By Calista Sprague

Coverings, the largest tile and stone exhibition in North America, convened in Orlando at the Orange
County Convention Center April 14 through 17, featuring more than 1,100 exhibitors from 41 countries
around the globe. The show attracted distributors, designers, retailers, contractors and installers
interested in seeing the latest introductions from the world’s tile manufacturers.

The show floor was the largest in terms of both exhibitors and square footage since 2008. At 440,000
square feet, it was 18% larger than the show in Las Vegas last year. The mood among attendees and
exhibitors was upbeat in anticipation of a strong market for tile in 2015. (For more specific market
information, please refer to the tile section of the Annual Report on page 23.)

More than 75 educational sessions were held on just about every topic related to the tile and stone
business, including interior design, maintenance, sustainability, sales techniques, and installation
—some of which offered live demonstrations.

The exhibition hall was organized by country with pavilions hosted by Spain, North America, Italy,
China, Brazil and Turkey, among others. And this year Coverings brought back Appreciation Days, with
guided tours of the show floor and education sessions tailored to specific attendee groups: builders
and remodelers, architects and designers, contractors, and fabricators.

Tile design continues to evolve from functional floorcovering to fashion, due in great part to the
development of more sophisticated manufacturing processes, which include digital printing,
continuous extrusion technology and larger presses. Large formats, dimensional tiles, and textured
tiles and glazes are a few of the trends resulting from manufacturing advancements.

Designers love the monolithic look of large tiles, so manufacturers are answering with larger and
larger offerings, and this year numerous booths displayed thin, oversized slabs that are gaining
popularity here and abroad. The Tile Council of North America is crafting thin tile standards, and
several manufacturers have disseminated educational information and held training sessions to help
installers with the new large format thin tile products.

Tennessee based Crossville has been selling large format thin tile as the exclusive U.S. distributer
of the Laminam brand and showed a new line at Coverings called I Metalli that will officially launch
in June with sizes up to 1m x 3m and 3mm thick. The jumbo tile, which looks like oxidized metal with
an almost woven texture, was a big hit, garnering the most attention in the Crossville booth. I
Metalli is only recommended for wall installation, although Crossville also carries Laminam lines up
to 5.6mm thick that are suitable for floors.

Florida Tile produces up to 36” formats in its Lawrenceburg, Kentucky facility, and at Coverings
launched its Thinner brand of large format tiles made in Italy. Two collections, Aventis Thinner and
Time 2.0 Thinner, come in sizes up to 39”x118” and are 3.5mm thick with an adhered 0.5mm
fiberglass mesh backing. The tiles are made using a process that compresses the product to greater
than 15,000 tons PSI for increased flexibility and breaking strength, making them appropriate for
floors or walls in residential and light industrial applications. The colors correspond to colors
from the existing Aventis and Time 2.0 lines. A third line called Restore includes four rustic wood
looks in 8”x39” and 8”x59” formats, and the 5.5mm-thick tiles are suitable for residential and
heavy commercial use.

Dimensional tiles abounded at Coverings, and although not suitable for floors, they were interesting
to see, and many coordinated with floor tile options. Pillowed tiles, basketweaves, undulating
squares and stacked stone looks were particularly prominent. Several wall tile collections also
played with sheen for effect. StonePeak’s Aura wall tile, for example, consists of 4”x12” tiles,
and each color comes in both a matte and gloss finish that open up interesting design options. The
tiles can be combined in stripes, checkerboards or random placement, or used to outline
architectural details or furniture pieces for a subtle tone-on-tone effect. The glossy finish also
highlights the stone-like texture, adding to the tile’s interest.

One of the most exciting recent developments for floors is a host of new textures. Fabric, wood and
stone looks now sport textured punches and glazes for enhanced depth and realism. Ragno USA’s Villa
Medici combines a cotto look, which mimics aged pavers, with worn edges and a textured glaze that
resembles linen. The highs and lows in the texture, although slight, are enough to catch the light
and create tonal variations.

