NeoCon 2013 - July 2013
By Darius Helm, Anne Harr, Ruth Simon McRae, and Jessica Chevalier
There was a relaxed but upbeat mood at this year’s NeoCon contract design expo, and the return to color along with the emphasis on innovation seems to suggest that a corner has been turned. The commercial market is far from firing on all cylinders. However several commercial sectors are strong right now, and there’s a sense that there’s much more to come.
The 45th annual NeoCon, held in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, drew 41,488 attendees, up marginally from last year’s 40,947, and over 700 exhibitors showcased their products, including 490 on the seventh and eighth exhibit floors, and most of the rest in the permanent showrooms on the third, tenth and 11th floors.
A walk around the show floors revealed that the strongest sector right now is healthcare—both acute care and senior living. Many of the most prominent manufacturers had products designed specifically for the senior living sector, which has more long-term prospects for growth than just about any other commercial market.
This year’s show featured a lot of experimentation with materials, and some of the leading manufacturers came out with hybrid collections that blur the line between carpet and hard surface. There was also plenty of high design, some of which was probably designed more to attract accolades from the design community than to generate huge revenues. Nevertheless, these new designs open up pathways and keep the industry fresh and forward thinking, so it’s always a good sign when the show is filled with surprises.
This year, some manufacturers in the flooring industry chose not to show their products in the Mart. Invista didn’t have a space this year, and Fortune relinquished its permanent showroom. Bentley moved from its large interior showroom and took over Fortune’s small space, and at the same time opened a permanent showroom in a building directly across the street from the Mart. Interface also moved out of its large permanent showroom—though it kept a smaller permanent space—and also opened a showroom across the street from the Mart. J+J, however, added a showroom for its new J+J/Kinetex brand.
The show floors were bustling for the first two days of the show, though there were occasionally pockets of quiet. But most manufacturers seemed pleased with the volume of traffic and the promise of upcoming projects.
TRENDS AT THE SHOW
JCOLORS: First, there was plenty of it, even if the muted colorways were more frequently displayed—and, as always in the contract market, neutrals dominated. Overall, cold neutrals dominated warmer tones. Throughtout the entire show, including showrooms of other interior elements, the most prominent colors were chartreuse, in a range of shades; tomato red or orange, generally vivid; turquoise. Other furnishings showed a predominance of hot pink. Three was no sign of Pantone's color of the year, emerald. But there were some yellows, often in combination with greys. And many of the showrooms were all about black and white and shades of grey, with a few notable exceptions (Milliken and Interface were, in their own ways, all about color).
• Mannington came to NeoCon with a wider array of products than ever before, including its first rubber sheet line (Colorfields), a new design competition, a line of 18”x36” carpet tile, and a range of stunning LVT products from the Amtico Collection. A section of the showroom floor was dedicated to showcasing Amtico’s in-house custom cutting capabilities, with hexagonal tiles inserted into a linear hardwood plank design.
The Amtico Collection included the new Design Woods line in three patterns: Cirrus, Quill and Shibori. Cirrus has the look of a wood grain, but with a textile impression running across the width. Shibori is another abstracted wood look, and it conveys an impression of stone. Quill, which has both linear and cross-grain planks, also with a modern, stylized aesthetic, is riveting in the dark grey colorway. The products are designed for highly customized installations, including 28 standard Amtico Design Layouts.
In addition, Mannington came out with a creative 18”x36” carpet tile line called The Redefined Collection. The collection of six products is inspired by classic fabric designs like houndstooth, tweed and hexagons. The designs are conveyed through texture with solid color, so the patterns appear and disappear as one walks over them, creating a rich, complex floorscape that is kept in check with its subtle colorways.
The firm also introduced ColorSpec, which it calls the flooring industry’s first color sampling and specification app. The app allows designers to use a color spectrum to find coordinating products from nearly the entire product offering of the firm—broadloom, carpet tile, LVT, rubber, VCT, heterogeneous and homogeneous sheet, hardwood and porcelain. As designers choose products, they can do any number of things, including ordering samples and generating custom floor layouts. ColorSpec even enables designers to take or upload photos, then pick colors from them and find coordinating Mannington products.
This year, Mannington started a new design competition called Design Local, and the debut competition featured design teams from Chicago, Austin, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. It was the D.C. team that won for its On The Grid carpet design, inspired by maps and transportation motifs.
• One of the biggest stories at NeoCon this year was the relaunch of the West Coast based Bentley brand. Last year at this time, Bentley Prince Street was still a division of Interface and rumors were rampant that an ownership change was imminent. A tour of Bentley’s new showroom (across from the Mart on Kinzie Street) was indicative of how much has been accomplished in such a short period of time: new brand, new ownership, new leadership, new product design team, new showroom and even new architectural folders. Any of these initiatives taken one at a time would be major projects, but to do them all—and to do them well—at the same time is a good sign of things to come.
A key factor in whether the “new” Bentley will find success is centered on the consistency of its brand message. At the $100 million level of revenue, Bentley falls in the middle between the niche players and the mega-mills and, as expensive as it is to re-establish the promise behind its brand, this new entity needs to get much of what it does right the first time. And from what we saw at NeoCon, the company is on the right track.
