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5 Edgy Trends in Today's Tile

Cutting-edge style can cover a range of looks, from the glamour of polished alabaster to the grittiness of a graffiti-covered urban street. Whether inspired by the mainstreaming of subculture via films like Exit Through the Gift Shop, the popularity of converted lofts, the popularity of Tony Duquette causing cravings for malachite, or the '70s-luxe styles brought about by Kelly Wearstler's odes to bravura modern, the tile industry is watching and responding. Here's a sampling of some of the most cutting-edge looks from around the world that are trending in tile for 2013, on display at the Coverings show in Atlanta in spring 2013.
Trend: Avant-Garde

Technology has played a big role in avant-garde tile looks, like with the Semiprecious series from Fiandre. Images are ink-jet printed onto a slab of engineered clay and then fired; the final result is a large glazed porcelain tile that looks like a slab of polished stone, inculding malachite (shown) and agate.

Shown: Fiandre
Fiandre has a patent on the technique, and the material can be adapted to floors, counters, doors, cabinet faces and more.

Shown: Fiandre
I saw these pieces up close and personal, and they were truly stunning; my jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out, then I had to shake my head and look again. I would have felt stupid, except everyone around me had similar reactions.

Shown: Fiandre
Trend: '70s Glam

Digital imaging and ink-jet printing mean that ceramic and porcelain tile can take on the look of just about any exotic stone, such as brown marble. Many of the rich browns, taupes, bronzes and golds have a bravura modern look.

Shown: Rex
Alabaster-inspired tiles give this floor a superglam '70s look. I can see the influence of Kelly Wearstler's designs as well as Rachel Zoe's fashion aesthetic at work here.

Shown: Rex
Trend: Bling

Metals also took on decorative prints as well as pretty gilts. Luxe metallic tiles shimmer and twinkle as they reflect light. These tiles are especially popular on accent walls, particularly on a fireplace wall or headboard wall, or completely covering a small powder room.

Shown: Rendering Decor Bronze by Apavisa
An accent wall takes on the look of gold leaf.

Shown: Apavisa
Trend: Industrial Chic

Some metal finishes are taking on the rusted look of Cor-Ten steel or the patina of copper. These rusty and crusty metallic looks work well with an industrial design aesthetic.

Shown: Xtreme Black by Apavisa
Shown: Apavisa
Industrial style is also moving tile designers toward concrete looks. These new tiles were designed with elements like exposed brick in mind and instantly add the look of industrial wear and tear to loft-like homes that were built from scratch.

Shown: Jazz by Keraben
These tiles resemble aged and worn concrete floors you'd see in factories and warehouses.

Shown: Pavimento by Viva
Concrete floors and countertops are popular in today's minimalist kitchens.

Shown: Apavisa
Trend: Street Culture

Not since Jean-Michel Basquiat's heyday has graffiti been so close to mainstream, with collectors shelling out millions for street art in galleries, which admittedly, is a little hard to wrap one's brain around. Whether you see it as ironic or not, tile designers have taken notes, tagging tiles with graffiti-like art as well as creating tiles that complement subculture looks.

Shown: Peronda
Street-sign graphic details add an urban touch to this concrete-like tile.

Shown: Dolcemaro by Viva
Doodles and Union Jacks are part of this chalk-brick pattern, inspired by nostalgia for the British punk scene.