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Carpet: Innovations deliver performance, style refinements

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Ken Ryan

 

From breakthroughs in new categories of carpet to innovations in soft luxury, carpet mills brought excitement to the flooring market in 2017. Following is an overview.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.37.48 AMEngineered Floors: Apex SDP
Founded on its PureColor solution-dyed fiber process (SDP), Engineered Floors’ Apex SDP raises the bar for a superior fiber in commercial use with performance characteristics similar to nylon. “We’ve introduced this fiber system within our Pentz Commercial Solutions line with lifetime warranties for stain removal, static and colorfastness to light and atmospheric contaminants,” Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing, explained. “Together with our Nexus Modular Backing system, we have a game changer in the modular carpet tile category—especially in the growing Main Street commercial arena.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.37.53 AMFoss Floors: DuraKnit technology
According to Brian Warren, executive vice president, carpet featuring DuraKnit technology is constructed differently than tufted carpet. DuraKnit products provide an exclusive fused core, essentially marrying and melting the fibers together and eliminating the need for a primary back. “Our carpets will never fray, unravel, zipper or wrinkle,” he said. “They can be installed in the toughest of settings and provide years of performance, and they are fade and stain resistant. We say it’s the soft alternative to hard surfaces.”

Shown at Surfaces 2017, the reception in the marketplace has been “incredible,” Warren said. “We have sold out of our first round of displays and plan on introducing new styles in this category at Surfaces 2018.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.37.58 AMLexmark: Living
“Out with the old, in with the new” is the best way to describe Lexmark in 2017, according to Darrell Locke, vice president of residential sales. Lexmark refreshed its Living display program with an entirely new look featuring more eye-catching graphics and larger card sizes. “We updated half of the line with the intent on building upon the Lexmark Living foundation that was built back in 2012 with the inception of the residential division,” he explained. “This new display system has been very well received in the market.”

Locke added the company has gained premium floor space in dealer showrooms, which is no small feat in light of the trend toward hard surfaces. “We have seen significant gains in the market based on our innovative patterns and merchandising and quality field representation.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.38.03 AMMarquis: Ultimate Beauty
Introduced at Surfaces 2017, Ultimate Beauty has been a home run for Marquis Industries. This 80-ounce, solution-dyed offering is a signature addition of Marquis’ soft yarns collection, all of which come with a minimum of 6.5 twists for added softness. Mike Lindberg, executive vice president, said that while hard surface has obviously taken a big piece out of the soft surface market, the people who are buying carpet want the best.  “We are finding they are willing to spend more for better quality. With an 80-ounce product like Ultimate Beauty, customers can sink their toes into the carpet when they walk on it.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.38.09 AMMohawk: Air.o
Mohawk is positioning Air.o not as a new carpet product but as the first delivery in Unified Soft Flooring. Indeed, Air.o has captured the attention of so many people in 2017, according to Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing. As well, many consumers have raved about the product, particularly its hypoallergenic properties. Arnold said Mohawk knew hypoallergenic was going to be a differentiating feature, adding, “I think we underestimated the scale of the importance of that feature for the consumers. We’ve done a lot of research to really understand the community out there, and what is amazing is more people have allergic sensitivity than are pet owners. Our industry does so much with pets, and yet the market with people of respiratory issues is at least as large.”

What Air.o has done is give people who were considering hard surface an opportunity to think seriously about soft. The company found that of the 68% of people with allergy sensitivities who are inclined to buy hard surface, the number drops to 48% when they were exposed to Air.o. “That’s a lot of people,” Arnold said. “Air.o is so transformative and different from carpet that the list of advantages is very long.”

The other big news has been Smartstrand Silk and Silk Reserve, which continue to maintain a leadership position in luxurious soft. “Silk and Silk Reserve both continue to be phenomenal producers for Mohawk,” he said. “Mohawk has clearly captured the leading position in soft, and Silk Reserve further protects that space for us.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.38.15 AMPhenix: Cleaner Home
Phenix executives have learned from research that consumers are looking for smarter products that can do more for them, passively keeping their homes cleaner, healthier and looking great. The company’s Cleaner Home collection addresses that trend. Cleaner Home carpets feature antimicrobial protection for the life of the carpet. The products were developed through an exclusive partnership with Microban, the leading producer of antimicrobial additives. Additionally, Cleaner Home was developed utilizing a new, highly engineered PET polyester yarn, Opulence HD, and includes SureFresh, an odor capture technology to provide a comprehensive, smarter soft surface flooring.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.38.20 AMShaw: LifeGuard
Shaw Floors’ biggest success of 2017 in the soft surface category can be summed up in one word: “LifeGuard,” the company’s advanced waterproof backing system.

