Mimetic variations | by Luisa Pianzola

The increasingly high levels of aesthetic and functional performance of porcelain tile are once again grabbing attention at this year’s Cersaie. The key factor in terms of surface quality is the advent of digital printing technology, which is capable of reproducing natural materials, especially marble and wood, with an astonishing degree of fidelity. The versatile digital printing solutions create aesthetic qualities that are virtually indistinguishable from the original materials while ensuring far superior characteristics of strength, sustainability and ease of maintenance coupled with lower costs. As for the ceramic bodies, the use of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies together with high-quality raw materials makes it possible to produce very thin and consequently much lighter tiles that are nonetheless extremely resistant and hard-wearing. These thin tiles and panels come in an extremely wide range of sizes, from very small through to extra-large, and the fact that they can be installed over existing surfaces like a second skin makes them ideal for renovation projects. But let’s first take a look at the macro-trends on display at the Bologna show.

Marble and stone, from nature to hi-tech

While many porcelain tile collections are inspired by natural surfaces, the most prominent this year are the ones that reproduce the veins, gloss and colour tones of high-quality marble and stone (11). Although this trend has been in evidence for a number of years, it continues to be very popular amongst designers and the general public. In many cases the original stone surfaces are not simply reproduced but are entirely reinterpreted to create something new and utterly original. Digital printing is used to apply the motifs to the ceramic surface without direct contact, just as in the case of paper and fabrics. This results in a material with a compact texture, uniform colour and velvety feel with either a gloss (1) or matt finish (6, 07). There is also no shortage of collections reproducing marble with low-relief designs (05).

 The shapeshifting qualities of wood

The second category of natural material widely used as inspiration for porcelain is wood in all its different varieties. Again, this is not limited to mimicry (12) but includes creative and experimental interpretations. Examples include surfaces with a unique craquelet look inspired by ancient Japanese burning techniques (2) and those with worn or antiqued yet utterly contemporary effects (13).

Small sizes make a comeback

As for sizes, the large-format trend is showing no let-up and is dominated by ultra-thin large-size panels, in many cases with surface effects inspired by resin, metals and fabrics in both gloss and matt versions (3, 10, 14, 15). The new feature this year is the reintroduction of a smaller size tile such as the classic 20x20 cm (4,8,9,16), in many cases combined with larger modules, monochrome designs or decorations taken from original prototypes created by historic names in the world of architecture.

  1. CERAMICHE PIEMME, Uniquestone
  2. REFIN, Kasai
  3. CASALGRANDE PADANA, Resina
  4. FRANCESCO DE MAIO, Blu Ponti
  5. SETTECENTO MOSAICI E CERAMICHE D’ARTE, Fuji statuario decoration
  6. PANARIA, Trilogy
  7. CISA, Italian Icon
  8. CIR, Mat
  9. FAETANO DEL CONCA, Abbazie
  10. LEONARDO, 65° Parallelo
  11. MONOCIBEC, Transalp
  12. NOVABELL, Eiche
  13. EMILGROUP, 20Twenty
  14. GAMBINI, Emisphere
  15. SANT’AGOSTINO, Fineart
  16. ELIOS, Design_Evo