From a product perspective, Todd van der Kruik and guest designer Clodagh have done an excellent job of styling within the limits of Bentley’s heritage. The Curio collection is comprised of five different piece-dyed broadloom products—the most striking of which were Traditionalist and Apothecary. Both are 24-ounce products but look much denser. A second collection is Western Edge, inspired by van der Kruik’s drive across the country as he relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles. The two products in this collection, Hitch Hiker and Savage Journey, are both fine denier solution-dyed in a modular tile construction. A third collection, called Monolith, was designed by Clodagh and is available in both modular and broadloom formats utilizing piece-dyed yarn.
Bentley made a wise decision by tapping Steve Clem with TVS-Design in Atlanta to design its new Chicago loft-style showroom. While the space predates the construction of the Merchandise Mart (circa 1880), Steve’s team did a great job of keeping certain elements of the old building—like the exposed wooden beams, brick walls, and arched windows with natural sunlight—but the team also integrated modern lighting, glass walls and white drywall to spotlight the product without detracting from it. Since this space will serve as Bentley’s Chicago sales office on a year-round basis, the design is flexible so that the space can serve as a stage, meeting place, training facility or sales support office.
• This year Tandus was the big winner at the NeoCon Awards, walking away with four awards, and even the products that didn’t win were memorable. At the front of the showroom was Jackson, available in square and rectangular tiles as well as Powerbond six foot goods, a splashy abstract pattern in a textural multilevel loop construction. Jackson comes in six colorways, from a neutral industrial palette of tonal blacks and greys to earth tone colorways to a bold orange and pink offering. Alongside was Stack 9, so named because there are nine colors in every colorway. At first glance it looks like an installation of ultra-long modular planks in a striated design shifting from dark to light along the length, but it’s actually Powerbond in a plank design, and the dynamic shifts in contrast in the rectangular carpet tile version of Stack 9 make for some interesting installation options.
There was also String Theory, another modular and Powerbond product, with a dynamic linear pattern overlaid with a design of effortlessly curving lines that sweep down along the length, each creating their own sense of flow. Colorways range from neutrals to more vivid high chroma palettes. String Theory has a 22’ long pattern repeat.
Another standout was Suzanne Tick’s HalfTone, with a stripe design along the width in a straightforward gradient that subtly shifts the foreground to the background. Perpendicular lines along the center of the design create a fade that calls to mind halftone prints. The line comes in Powerbond and modular in a broad collection of 13 colorways.
Then there were the winners. Grasscloth, which won Gold in Healthcare Flooring, features five designs targeting the senior living market with a subdued hospitality look. The combination of low and high luster fibers in the organic and low-key botanical designs give the carpet a soft, silky sheen. One of the reasons for the award was the care Tandus took in creating designs catering specifically to the needs of seniors.
Tandus (which is now part of Tarkett) also won a Silver in Broadloom for Presage, a lustrous nubby broadloom in a multilevel loop and tip shear construction. And two awards—an Innovation award for Healthcare Flooring and a Gold award for Hard Surface Flooring—went to what is essentially a new product category, a hybrid resilient in both modular and sheet that can be installed with impermeable seams, and the featured pattern, Narrative, really showcased the design capabilities. But it’s the face of the product that really illustrates the innovation—we’ll have more on this hybrid floorcovering later in the year.
• Without even entering its space, it was easy to tell what Crossville’s core message was at NeoCon this year. The tagline on the outside wall that normally reads “Uniquely Crossville” had been changed to “Colorfully Crossville.” Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville’s VP of marketing, told us that in the early years Crossville was best known for its vibrantly colored products, and the time has come to launch a new collection that gives its designer customers a fresh and colorful palette to work with. The feature collection, Argent, comes in 20 colors (12 are bright and eight are neutral). Waldrep said, “Many of our customers’ clients like to use color to tie their corporate identity colors into their interior office décor.” Argent, which is made of porcelain but looks like natural stone, comes in a wide range of sizes from 6” squares to 12”x24” rectangles. The larger sizes are also available in a honed finish.
Also newsworthy was the launch of a thicker Laminam product that is better suited for flooring installations. Originally these large format (1m x 3m) porcelain panels were only available in 3mm thickness but, starting in August, a 5.6mm product with a higher breakage strength will be available in 20 colors.
In addition, Crossville now has its Hydrotect line up and running, which enables the company to apply a silver-titanium dioxide coating to any of its products. This treatment, developed by Toto, kills bacteria and significantly reduces dirt and oil accumulation.
• Shaw Industries came to NeoCon with three different brands (Shaw Contract, Patcraft and Shaw Hard Surfaces) in three different exhibit areas and walked away with a trifecta by winning three Best of Neocon product awards—one in each of the company’s core commercial product areas. Shaw Contract took Silver for its six-sided modular carpet collection called Hexagon. This is the 12th year in row that Shaw Contract has won a modular carpet award. Reecie Duncan, Shaw Contract’s creative director, told us that, “architects and interior designers are always looking for novel and innovative shapes. Object design is not flat anymore—it’s more dimensional.” And unconventional shapes are not new for Shaw Contract. Three years ago, the brand launched a rectangular shaped product called 18x36, and in 2011 it won a modular award with its On the Edge collection, which also was produced using the 18”x36” format.
