Coverings, the tile and stone exhibition and conference, took place in Orlando from April 27–30. By all measures it was a successful show. Coverings reported a 7 percent increase in attendance over 2009’s 22,000 attendees. Zoe Voigt, tile writer and author of Tile Style said “Last year, I thought Coverings was not only very small, but also a bit funereal. This year, there seemed to be more people in the aisles, busier exhibitors and overall the mood was more optimistic.” Her observation was shared by most everyone.

Exhibitors from around the world welcomed attendees with new products that spoke to a rising optimism. “I think the industry is poised for a resurgence” added Voigt. The products on offer confirmed her observation. For every expected ceramic floor tile there were two innovations or bold risks taken. Whether it was Karim Rashid’s No-Stalgia series for Porcellanato or the graffiti-inspired series from Peronda, the mood was indeed lighter and at times bordered on exuberant.

There were no fewer than four cement tile manufacturers present and that pack was led by Mosaic del Sur from Cadiz, in Spain. Mosaic del Sur took this older, somewhat arcane material and brought it into the 21st century by adding a series of modern patterns and colors. Get ready for a Mosaic del Sur-led revival of cement tile.

There were some truly new and novel uses for porcelain tile in ample evidence at the show. Arpi Nalbandian, editor of TILE Magazine, said “I now feel I can envision tile use beyond the usual floor or wall application. It can be used as a floating ceiling, cabinet and countertop façade, and also as ‘drapery,’ as was displayed in the Inalco exhibit.” It didn’t stop with unexpected uses. Inalco’s SlimmKer series of porcelain tile is 8mm thick. In addition to being beautiful and lightweight, such thin tile weighs 45 percent less and uses half the resources to manufacture as traditional porcelain.

If new and unexpected were half of the message at Coverings, using fewer resources was the other half. Green is not only good, it’s gone mainstream and the tile and stone industries have embraced it fully.

Though it’s the tile and stone that draws attendees to Coverings, there are a good number of associated products on display as well. Ann Porter, CKD was taken particularly by Dreamwalls’ Marble Glass. Marble Glass is a glass product where a large-format digital image of natural stone is adhered permanently to the underside of a sheet of low-iron glass. “This product will be great for tiles, backsplashes, countertops and shower walls; however, its ability to be a partition is most exciting.”

Coverings was a well-attended industry event and the air was thick with the sense that even though conditions are less than ideal, the worst is behind us. Innovative textures, finishes and applications were everywhere, and if Coverings 2010 can be summed up in a word, that word would be optimism.