Coverings 2023: The premier North American tile expo sees a jump in attendance from exhibitors and attendees – June 2023
By Jennifer Bardoner
Up 50% over last year, attendance at this year’s Coverings rivaled pre-pandemic numbers. The aisles bustled as booths filled with the 27,000 eventgoers, who converged in Orlando to see the new releases of more than 1,000 exhibitors from 40 different countries. Though typically better attended when held in Orlando, as it was this year, event organizers called it one of the most dynamic expositions in Coverings’ 34-year history. “With a tremendously busy show floor and standing-room-only learning sessions, we are extremely pleased with the elated feedback we continue to receive from Coverings 2023 attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and press members alike,” said Jenn Heinold, president of show management company Taffy Event Strategies.
Coverings was recently awarded Trade Show Executive’s Fastest 50 designation for its net square footage growth between the 2021 and 2022 events, held in Orlando and Las Vegas, respectively. This year’s event sprawled across 450,000 square feet at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center. Housing pavilions for the North American, Italian, Spanish and Brazilian ceramic manufacturers’ associations, the show floor offered a broad representation of aesthetics, with the various international exhibitors accounting for 74% of the companies represented. Conversely, 77% of attendees were from the U.S.
Marble looks once again populated the show floor, providing dramatic backdrops as exhibitors from across the globe simultaneously displayed their porcelain panel production capabilities. Pioneered in Europe, gauged panels are becoming more commonplace in the U.S., and several domestic companies are now manufacturing sizes up to 60”x120”. However, there is still a learning curve to be overcome here, so while companies are growing their gauged panel offerings, the most popular formats are 12”x24” and 24”x48”, which were ubiquitous as producers aimed their selections at the American market.
Additionally, exhibitors tailored their offerings in terms of visuals, with concrete looks found in nearly every booth and wood looks more predominant than at international shows. The trending inspirational material-and one that fits with the domestic market’s somewhat subdued general aesthetic-was travertine; though the fairly uniform crosscut visual of old got a facelift through the addition of more dynamic vein-cut representations.
Standing in contrast to the muted colorways of such natural materials, the concentration of wallpaper-like wall tiles was notable this year. Prevalent across the show floor at Italy’s Cersaie, the world’s preeminent tile show, in 2021, they were represented in even American producers’ booths at Coverings, as feature walls are in vogue. Also notable were metallic offerings, ranging from sophisticated pieces with subtle accents to high-sheen options for dramatic impact. And marble looks have evolved beyond the classic Calacatta and Statuario visuals toward bolder color and veining, though that was seen more in the international pavilions, where more than 70 Spanish companies and 60 Italian brands exhibited trend-leading designs.
The largest international ceramic and natural stone event in North America, next year’s Coverings is set for April 22 through 25 in Atlanta, Georgia.
With its first U.S. factory, located in Baxter, Tennessee, starting production, Portobello focused on looks tailored to the American market at Coverings. The Brazil-based manufacturer has been building up its domestic distribution base for the past year or so, and marketing and sourcing director Jason Neu noted warmer hues, muted colorways and concrete looks as popular.
Serving both residential and commercial end users, the company also focused on offering complete collections with complementary products for floor and wall, he said, and broadened that approach to create collections that work well in tandem. Portobello launched eight collections at the show.
Creta was the most-talked-about debut. The lineup of concrete looks for floor and wall includes a unique dimensional decorative mosaic and comes in sizes up to 24”x48”, which Neu said is taking off like a rocket ship, somewhat to the detriment of the now-standard 12”x24” format.
At its U.S. factory, Portobello will produce sizes up to 48”x48”, a relatively new offering for the American market but a common one in Brazil. Pointing to domestic markets, including Miami, New York and Los Angeles, Neu said larger formats like 24”x48” are becoming a staple, and they are already primed for bigger sizes from a mainstream perspective.
Following its recent installation of Sacmi’s Continua+ press, Florim USA is one of the first to manufacture gauged porcelain panels in the U.S., foregoing the need for costly imports of the 48”x110” format. The Tennessee-based manufacturer-a division of Italian producer Florim-highlighted this new capability with two of its three new collections: Farmhouse Living and EcoStone. (Florim USA’s products go to market under the Milestone brand.)
Farmhouse Living emulates natural stone, with realistic texture adding to the visual. EcoStone plays up the new 3D inkjet technology with decorative textures that look like engraved verticals or chevrons across a softer stone-look visual. Eco-Stone also represents the brand’s push for sustainability, as it is the first carbon-neutral gauged panel offering in the country.
