With the official start to the summer season just weeks away, homeowners are looking forward to spending time enjoying their outdoor spaces. With the latest in design trends and surfacing materials, the transition from indoor to outdoor living is now more beautiful and seamless than ever.

Product and Design Trends

“Two of the hottest trends in the design world are ‘seamless, continuous design’ and ‘outdoor living’,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of marketing, Daltile. “Seamless, continuous design is the aesthetic practice where a material, look, or theme flows across various room components or between rooms. Outdoor living is just what it sounds like; homeowners are spending more time eating, visiting, working and relaxing outside when they are home.”

Consequently, Thorn-Brooks says more beautiful outdoor spaces are being created to serve as extensions of a home’s interior living spaces.

With this outward extension of the living space, experts say porcelain tile is the ideal product on the floor (or ground) to achieve the durability required for outdoor applications along with the desired on-trend aesthetic of wood, cement and stone looks.

According to a Ceramics of Italy representative, tile manufacturers are now more adept than ever at creating a full range of products with indoor-outdoor versatility. “Many collections include both 10mm-thick indoor floor tiles as well as 20mm-thick outdoor pavers with R11 (A+B+C) grip surfaces, and high-tech digital printing allows for a seamless aesthetic transition across this threshold. Thus, porcelain tiles are more than just a practical solution for outdoor use, with natural resistance to water, chemicals and extreme temperatures. They are also a beautiful choice, thanks to technology that ensures there is no compromising when it comes to style.”

Jerry DiFabrizio, president of Tampa Tile, added, “The base of your outdoor renovation design should be durable enough to last a long time, despite the rain or shine. Porcelain tiles are an excellent choice for your patio or paths, as they can be made in a variety of looks and resemble materials such as wood or real stone.”

“Porcelain tiles are more than just a practical solution for outdoor use ... They are also a beautiful choice, thanks to technology that ensures there is no compromising when it comes to style.”

With new digital inkjet technology, dimensions and textures, the design possibilities of porcelain tile are seemingly endless.

“Designers can now choose from several aesthetics as well as multiple surface finishes for exterior floors,” said Joy Klein, vice president of sales and marketing for Transceramica, Fiandre’s internal distributor. “Larger tile options such as 24x48 provide a much cleaner and more modern look for exteriors.”

Additionally, Klein says that porcelain and concrete pavers are offering designers, installers and end users more flexibility. “Pavers are also easily removable, facilitate easy water drainage, there’s no cracking like real stones and colors don’t fade. They can be laid over existing surfaces, so there’s no need to remove the old surfaces. The trend in using a pedestal system for outdoor tiles (available in various heights) makes it easier to level the floor, so there’s no need for poured concrete or thinset.”

For example, with Daltile’s Delegate pavers, you don’t have to rely on landscaping and furniture to add interest to outdoor spaces. “Daltile’s Delegate is a sedimentary slate-inspired design that offers a rich visual with depth and interest in two tile sizes–plus a 20 x 40 tile paver in 2 cm thickness suitable for exterior applications such as your outdoor patio flooring or walkways,” Thorn-Brooks said.

For continuous design underfoot, flooring manufacturers are developing products that are available in a variety of surface finishes, like Fiandre’s Core Shade concrete look collection, which features both a semi-polished finish, which is versatile and modern, and a textured finish that is furrowed by a lined pattern for visual depth as well as anti-slip properties. “The same product colors can be used for indoor and outdoor spaces,” Klein said. “The only difference is the designer would specify the textured or more slip resistant finish for exteriors.”

Ensuring that the design flow between indoor and outdoor spaces will not only be continuous, but safe as well, Daltile has introduced StepWise, a proprietary technology infused into the tile that makes it 50 percent more slip resistant than regular tile.

“With our StepWise products, Daltile is combining the looks and sizes that designers desire with the other key selling points–slip resistance, sustainability, durability and cleanability,” said Thorn-Brooks. “StepWise makes products perfect for indoor to outdoor use.”

Featuring SimpliClean for tile that’s easy to clean and ClimatePro for tile that can withstand outdoor environments, Daltile’s StepWise products are not only functional, they also offer today’s hottest styles such as wood, cement and stone looks.

Opportunities for Retailers

Highlighting the opportunities to help end users create or refresh their backyard oasis, Klein says independent retailers can increase their sales in outdoor tile by showcasing marketing sample boards or large project photos showing pool area applications, exterior patios, driveways and other outdoor areas. “They can also create an outdoor vignette or lifestyle display that customers can envision in their homes.”

Taking things up a notch, manufacturers are creating opportunities for retailers to sell even more of the outdoor project with products like Daltile’s Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces large-format porcelain slabs, which offer architects, designers and homeowners seamless, continuous design and style flexibility. “Panoramic can be used for all the surfaces inside and outside of a home, including floors, walls, countertops, showers, tub surrounds as well as exterior flooring and cladding,” said Thorn-Brooks.