Neocon 2007 - July 2007


By Maurie Welsh O'Neill, Darius Helm and Kemp Harr

After some lackluster years in the early 2000s, the commercial market came roaring back in 2005, and nowhere has the energy of that market been more evident than at NeoCon 2006 and 2007. This year’s crowds were even bigger than last year’s record crowds. 

NeoCon has always been an accurate barometer of the strength of the commercial market, and it’s very evident that most commercial sectors—particularly corporate—remain very strong, and are likely to be strong well into next year, in spite of the doldrums in the housing market, which now seem deeper than anyone expected a few months ago.

Floorcovering manufacturers really took the spotlight at this year’s show, walking off with a record 13 Best of NeoCon awards. The number of awards garnered this year is a clear indication of the creative vibrancy of the commercial floorcovering business, which continues to outdo itself year after year.

Commercial flooring manufacturers, particularly in the carpet industry, have always been leaders in green innovation, and this year was no different. There were, in fact, many notable green intros, including the first commercial process to dissolve nylon 6,6 and return it to new fiber. Nylon 6,6 accounts for a significant portion of the fiber used in the commercial carpet industry, so a commercially viable process for recycling it is a huge step toward keeping more carpet out of landfills. That innovation was first used in InterfaceFlor’s new carpet tile line, ReEntropy. Many carpet tile backing and vinyl tile manufacturers are also moving to non-PVC products. The recycled content in both carpet and vinyl has also gone up dramatically. The use of simulated samples has also kept a lot of carpet out of landfills in the past few years, and that trend keeps growing as the Chattanooga firm Tricycle continues to give manufacturers more creative ways to show designers what a product will look like without providing them with a hard sample.

Most promising on the green front, though, is the dramatic increase in carpet reclamation centers around the country. If the industry is going to be truly green, it has to be able to collect old carpet, vinyl and rubber floors and bring them back to central collection points to either turn them back into new products or into other products. That’s been the primary drawback to reducing the industry’s environmental footprint to date. Now, though, we can envision a day in the not too distant future when no carpet goes into landfills. (We’ll have a complete rundown of the industry’s environmental efforts in the August/September issue.)

Carpet tile continues to grow in popularity, and now accounts for a third of all soft surface products on the market. That trend continued in dramatic fashion at NeoCon 07. Today, all but a handful of carpet manufacturers are marketing carpet tiles, and some broadloom specialists like Bentley Prince Street and Masland showed impressive spreads of modular products at this market.


TRENDS AT THE SHOW 

IN GENERAL

1. More exhibitors opened up their showroom spaces; this year, many previously dark interiors basked in the natural light pouring through the tall windows that line the towering walls of Chicago's Merchandise Mart.

2. Stripes, which have been dominant in carpet for a few years, are now coming into both resilient and hard surface products.

3. Brights continue to be important for both hard and soft surfaces, particularly as accents. But they're moving more into field colors and have become a key element of the trendiest palettes.

4. Metallics continue to be important: as accents in carpet, field colors in resilient, as patinas in wood looks.

5.Solid color stains in woods and wood looks, especially black and brown/black.

6. Designs based on blown up digitized processes that take on new aesthetics: pixelized allover geometric patterns that create interesting layered and chiascuro effects; oversized familiar patterns that turn decorative and exotic when translated to grand scale.

IN YARN STYLING
1. Antron's new FiberEffects, a hot collection of three styling yarns that create fabulous metallic (Glimmer), silk (Soie) and wooly (Merino) accents which give carpets unique texturing.

2. Bentley Prince Street was the first mill to unveil products (Building Eutopia and Seeking Nirvana) made with Antron Primers, Invista's newest (fourth) addition to its fabulous library of styling yarns, Fiber Effects. Primers is a pigmented acid dyeable fiber which receives dye in unique ways that create fresh and original multicolorations.

3. In addition, Antron's StainResist technology (introduced three NeoCons ago) was applied, for the first time, to multicolored yarns, which were used in those Bentley Prince Street products.

IN CARPET
1. Super-random tip shearing over patterned loops, which creates dramatic, unexpected layering and movement across patterns.

2. Positive/negative designs were big this year--in both crisp organic and scissor sharp geometric motifs in multilevel pile heights.

3. Plusher, more upscale looks in multilevel pile and tip sheared loops.

4. Stripes and striated/linear designs continue to be reinterpreted in textured and multicolored looks. 

5. Rich darks, especially chocolates and charcoals. 

6. More drama in accents: brights with more interesting nuances, metallics, and mixed luster looks that give new personality to textures. 

7. More multimarket collections; many were more luxurious and more exciting than ever.

8. More sleek, low profile carpet tiles than ever.

IN RESILIENT

1. More pattern and texture in rubber tile.

2. More sophisticated looks from vinyl producers, targeted to corporate and higher education.

3. Luxury vinyl tiles are on a growth track.

4. Wood looks continue to command the biggest percentage of the vinyl market, and more producers are now making embossed in register products.

GREEN TRENDS

1. Word at the show was that the NSF-140 auditors are working on better ways of clarifying green standards specifically for flooring (including resilient), textiles and furniture.

2. InterfaceFlor's new nylon 6,6 dissolution process, which is the first commercial effort to recycle that fiber.

3. New carpet tile reclamation programs. 

4. More and more fibers, yarns and backings made with recycled content.

5. More non-PVC tiles by traditional vinyl producers.

6. More PVC-free carpet tile backings.

--Maurie O'Neill


Here’s a look at some of the highlights of NeoCon 2007.

THE PLAYERS

• Patcraft has grown dramatically in the past decade by giving commercial buyers good looking broadloom at very reasonable prices. A few years ago, the company introduced its first carpet tiles using the same value/style proposition, and its growth in that category has been even more dramatic. The company is expecting tile growth of more than 50% this year, driven by products like Zoom, one of the more interesting collections at the show. Zoom’s five large scale patterns represent a distinct step up in styling from previous smaller scale intros. These striking EcoSolution Q nylon patterns—In Tandem, Forma, Element, Ellipse and Contour—were inspired by the Bauhaus architecture of Berlin. They range from linear to geometric and organic designs that can be mixed and matched or coordinated with Linea, a more subdued ribbed loop pattern. They’ll definitely expand Patcraft’s reach to more specified projects.

