Coverings 2017: Wood looks share the spotlight with trends in design and construction - May 2017
By Darius Helm
This year’s Coverings show, held in Orlando at the beginning of April, showcased new products from over 1,100 exhibitors from all over the world, with a narrow color palette balanced against innovations in design and construction.
Greys and taupes dominated, creating a soft and sophisticated overall visual, but up close the story was about intricacies in design and construction representing new trends, extensions of existing trends and to some degree a return to more classic looks.
The show floor was crowded with manufacturers with pavilions representing major importing countries, like Italy, Spain, Turkey and China, along with 177 North American producers in the TCNA (Tile Council of North America) pavilion. Also in the TCNA pavilion was a section featuring doghouses tiled by TCNA members, which ultimately were donated to a local animal shelter.
Along the northern edge of the show floor, the Installation Design Showcase featured three tiny homes. Using materials from Crossville, Florim USA, Ceramics of Italy, Ardex, Laticrete and Mapei, installers collaborated with design teams from three A&D firms-The Georgia Pear Interiors, Kim Lewis Designs and Bluetreehome-to do custom tile installations during the show.
The Coverings show also saw the launch of the Why Tile campaign, a joint effort of several industry organizations, coordinated by the TCNA, to establish a marketing and education initiative to take the tile story to the consumer and A&D community. The campaign’s WhyTile.com website offers sections on the benefits of tile, along with a downloadable project guide, schematics, maintenance tips and an inspiration gallery, among other features.
Over the last few years, Coverings has been broadening its audience beyond its distributor base to architects and designers, contractors and a growing number of dealers. This year, close to 28,000 attendees from every facet of the industry roamed the hall, and most of the booths were busy, particularly after the opening day. Coverings also offered over 70 educational sessions, ranging from discussions on vertical constructions to innovative installation techniques to tips on social networking. Next year’s Coverings convention will take place in Atlanta, Georgia from May 8 to 11, 2018.
TRENDS AT THE SHOW
Some years the bulk of new products showcase an extension of existing long-term trends, and some years it’s all about new ideas. Wood-look tiles, the dominant trend for several years, now account for close to 25% of the market, but at this year’s show, there were too many new ideas for wood-look tiles to take center stage, with a handful of specific types of designs and constructions dominating the trends.
One of the most prominent was the burlap look, generally elevated in refined greys. Florida Tile, MS International, Atlas Concorde, Florida Tile, Ege Seramik and Wonder were among those showcasing the rougher, more irregular woven looks.
Another major trend was the production of terrazzo looks in porcelain, with a huge range, from small-scale agglomerate looks, some clustered and some sparse, to tiles that looked like they had large rocks embedded in them. Cutting-edge inkjet technologies are behind the high definition designs, elevated by sophisticated texturing. That same technology has led to a new round of marble looks with more impressions of depth and translucence than ever before. These advancements are more than just design trends, because they establish tile as an alternative to costlier natural materials, and they’re likely to take share from stone and poured terrazzo.
Also taking share from natural stone are the large gauged panels that were on display across the show floor, generally shown in high gloss. The panels are often presented for use in bathrooms and showers, but they’re also being used as display pieces in corporate and hotel lobbies and even in high-end residential applications. Currently, all of these large panels are made in Europe, though it’s only a matter of time before U.S. producers invest in the capability.
Shapes were strong, from hexagons to chevrons to narrow planks for herringbone installations. And the hexagons were often irregular or stretched horizontally. There were still plenty of subway tiles, along with experimentation with a lot of new shapes for trim and mosaic installations. And overall, field tile sizes were larger, with plenty of 24”x48 and 30”x30” formats, and some that were even larger.
Painted tiles ran the gamut from traditional encaustic patterns to rustic, worn designs and crisp, modern looks. And there were also some terra cotta looks on display. Also noteworthy were some high-end tiles that called to mind Venetian plaster.
Another theme at the show were black and white series, though without the harshness of bright white and pure black. In wall tile, 3-D designs remain a strong trend. There were also plenty of 2cm pavers, many of which shared designs with indoor lines.
Wood looks ran the gamut this year, though generally with dry matte visuals and rustic oak looks. Some were heavy with painted effects while others were more quiet and clean. Most were in soft, pale colors, along with natural tones. But one of the biggest wood trends came in the form of narrow planks for custom installations, square tiles and even multi-width visuals.
Spain’s Inalco introduced several high end looks, including Larsen, a 6mm Slimmker large scale marble design with thick veining in large formats-40”x40”, 60”x60” and 40”x98”. Jasper is a new 12mm product in a complex monolithic stone visual with plenty of veining and small embedded stones. And Rift, a linear stone visual that resembles travertine, is another 6mm Slimmker product, this one with in-register textured veining, and it also comes in massive formats up to 40”x98”. Also new is Nero, an addition to the Fluorite series of terrazzo visuals. And Isco is another terrazzo look, though with larger scale agglomerates, with a bush-hammered finish.
