Coverings 2013 - June 2013
By Jessica Chevalier
Coverings 2013 was held in Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center. This year’s show floor was actually two show floors joined by escalators and a connector concourse. The front hall held the Tile of Spain and Ceramics of Italy pavilions, along with other international producers and importers. The Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) pavilion was in the back hall with installation material exhibitors and the Stone Zone.
Some of the exhibitors expressed concern about the split-floor layout of the show, but, overall, the halls seemed equally busy. Though trams were used to carry visitors across the expansive show floors, transportation across the concourse was by foot only. The concourse was lined with tiled benches designed by Savannah College of Art and Design students, providing colorful points of interest for the trek from one floor to another.
It is important to remember that Coverings is, in large part, a distributor show, so, though the traffic seems lighter than at other shows, a single sale is likely to be substantial.
This year’s show featured 950 exhibitors and drew over 22,000 attendees, on par with last year’s attendance.
Coverings marked the first anniversary of the TCNA’s Green Squared sustainability certification program. To date, nine ceramic tile manufacturers (five in the U.S., three in Mexico and one in Europe) have been certified, as have two installation materials manufacturers (both in the U.S.). Quite a few additional manufacturers are currently working toward certification.
The TCNA had good news to report on other fronts as well. Following three consecutive years of double-digit decline (2007, 2008 and 2009), the U.S. tile industry has had three consecutive years of consumption increases. In 2012, U.S. consumption (floor and wall tile combined) was up 5.4% to 2.19 billion square feet, according to the TCNA.
Regarding imports, 1.49 billion square feet of ceramic tile arrived in the U.S. last year, an increase of 5.8% over 2011. Mexico remained the top importer to the U.S., with a 31.5% share (by square footage). China came in second with 27.6%, and Italy took third place with 17.1%. However, by dollar value, Italy is the largest, accounting for 34.4% of imports, since Italian tile generally targets a higher price point than product from Mexico and China. Last year, the dollar value of all tile imports rose from $0.94 to $0.97 per square foot. The TCNA projects 2013 to be another year of growth for the ceramic tile industry.
At Coverings 2013, the TCNA pavilion increased its exhibit size by 8% to over 51,000 square feet, and the organization had 104 members exhibiting at the show. This year, the group honored the recently deceased Filippo Marazzi as its Tile Person of the Year. Marazzi was president of the Marazzi Group and, according to TCNA, an Italian innovator of ceramic tile.
As recently as last year, it seemed that every new digital product was emulating some specific stone. Some were generalizations of common looks, like slate; others emulated specific stones from specific regions: Imola’s Vein, for example, is a nearly perfect copy of Canada’s Eramosa limestone. This year, however, there were many more products that were characterized as “similar to” or “a cross between” one stone and another.
Now that nearly every major ceramic tile manufacturer has inkjet technology, the game isn’t so much about who can create an exact replica of X—everyone can—as much as who can create something attractive and unique for the market. Florim’s Ardoise, for instance, is a slate look but with less tonal variation than the natural stone. This creates a more refined or contemporary visual. All that said, today’s interpretations are looser, and the color palettes don’t necessarily stick to the colors of the natural material.
Wood looks have also grow in in popularity among the exhibitors. Some were created to be as realistic as possible, indistinguishable from the real thing. Others, like Tau’s Graffiti, displayed in a mosaic with pink, purple and blue tones, are more whimsical takes on wood. And yet others are a new take entirely, like Ohio-based Epro Tile’s handmade Country Home collection, a red body product with soft looking edges, a physical grain and a second glaze that creates a whitewashed effect. The product comes in seven colors and one size, 4”x16”, and is a lovely alternative to digital printed products. Florim had another interesting take on wood. Its Floor Gres brand’s Reverse is a porcelain tile made to look like cement impressed with wood grain; in other words, an emulation of an emulation. There were few booths that weren’t offering (and highlighting) wood-look ceramic tile.
“Contemporary” was another buzzword at this year’s show. As we’re seeing in hardwood, the market is moving away from extreme rustic looks toward visuals that are more balanced. Lappato finishes, those semi-polished looks, were popular, and contemporary accent pieces like Florida Tile’s Mingle listellos, a fresh take on ’60s-feeling design, provide texture but with a modern feel.