The Hexagon collection comes in four patterns. Plane, which serves as the foundation of the collection, is a solid tweed that uses 22 ounces per yard of yarn and is available in 29 warm and cool colorways. Linear is 20 ounces and comes in a striated visual. Linear Shift is a multi-colored option and Bevel is the boldest of the four (with 26 ounces of yarn) and its visual deconstructs the hexagon shape with variations of pattern.
A second noteworthy collection was Beyond the Fold, a tile and broadloom collection with designs that emulate the angles, folds and facets of origami art. The modular products in this collection are an evolution of Shaw’s On the Edge collection and share its 18”x36” format. The collection includes five tile products and a coordinating broadloom. The yarn weight of the modular products ranges from 22 to 26 ounces per yard and two of the patterns have 16 color options—eight are neutral and eight are bold. The coordinating broadloom is a 42-ounce plush product called Slide with bold contrasting linear stripes that would make a statement in any boardroom. This product is made on CYP tufting technology, giving it a more precise woven look. All of the visuals in this collection satisfy the latest trend calling for larger scale patterns.
Another noteworthy message point that we picked up from Shaw Contract relates to its expanded international focus. This month, Shaw’s carpet tile facility in Nantong, China will begin production. In fact, one of the new introductions at NeoCon, a product called Collide, will be produced in that facility as well as here in the U.S. Collide is a lighter weight product (with an 18-ounce face weight) and is produced in Shaw’s popular 18”x36” format. The Nantong facility will use the same cradle to cradle technologies that Shaw has built its sustainable reputation around.
To tie in with this global philosophy, Shaw Contract has re-tooled its annual “Design is” A&D award contest, which is now in its eighth year. Initially this contest was focused here in the U.S., but it has now been expanded into global regions with more judges and ultimately more winners. This year, the contest received 369 entries from 27 countries, out of which 48 winners were selected.
• Aquafil got a lot of attention at NeoCon, between its clear, concise displays showing the Econyl yarn system in its 11th floor showroom, featuring recycled fish nets and carpet fluff, and Interface’s new collection, Net Effect, on the tenth floor.
Aquafil has made several major accomplishments this year, including increasing the post-consumer recycled content of Econyl from 25% to 50%. With an additional 50% post-industrial content, the Econyl fiber is 100% recycled material. Aquafil’s immediate goal is to grow the post-consumer recycled content to 100%. In order to do this, a third supply stream of recycled material will be required, most probably from a textile or apparel source. Aquafil has a priority on research and development of this third source of post-consumer material.
Aquafil’s second key accomplishment is the expansion of color in all of its yarn systems. Fifteen colors have been added to the Full Circle (Chroma Casa) 1260/1 palette, bringing the total colors available to 360. Twelve colors have been added to the Econyl color range, bringing this important yarn system to 99 color options. In addition, Aquafil has just introduced its 1350/1 Chroma Tel polyester for commercial and hospitality use, with a 42 color palette.
• Bolyu’s big introduction this year was Level, which the firm calls the “next generation flooring tile,” and it showcased Svelte, the first product in that line. The Level line is a hybrid flooring, with a polyester (PET) needlepunched felt face attached to the firm’s PET Nexterra backing. So it’s just about 100% PET, of which 70% is post-consumer recycled content, and the product itself is fully recyclable. The Svelte collection features solid color tiles ranging from greys and low-key earth tones to more saturated colors, like orange. The brighter hues were more interesting because you could see how the felt texture slowed down the color, making the tiles almost seem to glow.
The firm also came out with Moderne and Glimmer. Moderne is a carpet tile made with the firm’s Avalar solution-dyed nylon and Nexterra backing, and it features a large-scale angled geometric pattern across a striated field. Glimmer, a broadloom, uses the same field in a small scale grid with random tip shearing.
Bolyu also had some of its LVT offering on display, and it’s worth noting the impressive range of designs available, from the popular wood and stone looks to tread plates and solids in both saturated hues and low key neutrals, animal prints, a hammered aluminum line, and some bold photorealistic designs.
• Forbo’s key message for 2013 is the launch of the “next-generation” Marmoleum. This expansive line of linoleum products is now available in 173 colors and eight different structures. And for those people who have recently been shocked at how expensive polished concrete can be, Forbo is also launching a concrete visual, which is less expensive than the real thing and a better environmental alternative.
Every year, Forbo reminds the pool of designers that stop by its space that Marmoleum with Topshield 2 is a 100% biobased product, it’s naturally antimicrobial and has the lowest cost profile of all the resilient flooring options. Not only does it never have to be stripped and refinished, but it also touts a 30-year service life.
• At NeoCon, Florida Tile relaunched some of the new commercial market products that it first introduced at Coverings this spring. These included its new wood look line called Magnolia; Mingle, which included travertine, marble and limestone looks pre-mixed, as well as ’60s inspired floor listellos; and Time/2.0, with its three different finishes.
• Tarkett highlighted three product lines at NeoCon: I.D. Freedom, Harmonium xf and Arcade. I.D. Freedom is a luxury vinyl tile and plank collection that takes its inspiration from nature and is intended to offer designers freedom in design, thus the name. The line is made in Florence, Alabama and contains 100 SKUs.
