As concept and product line manager, Gert Jan freely admits that he has to know the current collections inside-out while being on top of the latest market developments. He faces an additional challenge given that ICA is active in multiple disciplines across several markets: the projects market requires a totally different approach than, say, the retail market.
“You need to pick up on new trends via channels such as the media or internet”, says Gert Jan. “To keep the collections up to date, it’s important to monitor these developments and to run them by our leading international manufacturing partners. It’s crucial to have a broad perspective and not to limit yourself to existing manufacturers alone.”
In addition, Gert Jan has to look after both digital and hardcopy catalogues and inform colleagues about current trends, products and shifts within the market. He adds: “It’s also important to follow developments in markets and industries related to ours. No matter how select or distinct we are, the current range is always subject to change, whether due to manufacturing techniques or trends.”
Cersaie in Bologna
Signals within the market indicate that the key international exhibition of ceramic tiles and bathroom furnishings will go ahead this year. The 2020 edition was cancelled due to COVID, which means ICA’s last visit to Bologna was in 2019.
Gert Jan feels that a trade fair like Cersaie gives ICA the chance to bounce ideas off manufacturing partners and discuss market expectations and opportunities. He says, “It also allows us to gain good insight into what is happening and what we can expect from the new products that are presented. As manufacturers spare no expense in showcasing their new products, it is important that we do our homework and are prepared to take appropriate steps.”
Sizes keep growing
A quite recent trend is the ongoing increase in tile sizes and the expansion of the large tile range. The 60×60 cm size remains important but is generally commonplace, with most suppliers having added this size to their range. Large sizes have since been scaled up to 80×80 cm, 90×90 cm, 100×100 cm and even 120×120 cm. However, it is still critical that tiles are laid in accordance with a proper laying plan and high-quality levelling, which is where professional tilers add value.
Gert Jan explains, “The consumer and the general market are increasingly better informed by the media and look for unique styles, new larger sizes for bathrooms and toilets and broader applications like extending floor tiles to walls. What you also notice now is that there are fewer professional tilers: consumers are therefore willing to pay a little more for tiling.”
At ICA, we also currently notice a strong preference for warmer, softer colours such as bisque and beige shades. This trend indicates a shift from cold to warm tones. Gert Jan agrees and notes that due to more innovative manufacturing techniques ceramic tiles are almost no longer discernible from pure stone or wood, for instance.
He says, “Natural living is the trend. For ceramic tiles, this means wood-look tiles with a herringbone pattern, Hungarian point in large sizes with a rustic look, sturdy wood and elegant wood textures that show the grain. But the natural stone look is in demand too, including marble in all shapes, colours and designs as well as bluestone. By applying the latest digital printing and production technologies, it is difficult to tell the difference. The consumer is therefore choosing the ceramic, practical option rather than raw materials with higher environmental impacts that require more maintenance.”
These trends are beautifully showcased at the ICA Design and Inspiration Centre.
The bathroom becomes a spa
The link to nature is also becoming more prevalent in the bathroom. Here, thanks to new, high-quality ceramic products, almost anything is possible when creating a natural look.
Gert Jan says, “We are seeing more and more people going for a wellness or spa experience when designing a bathroom. It’s a new look that exudes comfort and luxury, with large-size tiles on both the floor and the walls. The previously mentioned wood-look tiles remain popular due to their natural, warm appearance and are increasingly paired with the marble look. I cautiously predict that the latest trend could be a wider range of natural stone with more versatile applications to create that ‘warm homely feel’.”