Neocon 2010 - July 2010

By Darius Helm, Anne Harr, Fank O'Neill & Maurie Welsh O'Neill

The mood at this year’s NeoCon was distinct from the wary, cautious 
atmosphere at NeoCon 2009, when the market was still in freefall. This year’s show was not about hanging on and hoping for the best but about looking forward and taking action to capture the budding business as it comes back to life.

Traffic at the show may not have been much different from last year, business may be flat or even down, but there is a growing awareness that the tide is turning. It’s nothing dramatic, maybe a handful of A&D firms hiring back some designers, maybe a project or two on hold for the last couple of years finally getting financing and the wheels starting to turn, but it’s starting to look like the engine of the commercial market has shifted back into gear, the pace is beginning to build, and a new mood is taking hold.

Colors at this year’s NeoCon were still fairly dry and conservative, but here and there bold designs were on display. NeoCon is first and foremost a display of human ingenuity, and this year that innovative spirit seemed guided by the principle of looking around with fresh eyes—like new formats for existing products, new color groupings, carpet tiles going rectangular. There’s an efficiency to the process that bears a resemblance to environmental principles. It’s about looking at what you have and seeing how you can adapt it, repurpose it, revitalize it—how you can make the most out of it.

The green revolution appears to be alive and well in the commercial market. Huge breakthroughs in green fiber are sweeping through the flooring industry, captured waste streams are being funneled into new products, standards and certifications are being embraced. Progress through this recession suggests that sustainability has joined performance and design as a fundamental commercial floorcovering function.

The sustainability movement has been embraced by the resilient and hard surface side of the commercial flooring business, which means lots of legitimate advances along with more greenwashing, but with the carpet industry having already paved much of the way, growing pains on the hard surface side should be relatively short-lived.

The more robust commercial markets continue to be healthcare, education and government, but there were also plenty of products on display targeting the corporate and retail store planning sectors as well. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of the show.

• Mannington’s Gold award winning showroom was busy this year with exciting intros on both the hard and soft side of the market. Most exciting—in fact, it won a Silver Best of NeoCon award—was Earthly Elements, an extensive collection of eight colors, in both oak and hickory, of handsome high-performance engineered hardwood tiles. Stained colors range from pickled off-whites to dramatically grained warm cherry tones and deep chocolates that can be mixed and matched for all sorts of spaces and that really fill a void in the market. Tile formats come in 12” squares, 12”x24” rectangles and coordinating 6” planks.

Also new in hard surfaces: a very specifiable addition—coordinating planks and oversized 36” squares—to the firm’s edgy Create collection of luxury vinyl tile, which was designed by HOK. Create won a GOOD design award last year. The new planks come in 3”, 4-1/2” and 6” formats and should be a great complement to the original collection, a linear textural that evokes retro wood flooring with a faded painterly finish.

Favorites on the carpet side: the Sylvan Collection of two large scale dramatic graphic linears with a hand drawn look, complemented by a smaller scale wiry linear. The products, designed by Hendrick, Inc., convey both a natural and an architectural spirit, especially the large scale branch-like linears where the pattern is placed horizontally so it sweeps across the floor in rich, natural color combos—including steely charcoals and chocolates. Sylvan is available in both modular and broadloom.

Mannington won yet another Best of NeoCon award this year—the Silver for Software Technologies—for Choices that Work, a mobile app from Azul Arc. It’s the industry’s first mobile application for easy ordering of all the firm’s products. The application, which works on iPhone, Android and Blackberry, should be a great tool for specifiers and end users. Scanning a bar code on the firm’s sample book brings up all coordinates across Mannington’s entire collection. Scanning the bar code on an individual product will order the sample and notify the appropriate rep. 

Two young designers were the top vote getters in the firm’s popular tx: Style Design Challenge contest: Rainfall by Laurel Harrison and Blue Matrix by Athena Abrol, both from LA. 

• Karndean’s new Opus collection took a Silver Best of NeoCon award in the Resilient category. The line features 12 wood looks and ten stone looks. The stone looks include a grey travertine design and a slate look that is reminiscent of the oxidized metal designs first introduced by the ceramic tile industry.

The firm also showcased Art Select, featuring the Oak Royale and Hand Crafted Wood lines, as well as Oak Premier. Hand Crafted has the roughest surface texture, while Oak Premier offers timeworn textures as well as some wire-brushed looks—all in 6”x36” planks. Oak Royale, with the smoothest surface finish, comes in 7”x48” planks.

Art Select is made up of 30 mil products, while Opus is 20 mil. The firm also offers 12 mil products.

New to the Da Vinci line is a range of wood and stone looks, including Santi Limestone, which offers all sorts of small scale detail, including fossilated patterns, that look convincingly authentic.

• Bentley Prince Street (BPS) introduced Hollywood Story, a tailored collection of piece-dyed carpet tile and broadloom inspired by the glamour of Old Hollywood. The gridwork design, reminiscent of a street map, is chock full of subtle effects, with solid and fractured lines in crisp loop construction across the width against irregularly spaced bands of color running up the length. The line comes in a range of earthy and cool neutrals, along with some deeper colors like navy.

The collection was displayed on the floor at the entrance to the showroom in new tile sizes including a 24”x24” format and an 18”x36” rectangle.

