In design, the advantages of high tech porcelain are myriad. It is low maintenance, high style, inexpensive to install, frost and stain resistant and is made to endure. Two current trends in high tech porcelain, very large format tiles and tiles made to mimic the look of natural stone, are being embraced by top designers globally for homes, restaurants, lobbies, spas, hotels, schools – even airports and stadiums. The large format trend has also extended to natural stone, with more designers requesting very large format tiles and even designing rooms using only slab material.
Renowned architect Barry Goralnick became enamored with large-scale rectangular porcelain tiles when he designed his own bathrooms. “I live in a loft with high ceilings and big, light-filled spaces,” explains Goralnick, “The scale of the tiles works beautifully on the floor and walls, and it sets a modern tone that is as minimal as possible. I chose a neutral color rectangular tile laid in a stacked pattern with a light gray grout. A real limestone countertop is a perfect match. The end result looks elegant and expensive. Since there is so little grout and no sealer, installation and maintenance are very simple.”
The precise nature of high tech porcelain, most of which is made by the tile experts in Italy and Spain, includes rectified edges, which allow for a very small grout line and a sleek finish. The production methods for these state-of-the-art tiles have also been highly refined to have as little warping as possible, so the tile surface has continuity and the edges won’t chip or wear. These properties also make large format material appear very modern, but not at all trendy. That sleek look will be timeless, so a large format tile finish will look new for decades.
When ELLE Decor Editor in Chief Michael Boodro approached us to donate flooring for a redesign of the Patron’s Lounge at the prestigious and historic Brooklyn Academy of Music, we jumped at the chance to be a part of this renovation. Designed by the team from Calvin Klein Home, the lounge is a multipurpose space that serves as a cocktail lounge, ticket pick-up, art gallery and small event space reserved for season ticket holders and high level donors to BAM. The Calvin Klein team selected our Etic Rovere Bianco, an Italian made wood-look porcelain planking in a mix of white and ivory tones that was not only a perfect fit for their spare and modern aesthetic, but it also had the effect of warming and opening up the look of the space. Etic’s very low maintenance and barely-there grout lines added to the sleek effect. Designer secret: When using planking shapes such as these 6″ x 36″ tiles, run the planking parallel to the dimension that you wish to appear larger, or perpendicular to the dimension you wish to appear smaller.
Another great large format look is an intentionally over-scaled parquet. This high-drama style is equally at home in contemporary, transitional and classic decor, both residential and commercial. Two examples pictured here tell the tale. In a gallery in Germany, our Mansion porcelain is a neutral foil for contemporary art, while in a master bath near Minneapolis, the scale of the tile lends both sophistication and whimsy, and mixes beautifully with classic Carrara marble. “Since most of the clients I’ve had resist the idea to use actual wood in a bathroom, I thought this was a great opportunity to get the look of wood, but to have the practicality of a tile. Since the pattern and color are so eye-catching, I designed the rest of the room to be a neutral backdrop that supports the statement that the floor is making. It was a bold selection, that admittedly, I was a bit nervous about, but in the end it was a huge success and all the guests in the home LOVED it!” said the room’s designer, Rebecca Toleno Van’t Hull, Senior Designer at Martha O’Hara Interiors.
Once installed, our Mansion porcelain is virtually indistinguishable from natural wood, but works in wet areas and is much easier to maintain. Not only do you not have to wait a month or two for the parquet to acclimate before installation, but also because the tiles are so large and so meticulously made, Mansion is among the least expensive tiles to install. It is offered in several beautiful color ways and all have within them subtle variation and movement and grain just like natural wood. All of the colors of Mansion mix beautifully with AKDO’s natural stone tiles, too.
The large format look can also be achieved in natural stone. AKDO now offers popular stones such as Carrara Bella and Ash Gray in a generous 18″ x 36″ size. Many designers are also opting to do entire rooms, both kitchens and baths, in slab. In kitchens, slab is no longer relegated to countertops, but is being used to clad islands, tables, backsplashes and even walls. In the bath, an all-slab shower, wall or floor is not uncommon. AKDO has hundreds of natural stone slabs in stock at all times from which to select.
So, if you’re looking to create wide open and welcoming spaces in your next design project, think about large format squares, rectangles and planks. It is a highly sophisticated look that’s very easy to achieve.