Shaw has expanded LifeGuard styling options to its popular Anso Color Wall in the Titanium collection featuring 150 new SKUs. “This is the first time we’ve offered the market our LifeGuard waterproof backing as a trade-up option on something the dealers and retail sales associates are already selling,” said Teresa Tran, residential soft surface category manager. “It has been so well received that new tweed and tonal color updates to our Anso Color Wall were introduced and, of course, Titanium is offered on these innovative new colorations as well.”

Shaw’s consumer research indicated that 65% of U.S. households, or about 79.7 million families, own a pet (animals play a larger role in the flooring decision process than kids in the home). Tran said all LifeGuard carpet styles are constructed with high performance in mind, extending the life and beauty of the product.

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Lisbiz Strategies: Fashion’s influence on flooring design

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoRecently I visited Oxford, Miss., to meet with Lisa Stout, owner of Stout’s Flooring, to present a seminar for local female business owners. Oxford is an interesting college town, the home of “Ole Miss” with about 50,000 residents, 25,000 of which are college students. They have wonderful shirts that read, ‘Oxford, Miss., population—full!’ I was here 22 years ago and the town is barely recognizable. Now it has everything you would need, including a luxurious town square with a boutique hotel that was formerly a gas station. The carpet design is an industrial, two-tone herringbone pattern. The lines in the room are very clean and uncluttered.

I asked Stout—who, with her sister, owns a high-end clothing shop—if she sees any societal trends influencing flooring. She travels to all of the boutique shows to buy for the store. It also gives her an idea of trends that will be influencing her flooring market. She believes flooring is definitely impacted by clothing and make-up trends. It may take a year or so for things to change but it’s definitely noticeable.

Not only is “what’s old is new,” but businesses are doing more than recycling. This technique sets the stage for interesting interiors but it only provides a background. Authenticity is not necessary, as artifacts from many places can wind up in the same room. For our meeting, we were in an interesting restaurant with floors that appeared hand scraped. The walls were stark white with pictures created out of tufts of cotton. The copper lighting was recessed into the beams.

According to Stout, it also includes sustainability. “We’ve been selling and installing tiles indicative of the early 20th century. We’ve had to do lots of research to find the right materials. It’s exciting to see buildings being recycled with a modern twist. For example, hand-scraped original wood floors in buildings with metal recessed lighting. Our sand and finished flooring business continues to take off. Natural looks in wood are very appealing to consumers.”

The matte finish prevalent in lipstick is also showing up in luxury vinyl, laminate and wood floors. Glossy floors seem to be out and shiny is hard to find. Another clothing trend, crushed velvet, is popping up in area rugs. This sounds like the velvet look, which caused plenty of problems in broadloom years ago. Carpet products with the industrial commercial look are selling well in residential settings.

A friend of mine in Knoxville, Tenn., who buys and flips houses, is installing the gray/beige patterned look. Herringbone patterns and high and low looped styles are widespread. These designs have an industrial feeling but are still soft to the touch. In the 1970s, when I was in the flooring retail business, we sold industrial patterned goods but for different reasons. We told customers the carpets were very durable; we never discussed the styling. Now the styling as well as the durability is very popular. It’s obvious the commercial carpet look has found its way into residential settings.

Trends such as “farm to table” and local breweries are giving a new meaning to home grown. Handcrafted, large beam tables pair well with the rough-hewn floors. The farm to table movement brings us back to a simpler time. Some other noteworthy design trends: Interiors are becoming more sparse; country chic seems to be on the back burner; and frilly is gone—at least for now—which leaves the interiors open for an emphasis on the flooring patterns.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

 

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In Style: Wood design forecasting—Hitting the mark takes good timing

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Reginald Tucker

 

Normandy_Oak_Brulee_1_Det_altFashion and style play a key role in the development of today’s floor covering products, and hardwood is no exception. While the correlation is well documented, many would also argue that the development of hardwood looks, patterns, colors and styles are largely a function of regional tastes irrespective of overarching, global fashion trends. The key for many suppliers, experts say, is finding just the right balance.