Also notable was the Astronomie Collection of carpet and luxury vinyl tile, the result of a design partnership with Parterre. The collection, created by interior designer Maurie O’Neill of O2 Strategies in collaboration with Bentley Prince Street, features 18 pairs of edgy coordinates composed of 18 carpet designs from BPS’ Saturnia and Satellite City lines linked to 15 luxury vinyl tile designs and three plank designs with wood looks. Saturnia is a richly colored, tip sheared collection with a classic pebbly look, using Antron Brilliance nylon 6,6, and Satellite City is a tufted textured loop with an architectural knitted look in a natural palette, using Antron Lumena solution dyed nylon 6,6. The carpet designs are available in broadloom or carpet tile.

The coordinating luxury vinyl tile and plank line is 100% recyclable and is available with the EnviroStix Adhesive system, an odorless, vapor-free system that has the added advantage of eliminating down time after installation. The tile designs include industrial looks like washed, leathery concrete, distressed metallic and stone looks, three textured wood planks, and an awesome weathered treadplate design with a halo effect around the treads.

One particularly cool product, on display in a rich blue across the floor separating the lobby from the rest of the showroom, was Domestic Alchemy, a sharp and glittery flatweave using Aquafil nylon, with textured lines running across the width against lines of color along the length. 

Bentley Prince Street also came out with a new collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern Architects called Modern Block, using Antron Lumena nylon 6,6. The broadloom and carpet tile line, available in 12 colorways inspired by natural materials like brick, limestone and sisal, features a dynamic pattern of shifting blocks in an offset rhythm.

• It was with obvious satisfaction that Franco Rossi welcomed us into Aquafil USA’s permanent showroom on the 11th floor of the Merchandise Mart—satisfaction stemming from pride that the business had grown to a level large enough to support a permanent showroom. The company has successfully grown its relationship with several key players, such as Milliken, Bentley Prince Street and InterfaceFlor, and a few up-and-coming mills like Montecello and Northwest. 

In addition to the customized service it offers its core customers, Aquafil has continued to build its color range with solution dyed nylon 6 to over 330 colors. Most of the yarn it sells here in the U.S. is produced in its Cartersville, Georgia plant. The company is also investing heavily in a process that will enable it to convert post-consumer nylon yarn back into its core chemical structure and then reformulate back into carpet fiber. Stay tuned for more information on this. Today, Aquafil does offer its Econyl yarn with up to 75% recycled content.

• Forbo commands over half of the global supply for linoleum flooring products, and since most of its sales go to the healthcare and education sectors, it has not been as affected by this economic downturn as many of the other resilient players. And now two years after buying Bonar floors, Forbo has expanded its ability to be a single source supplier for many of its clients’ projects. 

On display at NeoCon this year were six new colors in the Marmoleum Real line of linoleum sheet products, bringing the total color palette to 67 with looks that range from neutral to vivid. On the Marmoleum tile side, Forbo has expanded its thicker and larger format Dual Tile line (available in 13”x13” and 20”x20” formats) to 30 colors. In MCT, Forbo’s core linoleum tile product, they have added seven new colors, taking the total assortment to 25. As part of its display, Forbo continued to hammer home the sustainable message of linoleum as a natural product, which the firm claims has a longer usable life than standard VCT products. 

Forbo has also added seven new colors and six new patterns to its Flotex products—Flotex was part of the Bonar acquisition, and it used to be distributed in the U.S. by Mohawk. The Flotex product, which comes in sheet and tile formats, is a true hybrid resilient. It features a top layer of nylon 6,6 felt imbedded in a PVC sheet. Nursing homes and extended living facilities favor it because it gives the acoustical and comfort benefits of carpet but is easier to clean and the smoother finish is less of a trip hazard. Denis Darragh, general manager of North America and Asia Pacific, told us during our walk-through of Forbo’s space that, “Once a nursing home tries Flotex, they love it.” We have to admit that since Forbo has taken over the line from Bonar, its styling is much more attractive.

• USF Contract, the commercial division of US Floors, came to the show with a range of new colors for its cork and bamboo offering, along with a new high performance cork flooring and a line of oil finished oak planks. Bamboo Hues is a collection of 36 colors on natural or spice strand bamboo, as well as horizontal or vertical Corboo—the firm’s unique bamboo cork blend. Colors include vibrant and smoky blues, a soft airy red, a deep purple, clean and muddy yellows, and a range of earth tones. The firm also came out with Cork Colors, also in 36 options but in a more subdued palette, including some deep wood tones, a whitewashed look, and a handful of rich fashion colors.

The firm also showcased a range of engineered hardwood planks in 71/2” and 101/4” widths and lengths from 72” to 83”. The rustic line features oil finished oak ranging in color from a warm medium brown through the natural hues all the way to pale, almost painted looks. The collection, called Avignon, also features wire-brushed oaks. In addition, the entire line is fully FSC certified, top to bottom.

• For the ninth year in a row, Shaw Contract won a Best of NeoCon product award—this year’s silver award in the modular carpet category went to a collection called 18x36. While most carpet tiles are square, this new rectangular shape was developed to expand the boundaries of modular tile and give a wider range of installation options. Reesie Duncan and her design team had been noticing an evolution of scale in the workplace with the environment becoming more and more open with fewer walls. The team wanted to create a larger elongated scale within the workplace and thought that a rectangular format offered a more fluid look, especially when the floor plane runs into a wall. Not only is the shape novel for Shaw so is the way in which accent colors fade in and out in the two styles called Blur and Overlay. A third style in the collection is called Scale and it is a solid color rectangle using colors that match the accents in Blur and Overlay. Scale is available in ten different trend colors, most of which are trendy yet timeless.

