After choosing a paint color, picking a tile for a bathroom remodel, a new kitchen backsplash, or an entryway floor is one of the most difficult design decisions to make. After all, it's a permanent fixture that has the power to completely transform the look of a room—to get it wrong could be a pain to fix or replace. While it would be all too easy to revert to the classics (white subway tile, simple hexagon flooring, or a basket-weave pattern) and call it a day, we believe in the power of variety. And just as we learned that statement ceilings are often overlooked in design decisions, so are statement tiles.
One company is determined to fight tile monotony. After 20 years of operation, Exquisite Surfaces partnered with 20 top interior and textile designers on an anniversary collection that is bold, unexpected, and colorful but also timeless. We chatted with a handful of the designers who participated in the collection and asked them to share their top tile trend for 2018. One thing we noticed above all: Designers are craving tiles that can transition seamlessly from indoor to outdoor. Want to break away from default subway tiles? This is a great place to start.
Brooklyn-based studio Avo is known for producing extraordinary hand-dyed leathers for rugs and more. The inspiration for its ES/20 tile was woven textiles. Founder Brit Kleinman imagines this tile would be particularly well suited to an urban setting by the sea or in an indoor-outdoor transition space.
Her 2018 tile trend: "I think the top trend of 2018 will be playful, unfinished textures and warm neutrals."
Dramatic Wall Coverings
L.A.-based design firm Consort drew inspiration from the playful shapes and odd colors of the 1980s Memphis design movement for its anniversary tile. The design duo behind the brand imagines it would be especially well suited for a shower, "especially if you wrapped it from floor to ceiling to fully immerse yourself in our playfully chic world."
Their 2018 tile trend: "Thinking beyond backsplashes and shower floors. People will start using tiles more as a dramatic wall covering moment."
Antique Stone Tiles
Krista Schrock and David John Dick, the design partners behind Disc Interiors, drew inspiration from looking at shoji screens and rope knots. "We love the balance and order of shoji screens when installed," says Dick. "We recently finished a home with many Japanese woodworking details, so we've been looking at these details a lot lately. We were also inspired by the dense green vegetation of a forest, and so we chose a dark green for the base of the tile." The designers imagine this tile on a kitchen floor or a tiled wall in an overgrown garden.
Their 2018 tile trend: Antiqued stone tiles with tumbled, distressed edges. "People are returning to rustic homes, homes that have soul and depth and history."
Irregular Handmade Tiles
L.A.-based firm Jamie Bush + Co. looked at the surrealist urban landscapes of the Italian painter Georgio de Chirico to inspire its tile design. "It channels his high-contrast, geometric figure–ground compositions and pays homage to his buildings and running archways," says Bush. "I'd love to make a series of side and coffee tables with the tiles, allowing the different patterns to dictate the final shapes of the tables."
His 2018 tile trend: "Irregular handmade tiles in simple, modern finishes."
For designer Kelly Lamb, it was a vintage block print on a Japanese silk kimono with a surprisingly contemporary-feeling geometric pattern that inspired her design. "I wanted to create a dynamic pattern using simple lines." She imagines it making a bold statement on a ceiling.
Her 2018 tile trend: "Matte colors." Glossy tiles have passed their prime.
For textile designer Martyn Thompson, his own photography served as inspiration for his tile design. "I found that organic, irregular shapes are a recurring theme for me—the shape on the tile mimics the outline of one of my tapestry pillows." In an ideal world, he would love to see this tile in an indoor-outdoor setting: "I love the idea of merging the inside and the outside—bringing the tiles from the kitchen into a courtyard or a patio with urns and terra-cotta pots full of plants and flowers."
His 2018 tile trend: "Patterns—bringing decorative elements into the contemporary, pared-back gray interior."
Michelle Nussbaumer, who is known for her worldly flair, was inspired by Gio Ponti and the waters of Capri for her design. "I love how the Portuguese use their antique azulejos [tiles] as a dado," she says. This method consists of only using tiles on the lower half of the wall, about four feet high. "I'd love to see a textured or plastered wall in white above it. It would be a great modern twist on this classic idea."
Her 2018 tile trend: "I am excited to see encaustic tiles, which have been around forever, make a comeback. They've been used in Morocco, Cuba, Spain, North Africa, and France forever. I'm glad we are finally discovering their beauty, simple elegance, and easy care."
L.A.-based British textile designer Peter Dunham was inspired by a vintage Indian block-print textile he found during his travels. "We initially made it into a print on linen for Peter Dunham Textiles," he says. "I like it because it's a pattern that has a handcrafted look, but its simplicity makes it modern. I would love to tile all four walls of an entry or bathroom."
His 2018 tile trend: "People are so exposed to every last idea online that they want something more personal and daring than the same old. Color is a great way to achieve this."
New York–based designer Sandra Nunnerley was inspired by a sunburst motif for her tile design: "It's used by ancient cultures to signify renewal and rebirth and by contemporary ones to channel the sun's energy and vibrancy. It's an emblem that we've incorporated throughout many of our projects." The designer imagines the tile in a formal living room or dining room. "The starburst tile could be used to create an inlay pattern on any tile floor and would work well mixing with other non-patterned tiles."
Her 2018 tile trend: "Graphic and geometric tiles will get their chance to shine. The mixing of graphic patterns with more traditional tiles will create a fresh and surprising design trend this year."
Past Motifs and Styles
For textile designer Suzanne Tick, the study of architecture and shadow play and the graphic work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán inspired this intricate tile design. "I designed this tile with versatility in mind," says the designer. "I would love to see this tile used throughout a space—from the bathroom to the kitchen to the outdoor patio.
Her 2018 tile trend: "I believe we will see tiles designed with bold pops of colors and intricate tiling that alludes to past motifs and styles."
Interior designer Will Wick was inspired by African, Indian, Persian, and Polynesian textiles. "I wanted the tile to have a transformative quality, in the sense that it can create at least four different patterns and many different moods depending on how it's laid," says the designer. "This tile could easily transition outdoors so I would love to do an exterior wall in an airy courtyard or garden space. I also think it would be visually interesting to place the tile on columns in an outdoor environment—on a patio perhaps."
His 2018 tile trend: "I think the trend of bohemian, tribal, and ethnic tile designs will remain relevant this year, as well as the use of bold geometrics. I think this boldness will transcend into mixed prints and pattern-on-pattern play, especially in the kitchen and bath."
If these are any indication, bold and intricate tile designs will be on the rise this year. Get ready to look at tiling in a whole new light.