NeoCon 2011 - July 2011

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


This year’s NeoCon took place in an atmosphere of one part enthusiasm and one part anticipation, enthusiasm because the market is starting to come back after two scary years, and anticipation because it’s a slow and unsteady rebound and no one knows for certain if the market will continue to expand—even at this modest pace.

This year’s show was the strongest since 2008, with nearly 43,000 attendees, up 4% from 2010. Nevertheless, that’s still down about 10,000 from just four years ago. This show was a bit more crowded than the previous two, more so on the permanent showroom floors (third, tenth and eleventh) than on the seventh and eighth floors, where some exhibitors expressed frustration at the traffic. But there were times when the atmosphere was almost festive, with the corridors crowded and loud with cocktail parties in every other showroom.

One of the most notable elements of the show, particularly among the carpet mills, was the increase in color compared to last year. Many of the mills (like Milliken, Tandus, InterfaceFlor, Atlas and Mohawk) showcased bold colorways on the floor—including reds and oranges, the colors of renewal, passion and vitality. It’s not likely that these colors will take the contract market by storm, but they do serve as a signal that the market has turned and the industry is ready to get back to the business of fashion and design.

In another sign of renewal, this year brought a good dose of innovation in both design and product construction. The sheer range of patterns and colorways created a lot of excitement. Mind you, a lot of that range was designed to capture wider swaths of the market, because flooring producers are still struggling under tight margins and most have yet to see a strong rebound in revenues. For instance, carpet mills somehow managed to come out with products with even lower face weights.

Some manufacturers specifically mentioned targeting the only strong market beyond the commercial sector, multi-family housing, because everyone is still fighting hard for every inch of territory. Also, some of those splashes of color signaled the intent of manufacturers to target the hospitality market, which is expected to show accelerated growth through this year and next. InterfaceFlor, for example, scattered multicolored carpet tiles on its showroom floor, showcasing advanced technologies that can compete in color and design with Axminsters and printed carpets.

There were also plenty of developments in sustainability, including resilient products with high recycled content from Johnsonite’s Azrock and Mannington, recycled and bio-based fibers from Aquafil and DuPont, and carpet from several producers with reduced environmental footprints. Another important sustainability development is the creation of product category rules that will lead to a framework for environmental product declarations for the entire flooring industry.

Two weeks after the show, MMPI, the trade show and property management firm that runs the Merchandise Mart and other buildings around the country, announced that Chris Kennedy, long time president of the firm, is stepping down on July 23. Replacing him is Mark Falanga, who has been with the firm for 17 years. Kennedy has been with MMPI for nearly 25 years, and was named president in 2000.

• For years now, David Oakey has been delighting the design community with a seemingly endless outpouring of bright and playful modular carpet tiles, designs that can be put down on the floor in ways that challenge the designer’s creativity. At the same time, the InterfaceFlor designer has been introducing a series of more conservative but utilitarian designs that appeal to the broad corporate marketplace. Often, those designs are overshadowed by the more colorful ones.

Not this year, though. The tone-on-tone Red Carpet Collection of three sculpted styles is stunning, easily one of the most exciting collections seen at NeoCon this year. The carved look on these styles was created with the new generation CMC tufting machine that Interface has dubbed the Tapestry technology. The machine allows Oakey to not only create the lush carved looks of Reduce, Redesign and Redeliver, the styles in the Red Carpet Collection, but also to elevate the tufting machine into design spaces it was never able to enter before.

Case in point: Raw, an intro that looks so organic it seems to have been created by the forces of nature, not by a machine. The new technology allowed Oakey to place yarns so randomly they seem to be rust stains on metal and stone or eroding concrete. Interestingly, there are no metallic yarns in Raw, but the pointillistic way the tile was designed gives it the illusion of metal. Raw, which was made with Aquafil’s 100% non-virgin Econyl yarn, is spectacular.

This year, Oakey also embarked on a new way to think about tile design. So many of today’s best and brightest college grads want to work for the big tech companies, like Google, Apple and Facebook, that more traditional corporations are having a difficult time attracting top talent. As a result, many are moving toward the freewheeling collaborative environments created by those companies. Oakey’s latest designs can all be installed to make shaped spaces within more linear areas to create nesting or work areas within the larger corporate spaces. It’s a concept we’re certain to see more of in the future.

Mannington showed off its reputation for innovation this year with a spread of fresh and distinctive intros from its diverse product offerings. Most exciting was the Vivendi collection of vinyl, a collaboration between Mannington and a creative team of healthcare designers at HOK in San Francisco. Vivendi won a well deserved NeoCon Gold in the Healthcare category.

The collection, which could very well be considered a new category of (heterogeneous) sheet vinyl, looks so much like clean, fresh linen that most visitors to the showroom were bending down to see what the product was made of. The overall closely woven texture is available in both solid color, a mid-scale softened block pattern and a delicate floral, all in a nature-inspired palette appropriate for healthcare. In fact, Vivendi was created to coordinate with Pallas Textile’s interior products for that segment.