“Wood flooring trends have a bigger connection to regional trends more so than fashion trends,” said Joe Amato, vice president of residential styling, Mannington. “An example would be areas of the Midwest region that is still supporting refined rustic looks, but sections of the East Coast now moving to urban looks that are less rustic, with less character.”

With the tendency for fashion trends to literally come and go, how does one go about developing a product lineup several years in advance of product roll-outs that might not be in tune with regional or local tastes by the time the products are officially launched? “The biggest challenge is always developing a product inspired by a home fashion trend that’s too early for the market,” Amato explained, citing the rise in popularity of the color gray in markets around the world prior to catching on in the U.S.

Accurate trendspotting not only applies to pinpoint, precise color forecasting. As Amato explained: “In addition to color we follow wood formats, surface texture, wood species and surface gloss and try to time the development to the market needs. You don’t always need to be the first but you need to be ready to respond when the timing is right.”

That begs the question: Are retailers truly conscious of the correlation between fashion and styling with respect to how they prospect or close sales on a daily basis? If retailers embrace the fashion story in simple terms of current home fashion trends, according to Amato, they can truly justify and sell the corresponding looks and styles from the manufacturers. “Mannington goes to great lengths to create hardwood products that coordinate with the popular home fashion trends, but we need the retailer to emphasize the connection. We try to provide retailers the necessary tools to educate the consumer and tell the fashion story to make it a part of the selling experience.”

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In Style: Kane Carpet finds success in high-end rug biz

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.52.31 PMDespite the increase in hard surface sales, carpets and rugs continue to hold significance in flooring showrooms across the United States. Kane Carpet, a trendsetter in broadloom since 1947, is helping dealers increase margins and soft surface sales with its high-end carpets and rugs. The company also aims to provide retailers with upsell opportunities through its service, style and quality.

“We’ve put our customers back into the rug business,” said Bruce Kurtz, vice president sales & marketing, Kane Carpet. “Kane offers retailers diversification and profitability.”

Part of Kane Carpet’s appeal is its unique style. These fresh looks combined with premium materials provide retailers with opportunities for greater margins. What’s more, the company’s products are designed to complement hard surface offerings, which continue to creep into all areas of the home.

“Over the last few years we’ve taken a completely different direction as the marketplace became extremely casual and the consumer started looking for decelerated [carpet and rug] designs,” Kurtz explained. “This is because years ago hard surface used to be an application, but today it is a decoration. Oftentimes hard surface has a lot going on, so the customer wants to tone down the carpet. We’ve changed our whole method of styling our products to meet customer [demands].”

By providing a soft surface that complements wood, laminate, LVT, etc., Kane helps retailers sell high-end rugs to existing hard surface customers. “If a consumer is going into a store for a hard surface, chances are she will want a rug from the same place,” Kurtz explained. “Most people like one-stop shopping.”

Jeff Penrose, owner, Specialty Carpet Showroom, Salt Lake City, has carried Kane Carpet 26 years and is installing it everywhere. “We do everything from custom staircases to theaters to family rooms. These products even go into some commercial projects, including hospitality.”

While the manufacturer’s black and white offerings has done well for Specialty Carpet Showroom, according to Penrose, the retailer doesn’t just stick to one look or pattern. “They’ve got such a variety, we really sell their whole line,” Penrose added.

At Lester Carpets, Los Angeles, Kane’s uniquely designed area rugs have been selling well for the past 10 years. “We have a large display in our showroom and it’s definitely an eye catcher,” said Neil Lester. “With the increase in demand for area rugs, they have some unusual patterns that make interesting statements on the floor. Kane Carpet offers such a wide variety of patterns and color, which is unique in the industry.”

Along with high style comes greater margin opportunities. Just ask Rob Bush, owner of Abbey of Addison in Chicago. He has been carrying thousands of Kane Carpet products for about 15 years. “Selling Kane Carpet certainly helps our image, especially when a customer sees all those beautiful products and such a large selection—they look like carpets made on rug machines. Kane Carpet has a very high-end line with extremely unique, value-oriented and beautiful designer products.”

Getting with the ‘program’
In addition to providing high-end products, Kane Carpet provides its dealers with an alliance program, where the manufacturer only sells through dealers that have samples in the store. “The dealers know that their margins are always going to be higher with us than with others because we reward the dealers for showing our projects,” Kurtz explained. “We show these retailers over and over again that our prices are better than the competition.”

