There is hardly a more prolific producer of ceramic tile in the world than Italy. Last year in the US alone, distributors, contractors, homeowners, etc., imported more than 1.9 million square feet of Italian ceramic tile—enough to cover every inch of every floor in over 1,000 “typical” American homes (“typical” described by the National Association of Realtors as being 1,900 square feet).
While China may account for the majority of ceramic tile traded internationally, it is Italy that represents the market’s majority value. The approximately 407 million square feet of tile exported by the country last year was valued at $6.2 billion—$2 billion more than China, which shipped an additional 140 million square feet.
Considering the international prominence of Italian ceramics, it's no coincidence the country’s largest trade show Cersaie, hosted annually in Bologna, garners such strong worldwide attendance. After more than three decades of serving as a platform to showcase Italy's finest, most innovative ceramic tile, the show in 2019 attracted upwards of 50,000 foreign attendees. For context, NAHB's International Builder Show received just over 3,000 foreign visitors in 2018, the last year in which detailed attendance data is available.
Rino Bedogni, marketing and communications head for Ceramiche Refin, in a statement went so far as to describe Cersaie as the world's "flagship trade show for surface design.”
The Latest in Italian Ceramic Tile Trends
This was my second year attending Cersaie. My first was in 2018—though, both times were as part of a North American delegation of journalists, architects, and designers organized by Novita PR and Ceramics of Italy. To attend once is to recognize the show’s stateside relevance—that even though an exhibiting manufacturer may not distribute overseas or that a US contractor may not operate at a price point that tends to involve imported ceramics, the designs presented at the show represent both an influence on and reflection of current home design at-large. It’s no coincidence that the soft, bright though muted color palettes popular at this year’s show also appear in current US paint trends.
To attend Cersaie twice is to recognize how fickle design sensibilities can be. “A response to quarantine” was, for instance, a popular in-part explanation for the return to simplicity and optimism.
This year’s show was unique in that it followed 2020, during which time Cersaie and the industry were forced into hiatus. This year’s show “(marked) the relaunch of our entire industry,” according to Bedogni. And we were lucky enough to experience it firsthand.
After nearly two years off, here are the colors, textures, styles, and technology defining the trends and innovations Italy’s ceramic tile manufacturers have been waiting to showcase globally.