MS International (MSI), which initially focused solely on natural stone, has become one of the
largest and fastest growing importers of porcelain tile in the U.S. with 19 distribution centers
across the county. One of the featured items at the show was MSI’s new Versailles collection. The
line is inspired by travertine, with texturing and uneven pillowed edges that combine with digital
printing to create an impressively authentic stone visual and feel, but in a low maintenance
porcelain. The collection is modular, with four sizes of squares and rectangles that come in a kit
for ease of ordering.

Modular systems were seen in several other booths as well. For a more modern look, Italian owned Del
Conca USA launched Gotham, a modular series with an interesting hybrid look of slate, stone and
concrete that comes in four sizes plus a mosaic. The tiles utilize the technological capabilities of
the new facility in Loudon, Tennessee.

Mosaics continue to rise in popularity. Many manufacturers offer them as stand-alone collections,
but more and more often mosaics are included as an option within a line color, like an additional
size. The mosaics can be found in just about any shape; penny rounds, hexagons, pebbles and
trapezoids were spotted in several booths.

Perhaps one of the most interesting new shapes for mosaics is the pencil mosaic, thin rectangular
tiles that can be installed vertically or horizontally. Italian manufacturer Sicis focuses on
mosaics more than almost any other company. Its Fiber collection, which launched at Cersaie and
showed at Coverings, combines thin strips of glass, mirror, marble, platinum, gold and other types
of tile into rich, sparkling mosaics.

Hexagons were the ubiquitous new shape for every size tile at Cersaie and were in almost every booth
at Coverings, from oversized hexagonal floor tile to tiny versions in mosaics. Moroccan shapes, such
as the arabesque, turned up in several displays at Coverings as well, mainly in smaller sizes for

Most tile, especially for the floor, is fairly monochromatic with little to no distinct pattern, but
tiles are trending this year toward textile or geometric inspired patterns. These looks are often
installed in a patchwork, either as an inset or a border, and then paired with a more solid cement
or fabric look, or as a major design statement on a full wall or floor, creating a patterned
wallpaper or carpet effect. Le Terre by Imola Ceramica pairs the printed textile patterns on
hexagons and narrow planks with textured, solid-color tiles that look like painted concrete. The
tiles come in four sizes and can be mixed and matched for an endless array of design options on
floors and walls.

Wood continues to be a huge seller, and the enhanced textures and glazes make it more and more
difficult to spot the difference between hardwood and a tile copy. The design trends are split
between rustic looks and more clear wood looks. Atlas Concorde, an Italian company that recently
announced plans for a manufacturing plant in Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee, showed Bord, a collection of
four new wood looks in through-body porcelain that emulates clear wood with a light grain and no
knots or character marks. These clear wood looks work well in sleek modern designs where the
busyness of rustic wood would interrupt the clean, stark feel. A textured version, available in some
colors with saw marks, could be mixed with the non-textured tiles for added interest. The line also
includes architectural wall panels with three-dimensional squares at different depths.

At the other extreme, manufacturers are pushing rustic wood designs—which they often refer to as
reclaimed looks—to the limits, with visuals of charred wood, weathered barnwood, and distressed
painted wood. Marazzi launched Preservation, an aged and weathered wood look with saw marks and
other distressing. The visuals vary greatly from one plank to another, some with multi widths in a
single plank. The tiles are rectified for smaller grout joints to add to the realism. These rustic
and distressed looks work in a variety of spaces, from a farmhouse in the country to a modern,
industrial loft.

While there are still plenty of intricate stone looks, manufacturers are also responding to
designers’ requests for quieter stone looks with less veining to create a softer look. Moonstruck
by Crossville, provides a stone look with soft striations that vary tile to tile for a more
authentic look that won’t overpower a room. Five natural stone colors range from warm to cool.

Cement looks have become almost as popular as wood and stone, and are often used in combination with
other visuals. Florim USA launched Colored Cement, a hybrid wood and cement visual in four matte
colors that is produced in its Clarksville, Tennessee facility. The company is focusing on versatile
looks like this one in a through-body porcelain to cross-market to both residential and commercial

The booths in the Spain Pavilion, representing 125 manufacturers, were filled with vibrant colors
and metallic looks. Among the most innovative products were those utilizing a metallic ink, applied
with inkjet technology, that chemically reacts in the kiln and puffs up for a relief effect.