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My Take on Fake: as Seen at Coverings 2016 Show

Is it fabric or tile?

When I was in school for Industrial Design (way back when), we learned how to draw our product designs in 3D, and then use markers (yes, magic markers) to render those drawings into realistic-looking objects. One method in particular was learning to render “wood grain” onto a plastic object. Remember the plastic wood grain on – well everything! Alarm clocks, car dashboards, stereos? That was what we were learning to draw.

At some point as a designer, I realized I didn’t want fake wood grain on anything that was plastic. I think the American consumer soon realized it too. How about being true to the material properties? Besides, it was pretty ugly most of the time. Plastic is a great material because it molds to any shape you can manufacture, it picks up any color you can dream up, and is flexible. Why would we want it to look like something it isn’t?

Well, fast forward to a few weeks ago when I attended the Coverings 2016 show in Chicago. It’s a trade show for everything that can cover a surface in any type of building or home. Porcelain, ceramic, stone, marble, glass, metal, mosaics, you get the picture. It was an International show with big and small players alike as exhibitors.

Fabric textured ceramic tile

Fabric textured ceramic tile

As I was stumbling past yet another wall of marble, I had a moment when I realized that everything seemed to be trying to look like something else.

I saw tile that looks like brick – red, yellow, white… you name it, porcelain that looks like metal – rusty metal, or metal with rivets. Ceramic tiles were trying to look like fabric, carpet, even herringbone suit material!

There was tile that mimics granite and limestone, 3D tiles that look like rough exterior stone, 3D metal roofing that looks like shale or shingles and then there was tile that is so saturated with color you’d swear it was painted. I even saw 3D tile that looked like upholstered leather!

Porcelain metal tile

Porcelain metal tile

What about truth in materials? What happened to the time when porcelain tile was tile, stone was stone, and paint was paint! Why are they trying to make everything look like something else?

Well, I have to say I got pretty excited by the fact that I could have a metal wall without the actual metal. The finish wasn’t exactly like metal, but it had it’s own unique characteristics because it wasn’t metal. The finish was beautiful and as a consequence of the technology had it’s own unique look. It was still a natural material, had some of the beauty of metal… but was different somehow. And from a technical point of view, it’s lighter, easier to apply, and probably less expensive.

But maybe these products aren’t trying to mimic something else. Instead they incorporate the beauty of two original materials, revealing a completely new surface to fall in love with. With innovative technologies that are making these materials a reality, we can now have textures, finishes and colors that borrow from the original, but are made from materials that will work in almost any application. And they create what I think is a whole new category of beautiful aesthetics. I can’t wait to try them out on my next project!

Expert Tip: As with most new materials, it is best to ask your expert designer for advice on application and installation. Send

me your questions or comments and I’d be happy to help you make sure your material selections are the right fit for your space.