Coverings 2018: Coverings delivers exciting new product innovation - June 2018
By Ruth Simon McRae
Coverings, the largest global tile and stone exhibition in North America, was held this year at the World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, with the show running from May 8 to 11. More than 26,000 people attended the show. The 1,100 exhibitors showcasing their new products were from more than 40 countries, spread out throughout the two halls and nine miles of corridor. Sponsors of the show included five major trade organizations-Tile of Spain, Ceramics of Italy, Tile Council of North America (TCNA), National Tile Contractors Association and the Ceramic Tile Distributor Association-and three companies, TEC, Comandulli North America and Vitromex.
In addition to the product focus, Coverings offered more than 45 accredited seminars and live demonstrations. Featured sessions covered workforce issues, such as how to engage the next generation, dialogue between general contractors and specifiers within the tile and stone industry, and trend forecasting from expert Leatrice Eiseman of the Pantone Color Institute.
A tiny home installation showcase, ongoing installation demonstrations and an artistic doghouse competition-designed by 14 TCNA members-were also among the many engaging activities at the show.
The mood at Coverings was enthusiastic. The tile market is booming; in 2017 the U.S. ceramic tile market surpassed the three billion square foot level for the first time since 2006, up over 6% from 2016. Exhibitors expressed this optimism with exciting new ideas and beautiful displays.
There were a few big color stories at Coverings. The first was the addition of blue and a blue-influence green or teal across the board in both residential and commercial color lines. Black and white was another strong story. Crossville’s VP of marketing, Lindsey Waldrep, identified the black and white palette as both a dominant and unifying trend, seeing black and white hitting on a variety of decor trend fronts. Tile of Spain also is forecasting a strong black and white story, with the emphasis on white-“We love white in North America,” opined consultant Ryan Fasan. He also sees grey becoming less important, with creams and ivory coming back, along with saturated, moody earth tones.
New ceramic design visuals use buried color to enhance the layered surfaces, allowing strong bits of intense color to work together in a way so that color and material cannot be separated.
TRENDS AT THE SHOW
The big news at Coverings was the style and design of new products. Ceramic tile manufacturing has moved beyond being able to capture a visual of other materials, such as marble, stone and wood. Finally the whole gestalt of the experience has changed. Some products no longer just look like another material-they embody its sensual and tactile qualities. There is no formula for doing this; it is incredibly nuanced.
In order to make these aesthetic leaps, designers are clearly doing tons of experimentation. Occasionally, the experimentation falls flat, which is part of the process. Designers are taking risks, and the market is the beneficiary.
Texture and special effects were integrated with the visual in new ways. This is in part due to increased printer sophistication. Hyper-realism is created by decorating with texture, including high luster inks and other special effects such as volumetric inks that puff up or shrink in the kiln. Tile of Spain consultant Ryan Fasan pointed out in his insightful trend presentation that the modern day printer has four to five channels for color and two to three channels for effects. With these sophisticated tools, terrazzo can be made that is so realistic that the ‘marble’ is a higher luster than the ‘cement’ surround.
Terrazzo looks were a huge trend at the show. Many were highly refined, including the variations of luster incorporated to enhance realism. Others, such as those featured on the floor at American Wonder, were highly polished like a marble surface. Iris USA’s Brenta was the most non-traditional rendering of terrazzo, with a miniaturized pattern arranged in a constellation flow, available in gloss, matte and a bumpy stone-like finish.
Weathered metal looks also incorporated bits of luster and metallic effects. Trends in metallic finishes leaned toward a sheet metal aesthetic. A beautiful on-trend metallic teal was shown at Sintesi in its line, Met Arch. Made+39 introduced Faber and Faber XL, etched metallic look surfaces with graphic scratches and an appropriate grained texture.
The strong hand of the artist was evident in some of the new work. Target Group’s 14oraitaliana featured large slabs that were literally like paintings, including i Rossi di Modena with its luscious near solid surface and Segni, a painterly abstract visual with vertical and horizontal areas that look as if they were applied with a palette knife. This collection is topped off with Flower, an extremely large, roughly painted rose. Described as ‘digital print with hand-print on top’, the slip rating (dynamic coefficient of friction) for these panels makes them more appropriate for walls than floors. 14oraitaliana also showed Puzzling, a silk screened tile arranging in a mosaic of 10” squares, with hand-drawn leaves, shrubs, ferns and fruit blended together to create a moody, richly chromatic visual.
