At top, more than 100,000 visitors attended Cersaie 2004, which represents an increase of approximately 3 percent compared to last year’s show.

Colorful mosaics at Sicis’ booth, such as this one celebrating the human form (inset), attracted the attention of show-goers.

At bottom, Muri by Marazzi features an intricate format of intersecting diagonals. The series is available in three different patterns and six colors.

Rex Ceramiche combines realistic wood textures with a modernist design aesthetic.
Nearly 100,000 visitors flocked to Cersaie 2004, the 22nd international exhibition of ceramic tiles and bathroom furnishings. That figure represented an increase of approximately 1.6 percent over last year's show. In addition to more attendees, the show - which took place in Bologna, Italy, Sept. 28 through Oct. 3 - also featured an expanded exhibit space, thanks to the opening of a new 28,000-square-meter, two-level hall. All told, Cersaie 2004 encompassed a total of 156,000 square meters.

As always, these spaces were filled with the latest designs in ceramic tile. And presuming tradition holds, these products will establish key design trends worldwide for the coming year.

One of the most noticeable trends at Cersaie 2004 was the ever-increasing variety of color schemes available to the tile buyer. Where color palettes were once dominated by shades of beige and gray, every color of the spectrum is now represented. Pastel shades, in particular, are gaining in popularity again.

Among the most popular colors this year is red - from bright, pure reds to all shades of burgundy and pinkish hues. Visitors to the show were seeing red virtually wherever they turned. Pastel shades of green, yellow, blue, and orange were also quite popular, as were shades of brown that ranged from chocolate to mocha.

Another obvious trend in evidence at the show is the increasing realism of ceramic tiles designed to imitate the look and texture of natural materials such as stone, wood and textiles. What once were obviously crude imitations of natural materials are now amazingly realistic duplicates, in terms of both coloration and texture, which also possess superior technical characteristics that make them a viable alternative to natural materials in many design applications.

While stone visuals have been evolving for quite some time, wood looks have shown the most rapid progress recently. The color and textural realism shown in new products by Rex, Dom, Porcelanosa and others is truly amazing, and it would be difficult to differentiate these products from their natural counterparts from a standing position.

Also exhibited at Cersaie to dramatic effect were a plethora of new stone-look ceramic lines that convincingly imitate marble, slate, sandstone, granite, travertine, and virtually every other type of natural stone. Some outstanding stone products on display at the show included Marazzi's Metrope, an authentic sandstone reproduction; Floor Gres' Grand Tour, which emulates crosscut travertine; Rocks by Edilcoughi; La Fabbrica's Imago; and Roca's ubiquitous Rock and Rock, which showcased several new additions to this popular line of stone-look porcelain tile.

Other trends visible at Cersaie 2004 were the increasing popularity of modular formats as well as metallic finishes and accents. Many manufacturers debuted modular product lines, in which tiles of various sizes are combined within the same installation. This format allows end users almost unlimited flexibility in their tile design choices. One novel approach to modular formats was taken by Lea, whose Midtown line features tiles of varying thicknesses.

Metallic finishes and accent pieces have also gained popularity. Numerous ceramic tiles that imitate stainless steel, iron, brass, copper, and all types of metal could be found throughout the show, in addition to metal accent pieces of all shapes and descriptions. Corten, a type of naturally oxidized iron that ranges from reddish brown to green, was also especially popular at this year's event.

While many manufacturers seem to be emphasizing a modernistic aesthetic, more traditional ceramics - such as mosaics and terra cotta - are more popular than ever, based on the various exhibits at Cersaie 2004. One could make the case that the future of tile will strike a functional balance between of the oldest and newest technologies of the product segment.