This year, we noticed a trend away from thin tile somewhat. Manufacturers who rolled out thin tile products in the past were still selling it, but none that we spoke with were actively promoting it as one of their important Coverings product lines. This may be the normal course of activity until formal standards are created for the product category. According to the TCNA, there are enormous differences in products labeled as thin tile, and, until standards are created to define the product accurately, identify its capabilities, and determine how best to install it, some in A&D may be unwilling to take a chance on it. The TCNA reports that there have been product failures in the field, so some have become more hesitant to use the product. Once the group has created standards for thin tile, which will be a lengthy process, specifiers may become more comfortable with thin tile as flooring.
Mosaic tiles are gaining in popularity, with their unique patterns, vintage feel and global influence. Original Mission Tile, a Mexican company, offers cement patterned 8”x8” tile in a range of stunning designs that feel both modern and, somehow, salvaged from the past. Brazil-based Eliane also offers a mosaic collection called Essence Décor, which is equally cool. These bold geometric designs add incredible texture, color and character to a space.
There was a lot of talk about coefficient of friction this year, with the new ANSI standard now requiring level, interior spaces “expected to be walked on when wet” to have a wet DCOF (dynamic coefficient of friction) of 0.42. To that end, we are seeing more collections with texture worked into the design for the sake of safety. Florida Tile’s Time/2.0 collection of rectified porcelain products is available in three finishes: natural, polished and textured. These textured products are popular for indoor commercial applications as well as for residential use, often to extend a look from an indoor space to an outdoor space.
And speaking of outdoor space, there is a strong trend toward using ceramic tile outdoors. Both Florim and Del Conca introduced thick new porcelain tiles that can be loose laid or elevated in the outdoors. Cladding products are also popular. Imola offers a version of its Wood that looks like traditional wood lap siding, and, of course, Crossville’s Laminam is well suited for use as an exterior cladding.
Tile of Spain’s Ryan Fasan reported on trends in ceramic tile during the organization’s press lunch and asserted that a warm, mid-range grey is officially the number one neutral in the U.S. This breaks beige’s long-standing reign. In fact, beige now ranks third, with cream in second. Camel is the fourth most popular neutral tone.
Recently acquired by Mohawk, Marazzi was at Coverings with two new floor tile collections: Harmony and Perseo. A modern exotic wood look, Harmony is a porcelain line that has 12 different faces and comes in four colors: Chord (black/cherry), Note (grey brown), Pitch (red brown) and Tone (white). Harmony is U.S. made and comes in rectified 6”x36” and 9”x36” planks.
Perseo is a polished marble look that is made in Spain. The rectified porcelain comes in five colors and a 24”x24” size. Perseo has 45% recycled content.
With the popularity of wood looks, Marazzi introduced an interesting collection of wood trims, called Divine Woods, for wall use. The trims come in three colors and have a lot of visual texture.
Marazzi’s sister company Ragno rolled out Barnwood, an inkjet product that comes in 6”x24” planks. As its name indicates, the glazed porcelain replicates old, weathered wood and comes in three tones: Ash, Barley and Pearl. The company also sells a random mixture of the three tones packaged together and labeled Blend.
In addition, Ragno rolled out Sanctuary, a glazed porcelain tile with a travertine visual. Sanctuary is available in three colorways (beige, brown and white) and comes in sizes up to 20”x20”.
Brazil’s Eliane was featuring two new products: Trevi and Arqgeo. Trevi is an emulation of Rapolano travertine with a gently crafted edge that appears worn. The line has 13 faces and comes in sizes 13”x13”, 18”x18” and 24”x24”. The collection features mosaics as well. Arqgeo is a linear stone look that comes in three colors and three finishes (satin, lappato and slip resistant).
Though it wasn’t prominently displayed, the company’s stunning mosaic line Essence Décor is available in the U.S. Each 24”x24” tile contains nine different mosaic looks (8”x8” each). In total, the collection has five different faces. Together, the tiles assemble a beautiful patchwork of shapes and earth tone colors. The porcelain tile can be used on the floor or the walls.
Florida Tile rolled out a number of new product lines at Coverings. Time/2.0 is a rectified through-body porcelain in nine colors that range from snow to black. The Portuguese-made collection is available in three finishes: natural, polished and textured, which meets the new COF ratings. The line supports Florida Tile’s efforts to build its commercial program. It currently has nine commercial sales reps and distribution to support A&D needs.
