Bologna, Italy—As design professionals and the tile industry gathered at the international ceramic tile and bathroom fixture show this week, the mood was decidedly upbeat. Why? Italian manufacturers have started to see some economic improvement around the globe as well as in the United States, which is one of Italy's most important markets.

“On the basis of the figures gathered in the first half of the year, we are expecting to report overall sector growth at the end of the year of between 2.5% and 3.5%,” Confindustria Ceramica Chairman Franco Manfredini said at a press conference this week. “A key role will be played by exports with expected growth of between 3% and 4.5%, corresponding to an increase in turnover of around 4.7 billion euros in 2010. This recovery reflects the improvement in the international economic situation and demonstrates that the downturn reported by the Italian ceramic industry in 2009 was not caused by a lack of competitiveness, but was a direct result of the financial crisis.”

Cersaie, the international exhibition of ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings, is considered one of the tile industry’s most important shows. (The other is Cevisama in Spain). Held this year from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, 2010, Cersaie is expected to host more than 90,000 attendees who come to see the the latest products that will be hitting design showrooms across North America this year or next.

Like other nations, Italy, which exports about 70% of its products, saw slowed growth as the global recession hampered demand for and sales of its products. But now with renewed confidence that good times are ahead, the country’s manufacturers are expressing renewed optimism with a bold looks, radical new textures, recycled-content products, and innovative offerings that incorporate features such as solar technology.

“On the style front, interesting cutouts, lace, oversized flowers, skinny stripes, and mid-century modern will make their way to the tile runway,” says a trend report from Novita Communications, the Italian tile industry’s PR representative in the United States. “In line with the times, visitors can expect to see a bounty of organic influences ranging from rustic wood looks to natural stone. And who can forget about green design and technological innovation? New slim formats are guaranteed to make a big impact on the A&D community.”

Nigel Maynard is senior editor, products, at BUILDER magazine.