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Surfaces 2011: Ceramic producers show innovative design, realism

When it comes to ceramic tile, state-of-the-art technology has raised the bar in recent years to where mills can create any look they want. Natural stone, travertine and slate looks continue to proliferate in a category where porcelain has become king. This was evident once again at Surfaces where companies showcased the latest cutting-edge designs. And with the StonExpo show joining the festivities, there were more stone offerings available to dealers than ever before.

Avaire

Surfaces proved to be a solid show for the company, noted Rob Tarver, vice president of sales and marketing for SnapStone/Avaire. “We had previously set meetings and all went very well. There was lots of excitement with our floor, specifically in the commercial arena. We established several new contacts and sealed a number of important new business partnerships.”

Tarver said the company’s product was well received at the show. “The flooring industry is rapidly moving to floating floors and our product is the leader in this newer category for tile,” he added. “This was our fourth Surfaces and our market awareness in flooring is strong in North America. Both residential and commercial retailers love the opportunity our product brings. It is innovative, profitable and with virtually no competition. Therefore, the product adds value and opens new doors for the marketplace, previously not in place with traditional tile or other hard surface floors.”

Crossville

For the porcelain producer celebrating its 25th anniversary, sustainability was top of mind at Surfaces, so much so that it showcased its new Sustainable Samples kit, which contains realistic “tile” samples made of recycled and recyclable card-stock. The kit has been created using advanced high-resolution imaging technology to capture a near-exact visual of each tile.

“This earth-friendly chip kit contains every tile, every color in Crossville’s Porcelain Stone collection—that’s more than 230 colors—in a compact, light-weight kit,” said Laurie Lyza, director of marketing. “It is intended to help architects and designers make preliminary color and product selections, allowing them to have an entire product line in their libraries in a minimum of space. The back of the tile has a QR code that specifiers can scan with any smartphone to retrieve more information about the product.”

When they have made their selections, she noted, that same smartphone app will enable them to automatically order a real product sample just by clicking on one button.

Crossville’s sustainability story does not end there. The company continues to think “out-of-the-blox” with its Color Blox series. Now Color Blox EC is available in all 20 Color Blox colors— from color-infused neutrals and darks to fun colors like Yellow Brick Road, Limeade, A Day at the Beach Blue and Caboose Red.

A porcelain tile with 20% SCS-certified recycled content, Color Blox EC can contribute to LEED MR 4.1 and 4.2 credits, Lyza noted. “Color Blox EC is the ideal green design solution; it has rectified edges for minimalist appeal, plus it’s available in large-format sizes and popular plank shapes. Coordinating bullnose and cove base trim is available in all colors.

Color Blox EC was also designed to work with multiple carpet products from Bentley Prince Street for installations requiring a coordinated tile and carpeting solution. And Crossville’s own Design Solutions offers a full complement of glass, metal and natural stone, trim and borders to accent Color Blox EC.

Crossville also put its own twist on the traditional appeal of wood at Surfaces with the introduction of Wood Impressions, which combines the look of wood with the durability of porcelain.

Dal-Tile

Once again, one of the industry’s largest tile producers extended its portfolio of stylish floor and wall tile options with the introduction of five collections at Surfaces— Del Monoco, Spark, Palatina, Keystones Elements and Sandalo—and the enhancement of its Terrazzo line. “This product launch represents Dal-Tile’s dedicated focus on style, design and quality, and we’re pleased to be able to meet the diverse needs of residential and commercial audiences alike,” said Lori Kirk-Rolley, senior marketing director. “Each new collection delivers an array of sophisticated design options, affording anyone the opportunity to design with confidence.”

Dal-Tile continues to deliver a palette of stylish products that speak to emerging flooring trends, she noted. For example, the use of contemporary, monochromatic looks, minimal movement and varying shapes are three specific trends driving modern design.

Del Monoco is a glazed porcelain collection that creates the impression of natural stone through its graphic visuals. It is available in four colors and five modular sizes with rounded edges and an array of decorative accents.

