Coverings Highlights 2016 - May 2016

By Calista Sprague

Energy was high on the showroom floor at Coverings, held in April at McCormick Place in Chicago for the first time in seven years. The ceramics category grew 9.8% last year, with tile flooring up 7.3%, and producers are optimistic for 2016. Tile sales follow the builder market, which has been on an upswing. And for overseas producers, the strong dollar helps make imported tile more competitive.

Newcomers to the show floor and to the American ceramics market created buzz this year. A new brand called Landmark, part of Italy’s Concorde Group, had a booth right up front in the Tile Council of North America section of the show floor. The company will produce tile in the new Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee facility, currently under construction, both for the Landmark brand and for another new brand, Atlas Concorde USA. 

Just a couple of booths down the same aisle, Wonder Porcelain introduced its new catalog of products. The tile is currently being produced in China, but by the first quarter of 2017, it will be made in the U.S. in its new Lebanon, Tennessee facility. Wonder Porcelain is part of the Wonderful Group, a leading Chinese tile company, and its U.S. headquarters are in Plano, Texas, with distribution centers in Plano, as well as Miami, Florida and Long Beach, California. The company plans to go to market mainly through independently owned distributors.

Del Conca also added to the excitement at the show, announcing that it will soon double capacity at its Loudon, Tennessee facility. It will expand from 32 million to 65 million square feet, adding a kiln and two presses, which will be up and running by early 2017.

Coverings, an international expo of ceramic tile and natural stone, attracts industry professionals including contractors, distributors and retailers as well as specifiers, like designers, architects and builders. The show is sponsored by five ceramics organizations: the Tile Council of North America, Ceramics of Italy, Tile of Spain, the Ceramic Tile Distributor Association and the National Tile Contractors Association. 

All five groups have a vested interest in a healthy ceramics market, and all lend expertise to the Coverings conference program, which includes an impressive offering of keynote speeches, demonstrations, presentations and education sessions. This year, attendees chose from more than 70 free sessions taught by experts in everything from installation to design trends and from sustainability to social media marketing. 

In the Tile of Spain booth, Ryan Fasan gave an interesting presentation comparing design trends in user interface graphics for Internet sites and apps with design trends in ceramic tile, making the point that there are macro design trends at work in the world. 

Fasan showed how current trends in colors, patterns and scale found in technology graphics translate to ceramic tile as well. For example, texture lends depth to flat images on a screen. Texture has become more important in tile design in recent years from three dimensional wall tiles to embossing for more realistic wood grains. Like in computer graphics, an increasing amount of texture is created visually and cannot be felt on the tile itself.

Fasan also pointed out that computer graphics often imitate materials from the physical world, but imbue them with characteristics that cannot be found in the original material. This is one of the macro trends in tile as well, taking the image of a material like reclaimed brick or distressed concrete and artistically affecting it to create something new. 

A presentation by Ceramics of Italy highlighted several ceramics trends exemplified by Italian manufacturers. Included were: fragmented patterns on square and rectangle tiles that create a mosaic or kaleidoscope effect; linear designs created with lines of different thicknesses, whether vertical or horizontal and parallel or intersecting; art-inspired tiles designed by a famous artist or mimicking an artistic style; soft looks brought to tile through soft colors or through texture like in distressed materials or textile looks; and greyscale patterns in both cool and warm tones. 

Marble visuals are a mainstay in the tile market, but are especially popular right now since they sport two of the most popular design colors, grey and white. The desk in the Crossville booth was covered in Statuario, a rich new grey and creamy white marble look in the I Naturali Laminam thin tile collection with large-scale veining that can be bookmatched. A second addition, Calacatta, offers a warmer grey against a cream background for a somewhat softer look. Both introductions will be available in June. 

Crossville also debuted Satori at the show. The large porcelain Laminam panels come in mottled black, brown and beige, and each offers a very different aesthetic. The brown is especially interesting with its blend of copper, brown and charcoal tones that loosely resembles aged metal.

Both the Satori and I Naturali collections are 5.6mm thick in 1m x 1m and 1m x 3m sizes, and can be used for floors, walls and countertops.

Pretty much every manufacturer offers wood looks, and Marazzi was no exception, featuring on its booth floor a unique product called Cathedral Heights, named for the images that originated from scans of old wood beams and church doors from Europe. Made of color-body porcelain, the authentic reclaimed visuals include sawcut marks and hewn graining. The planks come in 9”x36” and 6”x36” in colors named Purity, Tranquility, Divinity and Nobility, ranging from cream and grey to medium brown. 

On the Ragno floor, a more monochromatic wood look called Woodplace surrounded Bistrot, a marble look with greys and golds against a white background. The combination was striking, with the wood visual playing off the gold tones in the marble. Woodplace comes in five contemporary wood looks, and Bistrot in five realistic marble looks.