A second new carpet collection called Social is available in both tile and broadloom formats. All three of the styles in this collection have a linear design both in color and in texture. One of the fun parts of this collection is the naming of the colorways based on character traits. A sign on the wall in Shaw’s space invited designers to come over and answer the question, “Who’s your shade?”

A third collection introduced at the show was called Shadows and it is targeted toward the healthcare market. This collection has three broadloom styles and three modular styles. It also features Shaw’s new cationic dyed nylon 6 yarn called Solution Q extreme. This yarn features a stain protection against acid based stains and it can be converted after its useful life back into new nylon fiber at Shaw’s Evergreen facility.

During our tour of Shaw’s space, we asked Duncan whether the current economy had affected the firm’s product design. Duncan said, “The economic situation has forced us to scale back the amount of material used in products as well as the number of new products we have developed. But several of our guests at this year’s show had active projects they were sourcing products for and order volume is picking up.”

Also new this year for Shaw Contract were architectural folders for its commercial hardwood products. On display were three binders that focus on color ranges—light, medium and dark. These products have an aluminum oxide finish that stands up to commercial levels of traffic. 

• Antron’s message to designers continues to be centered around extended life, wear performance and superior aesthetics. While the commercial carpet fiber brand does offer solution dyed products (called TruBlend, which won a Best of Neocon Gold award in the carpet fiber category) with over 20% recycled content and 5% bio-based ingredients, its primary differentiator is wear performance. 

When we sat down with Russell Pike, Invista’s global vice president for commercial and automotive surfaces, who has been part of the company since the early 1990s and just relocated to the Atlanta area, he talked about recent research that “proved that Antron fiber lasted up to 75% longer than the majority of competitive carpets.” This research, according to Pike, used a walk test instead of the hexapod test and there is growing consensus that the walk test is a more reliable measure of true wear.

According to Pike, Antron continues to be the market leader in branded commercial carpet fiber but the market dynamics are more complicated since a few of its larger customers are also competitors.

• Until last year, CBC Flooring offered two brands to the U.S. market—Ceres PVC free flooring and Toli, which has been making luxury vinyl and sheet goods for the U.S. market for over 20 years. Last year, CBC added Indelval, an Argentinean rubber flooring producer, and the Salto brand, featuring Unica VCT. Two months ago, CBC acquired Halo Floors, the six year old luxury vinyl firm founded by Mary Docker, former CEO of Amtico U.S.A. The acquisition adds substantially to the firm’s luxury vinyl offering, which now comprises over 180 SKUs—36 wood looks, 42 stone looks and 104 dynamic designs categorized as “Something Different.”

CBC has also revamped its Toli Mature line of sheet flooring, adding to its mostly wood looks with 36 new colorways, including slate, linen and marble looks, along with exotic hardwood looks like wenge and zebrawood. The firm has also updated its Toli Lightwood luxury vinyl plank collection with new colors and textures in 19 SKUs.

As part of its green initiative, CBC has introduced EcoBox Packaging, a cardboard box and plastic bag liner to replace the use of pails for accessories like adhesives and sealers. The accessories designed for use with EcoBox include: CBC 5100 Recycled Limestone and Homogeneous Tile Adhesive, which features 20% post-consumer recycled content; CBC 5000 Premium Resilient Flooring Adhesive, which performs as both a wet-set and pressure sensitive adhesive; CBC 5600 Hurry Up! Concrete Moisture Sealer; and CBC 5700 Cover Up! Cutback and Adhesive Residue Encapsulator.

• Some flooring designers excel at making dramatic products that create a lot of attention at the markets and win awards. Others excel at making solid, respectable products that don’t get all the initial attention, but end up being consistent bestsellers. InterfaceFlor designer David Oakey is one of a handful who does both, and this year’s intros attest to that rare skill.

On the dramatic side is Memphis, one of the boldest collections we’ve seen in years. This collection, which won a Gold Best of NeoCon, was named for the Dylan song and inspired by the 1980s Memphis design movement, which ironically created a sensation in one of the last big recessions this country endured. When the bright, bold styles in this modular collection are all mixed together on the floor, they create a wildly colorful carnival atmosphere best suited to a hip restaurant or disco. But when each style is installed monolithically or with different colors of the same style, they can look subdued enough for an office environment.

On the opposite end of the style spectrum are the 1000, 2000 and 3000 Series of sophisticated but low key carpet tiles that are designed to work as a good, better, best system for open office areas (1000), public spaces (2000) and executive offices (3000). In keeping with InterfaceFlor’s focus on sustainability, not to mention keeping prices down, the highest weight in these tiles is 24 ounces—yet a new tufting process makes them look much plusher.

That new tufting process, by the way, was used to create the Axtile Too Collection of black, white and heathered black and white tiles. The process, which Interface calls the Tapestry Technology, uses individually controlled needles to create the intricate detail found in Axminster carpets. Interface is the only company so far that’s been able to translate the technology to tiles.

Another intro of note: Doodle, a very intricate and beautiful crossover from Memphis. It’s made with the Tapestry Technology; colors range from bold primaries to soft tone on tones. The bolds should do well in the primary education market, while the tone-on-tone whites could even make the crossover to the residential market.

Something new in technology seen at NeoCon 10: the use of Augmented Reality (AR) to create an interactive game at the InterfaceFlor showroom. AR uses computer-generated imagery to modify images on an iPhone, smartphone or other display system to give the viewer a unique way of looking at images. Keep your eyes on this one. We’re going to see a lot more of it in the future. 

