As homes become smaller, architects and designers are finding ways to blur the lines between the interior spaces and the outdoor living areas. Assisting in this design process are newly developed materials that allow traditional walls to be replaced with large sheets of glass or window walls and flooring materials that perform beautifully inside and out.

Soft, geometric designs stenciled onto the surface of wide, wood grained porcelain planks add interest and style to Lea Ceramics new Bio Lumber, Lodge Greige tiles.

At this year’s Cersaie trade show in Bologna, Italy ceramic tile manufactures presented thousands of alternatives to traditional floor and wall covering materials. Digital photography techniques have revolutionized this industry. In the past porcelain tiles tried to imitate natural stone or wood, today they have surpassed the look and taken it to a totally new dimension.

Everyone loves the look of hardwood flooring but its natural properties limit its use in areas where moisture may present an issue such as kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms and certainly exterior spaces. It is also difficult to maintain wooden floors in high traffic areas such as entryways, stairs and hallways.

Today’s new wood grained porcelain tiles offer a staggering array of options. From gray washed finishes to rich high gloss surfaces. Some planks feature stenciled designs adding another design element to the space.

The elegant and at times exotic beauty of some wood from the equatorial African forests is now available for the creation of contemporary spaces through the new Axis collection, which combines, to an extraordinary aesthetics, the strength of porcelain stoneware by Century.

Plank sizes have greatly increased. You want the look of 200-year-old, 10” wide barn boards, no problem. Extended board lengths up to 60” have eliminated the choppy look associated with ceramic or laminated planks just a couple of years ago.

Many residents have resisted using tile floors in living spaces because they were cold to the touch and didn’t provide the physical warmth of wood. Today’s affordable radiant heat flooring systems make tile flooring toasty warm throughout the year. It also provides a reduction in heating costs.

The most exciting design feature is the ability to run floorboards from the inside straight through to the exterior spaces. Thus allowing a room to flow seamlessly and expand the look and feel of the space like never before.

Wall tiles have become thinner and lighter making them easier to install on vertical surfaces. You can have the look of wood on the backsplash, in a bar area or bathroom without worrying about water damage.

Rondine’s Brick Generation’s New York black tiles installed with black grout deliver a chic uptown look for contemporary decors.

Rondine’s Brick Generation’s New York black tiles installed with black grout deliver a chic uptown look for contemporary decors.

Brick tiles denominated the market at Cersaie. Part of the blurring of exterior finishes with interior décor. Not your traditional red brick look of the 70’s but a fashion forward, chic brick facet. Neutrals in pale grays, buttery ivory, soft beige and creamy white featured the look of hand casted bricks. The undulant, surface plays with the light and beckons you to reach out and touch the warmth of the materials.

For the fun at heart, brick tiles were also available in a delicious color palate. The colors aren’t your normal bright prism colors but several shades both up and down the scale from rosy pink to teal bluish greens. It would be impossible not to find a color that matches today’s fabrics and rugs.

Brick tiles in any color, are a wonderful alternative to the standard subway tiles that we have been using way too long. If you want to update your kitchen with a quick fix consider replacing your subway or tumbled marble tiles with the new glazed brick tiles.

Designers and architects love working with new materials, stretching the boundaries between interior spaces and the outdoors. Look to see these new porcelain materials being used in both residential and commercial spaces.