The company also introduced a collection of broadloom carpet that was inspired by Bauhaus wallpaper patterns. The Archive has three patterns: Moderne (a medium scale geometric), Curator (a smaller scale rib) and Avant Garde (a larger scale curvilinear pattern). All are made with Shaw’s EcoSolution Q SD nylon.

• Innovative luxury vinyl tile producer Centiva featured Blockwood, a unique wood look with a butcher block configuration. Blockwood comes in a 36” tile in three colors—cocoa, caramel and auburn, with a realistic satin surface.

Most exciting in the Contour Collection: New bold, hot colors for the firm’s wood-stained planks include electric blue, forest green, mahogany red, butterscotch and burgundy. Planks come in three foot lengths in both 4” and 6” widths, and in striking four foot lengths just over 7” wide.

The firm also added new colors to its best selling Vintage Collection, including trendy warm chocolate tones to its popular Asphalt tiles and metallic finishes to its Vintage wood plank designs. 

• A&D favorite Johnsonite came to the show with a brand new space that looked more like a designer’s studio than a flooring exhibit. Work tables filled with conveniently small samples of the firm’s new, expanded offerings—since its acquisition by Tarkett last year—showed off the wide scope of floorcoverings now available to specifiers. A full spectrum of resilient and hard flooring products and accessories, including vinyl, linoleum, hardwood and, of course, rubber, is now organized under the popular Color Match palette which design director Sharon Folliard developed years ago. 

The firm also highlighted Circulinity, its newest patterned rubber tile collection, which was displayed in some of the firm’s boldest and most fashionable colors. Circulinity is an oversized tile line designed in the spirit of modular carpet, in five textured circle and rectangle patterns. Like carpet tile, the product can be mixed, matched and/or quarter turned. 

Also new: Melodia, a sheet vinyl for education and healthcare applications with a small scale tone on tone, quiet visual. Folliard and team are also working on a companion style (Aria) with higher contrast for corridors and common spaces. 

• Design leader Bentley Prince Street rolled out an extensive repertoire of new and innovative products—in both broadloom and some of the most luxurious carpet tile looks in the marketplace. 

The Saturnia collection, which won a Silver Best of NeoCon, has 16 striking patterns in crisp, highly decorative motifs—spanning from dramatic larger scale positive/negative florals and Asian foliates to smaller scale intricate grids and dabs. The patterns are so artfully executed that they look more like fine Euro-textiles, so it’s no surprise that master designer Jack Mishkin says the collection was inspired by mid-century Italian couture. Saturnia, which is a multimarket collection with an upscale ultra plush look, is offered in both broadloom and tile in 18 brilliant colors. 

Also exciting: Bentley Prince Street collaborated on two completely original and diverse multimarket collections with two hot new designers from the East and West Coast. New York designer and passionate environmentalist Joanne DePalma debuted Mystic Journey, a versatile seven pattern/seven color, lush tip sheared Antron loop in both earthy colors and fresh brights. L.A. artist Andre Miripolsky’s kicky Viva LA collection features three blown up pop linear motifs with great personality—multidirectional feet, arrows and a chain link/medallion combo—all in ultra bold colors. 

Not only were the designs fresh, but in many cases, the technology was new. On the green front, Bentley Prince Street unveiled the first designs in its revolutionary Hemp Collection, which blends nylon with that natural fiber for a unique, textural look which is luxuriously bulky and appears to be hand loomed. So far, there are five refined patterns for Hemp, including variegated stripes and delicate optical grids in a warm neutral palette. The firm is also now using High PerformancePC, made with mineral residue from post consumer recycled paper, as standard backing on all broadloom products. 

Just as revolutionary: Building Eutopia and Seeking Nirvana, a two style broadloom and carpet tile collection made with Antron Primers, a magical new pre-tinted, acid dyeable yarn process developed through a collaboration between Bentley Prince Street and Invista. The collection includes dramatic multicolored, textural striping and staggered linears in gorgeous color combos with unexpected glimmers (made with Invista’s Glimmer styling yarn) and brilliant color pops. The products—which are so special that the colors have a warm tea-stained glow that seems to reflect the light off the floor—are also treated with Antron’s StainResist technology (a first for multicolored piece dyed carpet). And yes, they also contain recycled content. 

Also new: Oceanic, an upscale 100% New Zealand wool in dense cut/loop and tip sheared stripes and near solid, pebbly loop coordinates with a rich, soft palette; and Functional Expression, a six pattern tile and broadloom Lumena SDN offering in medium and large scale loopy ovals, linear geometrics and random dabs for the institutional market. 

• Forbo made a splash and won a Best of NeoCon Silver with its edgy Marmoleum Dutch Designer collection. The program featured a photographic story of 12 Dutch artists and designers, each of whom created his/her individual colorations and designs in a chosen Marmoleum pattern. The resulting linoleum styles spanned from softly colored subtle looks—one artist chose a rubbed fresco surface in multigray tones and named it Dust—to brightly cast marbled looks.

Forbo also introduced a new pattern to its vast collection, Mineral, which has a stone-like textured effect, with a linear movement that changes with different colorations.

• At NeoCon 07, InterfaceFlor celebrated the 50th anniversary of the invention of the carpet tile by its European subsidiary Heuga back in 1957. Carpet tile has come a long way since then, thanks in large part to the innovative spirit of Interface, which helped transform the category from a homely, utilitarian niche product for the office market to a stylish and creatively flexible product that’s used in most commercial market sectors today.

This year, Interface introduced four new modular collections: Flatiron, Handloom, Yin-Yang and Bioscapes. Our favorite, Flatiron, is a collection of three very sleek, urban and low profile tile patterns that were inspired by the Flatiron Building in Manhattan. These 14 ounce tiles were made with Aquafil yarn. There are 24 colors ranging from kicky brights to neutrals in 1st Avenue, 12 colors in 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Yin-Yang is a much more complex collection of 16 larger scale patterns inspired by Asian textiles. The Handloom Collection, which won a NeoCon Editor’s Choice Award, has a very clean, woven look to its four patterns, which range from a complex tone on tone textured linear to a ribbed circle. 

One of the more exciting intros at the show was ReEntropy, the first product made with recycled nylon 6,6 yarn. As most designers know, one of the carpet industry’s great challenges in the past five years has been to develop a dissolution process that makes it possible to reclaim nylon 6,6 economically. The new process was developed in Italy by Sergio Dell’Orco and Frank J. Levy, co-owners of Post Consumer Carpet Processing Technologies LLC. Universal Fibers created five yarns with the process that can be used as accents in any carpet application. The first carpets made with the yarns will be introduced in the Fall under the name ReEntropy.

Interface says it should be able to divert 30 million pounds of carpet a year from landfills with this process.

• Tandus made a splash at this year’s NeoCon with its unique showroom, which featured a bare concrete floor and carpet displayed on raised plywood platforms as showcases for floor art. Displayed on the first platform was the Bas Relief Series, a line of woven Monterey brand broadloom. The Suzanne Tick creation took a NeoCon Gold for Broadloom. The line comes in two designs, Bas Relief Rib and Bas Relief Grid. 

The two designs are notable for their extra large twisted yarn bundles that rise from the surface of the carpet for a look so soft and plush that it doesn’t seem like carpet at all. Despite the extreme loop heights, the yarn twisting technique handles foot traffic and returns the carpet to its original shape. Low luster yarns combined with high luster recessed barberpole accent yarns enrich the whole design. Bas Relief can be installed as traditional broadloom or inset like a rug. An installation in the back of the showroom had a 10’x10’ piece of Bas Relief Rib surrounded by low loop carpet tile. It suggests a broad range of possibilities for defining spaces like a reading area in a library or a boutique setting in a department store.

That low loop tile around Bas Relief was Plexus Colour. It has such a low profile it seems like a sleek hard surface product when viewed alongside Bas Relief. 

Other low profile introductions include Linen, another Suzanne Tick creation with a monolithic design that has the sheen and texture of linen and a construction that perfectly hides the edges of the tile. The Overlay Collection added to the low profile introductions with a tailored, sophisticated look. Grid Overlay is a monolithic design, while Overlay Accent is striated with low key irregular accent stripes.

Also new tile at the show: Step Stripe, the latest addition to the Colouresce Collection. The random grid pattern, like Linen, masterfully conceals seaming, and the subtle striping also lends itself to quarter turning.

Bedlam and Turmoil, two of the latest Jhane Barnes designs, feature textured stripes in two different scales with an underlay of subtle organic shapes that add a fluidity and warmth to the designs. 

All the designs were tied together under the Inunison concept, which brings together the four Tandus product types—tufted broadloom, woven broadloom, carpet tile and six foot goods—and three brands—Monterey, C&A and Crossley. Inunison also brings together three core company concepts: technology, design and sustainability. The Inunison Virtual Sample Folder, which took the Gold NeoCon award for Design Tools, is another example of Tandus’ green initiatives, a program we’ll look at more closely next month.

• Milliken’s award winning showroom (see box) was a dynamic setting for the firm’s latest introductions, which included the next generation of Convergence products. Last year, Milliken debuted its new design philosophy, which marries the firm’s digital color placement technology with advanced tufting capabilities, in its Discovery and Foreign Intrigue collections. This year, Milliken offered Plan A, a collection of six designs.

Plan A’s Clockwork, which comes in 24 low key and nine bold colorways, is a small scale textured product with an understated contract look. Hip Pocket is tweedier, and it comes in mostly neutral tonal colorways. Pie has the most punch, with its circle motifs and tonal color bands. Go To, Cinch, and Open Shut are coordinates with mid sized plaid and small scale check designs.

Another interesting collection, Intervals, focuses on scale through bands of colors ranging in size and spacing. The collection includes Power Cord, with stripes of varying thicknesses, textures and luster levels, and Soundwave, a smaller scale design with narrow ribs running counter to the texture for a more woven look. Also interesting was Octavio, another small scale design that can be quarter turned. Fret Not is similar, but in a smaller scale. Beat for Beat and Measure for Measure are two plaid designs in different scales, and Note for Note also has a plaid pattern, but it’s overlaid with a line design reminiscent of pinwheels or spirographs.

Milliken also showcased Marco Polo, designed by Susan Fitzgerald. The line, in largely muted colorways and smoky, almost monochromatic looks, ranges from houndstooth designs to florals overlaid on small scale grids and a design that resembles a pair of wave patterns following each other along the width.

• Roppe’s latest intro, Dimensions, literally adds a new dimension to rubber floor tiles, featuring textured patterns that draw from the creativity of today’s carpet tiles. The three patterns in these 50 centimeter (20”) square tone on tone tiles—Stripe, Random and Crackle—were designed to be installed randomly. All of them come in Roppe’s complete color line.

Roppe also added five designs to its Pinnacle Plus wall base system, bringing the total to 15. The new designs include two 5” profiles of popular 4” designs and two thicker profiles with no toe base. The last addition is the most unique: a 5” profile engineered so it can fit over existing wall base that’s too difficult to easily remove.

• Patterned carpet specialist Burtco dramatically increased its styling capabilities when it bought two new pattern tufting machines late last year. The company introduced five medium scale classic loop styles and a dozen borders made on the CMC Infinity machine. All are ideal for hotel corridors. The company’s other new tufter, a cut/loop machine from Tuftech, expands the firm’s styling and pricing even further. Both machines can make patterned carpet much less expensively than the high end CYP loom, which accounts for a fair percentage of the firm’s hospitality business.

• About 70% of Amtico’s luxury vinyl tile line these days is wood look products, but the company still has a strong mix of the innovative styles that made it such a big hit with the design community nearly a decade ago. So far this year, though, the firm has introduced more stone and slate looks—a total of 11—than anything else. At NeoCon 07, the company featured three products: Fused Birch, a light grained style that comes in both tiles and planks; a great looking stained concrete in five rich, earthy colors; and Linear, a subtly striped tile that can either be quarter turned to create an interesting pattern or installed in a linear fashion for a more subtle look. Linear comes in six colors ranging from a light Chalk to much darker Mocha and Graphite. 

• Solutia came to this year’s show with a record number of Ultron products from Karastan Commercial, Bentley Prince Street, Invision, Mannington, Bolyu, Constantine, Fortune and Nood Floorcovering. Karastan alone showed more than 20 Ultron products.

Solutia’s exhibit this year gave showgoers an interesting visual demonstration of different levels of Prismatic, the firm’s unique cationic dye, which doesn’t change color in the dye bath. The floor was carpeted with three separate inserts, each of which had the same pattern and the same color combinations, but different luster levels. Designers could easily see what a difference the three luster levels—low, mid and bright—can make in the end product.

Also highlighted: Ultron Renew Natural Nylon. This staple yarn is made with a low melt nylon fiber that goes between yarn plies to fuse them together so loop pile carpets can be created. The nylon 6,6 yarn looks like wool and contains up to 50% post industrial recycled fiber.

The company also debuted its latest color forecast, the Ultron Field Guide—the 2008 Color Folio. Companies that want to see a presentation of the Guide can call (888) 858-7668 or go to www.ultron.com.

• The Mohawk Group’s broad range of introductions included two fine looking Karastan collections by New York designer Shashi Caan: Sensory and Undertones. Sensory, which took NeoCon Silver for Broadloom, includes Pure Anticipation, a thick tip sheared nylon and wool striped design separating laddered bars of recessed loops, for a crisp but warm look. It’s also edged on one side by a line of looped accent yarn for a dimensional pop. Other styles in the line are First Impulse, a tightly woven nylon design, and Self Indulgence, a heathered wool pattern. Sensory comes in eight colorways including a blackened gray, several mid range and pale earth tones, and a steely gray.

Shashi Caan’s next collection, Undertones, has a tight tailored look, with subtle, refined plaids in an ingenious range of colorways that are both rich and muted, like earthy reds and antique blues. The collection also includes Chroma, Karastan’s customizable Wilton. Of the two plaid designs, Contours has a looser look, with shifting widths of textured bands cut across colored stripes, while Complexions has a tighter linear look.

Karastan also won a Silver NeoCon Award for Design Tools for its Interactive Design. The LE 12 program, along with Durkan Commercial’s Folio 54 program, was developed with Tricycle. Interactive websites give designers constant access to a huge range of carpet patterns and colors. Simulated patterns, either of the design or the carpet in a room scene, can be ordered online and received in one to two days.

Mohawk Commercial, the company’s medium priced tufted and woven brand, introduced a modular program called Synergy, designed by Diana Horvat and Ken Wilson of Envision Design with an eye toward making it as green as possible. The collection featured four patterns made with ColorStrand nylon with 15% post industrial recycled material and Mohawk’s new Encycle PVC free backing. In designing the product, no samples were made until the final round, and the collection is sampled through Mohawk’s new Smart Books.

Synergy’s designs—Synthesis, Convergence, Fusion and Suspension—were inspired by raindrops, bar codes, peeling paint and wooden beams. The collection comes in nine earth toned colorways.

Another new Mohawk Commercial collection is Architectural Elements, a carpet tile and woven broadloom line with unique architectural interpretations in each design, ranging from impressions of stained glass to chiseled masonry. The line comes in ten tonal colorways.

The Milan La Scala collection, a follow up to last year’s Milan Square and Milan Plaza, is a woven broadloom program with sisal brocade and damask patterns in crisp relief. Milan Brocade and Milan Damask each come in 12 classic colorways.

Durkan Commercial, the firm’s high end tufted brand, came out with three lines of carpet tile and broadloom created in a collaboration between Durkan’s design professionals and junior designers at several design firms. The showcase collection was Glam Rock, three carpet tile designs inspired by trends in music. Atmospheric Loop is a curvilinear design of intersecting textured arcs, Electric Strings is a small scale fractured grid set along the diagonal, and Bassline Rift is a design of interlocking hexagons in a handful of contrasts, suggesting echoes.

Also new to Durkan Commercial: Techno, small scale textured organic patterns that blend Old World sophistication with imaginative contemporary design; and Infatuation, a collection based on shifting bands of color, suggesting movement and velocity.

Bigelow Commercial’s 24/7 is a collection of three carpet tile designs (and one broadloom): a grid, a curvilinear and a larger, irregular grid resembling a cityscape seen from above. The collection comes in 12 monochromatic and multicolored hues.

Mohawk also showcased its new Encycle PVC-free backing and its new SMART sample books that replace all but the big feeler swatch with SIM images, saving a quart of oil per book and reducing sample production by 63%.

• Invista Interiors came to NeoCon with the most Antron intros ever and two new top managers. Dan Stone is the new president and John Stowall is VP of marketing. Melissa Noebes was also recently brought on as marketing communications and brand manager. Bobbie Berrier remains vice president of the commercial business.

Sixteen mills introduced 205 Antron nylon styles at this market—a new high. The company also expanded its Lumena solution dyed color line from 87 colors to an eye popping 200 colors, and it introduced Yarn Effects, ready-to-tuft yarns which should make the manufacturers’ job much easier and reduce inventory at the mills. Another intro: Antron Primers nylon, which expands color possibilities for multicolor piece dyed carpets.

Invista also introduced its 2007 Color POV. This guide was developed in collaboration with design firms across the country. Copies are available at no cost by calling (877) 5ANTRON.

• Rubber and vinyl producer Flexco introduced four new Wood Elements Rubber Cove Base products that coordinate with the Wood Elements tiles introduced last year. This new 4” wall base comes in 120 foot rolls and 48” cuts.

Flexco also introduced its Distinct Designs Rubber Tile & Tread Program, which gives designers the flexibility to choose any color from four different color palettes, for a total of 77 color choices—a huge leap forward in color choice for the company. 

The program includes a heavy duty hammered texture tread with riser and the 27”x27” Diamond Landing Tile, which will also come in all 77 colors.

• J&J Industries celebrated its 50th anniversary with a newly done showroom, designed by Gensler of Chicago. The space—which was opened up to let in lots of natural light from the windows—commemorated a half century of carpet making with a mini-museum exhibit at the entrance showing off 50 years of J&J products on the floor and charming photos of the company’s history on the walls, along with a kicky display of distinctively designed items from the 1950s, like a vintage Bakelite handbag.

The showroom, which was divided into two studios—one for J&J and one for sister company Invision—featured a spread of new sleekly bound area rugs which the firm now customizes from its broadloom lines. (Rugs can be ordered on the firm’s website.)

Favorites at J&J include Shadows, a multilevel loop with five different pile heights and tip shearing that creates light and dark vertical strokes, in a neutral color line that best shows off the subtleties of that styling. Also exciting: Frequency, from the Good Vibrations collection, features a large scale chunky loop in dramatic ombre colorations in a striking pattern that looks like undulating sound waves. Static and Wavelength are two  multicolored chunky loop coordinates.

J&J also debuted Corporate Values Too, the next generation of broadloom and tile coordinates aimed at the corporate market. Problems Solved and Another Problem Solved are both bulky striated loop designs with tweedy, horizontal striations in a dark/midtone and a light/neutral  palette, respectively.

New at Invision: Hot Spots, a piece dyed broadloom with a dynamic staggered bar and floating circle motif, done on the Infinity tufting machine, in widths up to 12 feet. Stay tuned for coordinates. 

Also new: Eclectic, another piece dyed product with a textured multistripe and a light tip shear with metallic Antron Glimmer highlights in 17 colorways. Eclectic comes in both broadloom and tile. Rooftops, a carpet tile with a layered rectangle pattern, is made from solution dyed nylon.

• The energy was up at Lees, which introduced a spread of new and unique collections. Once again, the firm collaborated with BMW Group Designworks on two original collections, Progressions and The Spirit of the Place. Progressions is a tip sheared loop tile line in three bold linears (one style is all loop) and one pixelized multisquare design in a neutral field with bold, bright accents. Most exciting: The Spirit of the Place, designed by Johannes Lampela of that firm. Spirit is a bold collection of sleek positive/negative softened linears with a hand drawn look. Designs are based on the emotional impact and drama of the architecture in four Asian cities: Shanghai features dropping chains of small, shadowed circles, like the movement of beaded curtains; Kyoto and Tokyo are simple yet bold organic grid patterns, inspired by shoji screens; and Istanbul’s sweeping circular motifs echo the arches and domes of that great city.

Another favorite: Modern Organics, a plush, richly colored multimarket tile and broadloom collection. The products, which look like big swatches of textiles, come in four lightly tip sheared loop designs, three in emotionally charged handstroked linears, and one in a spotted small scale organic. Patterns can be mixed and matched for great drama on the floor. Also new: On the Surface, a tactile collection in tile and broadloom that includes a range of textures, from raw nubby silks to voluptuous tweed looks.

Lees also rolled out a new fun collection by designer Christopher Redfern Sottsass for its Neofloor line of printed nylon 6,6 vinyl backed floors. Standout styles include: small scale bubbles in a whimsical Newsprint design; and Bacteria, a playful print of even smaller scale organic clusters.

• Shaw Contract’s new Dressed To Kill (D2K) collection, a follow-up to the original 2002 collection, won NeoCon Gold for Modular. The broad ranging collection was developed in collaboration with KLG, a Dallas based product design studio which is part of the Lauck Group, the design firm that collaborated on the original collection.

The D2K program is divided into four categories: Lux Tile, Vivid Tile, Texture Tile and Plush Broadloom. The four basic designs—Bloom, Swirl, Float and Shadow—are available in all but Texture Tile, which features Tailored and Paparazzi, version 2. Bloom is an organic overlay pattern of stylized plants; Shadow depicts branches loosely running in the same direction; Float has the look of narrow leaves resting on water in irregular patterns. Swirl, a stylistic counterpoint, features ornate tailored swirls of varying scales and contrast levels.

The designs in Lux Tile have a crisp, contract look with more monochromatic colorways, while Vivid Tile features brighter colors with contrasting accent bands for a more dynamic, architectural look. Plush Broadloom offers the designs in their most expansive form.

Texture Study, which the firm describes as “an examination of the tactile and visual properties of couture fabrics,” derived from an almost academic observation of couture textiles from Paris and New York. The collection is divided into four categories: sleek tile, rough tile, sleek broadloom and rough broadloom. This study of contrasts is focused on design elements when the two contrasting styles are brought together.

The designs, showcased through low key, subtle colorways, include, on the “rough” side, Thread, a great looking broadloom style of thick meandering lines; Tweed, also a broadloom, though with a small scale woven look; Faux and Felted, both available as tile and broadloom; and Cloth and Cloth Shear, two heavily textured designs resembling heavy woven fabrics. 

On the “sleek” side, Exaggerated Weave and Flat Weave are two tile designs: Flat Weave is a low profile directional design of tight looped stripes, while Exaggerated Weave has bands of color running across the weave for more of a fabric look. Sleek broadloom styles include Coated, a directional design with a soft look; Structured, with a more textured, nubbier loop design; Sleek Rib, another low key directional loop design; and Cross Weave, a dynamic design with textures running both along width and length for a vivid woven look.

Shaw also announced that three of its products—EcoWorx Tile, EcoWorx performance broadloom, and Eco Solution Q branded nylon—had received Cradle to Cradle Silver Certification from McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, a third party consultancy. The certifications will contribute to LEED points as part of Innovation in Design credits.

• Azrock, one of Tarkett’s commercial resilient divisions, made a splash at the show with its Karim Kolors collection, which garnered a NeoCon Gold for Resilient Flooring. Azrock, which produces a range of commercial vinyl tile, including VCT, luxury vinyl tile and enhanced vinyl tile, worked with designer Karim Rashid for last year’s booth design. But this year’s collection marks a new level of collaboration between the firm and Rashid, a prominent designer of interior products.

Karim Colors, a collection of tiles made with Azrock’s SolidAir construction, is notable both for its ten stunning colors and its two original shapes, each of which can be installed in two ways to create entirely different designs on the floor. The ten saturated colors range from pinks and reds to deep lavendar, soft blue, warm brown, off white and lime green, and all the colors are speckled with other colors from the collection.

Azrock also introduced Added Dimensions, a new design tool that enables designers and flooring contractors to customize the tile size, texture, pattern and grout treatment in Azrock’s most popular homogeneous products. The firm also previewed CortinaStone, which comes in 12 colors and features vivid chips resembling colored flakes of sedimentary rock.

• Atlas, always a styling star at NeoCon, featured a broad range of large scale styles in its redesigned showroom, including the largest ever offering of solution dyed products. One solution dyed collection, Mediterranea II, featured some of the most creative designs at the show, including Athos, a fabric inspired design of softened cubes in a range of colors and multilevel loop textures. The collection also includes Corfu, a design of intersecting ovals defined by both texture and color, and Minorca, a tableau of soft casual squares hemming in a ring pattern.

Also new at the show: the Estilo Collection of three cut/loop designs. Most memorable was Image, a blocky construction with crisp and precise contrasts between high and low textures. Atlas also featured a line called Contempo with subdued, smaller scale, corporate looking designs for the more price sensitive side of the market.

• Luxury vinyl tile producer Halo brought a brilliant new collection with a brilliant new approach to specifying for the healthcare market. The Silk Screen collection comes in generously sized 24” tiles with a beautifully silky, fabric-like surface in fresh, updated colors—powdery blues, sage, pale gold, apricot and lavendar—colors that are fresh, but soft enough for healthcare; this could certainly be the beginning of a new healthcare palette. The collection comes with a kit of clear plastic overlays in a choice of several delicate patterns that can be printed on the new color backgrounds. So far, patterns include a dotted row motif, a graceful fern and a subtle random linear, called Cracked Ice.

Also new and original: Artistic Impressions—another fresh concept featuring giant scale patterns based on an artist’s hand painted rendering of wood graining. That collection will be introduced in September. 

• Crossville showcased three porcelain collections at the show, each one unique and cutting edge in its own way. Buenos Aires Mood, which won a NeoCon Silver for Hard Surface Flooring, features a subtle, natural stone design in three finishes: polished, unpolished and slip resistant. It can be used in a broad range of applications, including indoor/outdoor installations. The six colors range from cream and camel to chocolate and, most sumptuous of all, a gold and red wash against a black field—that one’s called Tango.

Another eye catching collection from Crossville was The Robert A.M. Stern Building Blox Collection. (Robert A.M. Stern Design has also collaborated with Bentley Prince Street, David Edward furniture and wall coverings by Innovations.) Designs include: Urban Fabric, a modern motif of stylized hatching; Greek Key, a series of classic Greek geometric scrolls; and City Garden, an organic design of leaf silhouettes. Together these designs represent a new direction in porcelain tile, celebrating the creative possibilities beyond stone looks.

Also worthy of mention, though it was introduced earlier in the year, is Color Blox Too, which like all the Color Blox designs focuses on porcelain for porcelain’s sake. The best of the bunch is Stripes, a pattern of tight, narrow striping that can be installed directionally, quarter turned, or in a pattern with other coordinating Color Blox tiles. The Color Blox series coordinates with Bentley Prince Street broadloom.

• Mirage Floors focused on its Mirage Lock oak and maple click flooring, a hybrid design with a high density fiberboard core sandwiched by an aspen ply on the bottom and either oak or maple for the top veneer. The firm engineers the product at its facility in St. Georges, Quebec.

Mirage also showcased its Nanolinx high performance wood flooring finish with enhanced wear resistance, added UV protection to inhibit sunlight damage, and greater transparency for increased clarity of the wood grain.

• Beaulieu’s showroom, designed by the firm’s own Cathy Mansour, displayed the firm’s offerings on elegant hanging pillars. Combined with other interior elements like glowing tables with massive fluted lighting cones rising from their centers, the overall futuristic effect created a special ambience in the space.

Many of the products were equally riveting. Among the best: Glitz and Glamour, two Bolyu brand carpet tiles, one with a random speckled design (Glitz), the other (Glamour) narrowly striped. The metallic accent yarns, including a fantastic lime green, added pop to the products. 

Also notable was Mystic, a Cambridge carpet tile featuring 100% post industrial recycled content nylon for a multicolored, subtly striped design. Connex, a high end Bolyu broadloom, featured a striped tip shear and loop design with subtle colored bands running along the warp and weft. Sideways, another Bolyu broadloom, had solid bands of varying thicknesses running across the width of the product.

Bolyu’s Dhurrie Remix enhances the original striped design with multicolored stripes and metallic highlights, while Sierra, a Cambridge Broadloom, is more low key, with nubby textured loops creating a soft directional design.

• Mannington Commercial came to NeoCon with a fresh new look for both its products and its space, which was designed by industry marketer Bill Grant. Hip, neoclassical retro crystal chandeliers and chunky yet elegant studio tables provided a trendy setting for the firm’s Get Floored Collection, a group of three large scale organic carpet tile patterns inspired by the 1960s and designed by stylist Peggie McGee’s team. The plush, dramatically colored tip sheared loop designs—Tie-Dye, a grand, impressionistic motif, subtly suggestive of an historic floral; Paint, a vibrant brushstroke pattern with random shearing; and Lava Lamp, a bold linear with bubbles—are both playful and luxurious.

Also new: Textural Reflections, a three coordinate broadloom and tile collection of two multilayered, staggered linear grids with random tip shearing and plenty of movement (Echo and Rhythm), along with Gradia, a small scale, near solid loop, all designed by Robert Cox, director of design at HOK in Washington, D.C. 

Both collections are backed with Mannington’s UltraBac RE and Infinity RE backings, which contain post consumer recycled content. Infinity RE, the firm’s most recent and most impressive green project, also contains post consumer drywall—a first for the industry.

Favorite resilient intros include two trendy designs in the firm’s Nature’s Paths luxury vinyl tile collection: Parallels, an 18” textured linear, grooved with metallic accents that create the feel of a random striped modular tile (in five colors); and Fresco, a scratched and pitted design with a powdery surface like distressed plaster (in six colors).

Also exciting: A sleek black hardwood plank (in both 3” and 5” widths) was added to the Prestige collection of elegant and high performing engineered woods. 

• In the last few years, Blue Ridge has been moving upmarket in styling, and this year was no exception. Most impressive was Morphique, a luxurious, large scale decorative Asian floral/medallion design with multiple pile heights and unexpected tip shearing, which creates great depth and visual duplicity. Morphique, the focal piece in the Artful Endeavors broadloom collection—which was designed by industry talent Sue Ross—has two coordinates, Metaphor, a plush linear foliate, and Parallels, a fragmented linear, both of which also have an Asian feel.

Also interesting: The Camaraderie collection of five patterns with a tightly woven look. Styles include random tip sheared grids, wavy horizontals, broken striping and textural knitted looks, two of which (Marathon and Wavelength) are accented with new Invista styling yarns, Soie and Merino. The accent yarns are made by wrapping a silky end around Merino, which creates a random curly, hairy texture like handwoven grass or straw.

New on the tile side: Texture Play and Double Weave, companion carpet tile styles inspired by 1920s textile artist Annie Albers. They feature staggered blocks and circles with a retro Art Deco spirit in an all loop SDN Lumena. Patterns can stand alone or be mixed and matched.

Most exciting in tile: Color Blocks, a fun, multicolored stripe and staggered band design, with plenty of movement and surprise color; each tile is a bit different from the next. That’s because the product is made from the firm’s inhouse production waste, which is processed into EcoCentric R3 yarn (reduce/reuse/recycle). Color Blocks is a multimarket product, especially for corporate and education applications.

• The Japanese vinyl manufacturer Toli consistently creates some of the planet’s more interesting vinyl products, and this year is no different. The prosaically named Landing Sheet MT was originally designed to be used at the foot of a stairway, but the brightly colored floor has gotten a lot of interest from hospitals, particularly for childrens’ wards, and for use in food service and other areas where slip resistance is important. The uniqueness of this product is in its textured surface, a surface that’s dotted with nubs of vinyl that are very easy on the feet.

Toli, by the way, also makes some of the best looking wood profile vinyl tiles on the market. The latest are Lightwood RE (the RE is for Register Embossed), the Farmhouse Collection of three weathered wood patterns, and Fisherman’s Wharf, a collection of five patterns reminiscent of the wood you might see on a boat dock. Superb.

 Alloc is one of just two laminate producers with products made specifically for the commercial market. The company added four new faux stone products at NeoCon 07—Ironite Slate, Vermont Slate, Sierra Marble and Mocha Marble—bringing its commercial line to 60 styles in three different categories: Commercial, Alloc Original and Alloc Domestic. Twenty five of those 60 styles are heavy Commercial, all of which have 10 year warranties, high pressure cores, aluminum locking systems and attached underlayments.

The commercial market currently accounts for 10% of Alloc’s total product line, but the company expects big growth from that sector. In anticipation of that growth, the firm added two salespeople this year.

• Ceramic Tiles of Italy returned to Chicago with product from 13 Italian producers. Five of them—Florim, Emil America/Ergon, Lea North America. American Marazzi and Laminam—have their own U.S. subsidiaries. Century Tile showed product from Saucis, Gardena Orchedia and Imola, while Cerim, Colli, Floor Gres, Rondine and Trend were represented by Stone Source. Favorite products were two stone look tiles from Florim: Ecotech, a fabulously realistic granite, and Settecento Pietraviva, a grey quartz with subtle gold tints.

• Tricycle, the environmentally forward design firm that has revolutionized the way commercial carpet companies provide samples to design firms, has decided to merchandise its digital product simulation technology under a new brand name: Tryk. The folks at Tricycle say Tryk is more than an alternative to a real sample. It stands for the whole transactional experience with the design firm. The promise behind the new brand is more than the green message of using less material; it also stands for speed, accuracy and flexibility.

Visitors to Tricycle’s space at NeoCon saw a collection of testimonial letters from designers, many of whom made their final flooring decision based on the ease of using Tricycle’s unique sustainable sampling process.

• Ceres, which focuses on green products, introduced two PVC-free vinyl substitutes—Wels Sheet and Sequoia. The former is a marble look floor that comes in 12 mostly subtle color combinations. Sequoia is a collection of wood look planks in 12 species ranging from Smoked Ash to French Walnut. The backing is made with 50% recycled material.

• Last year, Mallard Contract introduced its first modular products. This year the firm came out with a major collection inspired by 21st century technologies. The striking collection includes designs like Current, GPS, CPU, Broadband, Friction and Lucent, each with stylized interpretations of high tech elements like circuit boards, energy pulses, data grids and urban layouts. The skein dyed collection is available in ten colorways. Some of the broadloom offerings, like Quark and DNA, also were based on technology and science. 

In sharp contrast to those lines was a broadloom grouping called The Naturals, which included Dappled, a pattern of softened squares resembling farmlands seen from 20,000 feet, and River Rock, a convincing depiction of rocks seen through water. Naturals comes in 17 piece dyed colorways.

• If you’re searching for a mosaic look with the properties of a rubber floor, look no further than Burke Flooring’s new SofCeramic. These 18” rubber tiles look like ceramic tiles with narrow grout lines. They’re available in 12 solid base colors, contain 10% post consumer recycled content and are backed with a five year wear warranty. One of the nicest things about this product is that its natural waxes continually migrate to the surface, eliminating the need for wax or other surface coatings.

• Constantine, well known for creative styling, introduced two very unique products at this NeoCon. The firm’s frame technology was introduced on a tweeded solid called Foundation. The border of each carpet tile is sheared approximately 11/2” around the edges, so when it’s quarter turned, designers can create all types of variations in both texture and color. If designers want to create random parallel lines across the room, they can choose tiles that are sheared on only one or two sides of the tile. The range of design options can be uniform, random or fall somewhere in between. Foundation is part of Constantine’s value priced CX collection, which is available in 24 colors.

The second noteworthy product and a winner of a NeoCon Innovation award was First String. The graphics in this vinyl product are unevenly spaced parallel lines which are created by embedding colorful carpet fibers within the translucent vinyl. The fiber used is end-of-run production scrap. First String comes in 6’ roll goods and 18” inch tiles and contains 15% post-industrial recycled vinyl. This resilient product follows in the footsteps of Sustillian, which won a gold award last year.

• It was obvious that Paul Young and his design team at Designweave have been very busy in the past year. Historically known as the tenant improvement brand in Shaw’s commercial carpet arsenal, this year’s new Touch collection of 24” modular tiles is much edgier than intros in past years. In creating this line, Designweave drew on its California heritage and combined that with a study of handmade textile textures. The end result is four collections and 16 products. Each collection has a varying scale, detail and clarity with the feel of handmade textiles. All four collections—Blanket, Needlework, WhatKnot and Tights—are made of Shaw’s cradle to cradle recycled and recyclable Eco Solution Q fiber and EcoWorx backing.

• Fortune Contract introduced a lush but tailored broadloom called Pie in the Sky, made out of narrow loop and tip sheared stripes in tonal colorways using Solutia Ultron nylon. It comes in 12 standard colorways that coordinate with three existing products—Universe, Space Guy and Drive—though it can also be custom colored for 100 yard minimums.

Also new: the Acadia collection, featuring Natiq Envirowork 30, Nylene’s fully recyclable nylon 6 fiber that’s made of 30% recycled content. Acadia Texture is a 46 ounce solid color tip sheared product and Acadia Stripe is a cut uncut striped pattern with an elegant graceful look.

Fortune Contract’s Yards to Miles design competition award went to the project team of Indianapolis based Axis Architecture + Interiors. The winning team included principal Drew White, John Albrecht and Nikki Sutton, for the design of the corporate headquarters of Exact Target, a software firm. The carpet used was Stripe Tease. 

• Armstrong’s extensive linoleum line got a new coating at the show. NaturCote, an easy to apply maintenance coat that increases scratch resistance, bonds to the floor’s surface, protecting it from the yellowing effect of high pH cleaning solutions. Armstrong also introduced a new commercial seam adhesive, S-760/S-761, for an enhanced monolithic appearance and superior seam integrity. According to the firm, it also speeds up installation.

Armstrong also introduced a line of acrylic impregnated engineered commercial hardwood called Premier Performance Hardwood. The acrylic impregnated top ply maintains the clarity of the grain, a quality impregnated woods have lacked in the past. Premier Performance Hardwood comes in a range of North American species including maple, oak, birch, hickory, walnut and cherry. The firm’s full range of commercial hardwood includes exotic species, distressed and hand scraped products, and Armstrong Locking Hardwood, which features a click system.

• PacifiCrest’s Ambiente II HRC (High Recycled Content) series builds on the success of last year’s Ambiente introduction with six new designs: Palermo, Novara, Asti, Pescara, Catania and Sassari. The products are made with Antron Legacy’s high recycled content nylon fiber. The nylon is certified as an Environmentally Preferable Product by Scientific Certification Systems, and has a recycled content of at least 90%. Ambiente II HRC is also available with Universal Textile Technologies’ E-Lok Bio-Bak, which is largely made up of recycled material and bio-based polymers.

Ambiente II HRC is a geometric collection, with designs ranging from the more low key, diagonally striped Palermo, in a loop and tip sheared construction, to Catania, a large scale square design framing a pattern that resembles pressed ferns or a line of trees mirrored in a lake reflection. Novara, which contains elements from every design, including grids, textured stripes, blocks and squares, wavy contour lines and circles arranged in grids, has the look of an urban landscape blueprint.

• LG Floors, the South Korean vinyl producer, hit the show with a vivid line of vinyl tile and sheet goods with in register embossing and a vinyl print layer that resembled high resolution photography. Most memorable was Naturelife Rustic, a sheet vinyl with a distressed wood design that was a near perfect replication of the real thing. 

LG has been selling its branded vinyl in the U.S. for four years now, but it wasn’t until last year that the firm created an integrated sales and marketing office, located in New Jersey. With the company now firmly established in North America, domestic vinyl producers will have to contend with LG’s progressive green story. The firm’s vinyl products all include both post industrial and post consumer recycled content, the result of a well established reclamation program LG Floors operates in Asia.

• Lonseal, the sheet vinyl flooring company that brought us the memorable textured Lonbead two years ago, launched another eye-catching product called Lonzebra. Lonzebra exaggerates the contrasts found in wood grain flooring for a graphic effect that closely resembles zebra skin.  Designers can chose from ten exotic colors, which coordinate with many of Lonseal’s other commercial vinyl products. Lonzebra has a Class B fire rating which makes it suitable for vertical surfaces as well as floors. This 20% post industrial recycled content product comes in 6’ wide sheets and at a 68 mil. thickness; it’s pliable enough to be used on curved walls.

• Canada’s Kraus Floors debuted its Modular Collection. The City Life series of affordable modular carpet tiles includes a random design called Work, which features short blocky stripes; Play, an overall design of multidirectional textured loop; and Relax, an irregular curvilinear pattern. The collection is made with the firm’s proprietary Ultrelle solution dyed nylon and a PVC back with 30% post industrial recycled content.

Kraus’s environmental focus is reflected both in its products made with Nylene’s Natiq Envirowork nylon 6 fiber, as well as in its new Mid Century line of broadloom using Ultrelle Indelible nylon with 30% post industrial recycled content, 15% post consumer content in the backing, and lifetime stain protection. The Mid Century line includes Leading Edge, a multilevel loop design with a midscale randomized texture that almost seems to glow. Cutting Edge is a more subtle small scale design with tip shearing, and Modern Edge features a fractured linear geometry.

• When visitors stepped into EcoSurfaces’ space at NeoCon, they seemingly traveled thousands of miles to a tropical island retreat complete with casual surfer friends and colorful surroundings. Still riding the wave from the introduction of EcoSand last year, the big news this year with this fun-loving producer of recycled rubber flooring is the complete overhaul of its color lines, which are designed to coordinate with other flooring surfaces like carpet, stone and wood.  

EcoSurfaces is one of the largest recyclers of scrap rubber tires in North America. All of its products can help contribute up to seven points toward LEED certification. Its colorful commercial rubber flooring is widely used in corporate break rooms, healthcare facilities, retail stores, schools and museums.

• Trendy woven vinyl producer Chilewich highlighted Wood Grain, a super scale wood grain motif that’s been blown up so much that it’s transformed into a decorative, organic pattern with moiré movement. The line comes in gray, two tans and a light beige and is equally unique as floor tiles, wallcoverings and upholstery. 

Copyright 2007 Floor Focus


Related Topics:Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Crossville, The Dixie Group, Mirage Floors, Tarkett, Marazzi USA, Beaulieu International Group, Fuse Alliance, Roppe, Mohawk Industries, Armstrong Flooring, Coverings, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Fuse, LG Hausys, Florim USA, Mannington Mills, Interface, Karastan