A Touch of Metallic Flash - For the first time in flooring history, architects and designers can enjoy the warm glow of real, premium metals underfoot thanks to new technology and protective finishing techniques. This installation pairs floor borders by Questech Metals with Crossville porcelain stone tiles.

Today's consumers are displaying a higher level of confidence in home design. This is especially true when it comes to choosing floor coverings - which, as we well know, form the foundation for their home fashions.

Hard surfaces, including ceramic and porcelain stone tile, are becoming quite popular among homeowners. In 1997, U.S. consumers installed 80 million square feet of porcelain stone tile (representing 4% of the total floor tile market), while an estimated 245 million square feet will be used in 2003 (which, by that time, would account for 10% of the total floor tile market).

Technology has spawned a new generation of colors and patterns in porcelain stone tile. These new looks have definitely caught the consumer's eye. No longer content to accept a cookie-cutter version of their neighbor's decorating choices, consumers now prefer to be on the cutting edge of today's ground-breaking floor covering products. As a result, we are witnessing the convergence of technology and a new kind of customer.

Colors, textures and sizes can be mixed and matched to create stunning one-of-a-kind custom looks. Pictured are Crossville's Flagstone-Bronze tile and Questech floor borders.
For the first time, the consumer controls the marketplace. She - and I say "she" because 94% of home furnishings are bought by women - wants a complete and full assortment, better goods and, ultimately, the floor that's right for her. The growing importance of fashion and color in the home - combined with an expanding population of consumers who are willing to be more creative when decorating their bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms - is another reason why tile is getting ever more popular.

No longer relegated solely to the kitchen or bath, fashionable tile is turning up all around the house. The product's increased popularity has led to the development of many design-oriented options. Moreover, the price of tile has declined during the last several years. While not as inexpensive as carpet and vinyl, tile's "in vogue" status has brought the product into the ranks of fashion rather than function.

"We now consider tile to be part of the fashion industry as home furnishings and apparel move side by side in the same fashion circles," says Barbara Schirmeister, color consultant and member of the Color Association of America (CAUS).

Getting Out of the House - The combination of tile and metallic accents has established itself outside the home in restaurant, hotel and country inn applications. Pictured is a wine pantry by Carol Winer of Country Loft Antiques.
Porcelain stone, one of the latest trends in floor covering, is a design-driven tile that's 30% stronger than granite. Innovative technology brought about the emergence of beautiful new color and texture combinations never before available in porcelain tile.

In addition to the increased varieties of color now available, another design option for 2001-2002, CAUS says, is the "translucence" found in water, air and glass. Soft colorations - ranging from water blues, to blue-greens, to colored naturals - are equally well suited for the home or office.

Another new phenomenon in decorating is the use of metal tile throughout the home. "Metal tile is used on floors and walls just as jewelry is used on the body - a small amount creates special accents and accessorizes a room," says Roger Questel of Questech Metals. "Questech has made it possible to use copper, bronze, brass, and nickel silver as easily as tile."

Only a small amount of metal is needed to add that distinctive shimmer to any room. Metal, a natural element in a modern world, is a highly attractive complement to porcelain tile, which has been developed to capture the look of natural stone. Our industry has seen tremendous growth in both stone-look products (since 1998, sales of stone-look products have more than tripled) and metal tiles (Questech Metals apparently has won the favor of consumers, as the company's sales increased 95% between 1999 and 2000).

Softer colorations have helped bring tile into spaces in the home previously dominated by soft-surface floor coverings. Pictured is Crossville's Manor Stone Series.
The trend toward natural does not mean a trend toward colorless neutrals. Today's neutrals include softened colorations such as airy blues, fresh greens, delicate yellows, and petal pinks. These same hues can also be found in the fashion apparel hanging on racks in retail stores throughout the country.

Rich colors are flooring the residential and commercial market as well. Sophisticated choices - such as bold greens, regal blues and opulent golds - are as timeless as they are naturally spectacular.

Special effects, first in fabrics and now in tile, serve as a shining example of how consumers are ready to experiment with the unusual. An increasing number of tile designs exhibit special effects such as pearlescence or metallic flecks. These effects, when added to colorful tile, really outshine the old standard!

And new special effects are pushing the envelope even further. "In the next few years," says Schirmeister, "we'll see new ways of combining color in attractive opposites like gloss and matte, clear and frosted, opaque and transparent, and smoky and iridescent."

As the tile segment of the industry forges further ahead, dressing a room to individual taste will be as easy as finding that perfect pair of shoes - or as easy as creating a tiled floor as a fashion "understatement" for the well-dressed room.