Ceramic tile provides a durable artistic canvas for architectural and interior designers

Creating art with tiles is not a new phenomenon. Archaeological excavations have unearthed magnificent works of art on the floors and walls dating back millennia. It is likely that beautiful paintings were created on parchment and other more delicate media at the same time, but the durability, hardness and weather resistance of ceramic tile ensured its long-term survival.

Designers today are equally inspired by this medium, selecting artistically rendered tiles and creating their own decorative works of art with unique patterns and placements. Coatings 2022, the global tile exhibit that landed in Las Vegas last week, provided acres of inspiration. Even design professionals who were unable to attend savored the images shared by their colleagues and the specialized press on social networks from the show.

Overview of trends and applications

Among the trends this year are colorful tiles – especially blues and greens – with oxidized finishes, nature-inspired patterns, geometries, bold stone patterns and vintage looks. A skilled designer can create a focal point wall, insert, shower surround or countertop with these offerings. And many do!

Designer based in San Diego Rachel Viloria Moriarty is one such pro: “My clients tend to love bold statements in their homes, whether we’re designing a colorful beach house or addressing one of their interests.” One such client was inspired by all things space, she recalls. “We designed a 24-foot tall chimney that we call the Death Star.” Moriarty also incorporated tiles to evoke mermaids and clouds and other elements for a variety of spaces and clients.

His colleague from San Diego, Susan Wintersteen, uses geometry to add artistic interest to his projects. “Using a mix of shapes, textures and colors makes a simple tile extraordinary,” she shares. The designer particularly likes to add artistic accents for an unexpected pop, as she did in her new penny-dot showroom. “It’s always a topic of discussion for the guests!”

Creator in Lubbock, Texas Allison Fannin points out that ceramic tiles lend themselves to artistic expressions in places like showers and swimming pools that are inhospitable to other materials. She likes to lay floor-to-ceiling tiles in bathrooms, she notes. “It’s one of my favorite ways to bring texture, color and drama where you least expect it. It’s good for wet space too instead of wallpaper or just paint.

San Antonio Creator Shea Pumarejo also uses the tile as an artistic medium. “I see space as a blank canvas,” she comments of her approach to room layout. Pumarejo uses tiling to achieve “rhythm and balance,” she adds.

Graphic updates

There were plenty of options at Coverings to achieve a graphic flair in design projects with a fresh and energetic look. While encaustic looks were still present around the living room floor, the geometry was updated more contemporary with new shapes, sizes, patterns and finishes. The retro in these offerings is more reminiscent of mid-century and the Roaring Twenties than medieval Europe.

Natural Inspirations

Nature continues to do well on the trend front. Plants and animals have decorated the tiles throughout the exhibition and will animate any projects they have covered. But the strongest look was natural stone.

Tile production technology has evolved to imitate onyx, marble and other precious rocks without their upkeep, fragility, excavation or expense. These great imitators can be rendered in non-slip floor tiles for wet areas or book-matching wallcoverings to continue the movement of stone on the slabs as you would see in historic installations.

Mixed looks

Mixed media enthusiasts can use tiles in the same way as in art installations, but with simpler requirements. This ability manifested itself at Coverings in series of ceramics that mixed geometry with oxidized or plaster finishes. Plaster looks, also very trendy, appeared alongside dotted textures. The exhibition floor was a stew of healthy colors, materials, shapes and patterns offering visually nutritious combinations.

There were many blends to explore, depending on your needs and inspirations. Perhaps because of the suffocating effect of the pandemic on life over the past two-plus years, this season’s expressions are brimming with creativity and energy.

Betty K. Park