Crossville came to the show with a new tile line called Notorious that is a smooth, refined stone-look companion to the wood-look Nest line, unveiled at Surfaces. Notorious comes in the same six colorways. The firm also previewed two new Laminam thin tile lines in 1m x 3m formats. Kava, a 5.6mm glazed product, comes in three designs, and Calce, which is unglazed, comes in seven.
The firm also announced a partnership with the University of Tennessee School of Architecture and Design, which includes sponsorship of a design studio to expose students to the world of tile. Also, Crossville will invite the four students with the best studio projects and presentations to this year’s NeoCon show in Chicago.
New to the Marazzi brand is Classentino Marble, a veined marble look that comes in matte and polished finishes in formats up to 24”x48”. Its five colors range from white to near-black. The firm also introduced a limestone look called Modern Formation, in matte and lappato finishes, also up to 24”x48”, along with a slip resistant texture called StepWise in 12”x24”. The Mesa Point medium brown and Smoky Ridge darker grey colorways are particularly memorable.
On the booth floor, Marazzi showcased a new wood look called Chateau Reserve in 48” lengths and widths of 6”, 8” and 12”, with a matte finish with an intermittent higher gloss on chatter marks and other character effects. It also comes in the StepWise finish. Marazzi is a division of Dal-Tile, a Mohawk company.
Ragno, another division of Mohawk’s Dal-Tile, introduced a classic terra cotta look called Epoca, offered in a range of sizes, including field tiles up to 24”x24”, a 3”x11” brick and a medium-scale hexagon. Ragno also unveiled Realstone Quarzite, a rustic, dynamic quartzite visual that also comes in 2cm pavers. The Bianco colorway is notable for its dramatic rust streaks.
One Ragno series made in the U.S., Citywide, is inspired by Belgian natural stone and translates as a rustic concrete look. It comes in a matte finish and four neutral colors. Ragno also showcased Eden, a glazed porcelain subway tile with distressed paint effects.
Del Conca, which recently doubled its U.S. production capacity to 60 million square feet, came to Coverings with a range of products made in both its Loudon, Tennessee and Italian facilities. Most of Del Conca’s U.S. business is in the residential market, but it’s focusing on building the commercial side as well.
The firm’s Calico collection, made in Loudon, features oak designs with distressed sanded-paint effects, and it comes in a range of sizes including 8”x48”, a new size for U.S. made products. Another new U.S. made product is Midtown, featuring stone looks like travertine and marble. The Loudon facility has also started making 2cm pavers in 16”x32”.
Noteworthy Italian-made products include Pandora, a cement look with a matte finish in sizes up to 32”x71”, and Stone Capital, a collection of 24 textured stone designs in white, grey and dark grey, with sizes up to 32”x32” and 24”x48”. It also comes in 32”x32” 2cm pavers.
MS International, in what seemed to be one of the busiest spaces at the show, came out with plenty of new stone and tile products, including pavers in wood and stone looks, natural stone cut into plank formats for more creative installations (like striated stone in herringbone patterns), a wide range of mosaics, a whole host of wall tile programs-including 3-D tiles, wood-look tiles for accent walls and glassy subway tiles-and a rich portfolio of floor tiles.
The firm’s Tektile porcelain series of fabric visuals includes Hopsack, a soft, almost felted look, and a crisper weave in Lineart, but the most fashion-forward expression comes from Crosshatch with its coarser, more irregular weave. All three come in a pair of mid-scale neutral colorways.
Also noteworthy is MSI’s Kenzi, a series of patterned products in artisanal encaustic style. The tiles, which have a matte finish, include floral motifs, geometrics and a blend of different patterns in geometric motifs in Mixana.
New wood looks include Vintage, a line of distressed painted plank visuals with a lot of dynamism, and Sierra, with multi-plank designs for mixed width visuals.
Florida Tile’s new product lines include NY2LA, a rectified tile that is notable for how it conveys the look and texture of plaster. It features the firm’s Microban protection and is designed for the commercial market in 12”x24” and 24”x24” formats. The tile, made in the firm’s Lawrenceburg, Kentucky facility, comes in neutral colors from near black to a creamy white, and the line includes mosaics and field tiles made of an irregular hexagram.
Another great looking product is Wexford, a burlap-inspired tile in planks, squares and rectangles up to 24”x24”, and it comes with a cubist mosaic. And Ainsley Park is a floor and wall combo-the matte-finish porcelain floor tiles are made in Lawrenceburg, and the glossy white-body wall tiles are made in Portugal. The stone designs include four distinct types of marble-Zebrino, Calacatta, Emperador and Breccia. Ainsley Park includes 40% post-industrial content.
Florida Tile also came out with a wood design called Distillery, an oak look in 8”x48” planks with an open, linear grain design in a dry, matte finish.
American Wonder, the U.S. division of Wonder Porcelain whose new facility in Lebanon, Tennessee will become fully operational next month, came to the show with a wide range of products, including Fabric Folio, which up close looks like a rough, uneven burlap weave, but from a distance suggests a rustic concrete. It comes in grey colorways in a range of sizes, including 6”x24” and 24”x24” in matte and lappato finishes. It looks particularly good in quarter-turned installations.