With the new press, 48”x48” will become a standard size for Florim USA. While corporate communications manager Patricia Acosta believes panels are the future, the 48”x110” format is currently being positioned for showers. The company is hosting installation classes for the larger size offering in order to get American fabricators and installers more comfortable with the format, which is used across interior environments in other countries.
With larger formats gaining in popularity across categories, MSI Surfaces director of sales and marketing Manny Llerena noted that it plays across the supplier’s new offerings, which also span categories. Originally a tile distributor, MSI has been bulking up its portfolio over the past few years and at Coverings debuted its engineered wood offering, coined W, as well as new looks in its Woodhills waterproof composite engineered wood and Smithcliffs hybrid rigid core lines.
For ceramic tile, Llerena cited 24”x48” offerings, though MSI also introduced porcelain panels for use in bathrooms-32”x64” for tubs and 32”x96” for walk-in showers. The marble-look panels come in a kit with four tiles, offering a seamless way to update wet-room walls, though Llerena said he’s seeing them used on floors, as well.
While Calacatta remains a perennial favorite, marble looks are transitioning to thinner veining, said Llerena. MSI took a cue from its best-selling countertop, Miraggio Quartz, and created a porcelain version, called simply Miraggio, in sizes up to 24”x48”, as well as a paver option in keeping with the indoor/outdoor trend.
Boasting one of the largest selections of outdoor pavers, Landmark Ceramics continues to add to its lineup each year. This year’s new colors, Indiana Buff Select and Indiana Grey Select, correlate with a new dimensional veneer line called Atelier. The colorways are available in traditional 9mm tiles, as well as veneers and 20mm pavers, allowing for seamless transition between interior and exterior.
Offering a limestone look, Atelier is rated for exterior facade use and comes in 12”x24” and 24”x48”, the latter of which became an acceptable facade size following a 2021 update to the International Building Code. To streamline the visualization process, Landmark crafted the WallPlay 3D system, offering a variety of product and installation templates based on the desired format, size, color and dimensional design. Business development coordinator Davide Scacchetti said the original WallPlay offerings are beginning to see demand, and the company plans to more heavily promote its facade products.
For interior walls, Landmark launched Deco XL, a collection of wallpaper-like florals and botanicals in 24”x48”, currently the largest size the Tennessee-based producer makes. Landmark recently opened several design studios-in Houston, Texas; Wall Township, New Jersey; and at its Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee headquarters-and Scacchetti said Deco XL is something visiting designers have made note of.
Florida Tile’s booth was awash with color, thanks to several of its new product lines. Known for its sophisticated and somewhat subdued stone looks, the company recognized a need for some color in its collections, said brand marketing specialist Megan Oudeh. The new Storied and Songbird lines hit both sides of the trending color palette, with Storied featuring saturated earth tones and Songbird offering more vibrant representations, including several pink options, an emerging colorway. The collections also capitalize on the current trend toward tiles that look handmade, with undulating surfaces and imperfect edges.
Florida Tile also showcased several wallpaper-like Wonderwall designs from sister company Cotto d’Este. In addition to hitting on the biophilic trend, Oudeh said decorative offerings are being requested for bathrooms. Available in two sizes, 19-1/2”x39” and 39”x118”, Wonderwall is ultra-thin (3.5mm) thanks to the tile’s fiberglass backing.
Based on the success of Era, a delicate onyx look introduced last year, Wonder Porcelain unveiled Onx2 at this year’s show. Featuring more pronounced swirling patterns in a bolder but neutral color palette, Onx2 still captures the depth and dimension exhibited in its predecessor. Era, meanwhile, swapped out its original barely-there blue color for the more dramatic Imperial Green.
Both are available in 2”x2” and 3” hexagon mosaics, a new offering, in addition to 12”x24” and 24”x48” formats. Company representative David Fierro said this year’s addition of the mosaics aligns with market trends, as well as Wonder’s desire to offer a full complement for the collections.
Wonder executive vice president Juan Molina said the Tennessee producer is focusing on products that resonate with the A&D community and has been working on its onyx offerings for a long time.
Having refocused its sustainability efforts around a goal of achieving a 10% reduction in manufacturing embodied carbon in its products by 2024 and an additional 30% by 2030, Crossville showcased its two recent carbon-neutral collections: Native Metal and Civilization. Pointing to the 24”x48” format option, vice president of marketing Lindsey Waldrep said they should appeal to the resimercial sector, where more specifications favor carbon-neutral products.
