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Last week, tile expert Roger from FloorElf.com expounded upon the history of  tile from the turn of the 20th century up until the present, and hinted at what the trends of decades past were leading to in 2011 and beyond.

In part 2 of Roger’s journey into the history and future of tile, we get to see into the crystal ball to help you get a jump on mapping out your home décor to include the latest trend in tile for 2011…

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Over the last five years or so the preferred designs have continued to be centered around natural, lighter shades of tile and natural stone, neutral tones and textured tile. Larger format tiles, 18 X 18 and larger, are also becoming more common. These basics combined with inserts and small areas or rows of interest such as a glass tile or interesting mosaic are the most common styles we are currently installing.

If you look back over all those different style and color choices of the past [see Tile Trends, Part 1] you will notice a couple of things. Firstly, the shades of tile remained, or came back around to, white or lighter shades of color. There were sporadic periods deep, rich colors or bright contrasting styles, but it always ended up back at lighter tones and shades. Secondly, what people chose to decorate their homes with has always been a way to differentiate it from their neighbors, while still using an acceptable (and livable) design and look. They wanted it to be different, but not so different as to be completely off the grid (or make their home unsellable).

Travertine: texture as well as color are important to consumers. Natural stone like this fits the bill nicely.

Lastly there was a consistent move toward patterns and textures which continues now. At first it was the incorporation of differently colored tiles interspersed throughout the sterile white installations. Then the colors became more common. As the colors became commonplace, some began being produced with white or colored ‘speckles’ in the glaze. This gave the tile depth and ‘feel’.

The move toward natural stone really brought the texture and feel into the mainstay. The popularity of travertine is a large part of this move. Every piece of natural stone is different. Travertine, with its large amount of fissures and holes adds a great deal of texture and depth to an installation. While granite and marble both have natural colors and striations which add to this, travertine has the ‘feel’ to it as well.

Currently the popular aspects of design are lighter or earth tones. Texture, feel and depth all play a large role in preferred designs and people are always looking for that one little, subtle aspect that really sets and installation apart from all the others and takes it to the next level. Where do we go from here?

Tile Into the Future
I believe the texture and feel aspect of tile installations will continue to grow and become an even larger aspect in design choices. This will take place not only with the specific tile, but with the design aspect of that tile as well. Other than simply the feel of the tile itself, the manner in which the tile is manufactured or fabricated will also begin to make more of an impact on the tile design itself.

Textures
Since travertine became commonplace and readily available the demand for it has exploded. While the shades and colors found in travertines are available with many manufactured products, it was the actual, physical feel of travertine which differentiated it from the others. It simply felt different.

Manufacturers and fabricators are beginning to pick up on this and create tile mosaics in several textures. By this I don’t mean the texture and feel of the face of the tile itself, I mean the individual tiles in the mosasics are created with height and angles in the z-axis rather than simply a flat plane. In essence the tiles are 3D.

Rather than a simple flat (or nearly so) surface they have different angles and surfaces which give the tile a literal feel. They can have sharp, angled cutbacks to the inner-depth of the mosaic or literal rounded tops, much like a river stone, but manufactured to be uniform in size and shape. As you run your hand over them they have several different levels of depth.

Shapes
Rectangular and square. For over one hundred years, with the exception of hexagonal mosaics in early bungalows and cafe-style installations, these were the bulk of what has been available and accepted. That is beginning to change and this change is beginning to pick up speed.

Unusual shapes, something unexpected like circular glass tiles, are becoming popular and the availability continues to rise. Tile manufacturers are starting to get back to the ’tile as art’ frame of mind and are producing different, unusual and specialty tile which don’t ‘conform’ to everyone else’s idea of what tile should be. While they are mostly used as an accent tile or band through a traditional tile installation, these very different tiles add a layer of ‘pop’ to an otherwise normal space. A centerpiece – something different.

Neutral is in. Neutral has always been in, and will continue to be so long as tile is being used for interior surface coverings. When you walk into a kitchen with a neutral backsplash you will hardly ever notice it right away. It fits, it’s normal. If, on the other hand, that kitchen has wild, unusual, bright neon colored tile you would not only notice it right away, it would overwhelm anything else in the kitchen. You would likely run from it – I would.

Colors
The current, most popular designs incorporate cool, earth tones. They are readily available, match nearly any decor, and are simply comfortable. By varying the shades of the many earth tones the choices are many. A beige tile has hundreds of variations. Coupled with that special mosaic band or insert these can create a truly one-of-a-kind installation while remaining functional and livable.

Neutral is in. Neutral has always been in, and will continue to be so long as tile is being used for interior surface coverings. When you walk into a kitchen with a neutral backsplash you will hardly ever notice it right away. It fits, it’s normal. If, on the other hand, that kitchen has wild, unusual, bright neon colored tile you would not only notice it right away, it would overwhelm anything else in the kitchen. You would likely run from it – I would.

If, in the example of this kitchen, you were to walk in and it had a nice, neutral colored tile on the wall with one specific design aspect, perhaps a specialty tile design above the stove or an unusual glass tile running through the center of the installation, it would hit that fine line between boring and atrocious – unique.

That, after all, is what has remained through the entire time period we’ve explored – the struggle for uniqueness. While unique is fairly easily accomplished (install your tile upside down – that’s unique) it must also be livable and even (gasp!) comfortable. With some good research, and a plan to stay unique to your tastes, you can have all three.

The struggle to differentiate your particular installation from everyone else’s will continue – it’s human nature. It should however be accomplished in a way that does not stray far from the normal styles and colors, but should incorporate that one particular, very special aspect which makes it your own. Find a nice, cool toned tile which is readily available then search to the ends of the earth for that one very special thing. You don’t actually need to look that far, check out Builddirect’s stone or glass tile pages for some great choices!

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Thanks, Roger!

For more great insight into tile, and tile installation, make sure to follow Roger @FloorElf on Twitter.  Also, check out tileartcenter.com, too.

Cheers!

Rob.

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.