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Coverings 2016: Manufacturers focus on design, new technologies

April 25/May 2, 2016; Volume 30, Number 22

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.17.49 PMChicago—Coverings 2016, the largest tile and stone exhibition in North America, experienced yet another successful year, delivering new trends, styles and designs. Exhibitors at the expo, held April 18-21 here, embraced the vibrant host city and noted a few differences as compared to last year’s show in Orlando.

“I like Chicago because it’s in the middle of the U.S.,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville. “You get your West Coast people, you get your East Coast people and you get your international people. With Midway and O’Hare [airports] it’s an easy place to get in and out of.”

Donato Grosser, president, consultant to Ceramic Tiles of Italy, observed a different dynamic of attendees. “In Orlando there are a lot of people in the business of tile including builders, contractors and dealers. At this venue we see more architects and designers.”

Waldrep also noted the days of the show may have been the cause of some sporadic traffic at the start. Because the exhibit hall opened on a Monday, travel plans may have delayed the crowd, she said. “I think the days make a difference; the show doesn’t start until Tuesday next year and I think a lot of people don’t want to fly in on a Sunday, so [Monday] was slower and [Tuesday was] crazy busy. In addition, when it’s in Orlando people come in early or stay later to visit theme parks with family so you don’t have any dead zones at the beginning or end of the week.”

With more than 443,000 square feet of show floor space, numerous trends were illustrated from booth to booth with a few taking prominence. Hexagons, for example, are being incorporated into collections in both small and large formats. “I think the hexagon look is still ramping up,” said Alena Capra, Coverings industry ambassador. “It’s classic—if you go to Barcelona it’s on the streets there in a large scale from long ago. We’re seeing more individual sizes and it’s a look that adds spice; clients like it. It creates interest and gives us another shape to work with in design that is fun.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.18.07 PMBrick is another look that is here to stay. “As you walk the floor you’ll see there’s a lot of traditional brick with a reworked look,” Capra continued. “Some of them are more elongated looks or larger scale while some have that rustic or industrial feel. It’s traditional brick but with a new take on it.”

Marazzi’s Urban District, for example, encapsulates both brick and hexagons in addition to wood looks with an industrial theme. The company’s new Spotlight display showcases its BRX, STX and HEX lines in a way that shows dealers and customers how the products work together in a room and “pulls the story up front and center,” according to Micah Hand, brand marketing manager, Marazzi. “It’s versatile enough to hold different shapes and sizes. We’ve got [hexagons] in here, we’ve got planks and we’ve got bricks in all different sizes. The nice thing about this display is it has longevity because the graphics can be switched.”

 

From floors to walls

While there aren’t any official statistics available on the percentage of overall usage of wall tile in relation to flooring, Grosser predicts general consumption will grow this year from about 25% to 30%. This is due, in part, to trending large-format thin tile that can be installed over existing tile and is popular in wall applications. “Whenever you have new product in the market the growth has to be slow in the beginning because people do not know the product. Now they are coming out with a national standard for thin tile so that will help increase its usage.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.18.14 PMTo cater to this trend, Crossville is launching Laminam Satori porcelain tile panels available in 1 x 3 meters and 1 x 1 meters at 5.6mm in thickness for installation on floors, walls, countertops and beyond. In keeping with the Japanese meaning of the word “satori”—enlightenment—the company has been doing its part to educate installers in the industry from hands-on training in the field to online videos.

Florida Tile’s Sean Cilona, marketing director, said the appeal of Glamour—a large format metallic wall tile—includes its ease of installation and cutting, lighter weight, increased durability and slight reduction in cost.

Accent walls have become an important design feature in residential applications and Sicis North America is known for providing the perfect wow factor for such projects. “At the end of the day we are creating pieces of art,” said Lorenzo Canella, U.S. regional sales manager. “It’s not just a wall for a bathroom.” The company utilizes three design variations to achieve its works of art: “pixelated” for using one color for every point on an image; “artistic” for reproducing the image in an artistic way similar to a painter with a paintbrush; and “blending” uses a combination of colors.

 

Wood remains strong

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.18.21 PMWood visuals remain a significant trend in tile’s heightened style and design. “Wood looks are continuing to be hot, of course, but larger formats specifically are really taking the stage,” said Scott Appel, co-CEO of Floors & More. “With wood it’s really expanding and you’re seeing it go in many different directions. You see urban designs, rustic and there is a lot of gray.”

Marazzi’s new Cathedral Heights is one collection inspired by old wood beams from mansions and doors from churches in Europe. With whites, grays and browns, this natural, reclaimed look offers significant variation.

Ragno’s Woodcraft is available in 4 x 28 planks with a worn and distressed surface for a sanded down look. The company’s Woodplace features oak visuals on exaggerated 8 x 48 elongated planks.

Landmark Ceramics’ Natural Design can be used in both floor and wall applications. Inspired by American walnut, the planks are crisscrossed by delicate design traces such as planing, veining and saw cutting. “Every detail enriches the product, giving identity, expression and strength to the four different shades in the range,” said Francesco Mezzanotte, head of marketing.

MS International introduced a new collection of wood plank series including a 9 x 48 large format. The company also made some additions to existing lines based on trends it observed. “We took the white marble look and built a display to make it easier to shop,” said Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing. “With our porcelain bricks we added colors like whitewash. We incorporated mixed finishes into natural stone subways.”

 

New technology, options

With the advancements in digital printing technology, many industry members believe the game for tile has completely changed.” We can recreate stone that isn’t even in existence anymore or create new variations,” said Lori Dolnick, marketing, Tile of Spain. “We’ve moved beyond looking like wood or looking like stone to completely new things people have never seen before. There is so much opportunity for designers to customize flooring. And everything you expect from tile such as durability and environmental friendliness is still there.”

Mediterranea is one such company creating out-of-the-box designs with its launch of Quantum. “In this industry in the past, manufacturers have tried to replicate natural stone such as calacatta or travertine,” said Don Mariutto, vice president, marketing. “Our Quantum is taking a different approach. It’s not found in nature—it’s an original creation.” The Quantum collection includes Quantum Stone and White Wood, offered in honed and polished finishes.

Wonder Porcelain introduced a fabric look that plays off of mixed materials—another route to take with the help of new technology. “Fabric Folio is a great example of that trend,” said Laurie Lyza, director of marketing. “It’s all about the texture. It gives the appearance of cement with a tweed overlay. A lot of fabric looks are delicate but this is more industrial.” The company’s Orvieto is another line that combines materials to create a unique look. It is a marble collection that features light linear veining and a subtle wood graining.