August 20/27, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 5
By Mara Bollettieri
As a natural, renewable material, cork has inherent benefits that appeal to a designer’s visual, practical and environmental senses—a virtual trifecta. But it is perhaps on the first attribute that suppliers have made the greatest strides. Thanks to the advent of digital screening and printing technology, manufacturers can push the proverbial envelope even further by broadening cork’s ever-expanding design possibilities.
Following are some examples of the latest looks available in cork flooring:
It’s no accident that Cali Bamboo’s environmentally friendly lineup of hard surface flooring products also contains trendy, visually appealing cork flooring. These include popular wood looks in the trending wider/longer format.
“Average customers who go into a dealer to buy their floor want a well-performing, functioning, engineered product, but they’re primarily driven by the visual of that floor,” said Pallavi Adyanthaya, new product introduction program manager. “We’ve been able to take all that information and are constantly looking to evolve to keep up with the design/visual side of it.”
To that end, Cali Bamboo’s GreenClaimed cork series features oak-inspired visuals attached to an MDF core, which is supported by a strong backing layer. “We created this line for people who love cork for everything it provides from a functional standpoint but who aren’t fans of the look itself.”
Globus Cork only uses 100% cork products and doesn’t alter the natural texture of cork in its tiles. Instead, the company focuses on color. “We are not trying to make it look like wood or ceramic tile,” said Jennifer Biscoe, COO. “We offer more than 45 different colors, and we do custom colors. We utilize a water-based staining process, which is extremely eco-friendly. Our flooring still looks like a cork product.”
Globus Cork also looks to differentiate by offering different shapes. “It’s not just squares and rectangles, it’s also hexagons and triangles,” Biscoe explained. “Our website shows about 35 pattern ideas, so utilizing the different shape options gives the consumer a huge range of choices. Then she can pick the tile color, size, shape and texture. Customers get to design whatever they like.”
Some manufacturers offer cork flooring products that incorporate attributes of other categories. For instance, Harris Wood Floors’ Luxury Vinyl Core series has a cork core that performs more like enhanced vinyl. “All the vinyl out in the marketplace today is waterproof,” said Renee Tester, senior product and marketing manager, Harris Wood Floors. “With ours, you get that beautiful look of a waterproof wood floor, but with all the benefits of a cork floor along with the durability that a vinyl floor has to offer.”
While some manufacturers look to leverage cork’s natural looks, others seek to add a little visual punch to generate interest. Case in point is USFloors’ Natural Cork line, which offers cork planks and tiles in larger formats to keep in trend with what’s hot. And according to Philippe Erramuzpe, COO, the company has been expanding its offering of traditional cork decors, which is produced by layering bark pieces and cork granules. This is featured in its Traditional Cork Plank floor.
“Cork floors have been around for over a century,” Erramuzpe said. “Because cork flooring offers a unique combination of properties that no other floor covering can match, it’s the perfect choice for the end user looking for a soothing interior finish.”
The company’s Natural Cork line also offers digitally enhanced visuals featuring replications of stone and wood. “Cork composite sheets are now digitally printed with stone and wood visuals,” Erramuzpe explained. “Cork visuals, while beautiful, always had limited appeal. But technology has enabled the creation of decors that have more mainstream acceptance.”
Digital printing on cork gives the visuals the consumer is generally looking for in her home. With this technological advancement, suppliers like Torlys are able to mimic other materials, such as wood or stone.
“We take real wood photography and then we do a design element to remove imperfections and make sure that whatever we do replicates real wood,” said Brian Gencher, vice president of marketing. “Due to the digital process we employ, we can have a cork floor that offers the natural variations of wood. In short, it has all the features and benefits of cork, but it looks like wood.”
WE Cork seeks to leverage digital printing to its advantage by customizing cork products for its clients. This is a great way for a restaurant, corporation or retailer to represent their brand, according to Ann Wicander, president.
Wicander said the company uses a multi-pass, high-definition print system, which creates an optic quality. This is used in its Serenity collection, which is its digitally printed cork line. The company also uses texture in the print, which gives the floor a three-dimensional feel.
“With technology improving, the natural attributes of cork are constantly evolving visually and technically to provide a flooring choice unmatched by any other,” Wicander explained.