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Versatility of tiles makes them a hot trend in home décor

Wide range of colours, textures and designs can transform a room and suit every homeowner’s personality

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 May, 2015, 9:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:33pm

Ann Sacks’ career as a purveyor of unique home tiles began in 1980 with a hunt for a Mexican wedding dress. While browsing through boutiques, Sacks stumbled upon a box of ornately patterned, hand-painted Mexican Talavera tiles. She instantly fell in love with them, and their traditional beauty inspired her to launch her eponymous tile business from her living room in Portland, Oregon. Three decades later, ANN SACKS is an established brand, with showrooms across the United States and in Britain. 

Sacks found her success at the forefront of the tile trend. They have become a central element in home décor, dictating the use of pattern, colour and texture.

“Tiles are no longer plain white and simply used as a backdrop,” says DeeDee Gundberg, director of product development at ANN SACKS.  “The tile has become a focal point in rooms because it is offered in so many interesting designs and textures.” 

This year, there is a tile to suit any personal taste or design scheme: small squares of mirrored metallics in gold, silver or bronze; cement tiles painted with vivid indigenous motifs; tactile, studded tiles; translucent glass hexagons that shimmer in hues of aqua, white and grey; or flowers, buds and leaves printed in relief onto stone. 

With so much on offer, which trends should be noted, and what are the standouts of the season?  “We are seeing a continuing trend towards every shade of grey and white, with pops of metallic for colour,” Gundberg says. These hues are being complemented by creative shapes and textures that help to add elements of interest.

One example is the Geode line of wall tiles created by Andy Fleishman for ANN SACKS, which comes in soft hues with a hint of shimmer and uses a combination of smooth and rough surfaces along with cutout geometric patterns. 

And Spanish mosaic tiles from Kanna use colour in a metallic grey background to bring the pieces to life. They’re created by digitally printing on small glass tiles, so that pops of iridescent turquoise, silver, purple and brown sit amid slate grey.  

On Sydney’s northern beaches in Australia, sisters Eliza O’Sullivan and Georgie Wicks have seen their small business, Tiles by Kate, grow exponentially over the past five years.  Although O’Sullivan agrees that grey is the new black this season, she says the real focus is on decorative tiling.

“The growth in speciality tiles has increased, especially in the last few years,” she says. “We are finding customers are searching for a point of difference, be it in a pattern or simply laying traditional tiles in different ways to create a neutral texture.  The biggest trend at the moment is pattern – mostly Moroccan-inspired and also Carrara marble on the floor, mosaics and kitchen splashbacks.”  

Moroccan-inspired design combines bold colours and patterns on floors and walls, so the hand-made Moroccan line at Tiles by Kate includes a wide range of colours. O’Sullivan says a recent installation included black and white tiles in a lattice pattern set beside aqua tiles with a floral motif and neutral beige, tans and whites in circular prints.  The beauty of Moroccan tiles, she adds, is that they can be combined in any number of colours and patterns, allowing them to reflect each homeowner’s personality - and this is why they are so in demand.

But don’t be swayed only by colour and pattern when choosing tiles - the experts agree it’s important to also consider practicalities, particularly the size and function of the room they will be used in. In a hot and humid climate such as Hong Kong’s, O’Sullivan recommends patterned encaustic concrete tiles.  “They are perfect in a tropical setting, as they are soft underfoot and cool to the touch,” she says. “The hand-painted options add a wonderful wow factor in small bathrooms.”

Of course, many homeowners in Hong Kong also have to consider the limited amount of space when buying floor and wall coverings.  “When designing for small, more intimate spaces, light colours can expand the space,” Gundberg says.  “Weaving in mirrored tiles as an accent reflects light and makes the room appear larger simply through its natural, inherent qualities. Although currently on trend, we suggest staying away from larger-format tiles and select 8x8-inch and smaller tiles so as not to visually overpower the space.”

The tile will be the hot design trend this summer thanks to its versatility, range of beautiful options and hard-wearing practicality that will add character to even the most bland spaces.