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NeoCon turns 50: Design, innovation take center stage at milestone event

By Lindsay Baillie

Chicago—NeoCon, one of the largest commercial interior design shows in North America, concluded its 50th edition last month, drawing in more than 50,000 attendees—a 5% increase from 2017. The Mart in Chicago was bursting with 140 showrooms, where roughly 350 exhibitors showcased the latest and greatest in corporate, hospitality, healthcare, education and retail design.

According to show management, the show floor was completely occupied, which was in keeping with NeoCon trends seen over the past 10 years. What’s more, flooring was the second highest represented commercial industry. “The fact that this was our 50th edition added a lot of buzz and energy,” said Byron Morton, vice president of leasing, NeoCon.

The scores of A&D professionals in attendance echoed those sentiments. “We could tell from the energetic crowds at The Mart that the excitement of NeoCon was at an all-time high this year,” said John Hopkins, principal and design director, IA Interiors Architects’ Chicago office. “We loved that there was such a focus on acoustic solutions—it’s an undervalued component when it comes to privacy, workplaces and open environments. We also noticed there were a lot of natural materials and finishes, a welcome return after the influx of the cold, industrial materials of the past few years.”

Angie Lee, AIA, IIDA, principal, design director-interiors, FXCollaborative Architects LLP, New York, agreed. “I have attended NeoCon for the last three years and continue to be impressed by the immense energy and creativity of the manufacturers, designers and associations. I saw a range of products implementing unexpected, thought-provoking uses of color, pattern and texture.”

Vendors attributed much of that enthusiasm to three primary factors—the strength of key end-use market sectors, the bevy of new products that provide both aesthetic and performance solutions, and positive trends in non-residential construction spending.

“Traditional hard surface markets like retail and healthcare still are very strong, and non-traditional markets such as offices and hospitality are shifting toward hard surfaces in many areas they did not consider before,” Robert Brockman, segment marketing manager, commercial, Armstrong Flooring, told FCNews.

LVT in particular is driving commercial flooring consumption across several end-use markets as it continues to exceed the growth of the once-dominant broadloom sector. This is especially the case in hotels. “Most hospitality end users are also looking to make a change to something more timeless in terms of pattern and color,” noted Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington Commercial. “That, coupled with the easier maintenance requirements, make it an ideal product for these environments.”

But it’s not just hospitality that’s driving LVT specifications. Observers say healthcare holds the biggest growth potential for LVT, especially in areas such as hotel lobbies, hospital corridors and senior living spaces. “Slip/fall issues help LVT vs. other hard surface options,” said Paul Eanes, vice president of new business development, Metroflor.

Product trends
The vast array of innovative new products on display at the show reflected diverse requirements of architects, specifiers and designers. To keep up with demand, flooring manufacturers are developing new products across both hard and soft surface arenas that appeal to multiple commercial sectors at a time. In addition to developing products that fulfill “resi-mercial” demands, manufacturers are incorporating more pops of color to assist designers in creating unique, productive spaces.

In terms of hard surfaces, manufacturers continue to incorporate sustainable, biophilic design, with resilient flooring mimicking stone, cement, wood and other natural looks. Armstrong Flooring, for example, rolled out a heterogeneous sheet product called Mixers, which was inspired by the vibrant colors of different cocktails. Focused on its heterogeneous and homogeneous sheet lines, Armstrong presented attendees with new products that boast equal performance. “The update there is two fold,” Brockman stated, adding that designers can specify both sheet lines together without performance issues. “It’s not only new designs and patterns, but Diamond 10 technology has been added to the heterogeneous line.”

New to NeoCon, Cleo Contract—a Congoleum brand—highlighted its non-vinyl, non-PVC product. Made up of 85% limestone, Cleo has an ultra-low VOC, high-performance clear coating for durability and performance. What’s more, its visuals are digitally printed, which allows the company to produce custom looks. To help designers show what the product looks like after a complete install, Cleo Contract developed digitally printed papers that can be updated in real time with the current SKUs, according to Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, sales, Congoleum.

Also riding the non-vinyl train is Mannington Commercial with its latest non-vinyl alternative resilient tile, Cirro. Offered in 20 visuals and four different sizes in tile and plank formats, Cirro can be installed using traditional resilient adhesives.

Also new from Mannington is Northern Wonders, which was inspired by a designer’s visit to see the Northern Lights. “Its colors and design are a culmination of ideas developed during the trip,” said Whitney LeGate, business manager, commercial LVT, Mannington. The product is available in nine colorways.