• Most designers know Centiva for the mystical looking luxury vinyl tile products that it showcases on the floor of most of its tradeshow displays. While the company’s World Option collection pushes the design envelop with metallic and opalescent coloring, Centiva also sells a high volume of flooring in the more conservative wood and stone look products. This product strategy gives the company one of broadest ranges of flooring aesthetics in the LVT business. 

Last year, the company enlarged this range of products by introducing over 100 new styles. And another competitive advantage is most of its products are manufactured in Florence, Alabama—not overseas. This year, the company has continued to invest in custom cutting equipment and has augmented its service level by investing in new field support personnel. 

At the Hospitality Design show in May, Centiva won the Best of Show award in the resilient category for a product called Rays—a low maintenance product that offers a 20 year commercial wear warranty.

One of the key reasons, designers like to work with Centiva is its ability to map out and customize a floor that is unique to its client but is also affordable and has a sustainability message. Many of its products have recycled content and all are certified to comply with FloorScore’s air quality standards.

• Florida Tile has had a lot going on recently. Since its acquisition by the Italian Panaria group the firm has moved its headquarters from Florida to Kentucky, announced major management changes and completely rebranded its look and logo. Also new for the company was its presence for the first time as an exhibitor at Neocon, officially establishing its move into the commercial sector. The firm was exhibiting a wide variety of products showcasing its digital printing technology, featuring natural stone looks along with more contemporary metal and concrete designs. Florida Tile is in the process of completing new architectural kits geared towards the commercial market, along with launching a new website segmenting different market sectors. 

• B Carpet, formerly Burtco Enterprises, has been busy this past year rebranding its company under the management of vice president Elizabeth Moore. Her goal has been to give the company a fresh and updated look while not completely forgoing the original company brand name. B Carpet has a new line of solution dyed nylon carpet geared to the assisted living market. The color palette is basically split in two—one a modernized version geared to the younger decision maker and the other a more traditional color palette that appeals to a more mature audience. The line is run on a CYP machine but with a cut and loop for a more textured effect. B Carpet was also showcasing its Why Knot and Suits Me collections, which were officially launched this year at HD Expo. 

• Mohawk’s space had a fresh look and a new buzz, highlighting the firm’s new approach to the marketplace, “My Solution.” The program offers an easier, more efficient solution to designers and end users by integrating color lines and sales services across the many brands in Mohawk’s broad product repertoire.

The firm partnered with BMW Designworks USA to create a common palette and a shared design inspiration—inner city images—for Karastan, Lees and Bigelow.

Karastan featured three linear patterns—a brushed, a crackled and a staggered grid linear, all based on distressed concrete surfaces. Bigelow’s Urban Oz, based on soaring construction sites and city skyscrapers, is a handsome all-loop sketchy linear look in shaded stripes, very well-priced for a modular tile at under $20. Oz is made with the firm’s SDN Colorstrand fiber.

Favorites among the new collections include Lees Digital Infusion, three comfortably large scale random linears overlaid with floating, tip-sheared asymmetrical geometrics that are unexpectedly sumptuous in such a playful pattern. Data Stream, the most luxurious of the three, has an exciting random-spaced linear thread, which looks like it’s been sewn through the length of the carpet; it can be custom colored for over 300 yards. The collection, which was designed in-house by Lindsay Gentry, is made with the new 2E tufting technology, a machine that has the capacity for huge repeats and fine pattern detail.

Mohawk has come out with its first commercial line, Tuscany Fields, using Smartstrand triexta fiber from DuPont’s Sorona with 37% bio-based content, a fiber until now only used residentially. The piece-dyed collection comes in a rich palette of 18 colorways.

Also new: Merit Rooms’ On the Runway—winner of this year’s IIDA/HD Innovation Award—offers a spread of sophisticated large scale looks in cut/loop and tip-sheared constructions. Also from Merit, Ecosense and Ecosense Stripes, the first 26 ounce guestroom options, which the firm says have denser structures.

Durkan Hospitality’s popular Synthesis added eight new nature-inspired base textures which can be over-tufted with a collection of textured patterns for dimensional effects. Patterns can be mixed and matched for original looks. 

• Masland Contract is well known as a premium producer of boldly styled modular and broadloom contract carpet that features Invista branded nylon (mostly Antron Lumena) and which, from a color range and resolution standpoint, pushes the limits of the latest Infinity tufting equipment. New this year are four striking new additions to Masland’s Energy Collection—Highlights, Pinpoint, Breeze and Rivet. The Energy collection, available in both carpet tile and broadloom, was introduced a few years ago as part of Masland’s in-stock, quick-ship program and most of the products are priced just under Masland’s more custom contract designs. 

As usual, Masland continues to offer styles that combine texture, color and pattern in a combination that is distinctly Masland Contract. While most of Masland’s specified business comes from the corporate sector, its hospitality business is up 4% this year.

• Amtico continues to be a leading producer of luxury vinyl tile to the commercial market. This season, the firm introduced four new collections: Mica Mix, the Travertine Collection, Metals, and Treated Woods. The three styles in Mica Mix all have silver and gold specks sprinkled throughout. Travertine is a realistic looking and durable alternative to the real thing. Metals, which comes in six metallic colors ranging from gold and silver to copper and pewter, evokes the polished looks of the 1980s, a design trend that seems to be growing in popularity.

One of the four styles from the Treated Woods collection—Lime Weathered Wood—was strikingly displayed on the showroom floor. This pale weathered wood has the look of driftwood washed up on the beach. 