Crossville also debuted three brand-new offerings, including a collection of 3”x12” wall tiles launching this summer. Featuring five colors and left- and right-hand-facing directionals, Snippet offers the opportunity for unique geometric designs.
Also garnering attention from visitors was a striking black polished panel that made up the exterior of the booth. With multitone veining that looks like lightning strikes across the night sky, Noir Desir is part of the I Naturali collection in partnership with Italian producer Laminam. Waldrep said panels are gaining popularity in hospitality and healthcare environments due to their cleanability and minimal grout lines.
Atlas Concorde, an Italian producer which also has a factory in Franklin, Tennessee, is investing 60 million euros in its Finale Emilia plant in Italy to increase its production of porcelain slabs. Product marketing manager Marta Bigi said 30% of the company’s porcelain panels-ranging up to 60”x120”-are currently imported into the U.S., and “big slabs are the future.”
On display at Coverings were several new gauged panel options, including Marvel Gala, a collection of statement marble looks, and Marvel Travertine, both offered in sizes up to 48”x110”. The two are almost exclusively offered in large format, though the crosscut travertine look also comes in 24”x24”. There is also a vein-cut aesthetic. The travertine options feature a Sensitech finish, offering slip resistance despite the soft touch, and Atlas Concorde’s award-winning texture technology, providing an ultra-realistic visual and feel.
The company also debuted the playfully textured 3D Wall Plaster collection, a variety of monochromatic white decorative motifs in a 20”x48” format.
Looking to the future, Atlas Concorde’s plant expansion will be hydrogen-ready when the material is able to be safely incorporated into the production process. Hydrogen is being explored as a climate-friendly alternative to fossil fuels for the energy-intensive manufacturing of ceramic tile.
Showcased products from Marazzi and American Olean, which are part of Mohawk’s Dal-Tile division, revolved around new technology, including several new glazing techniques. Clarasea, under the American Olean brand, features a technique that uses sunken glue to create a glossy, metallic effect on top. Inspired by the Roaring ’20s, the collection of floor and wall tile combines a classic marble aesthetic with black and metallic geometrics, some familiar and others bolder and abstract.
Additionally, American Olean’s Debonair Estate employs a new synchronized glazing technique that offers greater depth to the wood grain looks, which are amped up with the addition of an ebony option.
One of Marazzi’s featured releases, Inyo, incorporates Microban antimicrobial technology, which senior marketing manager Jessica Miller-Kwak said “makes a lot of difference with homeowners,” especially for use in bathrooms. Parent company Dal-Tile is considering extending the treatment to its quartz countertops, she added.
Iris Ceramica Group’s standout innovation was a through-body countertop option dubbed 4D, released under the SapienStone brand, with veining that runs through the slab to give a realistic look to the edges. Giulia Bucci, head of integrated marketing and communications, said there is growing interest in porcelain countertops since they are more competitively priced and durable than stone options.
Also gaining traction are porcelain panels, she said. The new ones on display had more of a presence than the perennially loved Calacatta, which is still in demand, said Bucci, though more contemporary options are now being sought, especially in commercial environments and for accent walls. Iris Ceramica met this with new releases, including a panda white and Labradorite combo and a representation of Patagonia marble, among others.
The Italy-based company’s Stonepeak brand, which has a factory in Crossville, Tennessee, became the first to produce gauged porcelain panels in the U.S. in 2018. At Coverings, however, the brand debuted three new collections in the more domestically popular 12”x24” and 24”x48” formats. Offroad, a collection of limestone looks, and Klastos, inspired by sedimentary rock, feature the company’s new honed finish, offering a high DCOF (0.7) in conjunction with a soft feel.
The group, which also includes brands Mediterranea, Iris U.S., Iris Ceramica, Fiandre, Ariostea and Porcelaingres, presented for the first time as a unified group, in keeping with the group’s comprehensive new business model. The booth won the event’s Best in Show award.
Mirage’s new Oudh collection pays homage to wood looks, which North American sales manager Antonio Fernandez said are still strong in the U.S. Available in a variety of finishes and sizes up to 48”x110”, the collection offers options for indoors and out, including decorative designs ranging from a contemporary puzzle piece-like interlocking format to a traditional palais parquet look to a striated version that ties in with the slatted-wood wall trend. The seven colorways represent the trending light to midrange brown hues.