To complement its product offerings and designer-like style, Kane Carpet has also created a product book for its dealers. The manufacturer hopes the book will help speed up processes and provide designers with a simple way to show all of Kane’s products.

“We have been very proactive with growing our designer business through our dealers by giving them the book of Kane which has everything in it,” Kurtz said. “We give retailers the books if they show our whole line. Plus, they can have as many books as they need to support their designer trade. The book gives such a simplistic way for designers to look up any product and order samples, without them coming to the store.  This makes the process that much easier. It’s a great way to do business on the fly.”

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In Style: Numerous factors shape product design

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

 

There’s no denying the correlation between trends in the fashion industry with home furnishings, especially when it comes to flooring. Manufacturers routinely employ teams of design professionals and stylists charged with the daunting responsibility of predicting the “next big thing” in terms of colors, patterns and even textures long before trends solidify.

But what—and even who—determines and defines style direction is largely based on the beholder. While overall global trends certainly play a key role in product development for consumers in the North American market, it’s largely up to the individual manufacturers to interpret those trends and apply them to their respective offerings.

For this special ‘Style & Design’ issue, FCNews rounded up several manufacturers and asked them how they exemplified style in their approach to product design. In short, what makes them style leaders in their respective categories.

Following are some examples:

Bamboo Hardwoods
Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.44.18 PMBamboo Hardwoods analyzes industry trends and incorporates these cues with environmentally sustainable products that emphasize style and differentiation. Known for quality bamboo products since 1995, Bamboo Hardwoods’ offerings are well respected by those who prefer using environmentally benign products that are elegant, long lasting and constantly on the cutting edge of design trends. Owned and operated by a team of flooring and bamboo experts, Bamboo Hardwoods’ flooring sets the standard for beauty and durability throughout the industry.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.44.24 PMInhaus
Inhaus was founded on the pillars of style and innovative design. Thanks to its highly skilled design team and state-of-the art design center, North American-sourced materials are produced into stunning, ready-made flooring. Inhaus is proud to work closely with its designers and master carpenters from concept to finished design to develop new textures and colors. Exciting new design ideas are generated from continuous research into color and home fashion trends from around the world that are adapted for North American markets. This attentive design process supplies its retail customers with a curated collection of beautifully unique and exclusive products.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.44.30 PMMannington
To be a consistent styling leader in the flooring industry there needs to be a collaborative effort between multiple departments within the company. At the company, styling, R&D and manufacturing work together to drive innovation and quality along with the right aesthetics to provide high-styled products to the consumer.

Styling leadership starts with doing the proper homework, researching design, color and home fashion trends. Developing flooring product lines requires not only a creative perspective, but also factors in the technical know-how in manufacturing a quality product.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.44.45 PMMercier
On top of developing state-of-the-art textures and colors, Mercier allows its customers to go even further into customization by offering the most extensive range of glosses and grades. Mercier is the first—and still the only prefinished hardwood flooring manufacturer—to offer a gloss as low as 10 degrees across its product line. Character marks, gloss and hues are in direct connection with the look of the product, and this is why Mercier makes it a priority to develop products that can be adapted to any style while keeping in line with the current design trends. Case in point is Mercier’s white oak Fjord, the ideal color for consumers who want a gray floor but still keep their home warm and inviting.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.45.08 PMMohawk
For almost 140 years, Mohawk has crafted quality flooring for the American home. Mohawk builds innovative design into all its products to make life better—and provide customers with the best flooring possible.

As the world’s largest flooring company, Mohawk and its family of brands offer unlimited style and design options with the latest in on-trend colors, exceptional durability and highest quality from an array of flooring categories. Also, Mohawk is more committed than ever to American-made manufacturing and the communities and families it impacts daily, which means peace of mind that all products are manufactured safely and responsibly.

This style approach helps Mohawk provide the foundations for homes around the world.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.45.52 PMQuick-Step
Quick-Step has taken the latest trends in flooring and translated them into elegant looks that are both stylish and durable. This means that Quick-Step’s LVT and laminate floors are not only beautiful, but also made to last.

This balance is evident in product design and development. Quick-Step’s laminate and luxury vinyl floors all look stunningly authentic with the most true-to-nature looks on the market today. Though ultra-realistic looking, with moisture-resistant technology and innovative dimensional stability, they can still withstand the everyday wear and tear of an active family.

