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From trend to tile: an insider’s guide to the creation of new tile designs 

By Claire O’Brien, Head of Design and Product, British Ceramic Tile

Many of the tiles you see adorning the walls of luxury hotels, trendy restaurants or premium show homes are often the musings of several creative minds: a talented team of designers whose job it is to identify the latest trends and directions influencing the industry and translate them into commercially successful tile collections that suit a wide variety of specification projects.

One creative mind leading on the direction at British Ceramic Tile is Claire O’Brien. As Head of Design and Product, Claire, is responsible for driving forward the company’s diverse product portfolio and has been instrumental in bringing flair and innovation to the heart of the business.
Drawing inspiration from the world of fashion, architecture and interiors, Claire’s passion and enthusiasm for pushing the boundaries of design has resulted in ceramic tiles becoming a statement; a surface covering with maximum impact transforming luxury developments, leisure facilities and hotels across the UK.

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First impressions count

More and more consumers, contractors and designers are looking for something new, that fresh material or decorative surface that transforms their space. Many are searching for a product that will allow them to take a multi-faceted approach to how they design and construct their interiors.
At the same time they are looking for this product to create a sense of depth, adding light to a space while bringing a vibrant colour to surfaces that will change from day to night.

Based on this demand, British Ceramic Tile has developed a new range of premium glass structures, Impression Glass, that can work across a number of projects, and allow the designer or installer to bring an element of individuality to their designs. Considered a more premium substrate than ceramic or porcelain, this new collection will enhance a number of different settings from a bohemian Soho bar or Moroccan-inspired boutique hotel to an ultra-contemporary family bathroom.

Impressions Glass is modern, bold and vibrant, with something for everybody and every room. Inspired by the world around us, this collection has been created so that all the British Ceramic Tile customers, worldwide, can create distinctive, original spaces.

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The beginning of the journey

Designed and made here in the UK, the Impression Glass structures begin their journey in British Ceramic Tile’s marketing and design department, before moving their way into development and production. The journey is a road well travelled, seeing as the company has been manufacturing for over 100 years, but what is essential is that design and innovation remain central to the glass structure’s creation.

“Design is at the heart and soul of British Ceramic Tile, with the latest trends and influences from the fashion and lifestyle industries shaping the direction of each collection,” explains Claire. “It’s our mission to excite and thrill our customers, and create aspirational tile collections that raise the bar for design through cutting edge production techniques.”

“Our highly experienced in-house design team is always one step ahead, working 18 months in advance to identify the trends and translate them effortlessly across our market-leading tile portfolio. This means we are incredibly well placed to predict the styles set to define the year ahead, ensuring our ranges meet market demand.”

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Using the finest quality raw materials, modern production techniques and a highly skilled workforce, British Ceramic Tile seeks to set new standards in tile design and manufacture, constantly looking to innovate and push the boundaries of the industry. Multi-million pound investment in the factory has propelled tiles forward into the 21st century with almost any design now possible on a ceramic or glass tile. This advanced production capability, combined with high quality raw materials sourced locally and a design-led approach, keeps the company’s product portfolio at the cutting-edge, and here-in lies the foundations for British Ceramic Tile’s drive into new glass structures.

“Our state of the art technology and production facilities ensures that many of our design ideas become a reality,” notes Claire. “Without our highly skilled technicians and production team many of the new collections introduced as a result of the latest trends would not be possible. For example, our HD printing technology is versatile enough as to be able to create the illusion of depth on a flat surface, but can also print on a moving structure, with even the smallest of details captured and recreated on a tile. It is this established manufacturing history that has enabled us to innovate and expand our portfolio making the introduction of structured glass tiles now a reality. We are taking our highly skilled designers and technicians and giving them a new substrate to innovate and lead with.”

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Your project; own it

The use of glass tiles gives the designer an opportunity to explore and define a space. “It’s about leaving your mark,” explains Claire. “We can see that there is a general thirst for more confident decoration in the market place. Trends are becoming more defined with splashes of colour in demand alongside more stylised designs, yet the overall look is still considered. Glass products do this incredibly well. The colour palette compliments ceramics well, plus glass tiles offer stunning light reflecting qualities and a range of iridescent and metallic finishes for something that little bit special. The latest breakthroughs in the manufacture and installation of glass has opened how we can use the material within interiors, and is set to provide us with a range that will really wow our customers.”

British Ceramic Tile handcrafts its new glass collection at its manufacturing plant in Devon and has purposely created the range to work alongside its ceramic wall and floor products to give total creative freedom to the architect, designer, installer or homeowner. Mixing glass with ceramic or porcelain is not something that should daunt anyone.

“Glass has a stunning visual impact, elevating a design scheme to become a truly impressive space,” states Claire. “But it doesn’t need to be used as a full wall or large area. It can work as a feature alongside ceramic in an understated way or can work in blocks to help zone and define an area. Mixing materials within one design scheme has been a key trend that has emerged strongly over the past few years, with glass delivering a greater depth of colour and striking, light reflecting finishes.

How you make your mark is up to you

The whole ethos behind the Impressions range is that every space is different, and every design idea unique. The range itself is extensive with shape and structure all-important to the collection, bringing a new dimension to walls. Imaginations can run wild with the 17 specially selected colours, which are available in 18 different shape and structure combinations. That’s a total of 306 different possibilities for creating a design scheme with a difference.

In the design stage it was important to Claire that the new surface structures complimented the existing British Ceramic Tile offering.
“The Cube and Hive structures were developed to mirror our ceramic offering, similar to our Wave tile,” explains Claire, “allowing a designer to marry the two together. Linear is a more graphic approach to complement the existing Ripple design, which has a semi-textile effect. Diamond is a completely new shape that taps into the playful pattern trend, creating a variety of designs either as a feature, or a standalone surface.”

“The 17 colours available in the range move from a pure snow white to industrial greys, all the way through to attention-popping blues, greens and crimson. This enables either a subtle application that focuses on shape of the tile, or the extreme opposite that uses the impact of colour to bring the scheme to life.”

The production and manufacturing techniques for glass are completely different to ceramic, and because of this the company has made significant investment in its Heathfield factory to ensure accurate cutting, more efficient grading processes and improved surface protection to guarantee a high quality product from start to finish. A further benefit of glass is its water resistance, which results in minimal cleaning, with no mould or algae for a hygienic finish.

Where bespoke is really bespoke

Due to its manufacturing capabilities British Ceramic Tile is able to offer a truly bespoke service, not just on its glass products, but also across its ceramic ranges.

“This is a great added service,” says Claire. “Our investment in cutting edge technology, and the latest printing techniques, means that we can work alongside our specification customers to offer a bespoke design service, allowing us to create surface patterns unique to their particular project. Every designer has an ambition to leave their mark on a project or design. We recognise this and are able to offer a number of tailored solutions for them... we invite anyone to challenge us.”

British Ceramic Tile is the UKs leading ceramic and glass tile manufacturer. From its three sites in West Yorkshire, London and Devon, the company produces a design-led, market-leading portfolio of wall and floor tiles, supplying to housebuilders and specifiers, as well as exporting overseas.

Visit www.britishceramictile.com/specification for further information. 

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