Finally, the “real” Coverings has returned. The venue for 2023 is Orlando, a vast expanse of large hotels and mega theme parks, interspersed with meadows and swamps where the Florida heat didn’t make itself felt.
The Ufo.adv delegation couldn’t miss this strategic event: from our informal scouting, the present report emerges, a narrative about what we saw and heard as we wandered among the stands, with a particular focus on the “Little Italy” area.
Mariners beware (recall)
For those who may not know, we would like to remind you that here we share our personal impressions in a light and humorous manner, without claiming to be exhaustive or the ultimate authorities on the subject. We also strive to be as “neutral” as possible in relation to the companies we collaborate with.
Time to read: 13 minutes.
Part 1: THE SITUATION
HOW ARE YOU? FAT COWS, LEAN COWS, COW FROM HELL.
The 2023 of the American market (and not only) sees the minus sign, for everyone or almost. On guard at the stand, the tricolor ceramists ponder the future developments with confident looks and dialogic expressions. It should be noted that the food shortage in the Italy district did not favor optimism of body and spirit: an end to the joyfully communal ritual of industrial pasta, very few bubbles. Complimentary natural water.
Returning to the minus sign, from conversations with authoritative figures at the top level, we have recorded balanced and drama-free analyses. Meanwhile, it is necessary to consider the timeframe to which we are referring when talking about the negative sign. Compared to the last year or two to three years ago.
Many distributors and customers still have their bellies full of products bought at high prices: a significant portion of stock still needs to be digested – without it staying in the stomach – before they start buying again.
The boom couldn’t last.
The unexpected boom that miraculously saved the district in adverse conditions couldn’t last: during the over-the-rainbow quarters, everything sellable was sold, emptying parking lots that hadn’t seen the light of day in decades.
For many months, both boomer and millennial ceramists relived the golden age spoken of by the founding fathers of the district, where eager trucks welcomed tiles straight out of the oven. Inevitably, with the last spring snow, the dream has dissolved, but its aftermath is influencing the complex reality of the markets, in an even more intricate and unpredictable scenario.
CERSAIE IN A NUTSHELL
As a general trend, many “made in Italy” stands have reproduced their concept from Cersaie 2022, obviously adapting it to the reduced spaces (25-30% of the original, perhaps even less). If continuity is a commendable choice, not all the original concepts lent themselves fully to the drastic reduction, with some successful adaptations and others where the narrowing seemed a bit frayed.
They focused on the essentials, putting everything on the products, saying little (or nothing) about the company; branding was not a priority, not even with the classic filler panel to fill in the dead spaces.
CLOSE AND DISTANT COUSINS
Geographical curiosities: the arrangement of stands belonging to the same group/ownership has seen opposite and alternative strategies.
Coexisting or adjacent (Abk Group, Italcer, Gruppo Romani, Imola Group, and others) to “form a group,” rationalizing commercial presence, logistics, and daily activities.
Scattered order: in other cases, a diversifying diaspora was chosen (Gruppo Concorde, Gruppo Gresmalt, Panaria Group), thus emphasizing the independent identity and commercial strategies of the brands.
Part 2: ON TOUR AMONG THE BOOTHS
DRESS CODE: TRAVERTINO!
The must-have for Italians at Coverings 2023 was definitely travertine, which was a hit in every corner. It almost seemed as if there had been a silent word of mouth in the district, as there were so many interpretations of the lapis tiburtinus on display in various stands.
In fact, travertine was experienced as a universal material, with a present but not intrusive aesthetic. It served as a wildcard that could be elegant, rustic, essential, and even minimal, making it suitable for practically all applications.
Net of the ceramic design’s ebb and flow, perhaps the spark was ignited by the positive feedback on some travertine products showcased at Cersaie 2022. The fact remains that at Coverings 2023, there was a surge of enthusiasm for travertine.
One, no one, a hundred travertines. Each one has approached the theme in a personalized way: every travertine has its own beauty. It’s impossible to list all the variations and interpretations, from classic sizes to slabs, from single striations to cross cut / vein cut duplication. They also diversified finishes and applications: from universal matte to anti-slip grip for spas and gardens, including thicker options. From elegant mirror-polished slabs to textural interpretations with digital grains highlighting cracks and fillings.
Special mention for 41zero42, which deconstructs the concept by focusing on the strong three-dimensionality of small formats, and especially for Kronos, with an impactful mise-en-place both in terms of the product and the display.
Mamma travertina. A curiosity: among so many ceramic “interpretations,” when you turn the corner, you come across the “Travertini Paradiso – Gruppo Dei” booth, which exhibits authentic travertine from the Dei Group quarries in Rapolano.
LE BRICK… C’EST CHIC
Excluding travertine, perhaps the most striking and diverse trend concerns brick formats and, in general, the world of small rectangular coverings with a ceramic look.
The term “brick” is perhaps a bit limiting; it goes beyond the well-known and somewhat worn rustic brick: among the stands at Coverings 23, you can discover a wide and varied range of proposals.
It’s proof that tiles are not always the same, and they collectively celebrate a beautiful spot for ceramics (not always made in Italy, alas).
There is room for modern and creative designs, original and diverse color palettes, and textured finishes and structures. From classic solid colors to artisanal-looking designs, from pop and neon shades to textured glazes, from relief patterns to granules. The new “extralong” format from Rondine is interesting, with many variants displayed prominently.
After years of taupe, mole, mud, and greige tyranny, the resurgence of color continues, as seen at Cersaie.
Ceramic spring, in addition to the flourishing of small-format coverings with a myriad of color palettes, features the high-end parade of glossy and precious marbles and onyxes that amaze with their vivid and sometimes psychedelic tones.