Harmonium xf is a refreshed linoleum line now with 93 SKUs. The product has a finish that requires no initial waxing or polishing. Lastly, the company rolled out Arcade, a rubber sheet product that comes in 2mm and 3mm thicknesses. The line is starting with 20 speckled colorways.
• Lonseal showcased its tailored and well-curated line of sheet vinyl products on the seventh floor. Viewing the styles together, an interesting and non-obvious coordination is apparent between the multiple aesthetics and subtle textures.
Loneco Linen is the newest introduction to be highlighted at NeoCon. The product has a softened fabric look, with hue variations and a slightly slubbed texture. It is subtle yet distinct enough to read as a textile on the floor. With over 50% recycled content, Loneco Linen also features the Topseal formulation, a factory applied urethane finish.
• This year, Interface moved out of its interior showroom on the tenth floor of the Merchandise Mart and opened up a showroom across the street on North Wells. The large, open showroom looks out over Chicago’s industrial landscape, with the elevated trains moving across the face of the Mart.
However, Interface still has a smaller showroom on the tenth floor, where this year it showed the Net Effect collection, one of the more sophisticated designs at the show. Net Effect is made up of six products—three squares and three rectangles—inspired by the ocean and the color blue. And it ties in with the firm’s Net-Works initiative, a partnership which is currently cleaning up a coastal area in the Philippines and protecting barrier reefs, and at the same time providing supplemental income to the local population, by harvesting discarded nylon fishing nets and turning them into fiber via Aquafil. The plan is to roll out similar programs around the world.
What makes the Net Effect collection so compelling is the depth of the texture in the three square tiles, which translates fluidly from the coastal waters that it’s modeled on. Installed monolithically, it really does call up images of flying over tropical reefs, and quarter-turned makes for lush, dramatic installations. Each tile is unique because of how the color and pattern shift across the width in the manufacturing process.
The three rectangles are skinny tiles, 25cm x 1m, with linear designs, opening up the installation possibilities. The collection comes in eight colorways: two blues and six neutrals.
• The big news with Centiva this year was the integration from a marketing and sales perspective with Tandus—now that both companies, which have similar channel-to-market strategies (neither is sold through distribution), are owned by Tarkett. Centiva is still up on the eighth floor and Tandus is on the third floor, but there were several areas of collaboration. Not only did the two brands combine efforts with a party but they also co-hosted an Instagram photo contest. Tandus also installed a neutral Centiva product throughout its permanent space, which served as a subtle background for its product displays.
To keep things interesting in Centiva’s space, each day more color was added to the floor installed in its booth. This helped to accentuate the company’s custom cutting capability and the ease with which its products can be modified. New in LVT products from Centiva for 2013 are two wood grain looks and four stone designs.
• Patcraft showcased Design Catalyst, a line of carpet tile and LVT. The LVT is made up of three designs: Method, Morph and Multiply. Multiply is a loose gridwork pattern built out of lines of speckles contrasting the field color. Morph transitions from the gridwork design in one corner to a subtler pattern in the far corner, where the gridwork seems to sink into the background. Method features only the subtle pattern. The line gets interesting when it comes to installation options; the tiles can be combined to create large-scale designs, borders and even wayfinding applications.
The carpet tile line, also made of three designs, offers the same installation possibilities. Enform is a crowded, irregular grid pattern, and Enflection features two patterns meeting on the diagonal, with the Enform pattern meeting the Enverse pattern, which turns the background color into the foreground for an irregular striated design with sporadic fracturing. So Enverse is essentially the inverse of Enform.
Patcraft also came out with Deconstructed, a tile and broadloom line with a pattern created by having the backing show through to create a soft subtle pattern. The backing, made by Bonar (formerly known as Colbond), is a spunbonded nonwoven that Patcraft showed in a range of colors. The firm will whittle down the colors for the final collection.
• Ohio-based rubber flooring manufacturer Roppe introduced two new collections at NeoCon: Health and Learning Rubber Tile and Marble Fiesta. The Health and Learning Collection is a 2mm product, pressed into a 24”x24” tile (50cm) with a tone-on-tone fleck pattern. The collection comes with a palette of 15 colors, targeting the healthcare and education sectors.
For its Marble Fiesta collection, Roppe combined two of its most popular product lines (Marble and Fiesta) to create a busy flecked pattern. Marble Fiesta comes in eight colors and coordinates with the Fiesta line. In addition, the company can customize colors. Marble Fiesta is available in 1/8” and in most 50cm profiles. Both new lines offer coordinating trends.
The company was also promoting its Impact recycling program at NeoCon, which is now five years old. The company’s recycling partner in Indianapolis hires ex-convicts to work in the recycling plant and sells the rubber mulch all over the U.S.
• Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola came to the show with products in its three commercial brands: Imola Ceramica, LaFaenza and Leonardo. All of the firm’s collections are Green Squared certified, making Imola the first Italian manufacturer with this multi-attribute certification. Included in the LaFaenza line was Pretiosa, a stone look porcelain in five colorways, and Studio, a colorbody tile with flat colors in a soft matte texture. Pretiosa comes in a range of colors from near-white to deeper earth tones, but it’s at its most dramatic in the dark grey colorway.