Also noteworthy was the American Wood collection of spruce, walnut and birch visuals in 6”x36” planks. And on the show floor was Mod Tones, a textile look that will launch in July, in a range of neutrals along with some dynamic deco tiles.
Fiandre showcased products from its production facilities in Italy and Tennessee. West Loop, a domestically produced porcelain in a distressed concrete design, comes in formats up to 24”x48” and features up to 65% recycled content-25% to 40% post-industrial and 10% to 25% post-consumer. It comes in four neutral tones from white and sand to grey and anthracite. Accompanying mosaics include a horizontal elongated hexagram.
New from the firm’s Iris brand is May, a line of red clay painted tiles in a smooth handmade look antiqued with exposed red clay edges and a matte finish. Another colored tile, LOL, offers a higher gloss. A new floor and wall collection, Desire, features a blend of fabric and concrete visuals and textures and comes with intricate decos. The most dramatic collection in the line is Loud, with a worn and rustic visual.
Fiandre also unveiled Maximum, a line of 5’x10’ 6mm panels that include a Calacatta marble design. And products made in Italy include Fjord, a stone look in six colors, with a dramatic near black with random white speckles, and Neo Genesis, a linear limestone.
One of the best showroom displays came from Emil Ceramica, which was purchased by Mohawk’s Marazzi business shortly before the show. Emil is a high-end, design-focused Italian tile producer, whose brands include Emil Ceramica, Ergon, Viva, Provenza and Acif. Under the Emil brand, most memorable is 20Twenty, a series of rustic, whitewashed barnwood designs in 8”x48” planks and 8”x8” tiles that feature end-cut designs.
In the Ergon space, the firm featured concrete and wood floor and wall tiles in matching colorways. The wall tiles are polished, and the floor tiles have a soft matte finish. Provenza offered some wood designs with geometrical texturing. And Acif, Emil’s most affordable brand, includes a good looking line of 3”x12” planks in wood visuals for custom installations like herringbone designs.
However, the most stunning design came from the Viva brand, which took timeworn hardwood looks to a new level with Lacca. Installed on the floor in 32”x32” tiles, Lacca looks like a worn lacquered floor, using gloss levels with the same dexterity as color and texture.
Florim Ceramiche was awarded Best in Show in Coverings’ Best Booth awards for its architectural elements and use of technology, and it was divided down its length between product made in Italy and the U.S. On the Italy side, the firm’s Casa Dolce Casa brand came out with Flagstone 2.0, a quartzite look with heavy, broad veining in both matte and high gloss finishes. The line comes in a range of sizes, from 3”x6” subway tiles to 24” squares, 24”x48”, 16”x72” and 32”x72”. Under the Cerim brand, the firm came out with Onyx, a richly striated design in high gloss in sizes up to 32”x32” and 32”x96”. And new to the Flor Gres line is Black Silk, a dark striated stone look that comes polished or matte, as well as B&W, a line of black and white tiles.
Florim’s American-made products include Gallery, a terrazzo look with a matte finish that’s also available in 2cm pavers, and Heritage, a competitively priced travertine visual in a range of neutrals. Also new is Loft, a rectified wood-look porcelain that comes in 9”x36” and 6”x36” for mixed width installations. It also includes a 24”x24” tangram-inspired design (with a blend of angled and straight wood cuts).
Cotto D’Este, which along with Florida Tile is part of the Panariagroup family, came out with Wonderwall on its 3mm Kerlite technology. The firm commissioned three artists to create a dozen 39”x118” designs that can be used as feature walls in a range of environments, along with coordinating solids. A cold-fired process allows for a wider range of colors. Most memorable is Venice, a triptych of the Venetian skyline with a watercolor look created by Elizabeth Peck.
Turkey’s Ege Seramik came to the show with several innovative new designs, including Oxford, a textile visual on the bias in 12”x24” and 24”x24” formats, targeting the residential market. Also new from Ege is Lucca, a 12”x24” tile with a visual reminiscent of woven vinyl (like Chilewich and Bolon). The firm also unveiled a few hardwood looks, like the affordably priced Feel Wood, a very rustic painted look in 8”x48” panels; a linear visual called Tribeca; and Urban Wood, notable for its wide color range of scraped paint hardwood planks in each SKU.
However, the most alluring new introduction is Road, with the look of a fine fabric irregularly stretched over a base of timeworn wood or concrete.
Atlas Concorde, an Italian firm that started up its domestic facility in Franklin, Tennessee in 2016, unveiled Chester, a distressed leather visual. The 24”x24” tile, made in Franklin, comes in a matte finish with subtle higher gloss highlights. Also new was Loft, a rustic concrete look with a dynamic color range, and Jute, a distressed burlap look. Both collections are made in the U.S., as is Native, a line of four stone looks-granite, limestone, bluestone and quartzite. The firm also makes 2cm pavers, both in Italy and the U.S.
New products made in Italy include Marble Stone, a collection of five polished marble looks and four matte stone looks, with coordinating wall tile. The collection includes a 4’x8’ format. Also from Italy is Room, featuring a range of fabric textures.
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