Color makes a comeback even in the realm of large-format floor and wall tiles, where cement-resin collections institutionalize new entries like light blue and blush. Often, the range expands into ambitious color-themed projects, ready to cross over and blend with any style.
EXTREME LUXURY: JADE, ONYX, AND GOLD
Extreme luxury, gold, precious materials, and showy ones like onyx and jade are no longer the audacious provocation of someone but the convinced proposal of many.
Luxury that wants to be visible doesn’t only concern maxi-slabs but also extends to more popular sizes, starting from 60×120, on its own or in duplex with the maxi-mother.
Vallelunga with golden veins on maxi-slab and 60×120. Fondovalle with various boldly oversized graphics (some reminiscent of past Cersaie editions), including a sort of hypnotic “Eye of Sauron.”
Next to the “usual” zoomed or natural natural stones, the novelty of “fantasy” marble generated by artificial intelligence (FLUIDS by Gruppo Cerdisa Ricchetti) is interesting.
Sant’Agostino (Star) and La Bottega (Glamour) are focused on medium formats with balanced palettes ranging from strong colors to soothing tones (but always elaborated).
Gold and luxury are also present in the golden animal print graphics of Roberto Cavalli Home (GCR), enhanced by textural effects and surface play.
Big surprise: after the excesses of previous years, the omnipresent Calacatta is much more subdued, almost disappearing from the displays. Now everyone has it, even the Indians; perhaps the appeal has waned after the big feasts. Even emerging brands in large slabs are opting for other types of white, less commonly used and in various variations.
Ample space for a timeless and much-loved style in the United States, where they use wood for the entire house. Not much focus on entry-level formats; practically everyone is raising the bar by offering larger, more intricate, and prestigious formats: chevrons, rounded shapes, hexagons, and mosaics, curved strips (like the marbles by Salvatori also seen at the Milan Design Week 2023), decorations, and vertical slat coverings, which are highly fashionable among Italian interior design bloggers. Also, 120×270 slabs (Mirage).
Variations on the theme: some wood + marble, stone, or metal combinations, original graphic interpretations (Mustang by Isla), and even an audacious cork by Cerasarda with a finish that enhances its material.
STONES NEW GENERATION
Sailing toward the safe harbor of comfort-zone types, several brands leverage new synchronized digital technologies to offer evolved remakes of classic stones. Realism and special effects, including raised or recessed veins, transparencies, and material inclusions. Technical versatility is also increasing, with the superpowers of the new nano-grain finishes.
ULTRA STONALIZED SLATE (V6)
Among the stones that are quite “American,” it’s worth noting the return of multicolored slates, with some mega-ultra-stonewashed outputs and ceramic wizardry that makes them more real than real (Elios, Ceramica Sant’Agostino, Isla).
Large slabs, yes; wallpaper, not so much.
When it comes to large slabs, having them is now the rule, not the exception. They are also produced in America, and the ranges have matured with a noticeable evolution of assortments. The smaller cutting formats are also exhibited as an integral part of the project, making it more digestible.
The approach is no longer focused on large collections but is evolving towards thematic and organized collections (see Cerdomus) with brands seeking identity by exploring and interpreting specific themes, such as Rondine with the salt stone (Himalaya) and matte stones (Baltic).
The gem of slabs with a passing vein was on display at the Iris Ceramica Group’s booth (awarded the Best-In-Show for a prestigious and impressive stand, also as an investment) along with other high-tech innovations like the invisible hypertouch buttons on the massive countertop that activated lights and revealed a hidden champagne container, in pure James Bond style.
There was little space, however, for wallpaper decorations; perhaps it’s more productive to showcase something else here. Caesar adorned the exterior of the stand with a fresh decoration, while Leonardo added elegance to an important wall.
The exhibition mix is also more balanced, without necessarily filling the showcase with large slabs, as if that’s the only way to stand out.
MIX & MATCH
Crossover combinations are less prominent compared to Cersaie, perhaps because the topic doesn’t excite Americans, or it might be a bit confusing when displayed in small spaces, potentially conflicting with the distribution logic in the USA. However, Marca Corona reprises the pleasant concept from Cersaie 2022 (“What’s your mix”), while Lea showcases a large composition focusing on the super range Pigmenti. Moodboards were also seen among non-Italian companies (but of high quality): Porcelanosa, Vives, Vitra, possibly with more decorative functions than product philosophy.
In theory, an important and relevant theme, but from what we see, it may be considered less attractive at trade shows where there is a preference to focus on other aspects. In any case, it aligns quite closely with Cersaie. Few exceptions, aside from Panaria Group’s Think Zero.
PART 3: Our (very personal) top ten
A few random notes left in our notepad and in our memory. The numbering is quite random.
1. A ray of Mediterranean sunshine in the culinary darkness of the Orange County Conference Center in Orlando: heartfelt thanks to those who, like magicians, conjured up slices of authentic piadina: perfectly round 360° delights. Scents, flavors, and the warmth of home. Genuine emotion. Made in USA? Who knows. Evaluation: saintly piadina right away and Best-in-show by acclamation.
2. Antolini that marks the distances with the exclamation point. Surprising sandblasted slabs (perhaps) with varying depths reveal a bas-relief design that emerges from the heterogeneous composition of the stone. And then dazzling marbles, backlit onyx, and even veined statues. In summary, “open to wonder.” It works better here than in the debated 9-million-dollar advertising campaign by the Ministry of Tourism. Evaluation: mecojoni! (cit. Rocco Schiavone)
3.WOW Design (Officially awarded best-in-show). Original and very nice stand, very nice and original products. Evaluation: Wow by name and by nature (the Spain you don’t expect).