In the Leonardo line, the firm featured Plank, a weathered barnwood look etched in layers of old paint, and Icon, a solid color design with a surface texture that resembles subtly crinkled paper.
The Imola Ceramica brand offering included Micron 2.0, a softened matte tile that looks like both concrete and leather. The Leonardo and Imola brands include formats up to 48”x48”.
• The big story at Shaw Hard Surface was Chordinates, a new heterogeneous sheet collection, featuring two coordinated styles. Bass Tones is offered in 28 colors, with a wide range of neutral solids and eight bright and usable accent colors. The colorations are softened by an attractive “felted” visual. Chroma Tones’ design is an asymmetrical stripe design that mixes four Bass Tones. Color coordination between the two products is complementary, not literal, allowing for a rich mix of hues and tonalities in an installation.
A secondary attribute of the Chordinates color system is that it provides a simple way to create accent areas without the cost and complexity of custom cutting.
Shaw Hard Surface demonstrates the flexibility and attractiveness of this collection in a new brochure, highlighting how and where to best use the collection. The products are illustrated in context by inserting digital images into sketches of specific healthcare interiors.
The Chordinates package received a Best of Neocon Silver award for healthcare flooring. The collection is made from 20% post-consumer recycled content from old resilient flooring. Additionally, this collection is the first in the industry to offer an extended ten-year warranty under hospital beds when installed with Shaw’s exclusive one-part adhesives.
• USF Contract rolled out a new engineered luxury vinyl product called Stratum that combines features of LVT and laminate. The floating floor has a waterproof and inert Coretec core (made of bamboo and limestone), which will not swell or contract, and cork backing to help reduce sound resonance. The product, which has a 20mm wearlayer, comes with a 15-year heavy commercial warranty. Stratum contains over 80% recycled content, and the current line-up is 18 SKUs, including wood, marble and stone looks. Some of the SKUs are embossed in register. The line also includes both narrow and wide planks.
The company also unveiled its new Natural Bamboo Evolutions, a locking strand bamboo line. Evolutions products are made to look more like real wood, with handscrapes and rustic multi-width products. The company took the most popular colors from its Bamboo Hues lines to create Evolutions.
• Metroflor added to existing collections with several new colors and styles. In the Aspire line of LVT, the firm introduced several new grout options. Aspire is a 16”x16” floating groutable flooring that uses a grip strip to adhere tiles to each other—which can then be grouted. Since the Aspire tile collection can be installed over most existing hard surfaces, installers can lay the floor then “grout and go”—all in the same day. Metroflor also officially launched its Intact Floating Floor, previewed earlier this year. Intact is a loose lay plank and tile floating LVT that does not require a mechanical locking mechanism, instead using Metroflor’s WaveTrac backing, a pattern on the underside that resembles tire treads. Air pockets created by the backing aid in the dispersion of moisture, provide more comfort underfoot and help insulate against sound transmission.
• Most of Milliken’s showroom was devoted to a single collection called Art Media, designed by Cresta Bledsoe and made with the firm’s high resolution printing technology. The collection, which won Gold in the Modular category, definitely qualifies as one of the boldest we’ve seen in a long time, including some of the most vivid and playful palettes at the show.
Charcoal, Chalk and Graphite are grouped together. Chalk is a small to medium scale scribble design that generates a gentle organic look. Graphite is a small-scale random smudge pattern. And Charcoal is a larger scale design of lush, generous strokes against a subtly striated background. Op Art features a solid color field with fine lines radiating from the corners and intersecting in the middle, and the design allows for tiles to be installed in any orientation.
The most dramatic products in the collection are Action Painting and Drip Painting, essentially the same Jackson Pollock inspired pattern in different scales. Action Painting, with the larger scale, is a multi-tile repeat, while every Drip Painting tile is unique. Action Painting is designed for edge matching in any orientation, to create a monolithic look—the collection is explicitly designed for monolithic installations. There’s also an optional accessory pattern for the designs in the collection that “showcase the canvas edge of art.” With Action Painting, for instance, the edge tiles have Action Painting from one edge tapering off to a white “canvas” at the other.
Needless to say, the collection comes in a wide range of colorways, some of which are muted but many of which are vivid and bright.
• J&J Industries chose NeoCon as the timing to rebrand itself as J+J Flooring Group. It’s been 56 years since Tom Jones and J. Rollins Jolley founded this privately owned company, which has evolved from its original roots as a residential carpet and rug company to one that now earns 94% of its revenue in the contract flooring market. Moving forward, the company will have two sub-brands. The Invision brand will represent its well-established contract carpet business and the Kinetex brand will represent the company’s innovative new floor tile.
Kinetex, which was soft launched last year, is being categorized as a textile composite flooring that bridges the gap between carpet and hard surface flooring. Targeted primarily for the healthcare, education and public space (i.e. airport terminals) sectors, Kinetex provides the acoustical, particle absorption, slip and fall safety and comfort benefits of carpet but also performs like hard surface in resiliency, roller mobility and durability. The face of the product is a knitted, solution-dyed polyester thermally fused to a polyester nonwoven cushion backing. And since the product is polyester through and through, its recyclability will allow it to be converted back into more flooring.