• The floor of Crossville’s NeoCon space featured a wood look porcelain tile product that is offered in six different colors and in 4” strips. This Wood Impressions collection is well named because it looks very impressive and realistic. We’ve been seeing the wood look in tile at the Italian Cersaie show and Spain’s Cevisama for several years, but Crossville waited until it could take the look to the next level of realism before rolling it out—much like it did with the award winning UltiMetal last year. 

On the environmental side, Crossville’s take-back program continues to build steam and as a result of this recycled feedstock the company has reformulated its Empire collection—which now has 20% recycled content as certified by SCS. This popular marble look collection was designed by Barbara Schirmiester and comes in 12 colors. Also new this year and designed to hit a gap in Crossville’s price point lineup is Vista Americana. This stone look collection comes in four colors and a wide range of formats from 2”x2” to 18”x18”. 

• Cork producer Expanko came to the show with a line of colored cork that has the distinction of being colored throughout the body of the product, like a color-body porcelain. The colors are largely in the earth tone family, with golden and russet colorations (Viale Rosso and Viale Giallo) along with some deeper browns like Viale Venoso, a near black cut through with random cords of a rich, deep brown. Viale Verde features a smoky green with hints of blue. All the products in the line feature the same design of cord-like striations.

The firm’s XCR4 cork rubber blend, which combines performance and sustainability in a range of both earthy and bright colors, is now available in roll goods.

• The dominant feature in Tandus’ showroom this year was a 30’ length of six-foot Powerbond. The shimmery design, Atmosphere from the new Urban Nature collection, looks like Jackson Pollack’s take on Japanese cherry blossoms—another way of putting it is that it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from the firm’s Manufactured Landscapes collection. And what really takes Atmosphere to the next level is the background to this organic design, a subdued precision pattern running the length of the product. The pattern is darker at the center and bleeds out to paler edges, an ombre effect achieved in part through crisp lengthwise lines carrying over the colors across the transition.

The carpet on the floor featured a field of grey neutrals with the overlaid design in high luster gold, a captivating colorway.  The collection features five patterns ranging from organic to geometrical and even a tweed, all inspired by imagery from historic Japanese art and architecture. Urban Nature is available in both carpet tile and Powerbond.

Urban Nature in Powerbond was awarded a Gold Best of NeoCon in the resilient category, with Powerbond defined as a hybrid resilient product. Tandus’ position is that Powerbond is not a six-foot carpet but essentially resilient flooring with a wearlayer of tufted carpet fused to the top of it, and it offered several defining characteristics setting Powerbond apart from broadloom, including no edge ravel, no stretching, and the use of resilient flooring installation techniques. Investments in design technologies have enabled Tandus to take Powerbond design to a whole new level, as witnessed by products like Atmosphere, with the intention of making inroads into new markets.

Tandus also took home a Silver Best of NeoCon in the broadloom category for Authenticity, which comes in both tile and broadloom, and it’s available in Ergo-Step bio-based backing for broadloom and ethos PVC-free backing for tile. The line includes both linear and monolithic designs, including solid straie and sporadic lines appearing and disappearing along the length.

Authenticity is made from two-thirds solution-dyed and one-third yarn-dyed nylon for a high luster level, and it comes in 17 colorways ranging from neutrals to deeper orange-red, charcoal, indigo and antique jade.

The other big news at Tandus centered around its new Genesis fiber, made of nylon sheath enclosing a biopolymer (85% nylon and 15% biopolymer) developed in collaboration with NatureWorks LLC, a division of Cargill. Genesis is available both yarn-dyed and solution-dyed as a custom option on significant orders, and it can be used on Powerbond, carpet tile or broadloom. 

About 24,000 yards of Genesis carpet have been installed at the Cargill campus, in the form of carpet tile with ER3 recyclable backing made of 100% recycled content.

• Johnsonite, a Tarkett company that manufactures commercial rubber and vinyl flooring products, came out with a greener wall base called Ecolibrium, which is made of rubber, olefin and filler composed of natural material like crushed oyster and walnut shells. The product comes in the firm’s 32 standard ColorMatch colors and it features a smooth finish and a low key profile.

According to the firm, over 5% of the product comes from rapidly renewable material along with post-industrial recycled content. In addition, Ecolibrium is 100% recyclable. 

Ecolibrium is environmentally efficient not only because it reduces the use of industrial fillers and colorants, but also because it recaptures waste material—oyster and walnut shells are generally thrown away after their contents are extracted—and repurposes it as an industrial ingredient.

Johnsonite also came out with a collection of rubber tiles called Folio. The collection features six open and bold botanical designs, displayed on a showroom wall in an alluring earthy green. The tiles feature clean, stylized elements like raised designs of textured bamboo leaf patterns and leaf and branch silhouettes against hammered and smooth fields, shifting between medium and large scale. The tiles are available in 32 colors.

Metallurgy, introduced earlier in the year, was also on display. The rubber tiles, which come in 12 colors, feature the pearlescent sheen of gently poured metal, particularly in the bronze, copper and steely tones.

On the showroom wall opposite its space, Johnsonite put up a large board entitled “A Collage of Possibilities” to which attendees were encourage to attach samples in a range of colors, sizes and shapes. The total area covered will translate to flooring donated by Johnsonite for the Haiti rebuilding effort via Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit design firm. 

• Milliken’s integration of Constantine and the resulting eye catching products introduced at the show garnered much of the attention on the 11th floor of the Mart. Now that the company can blend its proprietary digital printing technology with the tufting capabilities of Constantine, the product designs are outstanding.  Some of the collections featured the capabilities of both Milliken and Constantine, and that was the case with the Notan carpet tile collection, which won a Best of NeoCon Modular Carpet Innovation Award.

Notan, designed by Cresta Martin Bledsoe, features a low key piece-dyed field overlaid with high resolution digital printing of a bold large-scale design inspired by the sumi-e technique of traditional Japanese ink and wash calligraphy. The line comes in six patterns—Quad, Ankh, Sphere, Pause, Linear and Canvas—all carefully designed with the brushstrokes meeting at the center edges of the tiles so that all six tiles in any orientation can seamlessly transition for a large-scale look. 

The brushstrokes themselves offer a convincing representation of the watercolor-like wash effect of the calligraphic technique. The collection comes in three base colors and 18 colorways ranging from neutrals to more vivid fashion colors in shades of red, purple and green.

The same blend of technologies was used to achieve a very different look in the Fretwork Collection of crisp, highly organized patterns. The collection, also designed by Cresta Bledsoe, is a study in geometrical precision, with delicate wave lines against solid backgrounds etching mathematical patterns. Brise Soleil is a medium scale layered grid, Kaleidoscope is a large scale interlocking pattern, and Harmonic is a mesmerizing field of precise interwoven wave lines. The collection comes in 18 colors similar to the range in Notan.

Milliken’s Palisades Collection of piece dyed carpet took the Gold in the Best of NeoCon Broadloom category. The cut and loop piece-dyed collection, also designed by Bledsoe, is first and foremost lush and luxurious, with its sheared high-luster fibers creating an almost silken appearance. It comes in five designs—Palisades, Rexford, Mulberry, Crescendo and TLC—in 24 colors including a range of neutrals and a handful of more colorful accents. TLC also comes in tile.

Other new collections include Consequence, a tile offering using print technology on a textured base, and Southern Analog, a solution dyed collection inspired by photos from schoolchildren. Sound and Fury is another solution dyed line. The firm also came out with an affordably priced line of three designs, Pulse, Optic and Base, in both carpet tile and broadloom, in 20 colorways.

• The main focus in Roppe’s booth was its Impact program, which recycles its rubber flooring into a number of utilitarian products like mulch, playground surfacing and pavers through its recycling partner, JJV Rubber Mulch and Safety Surfacing. 

Everything from installation scrap and samples to used rubber flooring can be recycled. JJV Rubber Mulch uses a proprietary process to remove adhesive from the back of reclaimed flooring.

Roppe recently partnered with both Starnet and Resource for its Impact program, which has to date diverted about 1,180 tons of rubber from landfills.

The firm also introduced a new ribbed stair tread insert, and a smooth texture has been added to its SafeTCork vinyl tile offering, without reducing its slip resistance.

• DuPont was at the show talking about its Sorona triexta, which Mohawk has been using in residential carpet for years. At this show, Mohawk introduced its first commercial line with DuPont’s triexta called Tuscany Fields.

While Mohawk has an exclusive arrangement with DuPont on the residential side, the same restrictions do not apply in the commercial market, so if the fiber’s performance meets expectations, other carpet mills will probably get in on the action. DuPont’s Sorona, which has 37% bio-based content, is competitive with nylon in terms of performance characteristics, has about the same melt point as nylon 6, and is fully recyclable through a straightforward remelt process.

DuPont’s partner, Tate & Lyle, recently added capacity at its Loudon, Tennessee facility, where the corn-based Bio-PDO is produced.

• Fortune Contract, based in Dalton, is known for high quality carpet with a distinctive sophisticated style. This year’s NeoCon intros were no exception. The Up Down collection from Fortune Contract features a highly textural, multi-directional pattern with a sophisticated look available in a wide variety of timeless neutrals. To partner with Up Down, Fortune is introducing Sideways as a companion. Up Down and Sideways have the look of a classic woven wool carpet when actually they are a tufted Ecco 6,6 nylon. Up Down and Sideways are available in either broadloom or modular tile in two standard face weights.

Fortune Contract is also busy adding styles to its natural wool Ovis collection. The firm is reviving some of its more popular nylon styles from the past by recreating the patterns in the natural undyed wools. 

• Parterre’s veteran designer Roche Fitzgerald expanded the popular Fused Collection of weathered stone and metallic looks with Fused Too, a spread of products based on inner city textures and surfaces. Favorites include Traffic Cop, a worn leather look with lots of crackles and subtle pitting, in five colors, in 12”x24” formats.

New washed concrete looks include: Acid Wash Sidewalk, one of the most interesting distressed effects, especially dramatic in off white and beige; and another softer washed concrete design, where the colors have a more watercolor look in a blend of warm neutrals.

Also beautiful: a spread of really unique distressed wood plank looks, including a white-washed Cablewood, that Fitzgerald says was inspired by old telephone poles, and a gnarly wood plank with subtle metallic traces. 

• J+J/Invision came to the show with two noteworthy collections, Light and Papercraft. Light, a tile collection, features two designs: Aura, a textured loop construction in a subtle midscale block design that comes and goes as though from the action of light, an effect derived from variations in the tightness of the loop; and Diffusion, another textured loop which also looks at the play of light, though on a smaller scale and with a more abstract, organic design. Both are made from Encore Ultima nylon and feature Eko PVC-free polyolefin backing—Eko carpet tiles are certified NSF-140 Platinum—and are available in nine earthy neutral colorways.

The firm also came out with the Papercraft Collection, also on Eko-backed carpet tile, comprising Mache, Mache Trace, Pulp and Shred. The solution-dyed line comes in a range of colors, including a blue Pantone Color of the Year in Pulp. Mache is a low-key textured linear, highlighted by the rise and fall of regularly spaced crisp lines of loop, while Mache Trace offers the same look, but with the addition of bold, vivid accent lines pulled from the colors of Pulp, a tight tip sheared monolithic look. Mache and Mache Trace come in nine colorways, while Pulp is offered in 32 colorways, including the subdued neutrals of Mache and a range of vibrant hues.

• Last year at NeoCon, Flexco was excited about a new product they were working on called Health Design Base, a premolded rubber wall base with score marks on the back so that it can be cut and welded to different heights of material (1/8” to .080”) and can be used with any commercial sheet rubber or vinyl product. Now Health Design Base is officially available and is finding tremendous success. It provides a clean installation, helping to eliminate messy welds that can result in bacteria build up. It is currently available in 15 colors. Flexco also made some changes to the color palette for its popular SpexTones collection. After close consultation with architects and designers the firm decided to remove some of the “vivids” and replace them with more neutral colors geared toward the healthcare market. 

Tuscumbia, Alabama based Flexco recently earned FloorScore indoor air quality certification from Scientific Certification Systems. Developed by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, FloorScore tests and certifies hard surface flooring for compliance with indoor air quality emissions standards.

• Beaulieu unveiled its new Coloray technology, a process that twists together three or four solid colored solution dyed nylon yarns to create the movement of color along the length of the yarn. Key to the technology is that it allows the user to control which colors are being revealed more than others. The process creates a space dyed look, but with more control, and with solution dyed attributes like enhanced performance and stain resistance.

Two doors down from Beaulieu’s showroom was the permanent space for the firm’s new standalone carpet tile brand, Pure Contract Carpets. The brand offers two modular carpet solutions: Nexterra, an NSF-140 Platinum certified carpet tile with 85% post-consumer recycled content in the backing; and carpet tiles using the TacFast LocPlate system that enables floating floor installations over a wider range of subfloors than is possible with traditional carpet tile. Pure products also feature Puralex odor-neutralizing treatment. 

Pure products include On Point, a tailored loop pile with crisp accent lines, widely and sporadically spaced, and The Brights, a complementary product in a range of accent colors in shades of blue, red, yellow and orange. Modlife is a design of midscale squares and rectangles, subtly irregular, while Jetset is a tonal, tailored striae pattern.

 The TacFast system uses the LocPlate substrate, which is composed of 24” square Hook Plates that are connected in the corners by circular Connector Discs. Once the substrate is in place, carpet tiles—or any other flooring material backed in the appropriate material—can be installed on top in any orientation. The system makes it easy to switch out carpet tiles, and on top of that the entire system can be easily disassembled and reused in a new location.

The LocPlates, which are for now made of polypropylene, are covered by thousands of tiny catches (not unlike Velcro) while the carpet tiles are backed in a soft loop fabric. TacFast Systems is also working with producers of other types of flooring, including hardwood and ceramic.

• The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER) took Neocon as the ideal opportunity to showcase the innovation, design and leadership of the Spanish tile industry in the global marketplace. Spanish tile on display at NeoCon included products from Ceramica Elias, Keraben, Natucer, Roca, Inalco, Porcelanosa and Tau, among others. Collections highlighted the Spanish manufacturers talent at digital printing, design and technological advances. There was a wide variety of design styles, ranging from the fun and funky Tau No-Stalgia collection by Karim Rashid in his signature bright colors and bold, graphic designs to the sleek, minimalistic modern looks of concrete and metals in large format to incredibly realistic natural stone looks.

Also in the Tile of Spain space was an ongoing presentation by Tile of Spain consultant Patti Fasan geared to the commercial design specifier. The presentation highlighted emerging trends and new opportunities, applications and sustainable technologies for ceramic tile uses. Following each presentation there was wine and cheese from different regions of Spain for designers to enjoy. 

• Chilewich Contract, the New York-based woven fabric specialist, introduced Frost, a shimmery woven vinyl available in three sleek modern colorways—mineral, topaz and black. Depending on the backing, Frost can be used as wall to wall floorcovering, floor mats, wallcovering or upholstery. This hardwearing, easy to clean vinyl is great for retail or hospitality applications. Sandy Chilewich and her architect husband Joe Sultan have been creating vinyl floorcoverings since 2001. 

• Pergo’s new commercial line, Pergo Pro, features AC-5 rated direct pressure laminates made in Garner, North Carolina and Laval, Quebec. The 21 SKU line is mostly made up of wood looks, including oak, beech and maple looks in natural colors along with mid range warm browns, a couple of lush exotic looks, and some pale designs like Painted Block, Weathered Pine and Silver Pine. The hardwood look attracting the most attention was Carbon Oak, a wirebrushed look in a dark grey with a bluish caste.

Also attracting a lot of attention was Lakeview Slate, a moody stone design, and Distressed Metal, with the look of distressed industrial steel first popularized by Tau, the Spanish tile maker. The collection, which also includes a bamboo look and a reddened Brazilian cherry design, comes in either 5” or 8” widths in 47” plank formats with a 15 year warranty.

• Standards developer NSF International had a booth at the show, in part to showcase the finalized NSF American National Standard 332, the Sustainability Assessment Standard for Resilient Floor Coverings. Dean Thompson, president of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI), was also on hand to discuss the standard and its role in the greening of the resilient flooring category. Products are evaluated through five key criteria—product design, product manufacturing, long-term value, corporate governance, and innovation. 

