Creative Collaborations that Transform Tiling Trends

by Stacey Sheppard in News & Noteworthy

Big name designers have been collaborating with manufacturers to create unusual and unique designs for many years.

The furniture industry has seen a wealth of designers lending their expertise and their name to brands, closely followed by the kitchen and bathroom industry and lighting too.

In recent years though, it’s tiles that have garnered the interest of some of the world’s best known and most renowned names in design and architecture. These close relationships between manufacturers and designers may sometimes be challenging in creative terms but they frequently result in some striking products.

“External designers bring a completely fresh perspective to the process,” explains Surface Tiles’ showroom manager Jules Archard.

“They start with the aesthetic and this often stretches the manufacturer and means they have to push the boundaries of their production processes in order to make the vision a reality. As well as driving technological innovation, designers also bring skills and ideas from a whole host of other fields from outside the tiling sphere, which also brings originality to the designs.”

A strong aesthetic and a respected designer name combine to position these distinctive collections of tiles above a crowded market full of products all competing for our attention. “The sheer volume of tiles, mosaic and stone available can be daunting for even the most accomplished interior designer,” adds Jules Archard. “The great advantage of a designer collection, is that it gives you a desirable aesthetic that can stand alone. Even if you just pick one colour and use it on one wall in the room, you will achieve a beautiful result, you can’t go wrong. “

Working with a big-name designer may mean a big investment in terms of budget and resources but it can be worthwhile for manufacturers looking to catch the eye of consumers and consolidate their reputation and position in the marketplace. “Consumers are more design conscious now so are often aware of big-name designers,” Jules Archard continues. “In the past, cachet in the home could be created by sourcing a rare marble, or using mosaic finished in a precious metal like platinum. But today you can add value and desirability by stating that the tiles for example are by Patricia Urquiola, in the same way that developers promote taps by Philippe Starck.”

The London-based Surface Tiles network of showrooms has some striking examples of just how successful the designer collaboration can be with some of the world’s leading tile manufacturers including Mutina and BRIX.

Azulej by Patricia Urquiola

At Clerkenwell Design Week this year, Spanish architect and industrial designer Patricia Urquiola launched her latest collection. Azulej is the fourth and by far the most sought-after surface design from Urquiola. It draws inspiration from traditional cement-based Victorian floor tiles but with a 21st century spin using porcelain and the latest inkjet technology. The deliberately random collection combines abstract patterns and subtle neutral colours to create a mix and patch effect that can be combined in endless combinations to produce stunning decorated floors and wall or to create tiled “rugs” in the middle of a room.

Folded by Raw Edges

Talented Israeli design duo, Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay, of Raw Edges transformed porcelain into paper with their ingeniously visionary collection Folded. The couple were inspired by their fascination with paper and the unexpected forms and shapes it creates when folded. However, they also drew on the traditional ceramic patterns which were common in apartments in Tel Aviv in the Fifties and Sixties as a visual reference.

Phenomenon by Tokujin Yoshioka

This ground breaking new collection from Japanese artist and designer Tokujin Yoshioka has been available in the UK since June 2011. Phenomenon is an evocative, nature-inspired surface collection that resulted from years of research into the interaction of natural phenomenon with creativity. With Phenomenon, Yoshioka explores the originality of textures and patterns found in nature, such as honeycombs, snow crystals, icicle formations and plant cells.

I Frammenti by Claudio Silvestrin

Architect Claudio Silvestrin has also tried his hand at tile design with his 2006 collection. I Frammenti is the world’s smallest mosaic tile at only 5mm. These tiny porcelain cubes come on 300 x 300mm sheets and due to their extreme minimal size these tactile and flexible mosaics can be used to cover even curved surfaces. According to Silvestrin, the principle behind the design was to remove all sense of joints from the surface.

Pico by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

The Bouroullec brothers created a range of tiles that maintain the raw aspect of traditional earth floors or handmade cement, letting the material convey its natural characteristics. Talking about the range they say: ‘While in recent years tiling mainly produced icy surfaces hiding the material depth, Pico focuses on revealing the matter as a substance itself – the compressed sand and minerals that constitute ceramic tiles.’ The slightly irregular dotted texture of Pico produces a gentle surface that contrasts with the extreme brightness and slickness of today’s coating materials. ‘In this collection,’ they say ‘we have worked on defining a regular-irregular texture, the result is the declension of two relief surfaces: “Down” with sunken dots and “Up” with elevated dots.’

BRIX D.R.Y by Vincent Van Duysen

Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen is responsible for the innovative D.R.Y. collection. The hexagonal form of the tiles, which can be turned to integrate the joins into the pattern, creates an original way of avoiding repetition – hence D.R.Y. can be interpreted as an acronym for ‘Don’t Repeat Yourself.’ The resulting surface pattern is reminiscent of the irregular cracks formed by aged paint, plaster or dried earth.

What all these designer collections have in common is not only their innovative design and clever execution but the fact that they are all quite unique in the way that they play with texture, pattern and visual effects making them perfect statement additions to the home.

All the above collections are available from Surface Tiles –

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