Over at the Karndean Designflooring space, the emphasis was on designer education as well as the seemingly endless options available through its Korlok, glue-down and loose-lay products. The company’s grout strips, available in 16 colors, were installed in the booth to show how to incorporate fake grout lines as well as pops of color to a SKU. “We’ve expanded our solid color offering to allow for both bold, saturated pops of colors and pastels to align with 2019 color forecasts, great for projects that require an elevated brand identity or to add a bit of whimsy,” said Jenne Ross, director of marketing. “We’re excited that these custom colors will be available on-demand and custom cut at our Pittsburgh facility.”

One of the products Raskin Industries showcased was Ceramix, a resilient tile with built-in grout lines that’s available in a variety of visuals, including stone, marble and concrete. “We have 36 x 36 tiles that give you a really clean smooth concrete look,” said Ted Rocha, vice president of sales. “It would be something that you’d see in an Apple store, for instance.”

Aspecta released its Aspecta 10 line, a premium multi-layer flooring with Isocore technology. The new offering features a 28mil wear layer and can be installed floating corner to corner—thanks in part to its innovative vertical locking system. “This is the Rolls Royce of multi-layer flooring,” said Marcel Kies, global CEO, Aspecta. “What we’ve tried to create is a good, better, best product.”

Shannon Specialty Floors displayed its new Naturescapes line, which was designed with the help of Jason McLennan, author, founder and creator of the Living Building Challenge. Naturescapes, he explained, is a resilient flooring product made with organic polymers. “It’s not vinyl, it’s free of all Red List chemicals and it’s the first Living Product Certified resilient flooring in the industry. This product class is highly sought after.”

Roppe highlighted multiple products at the show, including its Northern Parallels Chevron LVT planks available in a 9¼ x 59¼ format in three color ranges. According to Dee Dee Brickner, marketing manager, the line reflects strong demand for one of the most popular patterns—a directional pattern that’s often seen in real hardwood installations. “By offering a left and right design, these floors can also be laid in the same direction to create another unique look by using only one side.”

Looking beyond LVT, manufacturers in the rubber segment also looked to generate some buzz by showcasing products in on-trend, vibrant colors. Suitable for multiple applications, these manufacturers have developed customer cut and base profile programs to provide designers with greater options.

Then there was American Biltrite’s AB Pure, which features its signature Nfuse technology (Here, the coating that is applied directly into the flooring.) “Normally you would take [a rubber floor] out of the box, glue it down and then you’d scrub and clean it to release the mold agent,” Mark Tickle, director of marketing, explained. “With AB Pure, once you lay it down you use a damp mop on the surface. Then as soon as the adhesive has cured you can have people on it.”

Flexco is incorporating different wood-look visuals as well as new rubber plank sizes to its portfolio. “We’re also going to be launching some of our new base profiles, which is catching a lot of people’s interest,” said Haley Plank, marketing manager. “We’re also working on sustainability for our products. We have two new HPDs coming out for our rubber tile and treads.”

Procedo Flooring’s new Maxime rubber flooring line—available in eight colors in a 24 x 24 tile format—was designed to be installed across multiple settings, including educational facilities, sports facilities and retail areas. “We also started doing water jet cuts on the product for greater design options,” said Pierre Lefort, national sales manager.

All shapes and sizes
“Some of the coolest things in floor covering,” noted NeoCon’s Morton, “has to be the different shapes and textures” on display at the show. To that end, Tarkett showcased several products ranging from Pentagonals, which won a Best of NeoCon Gold, and Woven Fringe, a Best of NeoCon Platinum winner.

According to Terry Mowers, vice president chief creative officer, Pentagonals features rubber in a way that highlights a wide range of design possibilities. “You can get whatever color palettes you want within the system and a variety of shapes.”

Woven Fringe complements Tarkett’s rubber offering by providing a resi-mercial solution that is part of the company’s area rug program. According to Mowers, the product’s neutral color palette fits right in with current trends. “We’re seeing grays moving to healthcare in combination with other colorings. We’re also seeing grays getting warmer but we’re not seeing them move that far away.”

As hard surfaces continue to gain more share across various commercial markets, end users are incorporating more area rugs in their designs. At the same time, carpet tile is also gaining steam. New soft surfaces continue to follow sustainable, biophilic design while brightening up spaces with hints of color.

Case in point: Aquafil’s booth displayed clothing and carpet featuring Econyl fiber. According to Kathy Long, brand communications manager, the booth was designed to show how fashion and carpet flow together. “We’re trying to show the endless possibilities of Econyl,” Long said. “We have 28 new colors to the Econyl collection—new neutrals and pops.”