Outdoor spaces have become immensely popular, and although 2cm porcelain pavers are already common in Italy, Del Conca is one of only two manufacturers producing them domestically. The pavers can be placed on a raised pedestal system, laid in grass, sand or gravel and even used for driveways. Del Conca produces 60 paver designs in Italy and now manufactures a stone look and a slate look in the U.S. El Dorado, a warm slate design from Italy that is popular in the American market, covered the booth floor. 

Hybrid looks that blend visuals from disparate materials were common at the show. Del Conca’s Allegria offers a soft look that blends wood and concrete. Knots and subtle wood grain run through a pocked concrete surface textured with trowel marks. The tiles come in the common 12”x24” but also a long 8”x40” plank and a parallelogram shape for making patterns, such as the hugely popular chevrons and herringbones. 

The textile look is resurfacing in the tile industry, and Faroe garnered the most attention in Florim’s booth. The fabric look resembles denim with a slight bleaching effect, especially in the blue tones, but looks more like linen in the neutrals. The tiles appear highly textured, but the surface is surprisingly smooth to the touch. The palette includes six colors, mainly blues and greys. The tiles come in new 16”x32” and 5-1/8”x32” sizes, which were an instant hit with installers, who often report that 36” tiles are too difficult for one person to install. 

Florim also produces 2cm pavers, and it added a new 12”x24” format to its existing 24”x24”, available in 11 colors, as well as a new pool coping. 

The brick look is hot this year, and MS International recently won a Houzz award for the most pinned room scene, featuring its porcelain brick from the Capella collection. At Coverings, MSI added to the collection with a new painted brick look in white. The tiles are highly textured with uneven edges to realistically mimic brick, and when installed with wide grout lines, would be difficult to discern from the real thing. The tiles can be installed inside or out on floors or walls, and the elongated 2-1/3”x10” format adds interest. 

MSI has developed several displays that combine coordinating tiles and incorporate room scenes. The new sales tools will make it easier to show consumers how various wood, brick and cotto looks can be mixed and matched throughout a home or to help them visualize a particular tile in a room. 

Metal visuals, especially in aged or distressed finishes, are another long standing trend in tile. Cladding the StonePeak booth, Blende offers a contemporary spin on rustic metal. Each of the four colors comes in a flat finish and a textured finish, completely changing the effect of the visual. The porcelain tiles are available in sizes up to 24”x48” and include trims and mosaics. 

Looks with shine are certainly trending, whether a deep overall polish, a semi-polish, often called lapatto, or a subtle sheen that hits the highlights of a textured tile for added depth. A particularly strong trend includes stone looks offered in both matte and polished finishes that can be used separately or mixed for large-scale patterning. On StonePeak’s floor, Zebrino gleamed in a high polish. The striated stone collection launched last year in a honed finish, and this year has been expanded to include a high polished look. 

Water hues are trending in tile and were prevalent at Coverings. At the front corner of its booth, Florida Tile featured Span, which mimics Belgian bluestone with shell and fossil inclusions. The blue grey option, called Baltic, was particularly attractive, and ties into the trending blue hues. The inkjet images are sharp and varied, making the inclusions look impressively authentic. 

Span has an antimicrobial protection, called Microban, incorporated into the tile surface, making it a good fit for commercial spaces where hygiene is important. The rectified tiles meet the DCOF AcuTest for wet areas. The tiles are also Greenguard certified and contain 40% recycled material. 

A core concept for the first launch of Atlas Concorde USA focuses on the trend of distressed materials. The wood look Redeem features a reclaimed visual inspired by the floor of a New York architect’s studio. Atlas Concorde USA took real wood planks and distressed them to replicate the look of the original floor and then scanned photos to create the graphics for the tiles. The pressed porcelain comes in 8”x40” planks in four colors with two coordinating mosaics. In total, Atlas Concorde USA launched a catalog of nine collections, made up of six brand new products and three successful lines adopted from a sister Atlas Concorde brand.

Landmark grouped its large array of offerings into categories with looks of stone, wood, precious (high end marbles), contemporary, brick, and Frontier20, which is its 2cm line. The Frontier20 line offers nine looks with a variety of visuals, including slate, limestone and quartz that coordinate with its other collections. This allows the same visual to flow seamlessly from traditional tile inside to pavers outside, which will likely be an attractive feature to designers, especially in warmer climates where interior spaces open directly onto patios or terraces. 

Wonder Porcelain debuted collections ranging from minimalist concrete looks to traditional marbles. Orvieto features a Palissandro marble look, that might be mistaken for a fusion between wood and marble, but a wood grain effect is inherent to the natural marble. Carrington Stone is a French limestone look with dappled veining and light colors for a soft weathered look. And Fabric Folio offers a realistic natural linen look with slight distressing.

Copyright 2016 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Interface, Florim USA, Coverings, CERAMICS OF ITALY, Marazzi USA, The International Surface Event (TISE), Crossville, Stonepeak Ceramics, Mohawk Industries