Cliffside is a heavily clefted traditional Vermont slate look that comes in four colors (two greys, a blue and a beige) and three formats (12”x12”, 12”x24” and 18”x18”). Cliffside is a porcelain product, created with high definition printing.
Soft rock look Mingle is a unique collection that comes in two colors. Each color has three visuals—one marble, one travertine and one limestone—that are to be used in combination. Like Cliffside, Mingle comes in three sizes.
The company’s new wood look, Magnolia, is subtler than its previous wood introductions. The product has a slight texture and comes in six colors. Magnolia is available in one size, an 8”x36” plank.
StonePeak expanded its Plane line of huge 5’x10’ panels from three colors to ten. Plane is suitable for use on floors, according to the company, though the installation of such a large product presents real risk of failure if the underlying surface is the least bit uneven. The expansion includes Calacatta, which is bookmatched, meaning that it looks like Rorschach test when two tiles are placed adjacent to each other. This creates the effect of a piece of stone that was bisected.
Rome is a rectified product with a classic stone look. The line’s Antique tone has a tumbled-looking edge that is created through inkjet printing. The other color, Imperial, does not. Rome is available in square and rectangular formats.
The company also introduced Classic, a marble look, with three versions: Cremino, Statuarietto and Bardiglietto. The line comes in 12”x12” and 12”x24” formats.
The company’s newest wood look product is Pascha, which comes in five tones and an impressive 8”x96” plank. The line contains 40% recycled content. All of Stonepeak’s collections are porcelain.
Vitromex makes a splash every Coverings by employing young, attractive women to staff its booth. Many of the San Antonio based company’s introductions are positioned to compete with low-cost imports from China, including Orion, a rustic stone graphic, and Miramar, a marble look. Both inkjet ceramic products come in three colors. The products are available in 13”x13” and 18”x18” formats. In total, the company introduced nine ceramic products at the show, though some of these won’t be available until as late as January 2014.
On the porcelain side, Vitromex rolled out Takoma, an inkjet tile with a travertine look. The product is suitable for outdoor or commercial use with its heavy punch. It comes in three sizes (12”x24”, 13”x13” and 20”x20”) and three colors.
Madera is the company’s new porcelain plank line with a reclaimed wood visual. The inkjet line comes in four colors, and the planks are 6”x36”. The company has three additional porcelain introductions: Miami, another wood look plank product (8”x48”); Ravello, a marble/stone hybrid look; and Amarna, with a marble graphic.
Mexican producer Porcelanite had a big booth at Coverings, as it usually does. The firm introduced new digital inkjet stone look products: Natural Stone, Mineralia and Mayakoba. Natural Stone features a multiple stone look on a single tile and has a great deal of texture. It is offered in a 7”x22” format.
Kids Collection is another new line by the company. The colorful collection comes in six tones (Garden green, Lavender, Candy pink, yellow, blue and taupe) that aren’t in-your-face brights, but rather livable dusty versions. Each color is available as a solid, stripe or basketweave in a 12”x12” format. The collection is refreshing and, though it is well suited for children, the patterns could be put together in ways to suit other casual environments.
Italian manufacturer Del Conca is building a plant in Loudon, Tennessee (near Knoxville). The 300,000 square foot facility is scheduled to have its first run by the end of the year. The company decided to open this new facility because of the high volume of business that it does in U.S. home centers along with its strategy to grow its specialty retail business.
Del Conca introduced two new wood look lines at Coverings, Epokal and Saloon, which is the more rustic of the two. Both lines come in four colors. The company also introduced new Eramosa and cement look products.
Due 2 is the company’s new 20mm through-body porcelain line that can be used as a raised floor or loose laid. The product is for outdoor use. All of Del Conca’s products are glazed porcelain.
Crossville, traditionally a commercial tile manufacturer, rolled out an upscale residential tile program at Coverings. The Platinum Design Boutique, which is launching currently, targets high-end kitchen, bath and flooring showrooms. The program features flooring choices, backsplash choices and color choices. It is available in three configurations: as an island, two wing displays or sample boards.
Crossville also unveiled its Hydrotect coating, which was developed by Toto (the toilet producer from which Crossville sources much of its recycled content porcelain). Hydrotect is an optional treatment that can be applied to almost any Crossville porcelain tile product during a second firing process. The silver, copper and titanium dioxide treatment is permanent and carries both hydrophilic and photo-catalytic properties. This means that Hydrotect has the ability to kill odor-causing bacteria, reduce dirt and oil accumulation, and eliminate nitrous oxide from the air.