Dal-Tile’s answer to the continuing trend for more modern visuals is the Spark porcelain series. With its textured, fabric-like surface with a hint of shimmer, Spark is the new wave when it comes to high-end ColorBody Porcelain. Five colors are available with pre-consumer recycled content. The line features three field tile sizes and a 12 x 24 wall tile that are Tru Edge rectified, as well as modular. The trim package includes a 3 x 12 bullnose, 6 x 12 cove base and 1 x 6 cove corner.

Palatina glazed porcelain floor tiles deliver the look of natural travertine with the ease of maintenance associated with quality ceramic tile. Available in two sizes as well as a 3 x 12 bullnose, Palatina’s surface and color palette with three colors adds style through color variation within each tile and from piece to piece, Kirk-Rolley said.

Additionally, Palatina is the first Dal-Tile product line produced at Sanfi Ceramics, a leading manufacturer of ceramic tile in China. Palatina is ideal for all residential and commercial applications.

Dal-Tile also introduced eight porcelain mosaic tiles with its Keystones Elements line. Produced in America, the Keystone line is made from the highest recycled content percentage of any Dal-Tile mosaic, providing more options for green building practices within the residential and commercial markets. The 1 x 1 green mosaic blends are offered in a cool gray color palette and are suitable for any indoor or outdoor application.

Dal-Tile also offered a sneak peek of three new digital resources designed to provide professionals and consumers alike with easily accessible information and inspiration for tile and natural stone designs in both residential and commercial applications. The company’s Tile & Stone Visualizer, mobile catalog and iPhone and iPad Inspiration Gallery app will supply on-demand resources that enable users to design with confidence.

“Daltile looks forward to officially launching these new design and inspiration tools in the coming weeks in response to our customers’ needs for quick, easy access, greater efficiency and real time design support,” Kirk-Rolley said.

Emser

One of the wood-look porcelain products that received a great reaction at Surfaces was Emser’s glazed Country line. “Country is where the wood look meets porcelain durability,” said Bob Baldocchi, director of merchandising and marketing. The 6 x 24 and 4 x 24 plank collection in four authentic wood colors is designed with a classic finish and suitable for any application.

Another big winner for the company was its Lucente glass tile line. “Lustrous color shines through in this distinctive glass wall tile and mosaic line,” he said. “Lucente can be used on its own to make a statement on a kitchen or bathroom backsplash. It can also be combined with natural stone or porcelain tile as a decorative accent. For a real splash, Lucente can be used in pools or Jacuzzis where a shimmering effect is created by the water and tile. The possibilities are endless.” 41⁄4 x 41⁄4 tile and coordinating liners are available in 18 colors. Emser’s Woodstock collection also created a buzz. The porcelain line is designed to replicate authentic travertine and comes in five sizes.

Mannington

For Jim Dougherty, director of ceramic business, Mandalay Bay was the perfect place to host Surfaces. And, as part of Jay’s Bargain Basement, the emphasis for the company was on sales. “Surfaces has been great. We turn it into a selling event, not just a presentation event.”

A pair of introductions— Catalina, a low-end product line, and Cairo, a high-end porcelain product—were both well received. Cairo draws on the architectural inspiration of ancient Egypt and offers a vibrant mix of natural color variation and realistic texture, Dougherty noted. It combines modern technology and ancient beauty to form three exotic-inspired color palettes. “Its design options are almost endless with size options for any space,” he said.

Cairo comes in 12 x 12, 18 x 18, and 12 x 24 field tiles as well as a 3 x 12 bullnose, a brick-style mosaic and a 2 x 2 mesh-mounted mosaic. “Contrary to popular belief, large-size tile helps make a room look more spacious; there are fewer grout lines to interrupt the continuity of the flooring. In addition, using a variety of shapes and sizes—like rectangles and large-format squares—adds visual interest and a more custom, personalized look to the room.”

Mediterranea

The company introduced its new Exotica collection of plank-sized hardwood porcelain tiles to attendees in colors and textures reflecting the look of the exotic species from the South American rainforests.

The Exotica line is available for architects, interior designers and other tile specification professionals in a 6 x 24 plank-style format and five rich hardwood styles featuring a hand-scraped, aged-worn look. The glazed tiles come in vibrant colors for highly trafficked commercial and Main Street retail projects or private residential settings. They are available in oak, chestnut, cherry, walnut and espresso.

-Louis Iannaco