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Coverings: Latest tile, stone introductions hit all the right notes

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

By Mara Bollettieri

Coverings, billed as the largest international tile and stone event in North America, delivered as promised as attendees from near and far came to see the hottest and freshest trends in the industry. More than 1,100 vendors showcased their respective products across the vast showroom floor at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta

“It’s really about connections for anyone who attends,” said Alena Capra, Coverings industry ambassador. “You can meet new vendors, people you can partner with. It’s for tile installers, fabricators, retailers, distributors. Everyone wins because [the connections are] what the show is really about.”

With respect to trends, larger-format tiles, which were prominent throughout the show floor, continue to trend. While the larger format is overtaking the European market, the U.S. is still slowly absorbing the trend, explained Juan Molina, general manager of sales and marketing, Del Conca USA. However, larger tiles are now being used in certain high-volume metropolitan markets, such as Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, to create open spaces.

At the show, Del Conca USA highlighted its Alchimia porcelain stoneware collection, which is available in different sizes and colors—from 120 × 120 cm to 40 × 80 cm. “We are here every year and believe in the show,” Molina said. “This particular convention is the most important one in all of North America. It’s the best environment for customers in our industry to make good comparisons from one factory to another.”

Larger format tiles were also seen in the show’s tiny home displays. Many of the homes used formats as large as 48 x 48, which Capra referred to as a “super large format.” Capra noted that, “some of the homes only had six tiles throughout the whole house.”

While larger, thin-format tiles are currently on the rise, many were on display with more standardized sizes that are wider and not as tall, according to Diana Friedman, Novita Communications, Ceramics of Italy. “Along with that, we are seeing some companies that are doing thick tiles—20mm—but in actually smaller sizes,” she explained. “It’s a new way of showing these thick tiles.”

Wood is (still) good

Wood-look tiles are still holding strong in the marketplace as these visuals are finding their home both inside and outside. What’s more, wood-look tile is incorporating other tile trends such as thinner, longer formats.

“We’re seeing a couple of companies have thin wood looks,” Friedman explained. “We are seeing a 3 x 24-inch version that’s really nice and smooth—almost like a buttery wood, a leathery texture.”

Gianni Mattioli, president and CEO, Ragno USA, sees the importance of wood looks in the marketplace, although he explained it is probably leveling off. Ragno USA saw brisk traffic at its booth during the show, with many attendees stopping to look at wood visuals. To cater to this market, the manufacturer continues to introduce new wood finishes such as traditional and rustic wood looks.

Blast from the past

Honoring the past was an ongoing theme throughout this year’s show, as many exhibitors embraced old-fashioned designs and styles. According to Friedman, a lot of textured tiles with classic looks and ideas were on display in the Italian Pavilion, which displayed over 120 brands of Italian exhibitors.

A huge retro trend that a majority of companies displayed was terrazzo. “Terrazzo has been big and is getting even bigger,” Friedman stated. “We’re seeing a hyper-realized idea of this post-modern look, so there are a lot of colors, a lot of these pastel tones.” She explained that there is almost a “terrazzo inception” going on, where lots of companies are displaying tiles that have terrazzo within a terrazzo pattern.

“Ornamenta has a beautiful ombre tile, which is large and thin,” Friedman noted. “It’s called the Operae collection, and it has a stylized palm leaf motif. The company takes these hyper-realized, classic known elements and makes them bold and bright with a new take.”

Capra also noted the return of terrazzo as well as patchwork. “Terrazzo has been around for a long time in tile form,” she explained. “It has a batch of different benefits and features, so that’s a great option.” With respect to patchwork, “We definitely saw a lot of the patchwork-type look, whether it’s all consistent in black and white—and a lot of color as well, softer tones,” Capra said. “There were a lot of coordinating soft color tones that go with this patchwork—everything from bold geometric patterns to the more traditional-type looks.”

Color tile conquers

Many exhibitors and attendees commented on the usage of bright colors, blues and pastels at the show. As Beth Wickliffe, Clayton Tile, Greenville, S.C., told FCNews, “Anything with color—bright colors—is coming back. A lot more blues coming around—bright blues and navy—but grays are still around as well.”

Manufacturers, such as Marazzi, are tapping into this wide range of colors to create tile for all occasions. Marazzi’s popular line, Middleton Square, is full of bright, vibrant colors in 4 x 12 wall tiles with undulations, 3 x 12 and 6 x 6. “We’re getting a lot of good feedback that people want to move away from blacks, whites and grays,” said Ray Piña, Northeast regional sales manager.

Capra also emphasized the rise in color tile. “Something we noticed is a lot more color—a lot of bright color,” she said. “A lot of dark teals and aquas, different shades of blues, soft pinks and soft greens and yellows.”

One new trend that caught Capra’s eye is contrasting colored grout with neutral or colored tiles, such as gray tile with yellow grout, or turquoise grout with black and white tile. This style, she said, would work great for an accent wall as a kind of statement.

Technological advancements

Although many suppliers are feeling nostalgic what with the return to old-fashioned designs, many are also embracing technological advancements to create innovative tile, such as digital printing. For example, Refin Ceramics displayed its new line, Kasai, a collection that pays tribute to Japanese culture. The line is simple and made in three colors with various decorations inspired by Japan, according to Nick Schenetti, sales rep for the Northeast and Midwest American market, Refin Ceramics. Through the usage of digital printing on the tile, the company has created a tile that gives a look of burned wood.

Many show exhibitors are digitally printing their tiles to develop new styles. “There was also a lot of metallic gold veining on already digitally printed porcelain,” Capra said. “There was a lot of gold over existing design. People are playing with technology to go ahead and create new things.”