Now that’s style—for life.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.45.58 PMShaw
Shaw’s product designers look at the way design elements speak to the larger lifestyle image that consumers want to project. “Our homes reflect our personalities, and flooring is just one piece of an overall aesthetic consumers desire,” said Pamela Rainey, vice president soft surface product development. “It needs to complement paint color, furniture and accent pillows, etc. We are creating a canvas for consumers to live their lives.”

The crafted patterns of Shaw’s Natural Bouclé, for example, are as exquisite as sisal, with subtle color variations that highlight their natural hues and offer the ultimate texture and softness. Shaw’s Epic Plus Extreme Nature furthers the ever-expanding trend of longer, wider planks and its timeless hardwood visual.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.46.07 PMTarkett
Tarkett is an organization that interacts and shares with design and product colleagues throughout a worldwide creative and manufacturing community. Tarkett provides solutions worldwide for multiple categories and cultures. It is a unique advantage that gives the company an awareness of timely new information and perspectives that will influence the way we live and see.

Tarkett strives toward understanding the relationship between life, the workplace and societal interaction. Through these goals and efforts, the company delivers products that have an existential connection—communicating rather than simply decorating. These tools go beyond servicing its customers to build an enduring connection as creative partners.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.46.14 PMUSFloors
USFloors’ COREtec offers today’s retail consumer a floor that can truly be lived on. The vast assortment of decors, visuals, plank widths and lengths, along with its patented construction, makes COREtec the go-to brand in composite waterproof flooring.

USFloors’ process of selecting visuals spans the globe. The company is interested in what’s new and different. USFloors is known for having the most impressive visual choices, a result of its extensive selection process. The visuals range from natural to eclectic and will match the style of any environment. This allows consumers to enjoy beauty and strength without the maintenance while enhancing their home or work space.

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Trendspotting: Green design dictates style direction at NeoCon ’17

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4
By Rebecca Blasdel

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.23.47 AMChicago—NeoCon 2017 can be viewed as a success based on traffic alone. Show organizers put attendance just north of 50,000, a 7% uptick over the prior year (FCNews, July 3/10). But brisk traffic and sold-out showroom space weren’t the only major takeaways from the show. Exhibitors and attendees alike were equally impressed with the vast array of new products, styles and designs on display.

Many of these new looks, observers say, will set the tone for the development and design of commercial interior spaces across North America and—in some case—around the globe. Seemingly everywhere you looked showrooms and booths were packed with an array of architects, designers and facility managers—all looking for products to specify for projects booked for the coming year. All commercial segments were well represented, with a particularly heavy focus on LVT.

On the whole, exhibitors expanded their full range of products to meet end-user demands for greater efficiencies via single-source supply. “All segments in the commercial interiors market were strong,” said Byron Morton, vice president, leasing, NeoCon. “The flooring companies all showed innovative resilient products in addition to traditional broadloom and modular carpet.”

Following are some of the design trends/new products that stood out at the show:

Biophilic design dominates
The overarching trend of designing healthier, greener and more sustainable spaces was palpable at NeoCon. This was reflected in the way nature itself influenced many of the designs, patterns and colors on display. Architects and designers are creating spaces that incorporate natural materials, a greater use of natural light and improved views of nature.

Many exhibitors are taking their design cues from Mother Nature. Examples include the inspirational trip that Mannington’s design team took to Portland, Ore., or the way Mohawk Group was inspired by how the lichen grows (hence on the new collection based on the same name).

In the Mannington showroom, for example, designers created an intricate paper sculpture of Portland designed by architect-turned-sculptor Christina Lahan. Her forest—made of white paper—demonstrated all the design inspiration used for the various collections based on nature and wood (paper).

Roby Isaac, vice president of commercial design, described the idea behind the exhibit—eco-friendly designs that are both respectful of and derived from the environment. “Paper is a low-ounce, low-profile product that’s made of Econyl so it has a recycling story. By making it with that fiber, and by maintaining a low price point, we were able to make it more of a budget-sensitive product. We wanted to do a well-styled product with a low price and low pile.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.24.00 AMMeanwhile, Mohawk put the emphasis on Lichen, the first floor covering to achieve Living Product Challenge Petal certification (FCNews, June 5/12). The team at Mohawk and McLennan Design were inspired by the naturally occurring, brightly-hued organisms because of the regenerative role they serve in the ecosystem. According to Mohawk Group, 6% of the world is covered with lichen, which boasts more than 20,000 species.