Patcraft highlighted Dichroic, a PET carpet tile made from recycled plastic bottles. “We’ve worked on two products to pull plastic waste out of the environment,” said Kieren Corcoran, director of performance markets. “We’ve taken the bottle chip that can’t be recycled and turned it into fibers. We can then recycle it again at the end of its life back into pellets.”

EF Contract, which made its NeoCon debut, highlighted several carpet collections, including Rust Dye. “What we did was take metals and went through the process of rust dying them and capturing what they leave behind as they decay,” Susan Curtis, vice president, design and marketing, explained. “We’re all about tile, skinny planks and giving the designer flexible to design their own patterns.”

New to Mannington’s broadloom products is Moire, a carpet tile offering developed in conjunction with installation artist Gabriel Dawe. Moire mimics an installation Dawe completed in The Mart, which featured 30 miles of colorful fiber organized in prism format. Interestingly, the installation changed its colors as attendees passed by.

Mohawk put the spotlight on several new soft surface offerings, including Sunweave, a collection of woven broadloom and rug products featuring Heathered Hues Duracolor premium nylon, and Crafted Convergence, which draws on influence from Native American pottery and baskets to everyday Japanese and African garments. “With Crafted Convergence, we’re starting to transfer more hospitality looks into the workplace,” said Mark Oliver, vice president, workplace and retail. “The other beauty is it’s broadloom, but we’re also offering it as a rug.”

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HD Expo: Hospitality takes its cues from residential design

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Steven Feldman

Las Vegas—Things are changing in hospitality. Guest rooms are moving more to hard service. Select service hotels—the 2- and 3-star properties—are growing and garnering more attention than luxury hotels. And technology is yielding better performing hardwood for public spaces.

“We are seeing a lot more mid-scale hotels, what they are calling select service, and a lot less of the 4- and 5-star hotels with the huge ballrooms and lobbies,” said John Reader, general manager, Desso Hospitality, a division of Tarkett. “That means there is a lot more emphasis on guest rooms, where the hotels make the money, and a lot less emphasis on the public space.”

As such, while the company is seeing much more traction in public spaces with hard surface and modular than, say, five years ago, the real growth is in select service. To that end, Desso showcased a patterned LVT to almost identically match a carpet tile. Collection Infinies by Tarkett is a high-definition LVT that invites users to customize four innovative designs with its proprietary co-creation tool. The technology allows users to select colors from a predetermined palette and personalize the patterns to their liking.

Talk to LVT suppliers, and they will attribute their increasing success in the hospitality segment to the product’s ability to provide solutions—whether it’s installation, maintenance or design flexibility. Take Karndean Designflooring, for example, which at HD Expo put the spotlight on Korlok, its entry into the rigid core arena. “It is increasing in popularity because of the fact it can go over imperfect subfloors,” Emil Mellow, director of public relations, told FCNews. “Someone just came by seeking to replace a ceramic tile floor with grout but didn’t want to rip it up. Korlok is a perfect solution because it will go right over it.”

Shaw Hospitality prides itself on offering different types of solutions for various types of spaces, according to John Crews, design manager, Lifestyles Studio, which includes the hospitality business. Among its centerpieces at HD Expo was Natural Choreography, a collaboration with Rockwell Group. Natural Choreography utilizes custom, end-cut block wood and sheared marble floor surfaces, which are signature interior elements for high-end hospitality projects. The patterns mimic natural stone and wood with “metal” inlay by creating high-definition scans of real lumber and stone. The idea is to bring these exclusive materials to mass hospitality as a unique, cost-effective solution. “We are taking natural elements and adding a twist,” Crews said. “It’s something a little different for public spaces and guest rooms.”

Republic Floors made its HD Expo debut with its patented Pure SPC, which the company claims is a step above what’s currently on the market. As Rotem Eylor, founder and CEO, explained, “Pure SPC offers a density of anywhere from 1200 psi to 2400 psi. It is made from four different stone powders with special polymers inside to make the material stable. Our claims ratio is less than 0.01%. The product is good in heat or cold, and it doesn’t need acclimation. It doesn’t expand and contract. For hospitality, it can go anywhere—public areas, guest rooms, even in the shower.”

Metroflor featured its Aspecta brand, which is finding favor in hotel guest rooms. Its Aspecta Ornamental line allows flexibility of design with a custom print overlay on a 2.5mm vinyl body. “It’s more of customized feel without a customized budget,” said Alan Rowell, director of sales, Aspecta. It allows a designer to create something beyond a monolithic design.”

