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Shape: thinking beyond squares and rectangles

Jul 09,2018

Traditional format square and rectangular tiles remain consistently popular, but architects and designers are keen to explore more dynamic shape options in order to create expressive and evocative design schemes that challenge perceptions and alter the design discourse.

As the trend for unusual shapes has developed, particularly in high-end bespoke projects and boutique commercial designs, demand for more complex and innovative tiles is now more mainstream than ever, with interest flaring in all sectors.

Once exclusive products, unusual shapes are now readily available to all users as manufacturers race to supply a larger variety of choice with more interesting shapes and a vast selection of versatile sizes and colours.

Complex wall tiles are particularly popular and 2018 will see certain shapes break through and challenge the hexagon archetype that has reined supreme over past few years.

The Benzene format, which can be described as an elongated hexagon, is the vogue geometric shape that is sure to make a mark this year. Modelled after the structure of the hydrocarbon chemical of the same name, the Benzene shape offers a distinctive geometric format that allows users to create energetic wall designs. Dynamic, by Solus, is one such range that includes a multitude of exciting and unusually shaped tiles including the sought after Benzene format.

Due to the exciting ways that geometric shapes can be laid, triangles are also becoming a favourite format in both commercial and residential projects. Many factories are now producing triangle décor options suitable for wall use, but triangle floor tiles are also popular. Ranges like Solus’ Evolve range, which has been used in projects such as Nando’s, include large triangle format sizes, perfect for commercial floor areas.

And it doesn’t end with triangles – other popular geometric formats include boomerang shaped arrows, octagons, rhombuses and diamonds. For adventurous designers, some of these formats can even be mixed and matched to create unique and unbelievable laying patterns. The Intrigue range, which is a modular geometric series of tiles, has been specially created so that any of the different shapes can be used together seamlessly in the same scheme.

Large format tiles can also be produced in any number of interesting shapes, with Solus supplying particularly interesting large format hexagons at Harrods and rhombus shaped tiles at Citidines Hotel. These tiles create an impressive visual identity that is difficult to replicate, and provide a unique and memorable aesthetic.

With bespoke tiles, almost any shape can be achieved with designers exploring abstract creations that truly break the mould. At DeMontford University, interior experts at CPMG, designed a complex and artistic flooring pattern at the Vejay Patel Building. Various colours from Solus’ large format, concrete inspired Monolith range were cut into abstract geometric patterns to create a inspirational entrance.

Identifying the demand for unusual shapes is not something that has suddenly entered the consciousness of designers. Solus recognised the increasing appetite for bespoke tiles a number of years ago, and has since invested in state-of-the-art tile cutting technology.

With two advanced water jet cutting machines and a fully operational water recycling plant, Solus is able to create bespoke tiles on a commercial scale. Almost any porcelain range from Solus’ portfolio of over 100,000 products can be cut, meaning that users have an almost endless array of possibilities at their disposal.

At Drury House, which is a large office space in Covent Garden, Solus worked with Hale Brown Architects to supply bespoke triangle cut floor tiles to the contemporary reception space. Standard 600x600mm tiles were transformed into precise triangle shapes, a design feature that was carried throughout the project.

And it is not just geometric shaped tiles that are causing a stir in the industry. Many new ranges featuring more traditional artistic formats are arriving in 2018, with ornate art deco fans and curvaceous alhambra shapes being two particular favourites. Dynamic, a wall range that brings together a collection of unusual tile formats, features many of these trend-leading formats. Perfect for intricate residential projects and luxurious commercial spaces, these formats perfectly evoke enchanting and enigmatic aesthetics, from 1920’s glamour to Middle Eastern majesty.

For those wanting to use square or rectangle tiles, but are looking for the dynamic quality of bespoke shapes, another emerging trend to look out for would be bespoke etching. Solus, working alongside its partner Nolan Freebury, now offers a bespoke tile design service. These hand-crafted, engraved tiles can be etched with almost any conceivable pattern, logo or simple image. Users can provide their own design, something they have drawn or found on the internet, and have the image transformed into a pattern, which can then be etched onto the surface of a tile.

Almost any porcelain tile can be used, with particular success from polished porcelain, speckled and metallic effect tiles. Almost any pattern can be replicated onto the surface of a tile, from stark geometric patterns to more traditional gothic motifs.

For users looking for discreet unusual formats, mosaic patterns might be the way to go. Modern mosaics feature a huge range of interesting shapes from hexagons to triangles and skilled craftsmen can also create logos, crests and images with mosaic pieces. As well as custom designs, Solus offers a variety of structured patterns that can be personalised with different colours, borders and trims.

Whilst square and rectangle tiles will always have a place in interior and exterior design, with the great leaps forward in tile production and design, the future is bright for unusual formats and we can only see this appetite growing as we bring more and more imaginative shapes to the market.

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