Pricewise, the initial cost of the product fits between VCT and LVT, and the maintenance profile is very low. To assess the durability of the product, it was torture tested in a high traffic area at a Disney theme park and performed without degradation. Since the soft launch last year, Kinetex has been installed on almost 80 “validation” projects without any performance issues. This year’s collection comes in three patterns: Accelerate (near solid), Velocity (chalk stripe) and Momentum (block pattern), for at total of 26 SKUs.
On the Invision side of the business, J+J Flooring is launching two new carpet collections. Infusion is a broadloom collection with three patterns that portray an authentic handcrafted look. All three products—Natural, Zing and Brisk—are piece-dyed using Ascend’s Ultron yarn. And new in modular tile is the In Theory collection, which also has three patterns—organic, geometric and striped.
• At NeoCon, AB Estrie announced that it was changing its name to American Biltrite and will work under that name throughout North America. Previously, it was using the Amtico name in Canada.
American Biltrite reintroduced its AB Pure rubber flooring, which offers crisp colors that won’t change over time. In addition, the company rolled out its new Stonescape line, a PVC-free product with up to 36 colors that coordinate with its AB Pure tones. The product is available in 12”x12” and 18”x18” formats and is 2mm thick. American Biltrite targets the healthcare and education segments with these products.
• Atlas Concorde had on display three of its new collections. Marvel replicates the look of natural marble with the realistic appearance of deep veining and translucent shading. It is available in six colors and in two plank sizes and two large format tile sizes. The Sea Stone collection is inspired by Pierre Bleue, or Blue Stone, which is a limestone found in Belgium. The collection has a minimalistic look and is available in both a matte and textured finish. The Sun Rock Collection emulates the look of natural travertine.
• The theme at this year’s Mohawk showroom was Street Threads, an interpretation of the urban art movement inspired by the work of two street artists, Aakash Nihalani and Queen Andrea. Wildstyle and Superfresh feature stylized versions of Queen Andrea’s distinctive graffiti strokes and retro typographical script. Off The Wall, based on Nihilani’s optical illusion highlighter tape creations, features graphic patterns of angled stripes in solid colors cutting across a subdued striated pattern in tonal neutrals. The collection, which is under the Lees brand, is carpet tile made with the firm’s Duracolor nylon and EcoFlex ICT vinyl backing system, which features 35% recycled content and is NSF-140 Gold certified.
However, the standout Mohawk product at this year’s show was probably Denim, a fully realized interpretation of the iconic American fabric. It was on the showroom floor in a dulled grey colorway that was surprisingly refreshing, and the twill pattern combined with perfectly conceived accent lines clearly captured the spirit of denim. The collection comes in three designs. One features a line of double-stitching across a field with a woven look; another is simply the field, but with diagonal wear marks; and the third features bolder accent lines hemmed in by bands in a neutral color.
Under Mohawk’s Karastan brand, the firm came out with its first woven line in the last few years, Industrial Design. The dense construction and precision weaving make Karastan wovens unlike any other broadloom on the market, and this new collection features the classic high fashion for which the brand is known. The collection features three designs. Idlewild, named after the airport now called JFK, is inspired by the overhead view of the airports runways and taxiways, interpreting them into a medium scale design of organic grids. Applied Art and Applied Science, a small scale grid and a nubbier ribbed design, are stylish complements to Idlewild.
The firm also came out with a new line targeting the senior living market called Silk Road. The line features five running line and nine custom carpet patterns in a range of colorways. While some of the designs have a classic hospitality look, others transition to more low-key patterned broadloom, with a couple of designs that almost have a high-end residential look to them. The firm also showcased an LVT called Simplesse designed to coordinate with Silk Road. The 12mm product uses Unilin’s glueless click installation system and is designed for light commercial use.
• Universal Fibers featured its new yarn construction, Intraflex, which gives designers a new way to incorporate multiple color tones within one yarn. Intraflex mixes a 600-denier building block with two finer denier components to allow for a crisply multi-colored yarn that can be used in low weight constructions.
Universal continues to generate excitement around its award-winning Revolve process. Revolve is a total game changer against space dyed yarn, for a variety of reasons. The first is aesthetic, as Revolve can be used to create a tea-stained, vegetable dye look with solution-dyed yarns. A second attribute is that, because no fancy patterning is needed to break up color, a mill can produce rich textured and dimensional products on very basic (and possibly under-utilized) tufting equipment.
Revolve mixes its unique aesthetic with stain resistance, the repeatability of lot to lot mergeable yarns and the sustainable attributes of solution dyeing. The Revolve process may be used with Refresh fiber, with its 30% recycled content and permanent stain resistance.
• Standing out in the sea of excellent product at Atlas, the Shibori Collection showcased a group of subtle, textile-like designs. With its delicate geometry and appearance inspired by the Japanese Shibori dyeing technique, this group was awarded a Best of NeoCon Gold in the broadloom category.
Patterns in the five all loop products were defined by differences in pile height, yarn luster, and texture. Arashi, the pattern with the largest overall size, is also the most dramatic from a distance. Saya’s design is created by subtle yet distinct curves. Niji actually has the largest scale, yet with such a diffused texture that it creates a shadowy, cloud-like effect. Luzen offers a structured linear texture. And Kasumi sums up the collection with its most traditional Shibori look.
