fresh take on design is reflected in what’s currently popular in tile, and what’s to come.

“We are starting to see designers of the millennial generation driving the projects, and they have high expectations on what digital technology can deliver in terms of sophisticated graphics and matching and/or exceeding the beauty of natural stone or wood,” said Doug Hayes, Florida Tile’s director of commercial and business development. “The trend for those natural looks with the durability of porcelain is not going away anytime soon.”

Designer’s high expectations, supported by technological advancements, are affording us endless design options with tile.

“Advancements in high-resolution digital printing are driving the industry forward with the staying power to impact tile design and trends for decades,” Haaksma said. “From a product perspective, technology enables manufacturers to bring timeless, handmade looks to life in commercial grade products without high expense. Similarly, advancements in technology now allow customers to view products in a particular space with visualization tools.”

Emily Holle, director of trend and design national marketing for MSI, added, “On the supply side a change in technology with digital printing and other machinery that enables the production of much larger and thicker tiles at affordable prices. These technologies are enabling just about any look to be printed on a tile with a high level or realism due to the quality of the print as well as the high amount of variation. On the demand side technology is also playing a large role in the development of trend. With the advent of digital cameras and picture sharing sites, the cost of sharing inspiration has reduced to close to zero. This has enabled homeowners to see thousands of ideas for no cost and in very little time. Ultimately, this is driving a very dynamic trend environment.”

This global influence of trends is at an all-time high thanks to visual inspiration from across the planet through social media platforms such as Instagram, Houzz and Pinterest, said Waldrep. With this exposure, end-users are more open to colors, patterns, bold designs and interesting combinations.

“What’s changing is the technology that allows for greater detail and realism,” said Filippo Sgarbi, general manager of Landmark Ceramics. “So, you’re starting to see variations such as distressed wood along with marble, stone and even fabric patterns that were not possible before.”

Investment in Tile

As the preference for tile continues to grow, manufacturers are further investing in tile production to meet consumers’ demands.

“As the production of tile in the United States increases, manufacturers continue to heavily invest in U.S. production. “We are seeing the construction of new factories and also expansion of existing capabilities,” Holle said. “Ultimately, the new capacity coming on board still cannot suffice the large and increasing demand in the U.S. for ceramic and porcelain tile. In addition, there are so many types of tile that are required from ceramic, porcelain, technical tile, color body, through body, numerous size formats, pavers, slabs, etc. that no one manufacturer can handle all of the requirements.”

In addition to investing in production, manufacturers are making significant investments in their retailer partners and showrooms as well.

“We have been significantly investing into our showrooms,” Holle said. “The shear breadth of product that we have available is big reason for this. In addition, with the new formats and prints that are available innovation is required in the display and merchandising of tile. We are investing heavily in order to help with the inspiration of tile and help our retailer partners make the best decisions for their product portfolio as it relates to their region and customer base.”