Mark Page, Mohawk Group’s senior director of creative design and development, explained the inspiration behind the design. “When we started developing Lichen, we found that it takes its food from water vapor. When there is pollution in the air, that is when you start to see lichen die. When you see it in abundance that means the air quality is very good.”

According to Page, this provided both the green story for the product as well as the colorways and patterns. For Mohawk Group, he said it was important to develop a collection that would give more resources back to the environment than it uses during its entire life cycle.

Bringing the outdoors inside
Other major exhibitors showcased new products inspired by nature. Bentley revealed the Outskirts collection, which consists of three styles: Outlier, a bold metallic geometric weave; Ritual, which resembles a high-end wool and references branches; and Coexist, meant to complement all Bentley styles inside and out of the new collection. Todd van der Kruik, vice president of design for Bentley, described the motivation for the theme. “In ecology, edge effects refer to the changes in population or community structures that occur at the boundary of two habitats. As the edge effects increase, the habitats allow for greater biodiversity.”

The entire collection, he noted, has a moody feel that exemplifies the place where nature and neighborhoods meld into one another. “As we watch the continued expansion of the edge effect that exists between work and home, we sought to figure out how to help seamlessly support those traveling in between—to encourage diversity, growth and evolution by connecting our environments in new ways. The Outskirts collection explores these boundaries even further.”

In that same vein, the Tarkett space—which included the Johnsonite and Tandus Centiva brands—reflected the popularity of biophilic design. The More Than Wood line of LVT products takes on a whole new approach to wood-look flooring by minimizing repeats typically found in other hard surface products designed to mimic the real thing.

According to Terry Mowers, vice president of design, North America, the company was able to achieve this look through a combination of image scanning techniques and special treatment of the original source material. This approach, according to Mowers, emphasizes the magnificence of wood and all its character.

Natural elements were also evident in new products showcased at the Shaw Contract booth. In search of inspiration for new looks, designers foraged for naturally occurring patterns, taking hundreds of photographs of stone, ancient marble, moss, etc., which were then used to create a series of broadloom products that work together in harmony. The result was Off The Grid, a highly customizable system meant to mesh well with other materials.

Not to be outdone, Interface unveiled Global Change, a new collection that pairs biophilic design with the modular systems for which the company is known. The introduction—which includes soft, mineral-based colors weaves and prints modeled after natural occurrences—marks the first global launch created by lead product designer Kari Pei, who explained the inspiration behind the collection. “When you go for a walk through the forest, the earth changes—it goes from a hard, cracked surface and then as you progress the sun has sort of dappled through the leaves, creating a shadow play. You get to the edge and it’s a little softer.”

Interface also unveiled a prototype for the Proof Positive carpet tile, which it claims is the first carbon-negative carpet tile. After the tile is made, there is less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than if it had not been manufactured in the first place, according to the company.

 

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Raskin Industries expands via To Market acquisition

Objective is to bring proprietary products to array of channels

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.51.08 PMNew York—Raskin Industries earlier this year acquired the assets of To Market, a direct-to-design chain supplier, and will work in concert with company founder and industry icon Phil Wexler to continue developing unique, proprietary products that offer more profitability.

The acquisition of To Market, which specializes in LVT but also sells recycled rubber and cork, opens up a new channel for Raskin. “I’m all about design, color and innovative products,” said Michael Raskin, president. “That is also the hallmark of To Market. So the acquisition is synergistic in that it affords me the ability to build the Raskin brand as a leader in color and design through multiple markets and channels. This gives me another outlet for my creativity.”

Raskin will design products exclusively for To Market with Wexler, who in 1979 founded Bentley Mills, quickly becoming a style leader on the West Coast.

Raskin felt he needed to have a stronger presence in the A&D community. “I saw where the market was going; it was going to become much more competitive. The majors would only continue to get better at it because they have the resources to put more feet on the street. I felt I needed to have a hands-on approach to have the ability to compete.”

Raskin Industries already sells product into the commercial market through its distribution network, but he plans on differentiating To Market through branding. “Raskin is more like the hip brand you would see in Brooklyn, and To Market is the refined brand you might see on Madison Avenue.”

To Market will likely evolve into Raskin’s premium brand with higher price points. But make no mistake: Unique design will be at the cornerstone of both brands. “I want to bring excitement to this industry,” Raskin explained. “Think John Varvatos. I want to bring that to the flooring industry.”

