This year’s Coverings began with bleak news, as the Tile Council of North America reported that 2008 sales totaled only 2.1 billion square feet of surfaces, a 21.5 percent — and $2.4 billion — decline from 2006 highs. Responding to the recessionary climate, exhibitors embraced conservatism. Tile makers showed off restrained patterns and color palettes or banked on enduring trends, like sustainability. - David Sokol
Domestic companies played to smaller purses with products such as solid pewter appliqu's that embellish an installation with construction adhesive or epoxy, and minimal labor. Paloma Pewter, Eagle, Idaho. www.palomapewter.com
Hudson, a wavy, highly dimensional 4'' x 10'' tile, is one example of the trend toward handmade tile reminiscent of art potteries ranging from Pewabic to Heath. ModCraft, Beacon, N.Y.
Rock on a roll
Crossville, which has only produced stone accents since 1999, introduced Bella Via, a new nine-color collection of stone suited for interior and exterior wall applications that ranges in size from mosaics to 18'' square. Crossville, Crossville, Tenn. www.crossvilleinc.com
Some assembly required
The undulating stripes of the Ribbon glass surface material comprises slivers removed or left over from other fabrication jobs; the salvaged material is fused together in flat-bed kilns and colored. Available in lengths up to 14'. Interstyle, Burnaby, British Columbia. www.interstyle.ca
The tile industry has begun releasing myriad veneerlike products that promise to eliminate demolition of existing tile surfaces. Slimtech achieves its 3-millimeter (.12'') thickness by rolling and compression methods new to porcelain. Resembling basalt, it is available in slabs as large as 3 x 1 meters (10' x 3'), while smaller, matchstick-proportioned tiles may be applied to curved surfaces. Lea North America, Charlotte. www.ceramichelea.com
Among the most promising sustainable solutions in the tile industry is a titanium dioxide coating that scrubs the air of pollution. This autumn StonePeak will begin applying a micrometric cladding of this compound to 24"-square and 24" x 12" tiles in its collections. According to closed-chamber Tile Council of North America tests, the company's additive reduces smog by 70 percent. Stonepeak Ceramics, Chicago. www.stonepeakceramics.com
Tile is normally associated with materials underfoot. Ekobe upends expectations-and embraces the sustainability movement-by incorporating agricultural waste, including coconut husks and rice peels, in its formulation. Wholesale Tile by Aguayo, Tampa.
The famous art pottery Rookwood has got its groove back. Under new ownership, the 129-year-old company has returned to its original home city of Cincinnati. And although Rookwood discontinued its architectural product line in 1949, that is back in business with the new release of the Heritage Collection. The designs are reworked from original Arts and Crafts-style, Art Deco, and other models. Also launching is Modern Classics, pared-down looks conceived by the latest generation of Rookwood designers. The Rookwood Pottery Company, Cincinnati. www.rookwood.com
Now Adhere This
SlimmKer eases installation of super-thin tile even further, thanks to a peel-and-stick backing that mounts permanently in approximately 20 minutes. The technology is not recommended for floors. Inalco, Alcora, Spain. www.inalco.es
Set in Stone
With the market's move toward conservatism and longevity, companies are producing stone look-alikes in porcelain. Stone Forest, part of GranitiFiandre's NewStone collection, evokes petrified wood, combining this and the recent wood-plank trend in one. It is available in two colorways. GranitiFiandre, Castellarano, Italy. granitifiandreusa.com
Despite the gray clouds of recession, Coverings had its moments of exuberance. For example, the trade fair marked the inaugural appearance of Italian tile manufacturer Mosaico+, whose Dialoghi collection features clever geometric patterns. Tiles designed by Nagoya Mosaic Tile, which are as intricately shaped as they are textured, are being distributed in North America for the first time by Solistone. Mosaico+, Casalgrande, Italy. www.mosaicopiu.it