Shibori is housed in the one of four folders of NeoCon products sharing complementary color lines. The 24 color palettes focus on closely stepped, soft neutrals. Each color seems complex due to the luster contrast and warm-cool hue combinations.
In addition to broadloom, Shibori is offered in carpet tile and may be installed in a variety of geometries; monolithic, brick or quarter-turned are all recommended.
A second featured collection, Brio, is composed of three eclectic, complementary designs. Ara is a patchwork of weave-like textures. Kemea is a geometric mesh softened by the introduction of curvilinear elements. And Telaio is a structured, small-scale coordinate style.
Atlas has developed a range of complementary textures, with two solid color products: the simple rib, Bandwidth, and a pinpoint bouclé, Urba. Additional woven-look coordinates include the lustrous Esprit, and its sister product, Elan, which has a similar geometry with a softened, wool-like aesthetic.
• CBC Flooring was at NeoCon showing two products from its new Takiron brand, Pathways and MT Sheet. Both are slip-resistant indoor/outdoor lines with ten SKUs each. Pathways has a herringbone pattern, while MT Sheet has a nubby pattern. Both come in brights and neutrals. The difference between the two lines is in terms of where they should be specified. MT Sheet is not recommended for locations where hard soled shoes will be worn, so it is well suited for water parks, for example, and other outdoor locations where slip reduction is of maximum concern. Pathways is better suited for areas like water rehabilitation rooms and similar environments.
Under its Halo brand, CBC introduced PVC-free Halo Free LVT, which comes in both plank and tile formats. The line offers 28 different SKUs.
The company also rolled out Piesta under the Toli brand. Piesta is a resilient hybrid tile product with a slight bevel. The line comes in eight colors, available in three sizes each.
• Masland Contract featured several diverse new product groups along with an expanded rug offering. Speak is an exciting collection of three modular products: Vibrato offers a linear stripe with crisp color shifts, flowing from dark to light. Resonate is a complex grid of neutrals, with vibrant color accents. Sound-Out has a vibration effect, almost like an organized snakeskin pattern, again with strategically placed color accents. The color lines for this collection stood out at NeoCon due to the fresh yet neutral color palettes and the intensity of the color accents.
Three very natural-looking products made up the Stonework Collection, including the aptly named Travertine, Etched Marble and Quarry.
The Amalfi Collection rounded out Masland’s product introductions, featuring solid color organic patterning against a colorful field. These complex designs include Tide Road, Seabed, Nautilus and Sandbar.
Aqua Vitae, a luscious cut loop style shown at Hospitality Design, appeared right at home at NeoCon. Its fractured traditional motifs offered a nice contrast to the overall starkness of the show.
The market for area rugs continues to expand for Masland Contract. A range of inlaid designs was shown along with a new group of machine-made, hand-tufted rugs. Also on display were a group of handmade styles from India, in rich, thick textures and natural wool colors.
• Parterre’s NeoCon theme this year was Art From Earth, with the “art” in Parterre highlighted. For the past several years, Parterre has been using a unique process to create its products: taking photos of interesting surfaces, scanning them, Photoshopping them and turning that image into the visual on its vinyl flooring. These images have included rusty worn junkyard items, rocks, ferns and frescoes. Its Traffic Cop has its origins in aged leather, specifically worn old leather couch.
Parterre consults with Benjamin Moore before choosing colors for its flooring products so that specifiers can easily coordinate flooring and paint colors. The company has renewed its collaboration with Bentley for the third year.
• Carvart offered something new on the seventh floor—glass flooring. In a clean, all white booth, Carvart introduced its new Sample Box, a curated palette of textures and colors. Organized into drawers focused on attributes like pure, white, warm, cool, colors, textures and finishes, the Sample Box is arranged as a kit that offers both tools and inspiration for designers.
The clean, sophisticated space drew in attendees, many of whom were not yet familiar with the company and its products. Carvart has been in business for 20 years, operating out of its Brooklyn based factory and downtown New York showroom.
Carvart offers a 2” thick laminated glass for floor surfaces and stair treads. The four-layer glass composite includes a structural internal layer and a slip-resistant top layer.
Several creative flooring installations can be seen on Carvart’s website, including the Gateway Center, the Hudson Hotel and the Brooklyn Museum. Installations at Madison Square Garden, incorporating custom-etched names of players combined with a grey mirror bottom and a slip-resistant top layer, are also featured.
At NeoCon, Carvart won the Silver Award for Surfacing Materials for Carvart Metallic, a line of glass products with metallic mesh materials fused within.
• Chilewich Sultan LLC, known for its neutral palettes, was at NeoCon talking about its new colorful palette. These new tones include a black and white combination, celery, an orange-toned red, turquoise and a true orange. Like all Chilewich products, these are available in an 18”x18” tile or wall-to-wall.
About seven years ago, the company moved from a polyester core to a fiberglass core, a great move since fiberglass will not fuzz or pull at the cut line as polyester does.
In addition, the company offers a Velcro adhesive system that uses its BioFelt backing, which is over 80% recycled, with silicon adhesive. The adhesive leaves no residue and sticks to any surface.