Distressed looks were still strong at Coverings, especially in concrete, stone and the hybrid looks that occupied the space in between these two materials. Although not an entirely new direction, the quantity of these looks told its own story. What did seem new was the incorporation of textile fragments, creating collages of plaster, stone and concrete with fabric bits that appeared to be exposed scrim peaking through. Relief from Fiandre’s Musa+ collection embodied this trend.
Traditional textile tile looks were not shown as widely as in the past, with the exception of a few bolder examples that had a three-dimensional appearance. In both Keraben’s Inspired and Mixit products, the woven designs looked as if they were chiseled into stone.
As a contrast to all this texture, some companies introduced clean, asymmetric geometric shapes, including trapezoids, rhomboids and other polygons, often combining to create a mid-century modern feel. These materials typically had a simple, slight texture and matte surface. Ceramica Bardelli featured this look in Palladiana. American Olean showed some lovely shapes as accents in its Neospec line. And bold rhomboid shapes were installed on the accent wall of Florida Tile’s booth.
Although wood-look planks continue to be an important category for the American market, wood looks were not as front and center as usual. Woods at Coverings departed from the heavily rustic painted woods of the past, moving to a more refined aesthetic. Bolder, more highly textured barn wood looks were primarily seen at companies within the Spanish Pavilion. Yet the barnwood cross-color aesthetic influenced other new product development, like its reintepretation in the abstract stone colorations of ABK’s Play.
Ceramic “wallpaper”-large scale looks printed on huge canvases of the new large thin slabs-created a big splash. Cotto D’Este made a dramatic presentation with Wonderwall, featuring several beautiful multi-panel murals, including the evocative Color Ballet, architectural Neoclassic and watercolor effect Lotus. Fiandre also exhibited its DYS (Design Your Slab) program on large custom panels. These wall tiles are very attractive, great for a facade or branding a large interior. In a related trend, many other companies showed medium-size formats with wallpaper-type patterns.
Topping off the innovation frenzy, designers had some fun imitating whimsical and incongruent materials like Strand, patterned tiles that replicate the look of subfloor and Nassau, a two-color collage that appears to be made by cutting out paper with pinking shears, both from Vives.
The theme at Crossville this year was Bold Blends, set in a backdrop of its black and white booth and with Sinatra playing in the background. A domestic manufacturer focused on the commercial market, Crossville has just launched its comprehensive Retro Active 2.0 and Retro Active Patterns, offered in matte and glossy finishes, with an on-trend palette that includes a bright white and deep black, aqua, hunter green and navy in addition to the requisite neutrals. Retro Active 2.0 is the first tile to get three petals in the Living Product Challenge Petal Certification, in the categories of beauty, water and place.
Crossville also featured Convergence Glass, a beautiful, cross-cut wood block visual glass tile in a 4”x4” size, appropriate for wall applications.
Marazzi featured Influence, a lovely style with a sheet metal look, made more realistic by a surface that incorporated both matte and glossy textures and an airbrushed effect. Influence is available in five appropriate material colors-silver, brass, iron, copper and steel.
Also featured was Belle Vista, a French limestone graphic with a rustic feel and variegated surface effect. There are approximately 30 unique tiles that make up this product, adding to its feel of authenticity. Another product, Sistemp, has a visual of fine rice paper with a palette of six sophisticated colors available both in lightly polished and unpolished finishes.
Ragno featured Patina, a concrete look with an aged appearance formed by tiny lines or scratches and a classic neutral palette. The product is enhanced by a coordinating “pop” mosaic with a stark black, grey and white palette and a hand-printed look.
Aura Dolce offered an interesting take on wall tiles; its Wave line had a luscious satiny texture in a horizontal wave pattern. A subtle walnut type wood plank, Mt. Royale rounded out the offering.
American Olean came to the show with Neospec, a collection of clean, modern terrazzo styles. It is available in two finishes: matte, where gloss synchronizes with some of the specks, and light polish. In addition to two square and plank formats, Neospec has a mid-scape trapezoid spade mosaic that is very special.
Other introductions were Timberbrook, a reclaimed wood look, and Impresa, a red-bodied clay tile for the builder market.
American Olean, Ragno and Marazzi are all brands of Mohawk’s Dal-Tile.
Florida Tile showcased Genesis, a collection that includes an attractive wall tile that replicates the look of unfinished form-poured concrete, with the forms peeled away. The coordinated set of graphically designed tiles, Prism, is a mix of nine tone-on-tone geometric patterns in a muted finish that are appropriate for both walls and floors.
An array of bold, asymmetrical tiles, last year’s NY2LA, were displayed on the exterior of the booth and behind the reception area. The stand also included an outdoor space where large pavers from Florida Tile’s outdoor division, Thicker, were laid within deep faux grass.