Despite the two brands, Raskin sees minimal overlap in product, and only in areas where there is no distribution for the Raskin brand. “My job is to provide the ammunition and profitability—the proper marketing tools and designs—to my customers, whether they are distributors, distributor reps, commercial sales force or our exclusive sales agents on the To Market side to be successful.”

To Market will now be based at Raskin’s Deerfield Beach, Fla., headquarters but its Oklahoma City warehouse and offices will remain open. In addition, key personnel— including Wexler, who remains president, and Alex Lapree, vice president of sales—is staying on.

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Laminate: Taking a page (or two) from wood’s playbook

Emerging design trends mirror those of competing category

April 10/17, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 22

By Reginald Tucker

 

It’s no secret that laminate flooring suppliers are focusing their product design and development efforts on more accurately mimicking natural materials, especially hardwood. (A cursory review of the various laminate designs and patterns introduced at Surfaces bears this out.) But what is newsworthy is the rapid pace of new product development in printing, surface texturing and plating technology as well as the techniques employed to achieve a much higher level of realism with each successive product iteration.

Here are some of the main cues laminate suppliers are taking from hardwood’s design playbook.

Going wider, longer
Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 11.29.57 AMOne of the main trends that has carried over from hardwood to laminate is the move toward wider widths and longer planks. With the advent of more open living spaces, designers are utilizing these emerging formats to convey the illusion of bigger rooms. Laminate suppliers are not only addressing these trends from an aesthetic standpoint, but the wider, longer boards also facilitate faster installation by covering more surface area.

Case in point is the new Veriluxe line from Quick-Step. The product, which is available in 8-inch-wide planks in lengths exceeding 80 inches, is designed for consumers looking to fill these larger central living spaces with bigger-format products, according to Roger Farabee, senior vice president, laminate and hardwood, Mohawk Flooring North America. “It’s a fashion-based line that is on pace with the latest trends in premium hardwood designs and home décor.”

Another wide-plank look reflecting a high-end, upscale looks is Shaw’s Pinnacle Port line from the Repel collection—a 5.43 x 48-inch long offering in five, on-trend colors. The line also features light handscraped texturing along with the company’s water-resistance technology.

“With Repel, the look of reclaimed hardwood in a range of wide-plank visuals and rich colors becomes an easy choice,” said Carr Newton, vice president, hardwood and laminate. “Today’s consumer demands functionality without sacrificing style or comfort and water-resistant flooring is a top concern of many active households. Repel has been specially designed to take laminate to the next level in water-resistance technology and is the hottest revelation to hit the laminate industry in a decade.”

Performance enhancements
In much the same way that advancements in chemistry and manufacturing processes have vastly bolstered hardwood’s performance, ongoing improvements Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 11.29.52 AMin the way laminate flooring is produced have allowed suppliers to boost product performance. This includes everything from improved scuff and scratch resistance to finish technologies that resist fading as well as special treatments to the coreboards to provide water resistance.

“The water-resistance story has added value to the laminate sector,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus. “Although this story is not new—the initial innovations that originally created the laminate sector have improved performance in regards to moisture and general everyday use. Enhancing these features has certainly created greater value for the category.”

To ensure the integrity of its laminate products from top to bottom, Inhaus utilizes several proprietary technologies, including liquid layer technology, which merges two traditionally separate steps involving the overlay, decorative and underlay papers in the laminate manufacturing process into a single production line. According to the company, this results in a more time- and energy-efficient production process.

Beyond the core structure of the product, laminate suppliers are also applying a high level of innovation to the face of the product—those layers that constitute the design paper and wear layer—to more accurately duplicate the look of genuine hardwood. It’s an area in which Mohawk is focusing much of its R&D efforts.

“Mohawk invests back into its facilities to support the laminate product category,” which is still really strong for us,” said Tammy Perez, director of hard surface brands. “We are continuing to innovate and invest in our plant to make these laminate products better.”

The fruits of those investments are readily evident in newly unveiled offerings that aim to convey realistic, stylish visuals. Among them: Painted Charm, a chestnut visual featuring a glazed, painted style; Reclaimed Spirit, a subtle, distressed look that recalls painted and washed floors; Wood Vision, which conveys the look of reclaimed barnwood; and Artistic Creation, which boasts high shade variation and saw-cut distressing.