Texture has also played a huge role at this year’s show. “I noticed some pattern tile had some texture on it,” Capra added. “There was one with a cactus on it, and you could feel it. You’re seeing subtle textures to really strong textures, like 3D texture. With the advancement in technology, they are able to do that.”

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Ragno USA expands tile collections

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 11.49.12 AMDallas — Ragno USA said it has expanded its range of porcelain tile with the addition of three new collections–Kenilworth, Villa Medici and Woodstyle. Featuring visuals inspired by natural stone, clay and wood, the collections draw from European trends while meeting domestic design preferences.

“The collections emit an old-world feel, but the visuals were actually created using the latest technology including our advanced 3-D digital print technique,” said Marianne Cox, director of brand marketing, Ragno USA. “We pride ourselves in this dichotomy of ancient inspiration and modern innovation, as it allows us to bring our customers authentic designs that stand up to quality and durability expectations.”

Kenilworth porcelain features wide planks and squares in foundational neutrals. Available in shades of beige, charcoal, grey and walnut, the collection includes tiles of 12 x 24 complemented by intriguing design elements in 13 x 13 and 20 x 20 modules. Mesh-mounted 2 x 2 mosaics, 3 x 13 bullnose, 6 x 12 cove base and 1 x 6 out angles are also available.

Villa Medici porcelain is a collection inspired by artisanal, handcrafted cottos with worn, softened edges. Both 3-D digital print techniques and roller applications are used to achieve the look of ancient terra cotta with its own built-in deco of intricate diamond geometric patterns randomly scattered throughout. The collection is available in shades of cotto, grey, smoke and white.

Woodstyle porcelain is a gentler, more refined wood-look collection created with 3-D digital printing. Distinctive graining with soft scraped effects inspired by rich walnut. Available in three authentic wood colors: Acero, Faggio, and Noce, the collection features large format rectified planks available in 6 x 48, 8 x 48 and 12 x 48 sizes.

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Made in the USA: Faster lead times, better control

Volume 27/Number 26; April 28/May 5, 2014

By Ken Ryan

One of the major storylines in 2013 and early 2014 was the decision by four major flooring companies to build LVT production facilities on U.S. soil. The benefits Mannington, IVC, Shaw and Mohawk expect to reap from this move include shorter lead times, better quality control, quicker turnaround for sample replenishment and back-order fulfillment.

It comes down to this, according to David Sheehan, vice president of commercial hard surfaces for Mannington: “Those who have the inventory that can serve the customers’ needs get the business. You control your own destiny by having manufacturing here.”

Flooring is not the only industry making this push. According to the Boston Consulting Group, more than half of U.S.-based manufacturing executives at companies with sales of more than $1 billion plan to re-shore production to the U.S. from China—or are actively considering it.

When considering the cost of transportation and logistics along with the quality of the workforce here (productivity improvements due to automation are trimming per-unit labor costs in the U.S.), it’s very easy to justify bringing that production back to the U.S.

Indeed, as the cost of freight coming into the U.S. remains high, the opportunity for domestic manufacturing will continue to be strong, experts say. Some flooring executives suggest this onshoring may be the beginning of a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S. If true, that would represent a very positive sign for the economy (only 9% of U.S. jobs are manufacturing related, according to statistics), particularly the ability to grow and retain jobs here.

Speed to market

MP Global Products, a manufacturer of acoustic and insulating underlayments, is currently assessing commercial storage facilities in strategic locations around the U.S. with the intent to warehouse inventory regionally and add inventory capacity to more quickly fulfill customer orders.

“Certainly, to fulfill an order, delivering from a regional storage facility is a lot faster than waiting for product shipped across the high seas,” said Jack Boesch, director of marketing at MP Global Products. “Right now, we are looking at locations that are close to our largest customers.”

Manufacturing close to the customer enables companies to offer a wide array of available products without lengthy lead times required to ship items from other countries.

Speed to market is critical in today’s market. Having the ability to deliver in five to 10 days, as would be the case with many domestic plants—compared to, say, 15 weeks from a facility overseas—offers a major competitive advantage. A company with overseas operations can try and build up their inventory, but one missing SKU could cost a large-size order.

“Availability, quality control and quick supply are three key benefits to selling domestically manufactured tile to the domestic market,” said Lori Kirk-Rolley, vice president of brand marketing at Dal-Tile Corp.

Kirk-Rolley said the tile industry in particular is known for style and sophistication that was previously limited to European markets; however, with advancement of design and manufacturing technologies, companies like Dal-Tile are helping the domestic tile market make significant gains.

Green benefit

Products that are produced domestically also have a sustainable story to tell in terms of fewer transportation miles, less fuel costs and better monitoring of manufacturing efficiencies. That is the case with Dal-Tile, which recently completed

the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) development process for all products manufactured in its North American production facilities. “With third-party validation from PE International and certification by UL Environment, Dal-Tile is the first manufacturer in the ceramic category to voluntarily disclose cradle-to-grave impacts from all Daltile, American Olean, Marazzi USA and Ragno USA products with UL Environment certified EPDs,” Kirk-Rolley said.

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Ragno USA debuts new website

SUNNYVALE, TEXAS—Ragno USA debuted its new marketing campaign and website.

During the summer, Ragno USA’s Live Inspired makeover of marketing materials was introduced worldwide on the company’s re-imagined website. Following the initial launch, Ragno sought input from customers as well as internal users to make adjustments that make the site even more useful and easy-to-navigate. The result is an even more intuitive, information-packed resource. Continue reading Ragno USA debuts new website