A large-scale layout of tiles from the Terrazzo collection with crisp, contrasting white, grey and black backgrounds lined the floor at American Wonder; these were produced by parent company Marco Polo. The installation was all polish with no luster variation, creating a dramatic space.
Many small-format decorative tiles were also displayed, with similarly clean graphics. Only a few displayed a more softened, distressed visual. One innovative small tile on display was simply called Deco, patterned with a range of painterly abstract sections with interesting luster contrast.
Fiandre featured the bold and exotic Eminent Wood, on both the floor and exterior surfaces of its booth, setting the stage for a dramatic presentation. The Design Your Slab custom program was also displayed right up front.
Inspired by the elegance of Scandinavian design, Musa+ is a collection of great looks that include reference to plaster, stone and wood, easily mixed and matched to create an eclectic interior. One texture is a wood effect seemingly embedded with areas of textile scrim; another is a plaster type that looks surprisingly like painted cinderblock. Musa+ is enhanced by three finishes, natural, relief and glossy, a semi gloss finish that looks like a wet tile after the rain with vertical drips of shine. Colored grout was incorporated into some installations, adding a bit of additional style and fun.
More traditional styles include the DWood 2.0 timeless beauty collection and Urban Great, a cement visual with a modern palette of neutral grey tones.
Florim Ceramiche introduced a wide range of products within its six brands, focusing on MagnUm Oversize large porcelain slabs within the Italian groups. Its Rex brand introduced several collections, from Precious of Rex, with its six dramatic marble interpretations, to its La Roche pavers.
Casamood’s Artwork collection is modern day terrazzo, described as a stylized geometry between Venetian tiles and the Memphis-style patterns of the 1980s. The line includes Art Neutral, a terrazzo type in a small scale with subtle contrast, and Art Micro, Art Basic and Art Macro, varying scales of that material in a higher contrast palette. Other gorgeous brightly colored terrazzo type deco tiles in the collection are sadly for wall application only.
Milestone is the new brand name for Florim USA, which manufactures and sells ceramic tile to the North American market. Milestone’s new collections have a more casual styling. Soiree is inspired by terra cotta, in four colors, in rectified porcelain construction for indoor and outdoor applications. +ONE is a modern-looking collection. The base product has a poured concrete look and a second style, +ONE Canvas, overlays subtle brushstrokes. A third style, +ONE Deco, offers coordinating accent tiles that fit circles and squares tiles within one another. Materia, a limestone-inspired product, has a square format with skewed rhomboid shapes within, creating an asymmetrical-shaped tile effect on the floor.
Emilgroup brought its four high-end brands to Coverings: Acif, Viva, Provenza and Emilceramica. Each of the side-by-side booths featured an engaging installation of pavers out front, drawing visitors into the narrow spaces.
Emil Ceramica highlighted Chateau, a french limestone style with in-register glossing-its low areas are matte and high points lightly polished-available in the large, thin slabs. Provenza showed a beautiful installation of Eureka, a series of geometric patterned tiles that appear like shaped mosaics with randomly sized rectangles and triangles.
Atlas Concorde USA made a foray into lifestyle marketing with a number of rustic materials in its Organic Farmhouse Organic collection, presenting Korc, Homeland, Haven, Liberty and Craft, new collections conceived especially for the American market. Korc, available in Natural, Ivory, Gray and Sand, almost feels as soft as its namesake product.
Landmark, a domestic manufacturer that is also part of Gruppo Concorde, showed primarily stone and wood looks in medium and small scales. Milestone, a stone-look porcelain with contemporary appeal, is its largest tile at 18”x36”.
Re-True is a line extension of True, a wood-look tile with a painted and sand look and a refined palette. Spirit is a new, clean oak visual, with new red-influenced tones such as gunstock added to the palette.
Large-scale formats continue to grow in importance. Although Stonepeak is currently the only company that is manufacturing the gauged panel formats in the U.S., many companies are featuring the large, thin slabs. These panels are being used for furniture as well as walls, flooring and facades, allowing for seamless transitions within a space. Thicker panels in matching designs are also being manufactured for countertops. Typically the larger formats seen at Coverings were in clean marble looks, often in white or natural marble colorations. In a few instances, multicolored and exotic looks were featured, such as Fiandre’s Eminent Wood, a petrified wood visual with a polished glossy finish.
In addition to the large formats, some smaller formats have returned, with subway tiles, 8” to 12” squares and the new polygonal shapes. Many more companies are also introducing 2cm thick pavers-allowing for additional selling opportunity on a project.
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