Pointing to other new nature-inspired lines-Nyuma and Vice Versa, which offer concrete looks with character, and Elysian Travertini, a travertine-look lineup of crosscut and vein-cut options-Fernandez noted a growing trend of mixing materials, which is playing out through complementary introductions from various manufacturers. “If you give customers the option to mix materials, they stay in the porcelain world,” he explained. This is also evident in the move toward floral wallpaper-type looks, which Fernandez said are currently trending in residential spaces due to their faster turn times, though he expects to start seeing more on the commercial side, as well.
Dal-Tile’s Emilgroup showcased statement marble and stunning geode visuals under its Level brand that truly look like works of art. While Emil America vice president of sales Luca Sassi said he is seeing an increase in interest for such looks for large panels, the most popular looks in the U.S. tend to fall at the other end of the spectrum.
Stonehenge, a new collection housed under the Ergon brand inspired by British stone, offers subtle movement that, seen in scale, feels reminiscent of rippling water. The matching wall options provide more literal movement through etched linear grooves. Offered in 12”x24” and 24”x48” formats, the collection has quickly become one of the top five selling products in the U.S. It and Aurelia, a new travertine-inspired collection with a similar etched option, are being produced in Mohawk’s plants in Dickson, Tennessee and Florence, Alabama under the guidance of Italian R&D personnel, an arrangement begun during the pandemic out of necessity. But Sassi said it has worked well and the company plans to expand its domestically made lines.
Mapei added to its sustainability story with the debut of Ultralight Mortar Zero, a carbon-neutral offering through the purchase of offsets. Noting government applications for the original Ultralight Mortar, thanks to the fact that it has no silica added and includes 20% recycled content, the firm noted that other sustainable offerings are already in the works.
Mapei is also in the process of updating its colored grout offerings and will begin replacing less popular ones. In an effort dubbed “The Sound of Color,” this season’s 12 new introductions were developed based on research into the most popular colors and include neutrals, metallics, earth tones and more.
Laticrete is now a one-stop shop when it comes to tile installation. The accessories and materials supplier is adding profiles and trims to its offerings starting in July, making it the first to offer a complete tile installation system. North American president and COO Ron Nash said the addition was in response to customer requests and noted that having one supplier for “everything except the tile” makes it easier on both the architect/specifier and the installer.
Interior designer and Coverings ambassador Alena Capra gave the annual trends presentation. She noted:
1. Brick-like tile, including various finishes and intense chromatic variations to generate visual interest in walls, countertops and even furnishings. The tile can be stacked horizontally or vertically to create monochromatic environments or mixed with different colors to create myriad patterns like stripes, chevrons and herringbones.
2. Cement-look tiles, whose subtle color variation and, often, dimensional texture make them versatile enough to suit a wide range of applications, from bustling corner cafes to serene spa-like garden spaces. A worn patina effect tells a story, sometimes layered, sanded or tinted.
3. Cobbled-looking tiles in large-scale aggregate looks ranging from time-worn terrazzo to cobblestone to Byzantine mosaics, offering the Old World charm of cobblestone without a threat to stilettoed passersby.
4. Creative uses of wood-look tile for projects that desire the aesthetic of wood but require the ease of maintenance that ceramic tile provides. The trend is manifesting in realistic-looking floor tile, elegant herringbone patterned offerings and feature walls.
5. Green-hued tiles featuring everything from giant palms to exotic stones like green onyx and Patagonia green marble, to more subtle approaches offering large- and small-format tiles in muted shades of green and subtle textures, like Moroccan plaster.
6. “Enduring elegance” through the use of large-format ceramic tiles-from subtle shading and colorways used in both residential and commercial settings to creative uses of naturally forming striations that give added depth to walkways and flooring.
7. Mother Nature-inspired indoor/outdoor tile, providing anti-slip, easy-to-maintain ceramic solutions with hyper-realistic interpretations of natural elements, painterly florals and new material looks like cork and rammed earth in 2cm outdoor pavers that match their thinner indoor counterparts.
8. “Sensory seduction” through tiles that beg to be touched and experienced, often giving rise to a feeling of relaxation or even excitement, depending upon the chosen application and essence of design.
9. ’70s-esque tile, mostly earth tones and pop art florals, though the decade was defined by dichotomies, which can also be seen in the current trend. On one hand, the ’70s celebrated spectacle with glam rock artists, flashy prints and metallic accessories; while on the other, it was very naturalistic and breezy-with materials and patterns conjuring the sailing lifestyle, including stripes, wavy patterns and wood paneling.
10. Undulated tile, in keeping with a trending desire for goods made for a human by a human. Subtle undulations in the surface emulate manually applied thick glazes, creating the sense that each tile was intentionally crafted by a skilled artisan.
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