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What Are the Top 5 Tile Trends of 2021?

In his final editorial, former Managing Editor James F. McClister shares five lessons from Coverings 2021 for remodelers. 

July 21, 2021
Tile trends

James F. McClister is now the digital content director at PRODUCTS Magazine and editor at Custom Builder magazine.

Coverings returned in person this year after a 2020 that needs no further explanation, bringing together some of the ceramic tile industry’s biggest brands, brains, and purchasers. After two days and no doubt nothing short of 20,000 steps spent exploring the show—held this year in Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center—we’ve put together five quick takeaways to keep remodelers ahead of tile’s ever wobbling design curve.

1. Biophilia Everything

The idea manifests in a variety of ways, but the big picture throughline is that manufacturers are responding to a demand for biophilic design—which for the uninitiated refers to humanity’s innate desire to connect with nature. There is a resurgence of greens—hues from emerald to mint—all conjuring vague sensations of flora. Botanical tiles have become so popular that hardly a manufacturer at the show wasn’t featuring at least one such print. Texture is becoming more refined in its mimicry of stone and wood—so much so that in some instances discerning the ceramic from the real material would be a challenge. And of course, those same stone and wood tiles are maintaining their surging popularity.

2. The “Cement Look”

Cement has been a popular option for countertops in recent years—both for the look and the price tag—so it was no surprise to see a wave of new tile options bringing that look to the floor, in the form of classic, large format and the newly popular extra-large format tiles as well as outdoor pavers (another trend that’s been steadily growing in popularity and options over the past few years). This is a case where again texture plays a key role in capturing the essence of the material, with added grip and mixed finishes often utilized to enhance the effect. Considering the prolific presence of new cement-styled tile at the show, remodelers may want to prepare themselves for more homeowners in the future requesting the “cement look.”

3. Mixing Materials (kind of)

Ceramic tile is all ceramic, so saying mixed materials is a bit of a misnomer, but the concept of juxtaposing tile styles on the same surface—for instance, tiles with the look of wood meeting classic white porcelain tiles on the same floor in the same room—has caught on big this year. From a certain perspective, this may also fit into the biophilic category, as often the examples of this trend include a natural-looking finish set against a more manufactured-looking tile.

4. Hexagons Are Back (and maybe triangles)

Don’t call it a comeback—maybe more like a loop. Styles come and go and hexagons have returned, or so professes the tile world at large. From large format to “it fits in the palm of your hand,” the options and styles for hexagon-shaped tiles (or “hexes” as they were referred to frequently throughout the show) were so vast it felt as though the style had never left. Perhaps before their time (or after their time, if style is indeed a loop) several manufacturers are also trying out other less typical (in this day and age) shapes, like triangles. The shape makes for interesting design options, but few manufacturers are offering triangles currently. Hexagons, though, were everywhere.

5. Extra-Large Format Tiles

If you look at large format tiles and think “this needs to be bigger,” fret no longer—extra-large format tiles are here in a big way. The introduction of the extra-large format category feels almost predetermined; the popularity of large format tiles was so explosive. Manufacturers are in large numbers adopting the option into product lines, with dimensions typically reaching up to 64” x 127”. The size, with limited grout joints, lends itself well to the practice of using tile as essentially wallpaper.

About the Author

About the Author

James McClister is managing editor for Professional Remodeler.

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