The company offered a demonstration of the coating by drawing a line on tiles with Hydrotect and on tiles without, then placing them under light. Almost immediately the mark on the tile with Hydrotect began to disappear, while the other remained. Though natural light facilitates the Hydrotect process, it is not needed for the coating to work.
In addition, because Hydrotect is hydrophilic, it attracts water to its surface, getting below dirt and grime and making it easier to remove.
The company also introduced its new Virtue porcelain line, a marble look that is available in three patterns (Carrara, Calacatta and Statuario) and two finishes (unpolished and satin). Virtue is available in a range of sizes up to 24”x24”.
Imola acquired two ceramic tile brands in 2006: Lafaenza and Leonardo. In all three brands, the company sells products that are Green Squared certified.
Imola, which crosses multiple segments, introduced Wood at Coverings, a wood look line that is available in seven colors, including grey tones, and comes in a standard 6 ½”x40” planks. Wood is available in a grooved version for outdoor use.
Under the Leonardo brand, which targets the A&D community, the company introduced Plank, an aged-looking wood visual in porcelain. Plank is suitable for outdoor use and comes in four colors. Stone Project is another new Leonardo introduction. The concrete look product comes in six colors and a natural, honed or brush hammered finish. Four sizes are available in total, though not all are available in each color.
Lafaenza is the most residential-focused brand of the three. Under that line, the company introduced Studio and Pretiosa. Studio is a minimalistic leather look that is available in eight colors and three formats, including a 4”x36” plank. Pretiosa features five different stone looks to be used in combination. The product is available in five colorways.
Imola won Coverings 2013 Best in Show for its booth design. Located in the Ceramics of Italy section of the show, Imola’s booth moved the visitor through each brand while bringing in elements that gave a nod to the company’s heritage as being the oldest artist cooperative in Italy. The booth walls were covered with stark white dinnerware (alluding to the company’s roots in manufacturing these items) in cages against a matte black background. A tiled path led into the booth, where benches filled with laurel leaves added a pop of verdant color.
Italian firm Emil Ceramica introduced two collections with interesting accent pieces. The accent pieces are not recommended for commercial flooring applications.
Statale 9 is a collection that includes cement and wood looks. The Street accents for this line include graphic printed tiles that look as if they’ve been, in some cases, tagged with graffiti or, in others, reclaimed from industrial use (with painted numbers and other marks remaining). The Metropoli accents have the appearance of previously painted wood; the paint marks come in black, white, lime and orange. A third line of Statale 9 accents are black-and-white toned mosaic-type patterns called Pittura. Statale 9 is available in square, rectangle and plank formats. Street and Metropoli are planks; Pittura is square. Statale 9 tiles are dry pressed ceramic.
Another of the company’s new lines, Back2Back, interprets three different types of natural stone. Both sides of the Back2Back tile can be used. The tile can be installed with its more polished front side facing upward, or the matte back side can be chosen as the face. Back2Back also includes some graphic mural pieces, one reading, “The Speed of Art” in a script that looks like graffiti.
Stonebox is another new Emil Ceramica introduction. Stonebox is a collection of 36 different marble and stone visuals. It is available in four tones and several rectangular formats, including planks. The digital product has a rectified edge and either a natural or polished surface.
Florim and Florim USA were exhibiting together at Coverings. Under the Florim brand, the company introduced Icon. Icon can be used as loose lay flooring or elevated. For elevated applications, the 20mm (¾”) product is breathable—narrow spaces between the tile eliminate water buildup—and can be easily removed and reused. The product comes in two finishes (matte and hammered), three colors and three sizes. Florim also sells the elevated flooring system.
Under the Florim USA line, the company introduced Pier, a glazed porcelain with a high definition wood look. Pier is slated to come in five colors, though Florim was soliciting feedback at Coverings and may offer more tones if the market seems receptive. The product will be available in two formats (6”x36” and 9”x36”) and has 40% recycled content.
Pietra Romana is a travertine look with a rustic texture. It will come in five colors and has rectified edges. Sizes for the pressed product are 6”x36”, 12”x12”, 12”x24”, 18”x18” and 18”x36”.
Production for both Florim USA lines starts in October.
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus