With the hospitality design sector in a seemingly constant state of change, tile and other alternative material manufacturers need to stay up-to-date on current trends in colors, shapes, finishes and sizes to meet the demands of the architectural and design community. According to several industry leaders, warm neutral tones, oversized formats and products that mimic the aesthetic of natural stone and wood are characteristics that architects and designers are gravitating towards for their hospitality designs. Recently, Contemporary Stone & Tile Design (CSTD) had the opportunity to ask several leading manufacturers and distributors of stone and tile products their thoughts on current product trends in hospitality design.

  • Mar Esteve, marketing director, Neolith
  • Emily Holle, director of trend & design, MSI
  • Lydia Kurth, architectural consultant, Ceramic Technics, Ltd.
  • Don Mariutto, vice president of operations & marketing, Mediterranea
  • Morgan Stephenson, director of hospitality, Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean
  • Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville

When it comes to hospitality design, what do you predict will be popular choices in regards to tile products among your customers in the coming year?

Holle: Large-scale concrete look neutral tile and medium-tone wood-look planks. The trend seems to be moving towards a solid, pastel, velvet palette with mid-century modern shapes and styles. Heavy marble veining and polished looks are also trending.

Kurth: Soft fabrics and natural stone visuals in neutral colors are continually popular.

Mariutto: With the diversification of hospitality brands, there is space for more distinctive tile designs that fit specific themes or atmospheres. The challenge is to design products that are attractive to niche markets, while also offering wide sales potential.

Stephenson: Hospitality puts so much emphasis on being distinct and really creating a unique experience for the guest. When we’re working with our design partners, we are seeing a big push for customization. As the world’s largest flooring manufacturer, our Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean brands can easily accommodate this request. Dal-Tile Corporation is the world’s largest flooring manufacturer and is the parent company of Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean brands. This allows the design professional to really own the design and make it special.

Waldrep: The cornerstones of what hospitality designers look for in tile are fairly constant year after year. They prioritize the performance advantages that tile offers, including the ease of cleaning and maintenance and unparalleled durability and longevity. The aesthetics that are popular vary based on style trends, of course, and, in the coming year, we anticipate designers to want really fresh and novel takes on looks that are considered timeless. For example, we’ve just launched two new wood-look lines that take the established appearance that’s been beloved for porcelain tile for several years to whole new dimensions and levels. These collections offer more nuanced details and color combinations than ever before — all while answering the demand not only for great wood-looks, but for fashion-forward styles, as well.

How do you gauge what your customers will be looking for when you are developing new product lines for the hospitality market?

Esteve: Neolith’s research and development team is consistently committed to turning audience feedback and demand into new design concepts. Not only does Neolith continually develop fresh on-trend colors, it assesses which models are enduringly popular amongst customers and thinks of ways to enhance them, while maintaining the same high quality the brand’s clientele has come to expect.
Sustainability is a big aspect of the brand, and as the hospitality industry becomes more eco-conscious, it progressively seeks to work with partners that care about the environment.
Neolith is 100% environmentally friendly, as it is made of only natural components. The brand also launched Hydro-NDD 2.0 last year — a water-based decoration technique which greatly reduces the contaminating emissions produced by traditional printing methods.

Holle: Current trends, technology, durability, timeless-ness and functionality.

Stephenson: We take much of our influence from fashion, as well as from Italian tile design. We also listen to what the needs and demands currently are in the hospitality industry. We are keenly focused on providing fashion-based products that allow our partners to design more easily, with a more unique and specialized look.

Waldrep: We strive to understand customers’ holistic needs and priorities, not just what they might be looking to specify in terms of tile. We do this through our connections out in the field —from ongoing contacts with design firms and participation in regional events to our presence at industry trade shows where we keep our fingers on the pulse of the industry. Thanks to this approach, we’re keenly aware that tile is one part of an entire hospitality design concept. That’s why we seek to develop products that work in harmony with other materials and that are versatile enough to blend with a wide range of looks and design schemes.

Do you think the look and feel of hospitality design has changed in recent years?

Esteve: Hospitality design has changed drastically in recent years, as more and more architects and designers opt for a modern and minimalistic aesthetic. Opulent fabrics such as velvet and suede are being used less, with stone, wood and marble increasingly becoming the material of choice.
Even in luxury hotels and five-star restaurants less is more, with some quirkier spaces opting for interesting design concepts that incorporate neutral tones and subtle accents.

Holle: Yes, I think with the rise of social media, we base a lot of our design decisions around “instagram-worthy” spaces, technology and socialization.

Stephenson: Absolutely. Gone are the days of simply meeting a technical need. We have now arrived at a place where only an emotional and communal response are acceptable. The end user, myself included, are always looking for a cool environment that gives them the luxuries of home and more.

Waldrep: Hospitality design is ever-changing. It’s never stagnate, and that’s one reason it’s such a fun category to work within. In recent years, we’ve seen hospitality design embrace a residential aesthetic, as there are more lodging alternatives that seek to offer an authentic home-away-from-home feel. That trajectory has blurred the lines between what’s popular for the home and the hotel. Nonetheless, we still see some of the most adventurous looks find their places within in this sector, as hospitality designers bring in bold colors, shapes and textures, and create amazing combinations using large-format and gauged panels, as well as decorative touches and mosaics.

Would you say that tile products are being used more now in hotels, restaurants, spas, etc. than before?

Esteve: Neolith is increasingly being used in hotels, restaurants, spas and other public spaces due to both its aesthetic qualities and durability. It is important for hospitality venues to be both visually pleasing and functional, which is why Neolith is often their go-to surfacing material for interiors and exteriors.

Holle: I think it could possibly be rising due to the creative ways it is being installed, such as for walls and ceilings, artistic patterns, focal pieces, etc. Unique installations and the worry-proof aspect play a key role.

Kurth: Yes, though LVT’s entrance to the market has presented a challenge to the tile industry, due to cost and installation advantages. When budgets allow, carpet is rapidly becoming a thing of the past in this market segment.

Stephenson: Yes. As our technology advances, our products feature an even larger variety of textures, shapes, surfaces, etc. In turn, our products have become even more diverse and can create a different feeling in a space than ever before. Additionally, with all the low-maintenance tile options, tile has become more and more attractive for owners and operators.

Do you find that you have to educate your customers on what product lines are best for durability that is a necessity in hospitality design?

Holle: Not too much. Style and design are a huge focus.

Mariutto: At Mediterranea, we always emphasize our tile’s wear rating. It gives designers and specifiers the confidence that tile is a smart option for years in the future. The environmental advantages in terms of life-cycle and natural ingredients are other points that the industry must continue to focus on, given the increasing competition from synthetic flooring products.

Stephenson: Although our clients are very savvy, our Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean brands still always lend our expertise, which includes advising on the best application uses. We own an anti-slip technology called Step-Wise™ that has been extremely popular in hospitality.

Waldrep: Tile consumption, in general, has increased. Our industry offers more options now than ever before that can answer the range of requirements for hospitality design — from cost-conscious products to high-end offerings and all things in between. That being said, there is certainly competition for our products, as well, so we are ceaselessly connecting with those in the industry to ensure specifiers are educated on the long-term advantages and value that tile collections provide.

What colors do you see trending in 2020 for the hospitality market?

Esteve: There has been a rising trend this year in neutral tones and patterns that mimic genuine stone and other materials found in nature. Wood is popular, as the classic organic look representative of ‘Scandinavian chic’ design never goes out of style. In hotel restaurants and restrooms, Neolith’s timber-like option, La Bohème, is often selected for tables and wall paneling.
A more urban and industrial look is also often specified in the world of hospitality. Concrete-like New York-New York, one of four new colors launched in 2019, has caught the eye of many architects and designers due to its enduring appeal and suitability for almost any type of surfacing application.
Further, Estatuario and Calacatta, both of which resemble marble, are often used in hotels for a touch of luxury. These models can be applied to anything from bathroom vanities to kitchen countertops; when combined with the brand’s anti-slip technology, Neolith® Slip-No-More, they can also be applied to lobby floors without the worry of guests slipping.

Holle: Neutrals and medium wood tones and a pastel palette with black accents and greenery. Also, heavy marble veining.

Kurth: Our customers who attended BDNY are reporting that soft beige is making a comeback. So the grays may be phasing out.

Stephenson: I feel like we may see some more “moody” trends. Jewel tones, heavy textures, warmer marbles, etc.

Do you find that your customers are gravitating towards certain finishes? If so, which ones seem to be most popular and what are some reasons you are hearing why they are favored?

Esteve: All of Neolith’s finishes are specially designed for different types of projects and preferences. The silk, satin and riverwashed finishes are becoming increasingly popular for customers who want to bring “the outside in” with designs that most closely resemble genuine stone, whereas the polished finish tends to be a go-to for luxury hotel and restaurant floors, countertops and bathrooms.

Holle: Lighter wood tone case goods and darker tile for maintenance reasons. Surface finish also matters. We are seeing matte for countertops, slip resistance for tile and polished finishes on the rise.

Kurth: Fabric looks and stone/terrazzo seem to be doing well these days.

Stephenson: Our marble visual porcelains have been huge. The price points, availability and low-maintenance make it a favorite. Our technology is so advanced that it is hard to tell the difference between our porcelain products and the natural material they are emulating. We can also accommodate any size desired.

How about sizes? Does bigger appear to be better for architects and designers?

Esteve: Neolith originally provided the largest sintered stone slabs on the market — making it popular among those working on home and building renovations. While customers do specify the material for even the smallest of furnishings, such as coffee tables and benches, architects and designers gravitate towards large slabs when designing facades and big interior spaces.

Holle: It depends on space, design and application. But, 24 x 48 inches is very common, as well as 5- x 10-foot panels are starting to trend in a much bigger way.

Stephenson: Bigger is always better. Less grout joints mean less maintenance. It also appears more authentic and custom tailored to a space.

Waldrep: “Big” is a pretty big deal for A&D specifiers. We see lots of applications for our large-format field tiles, as well as gauged porcelain tile panel collections. Hotels are often the ideal places for these expansive sizes that we’re able to create and offer. From lobbies, elevator banks and hotel common areas to guest room floors and shower stalls, larger formats are great solutions for walls and other surfaces. Of course, requirements for floors often lead to the specification of mosaics and other formats that allow proper slip resistance. But all around, the big tiles we now produce find their places in hospitality design quite beautifully.