Mannington is the first firm to be certified to this new standard. Its Inlaid and Premium Tile commercial products have been certified NSF-332 Gold.

• Burke Flooring’s newest product line is MarbHD. While “marble” rubber flooring has been around form many years, MarbHD revamps an old idea with a high definition updated look in a range of contemporary colorways. Burke also has a patent pending on a corner ready molding that is already scored on the back so that installers can easily wrap the molding around corners. 

• New at Neocon from Lonseal Flooring was Topseal, a factory-applied urethane finish designed to help protect floors, reduce scuffing and simplify routine maintenance. Topseal is applied in a 30-micron wearlayer the helps extend the life of the floor by shielding it from wear. Topseal is stocked in 15 colors in three of Lonseal’s most popular lines, Loneco, Lonwood Dakota and Lonwood Natural. Additionally, Topseal can be applied to any of Lonseal’s smooth products with a minimum square yard requirement. 

• In modular carpet tiles, Blueridge Carpet was showcasing Color Stripes, a multicolored pattern that features bold stripes of color in a solid virgin yarn running alongside stripes using in-house production waste nylon (EcoCentricR3 repurposed nylon) in the same color family to create a unique multi-tonal yarn and surprise color. The result is that each tile is somewhat different from the next. Color Stripes is available in three colorways. Blueridge feels that because it requires energy and carbon emissions to recycle, focusing on efficient use of yarns from the beginning is another efficient method of sustainability.

Another interesting new collection from Blueridge is Living Environment, which is geared toward senior and assisted living. This collection combines contemporary bursts of bold colors to appeal to the younger decision-making audience alongside more traditional neutrals that the residents find comforting and appealing. This collection of four products is available in ten colorways.

• Estrie Products International, one of the flooring divisions of American Biltrite, is a manufacturer of rubber flooring geared to the educational, healthcare and institutional sectors. New at NeoCon from Estrie was TecCare, a floating floor system for healthcare environments. TecCare is an easy to lay peel and stick vinyl plank application that requires minimal surface preparation and can even be installed over existing floors. It’s also a cinch to replace tiles, since it’s not a click system. There is no adhesive odor or adhesive set up time, providing customers with a fast turnaround for increased efficiency. TecCare comes in 6”x36” planks in eight colors of emulated wood styles.

• Atlas Carpet Mills introduced three new collections at Neocon—Archéologique, Estilo and Amore de Arte—along with the Mediterranea carpet tile collection and two new products, Satara and Tabaret, in both carpet tile and broadloom.

Archeologique comes in 24 colors and six patterns, including a large scale whorl pattern, a banded design, gently meandering, with lyrical laddering in different scales, a small scale fractured grid, a design of medium scale irregular blocks, and a thin loop pattern on a cut field resembling circular scrawling. Despite all the structure, there’s a studied casualness to the entire collection that stays away from precise geometries. The collection comes in both carpet tile and broadloom.

The Estilo Collection is made up of four broadlooms in 24 colors, and the designs represent a range of interpretations of block designs. Both Estilo and Archéologique feature Antron Legacy nylon fiber.

Amor de Arte, an Antron Lumena collection, features six patterns in broadloom and carpet tile, in 18 colorways. Designs include a rising and falling striae loop pattern, smaller scale striated blocks, a pattern of irregular circles, and a wavy fractured linear design.

Also featured at the show was the Mediterranea Carpet Tile Collection of five designs with intricate organics with geometric twists in a palette of 13 colors. The firm also showcased Tabaret and Satara, two designs available in both tile and broadloom with a sophisticated fabric-like quality.

• Tai Ping came to the show with its Innuendo Collection of wool carpet tiles. This is the fourth tile collection since the firm first entered the category at last year’s NeoCon. Innuendo’s designs are derived from the classic imagery of film noir conveying emotions and moods through elements like shadows, venetian blinds, curtains and vertiginous angles. The most dramatic of the four designs is probably Suspicion, which features floating geometries of stylized venetian blinds in different angles and scales, making for a dynamic pattern when installed.

Paranoia, another dramatic design, derives from the view down a spiral staircase, and like Suspicion it creates a dynamic floor pattern. Scandal, a more low key mesh pattern with irregular shifts, is based on the iconic sheer curtains used in noir films to hint at secrets and hidden truths, and Premonition uses a design of fluctuating parallel lines in an offset pattern to call up the special effects developed in film noir to suggest premonitions or flashbacks.

The carpet tiles are all backed with the firm’s Premise backing, which features 80% post-consumer recycled content from PET drink bottles, along with 5% post-industrial waste.

• Tate Access Floors, the market leader in raised access flooring, had a display on the 10th floor of the Mart primary focused on touting the sustainable benefits of using raised flooring. Tate was also promoting  a new 14mm thick engineered wood tile, a hardwood veneer bonded to a backer board made of compressed vertical plies of Albasia, a rapidly renewable tropical wood. The veneer includes reclaimed timber waste that can make up as much as 90% of the wearlayer. Overall, the 24”x24” wood tiles contain a minimum of 75% recycled content. 

Copyright 2010 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:HD Expo, Beaulieu International Group, Mannington Mills, Karastan, Tarkett, Mohawk Industries, CERAMICS OF ITALY, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Roppe, Crossville, Starnet, Interface, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., CERSAIE , Coverings, The Dixie Group, Parterre Flooring Systems