As we move into the second half of 2018, the buzz surrounding terrazzo seems to have outstripped the hopes of even its most ardent fans, advocates, and supporters—but perhaps not in the way they envisioned.
Somewhere along the way, “terrazzo” has taken on an alter ego: The word that has always been used for a flooring or technique—or even as a synonym to encompass the aggregate materials used for those processes—has morphed into an adjective used to describe multiple objects that have the appearance of terrazzo. Of course, since anyone familiar with terrazzo is aware it can be used to create everything from abstract patterns to highly detailed, realistic imagery, perhaps it would be better to call it “generic terrazzo”—myriad shapes of various colors and sizes set upon a solid color (or not) background.
Recently we linked to an article pointing out how “terrazzo” has lifted itself off the floor to become a design style, which means any item that can be adorned with some type of finish or covering can take on the appearance. From pencils to porcelain, wallpaper to fabrics, and furniture to “design objects,” the sight of what we’re calling generic terrazzo (imagine a mosaic whose pieces have been distanced from one another and then shuffled around) is becoming increasingly ubiquitous.
What no one is pausing to consider, however, is precisely why this particular motif has seized the collective imagination of everyone from haute-couture salon owners to manufacturers of No. 2 pencils.
As a trend-watcher and design maven, writer Dominic Lutyens—whose articles have appeared in publications as diverse as the Financial Times to Vogue, Design Week, and Elle Decoration—pointed out the emergence of terrazzo-like designs a year-and-a-half ago, but couldn’t quite nail down the ultimate cause for the trend. Writing in the Evening Standard in 2016, Lutyens mused that “Designers and homeware brands are rebelling against all things orderly and symmetrical, letting rip with spontaneous, painterly effects…Designers and architects now seem fascinated by the unpredictable, random patterns of terrazzo and terrazzo-like surfaces.”
But the move toward terrazzo-like patterns and designs would have died on the vine if not for one simple fact: Its amorphous qualities mean it “works” in a lot of different places employing a great many styles. Whether it’s a retro-1950s kitchen, a 1960s modernist den, a dazzling dayglo Memphis Group bedroom from the mid-1980s, or a minimalist sunroom designed in the 1990s, an accessory or object finished with a generic terrazzo will fit in as naturally as if it was made at the same time as the fins on the oven.
Will the passion for terrazzo-style designs help fuel even more growth in the already healthy market of terrazzo flooring and finishing? There’s every reason to believe it will, but the terrazzo community probably doesn’t have all that much to worry about, for one simple reason: Something that only looks like terrazzo doesn’t give you the benefits—economic, hygienic, and aesthetic—of the real thing. And if you’re not familiar with terrazzo’s superior qualities over all competing materials, it’s high time you read our rundown on why terrazzo is naturally the best choice for architects, designers, and contractors.