More than 86,500 attendees traveled to Valencia, Spain, to participate in Cevisama 2004.

More than 86,500 attendees flocked to Valencia, Spain, for Cevisama 2004, the 23rd International Trade Fair for Ceramics, where new ceramic products from top manufacturers were on display. The show, which took place March 2-6, saw an increase in attendance of 3 percent over the previous year, despite the current political unrest. Those who made the journey to Valencia were rewarded with a preview of some of the most innovative new products the ceramic tile industry has to offer.

Element by Keraben is a glazed porcelain tile featuring the look of quartz on a lightly textured surface. It is produced in three colors -- walnut, silver and ivory -- and is available in 13-by-24- or 20-by-20-inch formats.

Back to basics: black and white designs

One of the most noticeable trends in color is the return of bold, stark black-and-white designs. On display were a plethora of unique designs, all using simple black and white in myriad motifs, such as step patterns, diagonal designs and various horizontal pattern combinations that achieve a modernist design aesthetic.

To complement the simplicity of these designs, a variety of accent pieces are used, ranging from glass and metallic inserts to brightly colored borders and listellos. By combining black-and-white, in many different shapes and textures, with brightly colored accents and inserts, an endless variety of bold, modern designs are possible. Outstanding examples of the new black-and-white design aesthetic included Roca's new Millenium line and Saloni's A+A line.

Inalco’s Eiffel series is infused with metallic references. This glazed porcelain tile comes in a 12-by-24-inch format and is available in a bluish shade of gray as well as in a rusty tone resembling oxidized steel.

A red, hot color palette

This year's color palette is definitely hot -- red hot, to be exact. Bright, lipstick red was the color of choice for many designers. These shades of bright red were used as accents to the many black-and-white designs, as well as used on their own. An outstanding example of this modernist red look was Tau Ceramica's bold kitchen featuring its new Nagy line in bright red, complemented by stark white counters and black accessories.

In addition to bright red, other shades of red, including reddish browns, are enjoying resurgent popularity. Other popular colors included chocolate brown, orange and shades of gray.

During Cevisama 2004, Ceramicas Diago introduced its news Silk Series, part of the Diago Gallery collection. Silk Series is a damask-like design that features a subtle hint of flowers reflected through its surface. The series, which feels like marble to the touch, includes a 12-by-24-inch wall tile and 12-inch-square porcelain floor tile.

Retro look revival

Another trend that was hard to miss this year was the return of retro looks, particularly the colors and images of the pop art movement popularized by Andy Warhol. Colors from the 1960s and 1970s -- such as lime green, orange and gold, as well as many shades of brown -- were particularly evident in the various product displays, perhaps symbolizing a collective wish for a return to simpler, more optimistic times.

Outstanding examples of the retro, pop art-inspired trend included Saloni's Happy, which featured arresting lime green tiles with coordinated accent pieces in the shape of martini olives; Decocer's Arco and Cosmo lines, which featured creamy orange and brown shades complemented by the Klimt line of retro borders inspired by the painter of the same name; and Lea's Project L14 lounge collection, which contrasted chocolate brown with lime green accents.

Flowers were a popular decorative motif at Cevisama. Pictured here is Alpes by Roca, a glazed porcelain, through-body design.

Metallics continue to gain popularity

Another important trend revealed at Cevisama is the increasing influence of metallic designs, which have moved beyond accents into complete finishes. One of the most exciting new trends is ceramic finishes designed to imitate the look of oxidized and weathered steel, commonly referred to as "corten."

Outstanding examples of this look included Tau's Corten, which is available in two finishes to simulate different levels of wear, Inalco's Eiffel series and Luxus by Gres Catalan. Metallic and glass inserts and accent pieces continued to proliferate, with stainless steel becoming a common accent material.

Darker shades of blue are gaining in popularity. Aranda by Vives features a hand-painted look.

Natural finishes now even more refined

Another important trend in ceramic design is the imitation of natural products, particularly stone, as well as wood and textiles. Stone looks have gained such as degree of realism that several manufacturers displayed real stone pieces next to their ceramic imitators for close-up comparison.

Outstanding examples of natural stone imitation included Roca's trend-setting Rock and Rock collection, which featured several new series and colors, Azuvi's Minimum Marble collection, Diago's Seattle, which featured an antique marble look with irregular edges, and Colorker's Oregon and Ankara lines.

Also noteworthy were the numerous ceramic tile wood imitations, the realism of which has improved dramatically in the past year. The depth and color of these wood-look ceramics is starting to rival the best laminate finishes, and the proliferation of large-format rectified tiles allows their use in a variety of settings, including floors and facades.

Popular finishes for wood-look tiles included wenge beech, and weathered pine, as well as more common varieties such as oak and cherry. Outstanding examples of wood-look tiles included Porcelanosa's Ceramic Parquet, available in three colors and two formats, Maderas by Inalco, available in three colors and two formats, and Tau's new Sabika line, available in three colors and two formats with matched listellos.

Bold black and white designs, a return to retro looks and the increasing realism of natural looks -- these diverse trends in ceramic design all point toward an increase in sophistication, which will likely be reflected in the ceramic designs now being developed for the U.S. market.