• DuPont Sorona, the renewably sourced PTT fiber, had a bold presence at NeoCon this year, with a larger, more centrally located space and a clear message. The Sorona fiber has a strong environmental story. To begin with, one of its starting materials is corn sugar, accounting for 37% by weight. It also uses 30% to 40% less energy to produce and has a significantly reduced CO2 emission compared to nylon fiber.
DuPont focused its message this year on three themes: performance, design and sustainability. The sustainability message is the backbone, and its impact can be clearly seen from the range of manufacturers now using Sorona to the variety of actual products being introduced.
Commercially, Mohawk offers the What Moves You Collection and the Play of Light Collection under its SmartStrand brand. Other partners on the contract side include Mannington, and globally the Chinese mills Shanua for broadloom and CTTCC for modular. The Danish manufacturer, Fletco Carpets, has produced a full collection of designs in a flatwoven structure by international designer Philippe Starck.
• Flexco expanded its offerings in rubber cove base as well as other key flooring products this NeoCon. The Base Sculptures wall base system now includes five new profiles that marry the simpler look of cove base with the curves of traditional millwork. These new styles are Captivate, Bliss, Whimsical, Enchanted and Escalate. Rubber and vinyl wall base palettes have also been expanded with 12 new colors.
Natural Elements, a core collection of LVT wood and stone looks, is now more comprehensive with the addition of four new bamboo visuals to the wood vinyl plank. Ten colorations, including a few neutrals and several rich accents, have been added to the stone collection.
• European laminate firm Abet Laminati is now stocking ten colors of its commercial grade laminate flooring in the United States. Other styles can be ordered. The stocked product includes textured and matte designs that are well suited for hospitality environments. The product comes with a ten-year commercial warranty or a 15-year light commercial warranty. It has an aluminum oxide overlay and is easy to clean. Abet’s laminates are pressed as one unit (overlay, core and backer), which makes them more durable than direct pressure laminates. Abet Laminati products are installed without the use of glue and can be moved and reused up to four times.
• Karndean Designflooring was showcasing the 18 new designs recently added to the Opus luxury vinyl tile collection. The additions to the collection include new stone and wood visuals. The new stone looks come in 6”x36” planks and in 18”x36” tiles, which are the largest tile size yet for Karndean. Most notable in the stone looks are the new contemporary metallics. The wood looks come in three different plank sizes in a wide range of colors. The different sizes in both the stone and wood looks are all interchangeable, offering designers a large variety of pattern options. The Opus Collection features a 15-year residential and ten-year commercial warranty.
The Iobac Magnetised Flooring Technology introduced last year continues to make inroads into the market. The ease of switching out tiles and changing patterns makes it a logical choice for many. The magnetized coating dries within an hour after application, after which Karndean LVT tiles with magnetic backing can be placed.
• Carlisle Wide Plank Floors produces gorgeous wide-plank hardwood floors from its Stoddard, New Hampshire mill. The wood used is all of North American origin. Carlisle mills the planks from the heart of the log and within the first 16’ of length—this is furniture-grade wood. As a custom mill, specifications for plank size generally range between 6” and 12” wide and from 7’ to 14’ long.
Carlisle also offers engineered wood products of 11-ply marine-grade Baltic plywood with a 3/16” thick veneer that can be sanded and/or refinished.
This year at NeoCon, Carlisle featured its Design Series 2 Collection, a group of woods in colors and finishes that have a sleek contemporary look. The woods are organized into four styles with six colors each, including an expanded charcoal and grey color ranges. Some highlights are Solid Dusk, an ash board with water-based stain, and Floating Smoke, a hickory wood with a water milled finish.
Grandpa’s Floor, a display of reclaimed wood from industrial buildings, made a bold statement, with planks that are distressed with oil stains, chisel marks and indentations where machines once stood. Also featured at the show was a beautiful wall installation of Barn Wood, with variegated planks of whitewashed hickory.
• Prestige Mills exhibited the classic product Tretford under its umbrella at NeoCon. Tretford has been part of the Prestige portfolio for four years; prior to that it was marketed and distributed by Eurotex. A sister wall covering product, Acousticord, is 30% lighter and is offered by a separate group.
Tretford is manufactured out of goat hair in a proprietary process that is essentially a non-woven material. First a fleece is made, then corrugated into ribs and fusion bonded for stability.
The 48-color broadloom and 35-color tile palettes are continuations of its very first color line, introduced in the 1950s. Although new colors have been added, at least half have been in the line since day one. Incorporating the rich saturated hues associated with mid-century modern design, the color palette has come full circle and is now right in sync with today’s color preferences.
In addition to the bold solid color palette, Prestige showed striped cut-and-paste and inset water-jet cut rugs, which are custom fabricated at the mill in Ireland. Tretford’s non-fray properties allow for cutting in any direction without raveling.
• Mapei displayed its new Ultra Care product line at NeoCon. This is a comprehensive line of care and maintenance products designed to add to the durability of floorcovering installations. The products were designed to be environmentally friendly, safe to handle and easy to use.
A handful of products stood out to Floor Focus' editors. While some will immediately do well in the market, others represent new directions in design and construction. And a handful make the list as art for art's sake—even though that may be the last we ever see of them.
THE BEST OF NEOCON
GOLD: Tandus Flooring, Grasscloth Collection
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