Bringing past to present

Personalization of space and the need for a tactile experience—that’s what some of the carpet mills sought to address via their HD Expo introductions. “People are still craving the texture and experience to be able to connect with the product,” noted Jackie Detmer, vice president of design and product development, Mohawk Group, which features the Durkan brand for this segment. “Our new Crafted Convergence was inspired by a collaboration with the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, N.M. The carpet is modern but inspired by patterns that have been in [existence] for thousands of years.”

It was a similar story at Mannington Commercial, where Amanda Swindall, marketing director, talked about the continuation of personalization in design as well as what she called “resi-mercial” (making hospitality settings feel more like the comforts of home). In response to that trend, a new carpet tile called Heirloom, based on an old Czechoslovakian wedding dress, was previewed for a summer debut. “Look how the yarn comes in and out and how the color plays. It’s a handcrafted look that’s based on disintegration over time.”

Wood-strong

Hospitality is traditionally a segment that utilizes hardwood primarily in public spaces, but given the demands of the application, the wood must perform. In fact, hospitality is the No. 1 market for Nydree Flooring, whose products are acrylic infused, making them three to four times harder than regular wood, according to Jason Brubaker, vice president of sales and marketing. “Depending on the level of the property, our products could go in common areas, lobbies, restaurants and, in some cases, the guest rooms.”

Monarch came to HD Expo featuring its two main brands: Monarch Plank Hardwood Flooring, which is its quick-ship stocking collection, and Royal Custom Plank and Parquet, a wide array of unfinished offerings. According to Danny Harrington, vice president of marketing, Monarch’s products are suitable for hospitality applications due to a very heavy commercial finish, which features UV-cured oil.

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Karndean updates online ‘Find a Retailer’ feature

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 1.32.06 PMExport, Pa. — Karndean Designflooring has updated its online Find a Retailer service that is designed to improve users’ ability to locate and connect with their nearest Karndean retailer.

The updated service allows users to search within a 60-, 30-, or 15-mile range. The system will display the nearest Platinum, Gold and Silver dealers within the given range, highlighted by Karndean’s nearest recommended retailer. Users also have the ability to sort their search results between distance and partnership level.

In addition to providing retailer contact information within the search results, users have the option to contact their preferred dealer through an online form on the website.

“Karndean.com is a robust website with a comprehensive set of online tools for our customers and partners,” said Emil Mellow, vice president of marketing. “By providing a thorough, streamlined system for connecting customers and retailers, we’re helping to make the process of buying the perfect design floor that much easier.”

For more information about Karndean Designflooring’s Find a Retailer service and other online support, visit www.karndean.com/en/floors/retailers-samples-brochures.

 

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Karndean unveils new product selector app

KD1380UK_PSAppiPad-1Export, Pa. — Karndean Designflooring has unveiled its latest app designed specifically for architects, interior designers and contractors to use at the point of specification.

“Karndean’s commercial division has recognized the need for our A&D customers to be able to visualize our premium LVT collections in an interactive digital format,” said Emil Mellow, vice president of marketing for Karndean Designflooring. “We are excited to say this new user friendly app provides that tool.”

Following the success of its hard-backed Product Selector catalog, Karndean said it has developed a sophisticated app to replicate its specifiers guide.

The free Product Selector app for iPad showcases more than 150 wood and stone designs from Karndean’s product portfolio, including full technical specifications. Each product can be viewed up close, allowing users the flexibility to select and demonstrate floor designs both on-site and in the office.

“Since the launch of our Augmented Reality (AR) app, we’ve had an overwhelming response from architects, interior designers and contractors using our AR app to demonstrate floor designs in real time at the point of specification,” said Paul Barratt, managing director of Karndean Designflooring. “We recognized the potential to expand our digital offering by introducing our Product Selector app as an additional tool for architects, interior designers and contractors. Now, our customers have the option to use our app on its own or alongside our hard-backed version, meaning they no longer have to wait for samples to use on-site, they can view any floor design on-demand.”

Available now, Karndean’s Product Selector App can be downloaded from the App Store by searching ‘Karndean Product Selector.’

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Karndean names Mellow VP of marketing

Emil Mellow
Emil Mellow

Export, Pa. —  Karndean Designflooring has named Emil Mellow vice president of marketing for the U.S. Mellow will work with the marketing team to develop strategic, multi-faceted campaigns with a strong focus on branding, merchandising and sales support.

“Emil has an exceptional record of achievement in developing and executing strategic marketing initiatives that complement sales objectives,” said Ed Perrin, CEO, Karndean Designflooring. “I am confident that his expertise will bring tremendous value to not only our company, but to all the customers we serve.” Continue reading Karndean names Mellow VP of marketing