“Mohawk’s laminate flooring collections capture hot, high-styled visuals inspired by the natural characteristics of hardwood,” Perez said. The visuals are so realistic that dealers who first saw the products installed at the company’s booth at Surfaces couldn’t make the distinction between the new laminates and real hardwood. “One of the new products—Wooded Escape—which features wire brushing, double staining and knots was on the floor at the booth; everyone who saw it thought it was a real hardwood floor.”

Suppliers that play in both the hardwood and laminate flooring categories believe they are uniquely positioned to leverage that design and manufacturing expertise. Case in point is Armstrong, which boasts one of the industry’s broadest selection of products across various hard surface platforms.

“Our premium laminate business is strong, driven by our cutting-edge designs, realistic looks and great performing products,” said Morgan Hafer, product manager-laminate. “Buyers love our laminate floors because they are able to get premium hardwood visuals that are not necessarily available as an option in natural woods due to the high cost or impracticality.”

Rustic, reclaimed all the rage
“Shape is clearly increasing as a trend—i.e., multiple widths and lengths, but other unique visuals are also driving the laminate category,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, wood and laminate, Mannington. High on the list are new looks that tap into the trend of natural, reclaimed woods in muted, less saturated colors.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 11.30.02 AMMannington is addressing this demand via the addition of three new flooring designs into its popular Restoration collection: Historic Oak, which has been expanded to include slate, a warm gray hue that also features realistic saw marks, nail holes and wood grain variation; Blacksmith Oak, an 8-inch-wide European white oak look that evokes images of gently time-worn flooring in French chateaus; and Seaview Pine, which aims to capture the aged look of rustic pine that has been weathered by sand, wind and sea.

Laminate suppliers are going to great lengths (pardon the pun) to get their hands on original materials that might serve as a source of inspiration for a design that could be used on mass scale. Such is the case at Kronospan, where Mark Bircham, head of design and product management, scours the globe in search of that rare find. As a case in point, he cited decades-old hickory beams uncovered in a dilapidated structure in rural Pennsylvania.

“Sometimes we can get our hands on real reclaimed material to use for inspiration in product development,” he said. “The hickory beams we found were aged but clean, so our carpenters were able to make planks from the material. Then they applied different effects such as chisel and chatter marks to get the look we wanted. We were then able to scan the planks into the computer and render several laminate designs.”

These high-tech touches—some of which are proprietary—allow manufacturers to tweak various elements to achieve the desired effect. “Our hickory product, which is selling well globally, features a multi-gloss level finish with a nice soft screen effect on it,” Bircham told FCNews. “The goal was not to make it ‘bling-bling’ shiny, but add just enough gloss and dimension to capture the different light effects on the floor as you move around. This multi-gloss look across the plank was designed to mimic the natural attributes of real wood.”

Climbing the walls
Laminate is not only tracing wood in terms of look, feel and performance. The category is also following hardwood “up the walls,” so to speak. Venerable hardwood brands such as DuChateau, Provenza and Johnson Hardwood, to name a few, are believed to have jump-started the trend; now it’s taking off in laminates.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 11.30.09 AM“Wood paneling is back, but in a big, new way,” said Sara Babinski, design manager, hardwood and laminate, Armstrong. “We typically see these products being used as accent walls, installed horizontally, vertically or on the diagonal. The look is natural, with a beautiful accent of warmth, texture and color.”

Other prominent design professionals attest to the trend. Erinn Valencich, celebrity interior designer and pitch woman for Quick-Step laminates, has personally specified laminate flooring for wall applications on some of her projects. What initially gave her the idea, she said, was when she first utilized wood paneling to spruce up the generic, bland, builder-grade white paneling installed on an island-style kitchen countertop for a home she designed. “The look instantly changed the feel of the kitchen,” she recalled. “The homeowner loved it.”

Since then, she has looked to use flooring materials in unconventional ways. One of her favorite uses is an accent wall, which entails covering an entire side of one of the walls in a room with laminate flooring planks. “It’s smart, chic and surprising,” she explained. “From rustic to natural wood, I can pick the look that works best for my design plan.”

Reclaimed wood looks for the floor and wall is especially hot right now, Valencich said, based on the dramatic effect it provides. But she admits genuine reclaimed wood is not always practical or budget friendly. “I can get that same look by using Quick-Step laminate instead,” she said. “It comes in multiple widths and there are so many styles and color variations from which to choose.”

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