Also beautiful and interesting: Mannington’s new LVT textured designs, in 18”x18” and 18”x36” tiles. They include Rainfall, which has a hand-rubbed oil cloth look, and Dissolve, a low profile textured linear that looks like hand-etched and painted wood.

New looks on the carpet side include Equinox, a bold textural collection—so bold that it resembles hand-woven straw or sisal. It’s made with a four-ply twist in a bulky construction in striking graphic color combos. The collection, which was created in collaboration with an industrial designer from Korea, includes both tile and broadloom in allover graphics (Light) and ombre (Shadow) designs.

The firm’s third annual Tx:Style Design Challenge, a popular carpet design competition for young designers, once again brought the crowds in to vote for the top two winners among six finalists. This year’s winning designs: A La Mode, by Sara Meier of Uihlein-Wilson Architects in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Coastal Rocks by Paul Lewandowski of SMRT Architects & Engineers in Portland, Maine. Interestingly, both winning designs featured dramatic organic/linear combos with surprise bright colorways.

Bentley Prince Street won a NeoCon Gold award in Broadloom for The Silver Screen collection, inspired by vintage Hollywood culture, continuing the theme introduced last year. The collection expands on the firm’s piece dyed capabilities, using high luster Ascend and Invista yarns in loop pile constructions ranging from organic linears to sumptuous irregular grids—low key designs that are elevated by the luster of the piece dyed yarns to a nostalgic shimmer.

New tufting technologies have expanded the firm’s design capabilities to achieve enhanced pattern definition and expanded multilevel loop constructions.

The firm also came out with a range of innovations, including: 18”x36” tiles, showcased on the floor using Illuminated Linen, a nubby linear also inspired by Hollywood; 45 degree (triangular) tiles on Illuminaire; and its ConnecTiles installation system for cushioned tile, which uses small adhesive squares to connect tiles to each other instead of the subfloor. The firm also has a version for hardback tile, and for broadloom the firm uses the Free Lay system, an acrylic polymer coating for the back of the carpet that replaces the use of adhesives.

In addition, Bentley Prince Street introduced a new wool collection called Wool Fundamentals, along with Global Innovations, a high definition printed carpet that is an affordably priced version of last year’s Global Vistas collection. The collections are well suited to the hospitality market. Also new is Kid’s Art and Friends, a colorful and affordable printed line.

• This year, Mohawk’s showroom had a different look from recent years. In the past, the hospitality and three contract brands have more or less had equal billing, with one in each quadrant of the room. This year, however, most prominent in the showroom was the Mohawk brand itself, expressed through signage and key colors, while the product brand that got the most space was Lees. Also, the bulk of the showcased products this year were inspired by nature and manmade landscapes, with a range of organic patterns, many of them in more saturated colorways.

Last year, Mohawk came out with its first commercial products using SmartStrand fiber with a broadloom line from the Karastan brand, and this year the focus was on SmartStrand under the Lees brand, in both carpet tile and broadloom. SmartStrand Contract with DuPont Sorona won a NeoCon Gold award in the Carpet Fiber category.

SmartStrand was featured in the most dramatic collection, right up at the front of the space, in Lees’ What Moves You?—a line of seven cut and loop patterns, including First Day of Spring, Ray of Sunshine, Lyrical Inspiration, Nature’s Collage and Branching Out. The collection features 11 colorways that range from playful to demure—including bold but uncomplicated colorways like a rich blue against a blue grey field along with more neutral earth tones. The bold designs are well suited to applications like assisted living, particularly in the brighter colors, while the more subdued palettes should do well in a range of sectors, including corporate and education.

SmartStrand fiber, made from DuPont’s Sorona triexta polymer, has the highest bio-based content in the synthetic carpet fiber market, at 37%. Mohawk has had great success with this fiber in the residential market, and if the commercial product performs as expected, the green benefits of the fiber will likely lead to substantial gains in the market.

The other big news at Mohawk was the introduction at lower price points of the firm’s Duracolor stain resistance system for yarn dyed carpet in the Fresh Observations modular and broadloom collection. The ten designs range from low-key level loop linears to more sophisticated fractured laddering and irregular medium scale geometrics. The designs come in 12 to 24 colorways, also in a broad enough range to open the collection to diverse applications.

Duracolor is a proprietary Lees technology that has a leading position in the commercial market and, according to the firm, it’s the only system that meets the GSA’s stringent performance standards. What makes Duracolor stand out is that it’s not a topical treatment that can wear or wash away—instead, it’s enmeshed in the polymer itself and offers permanent stain resistance. This is the first time Duracolor has been made available at lower price points.

Also noteworthy is Lees’ Surface Theory collection, inspired by patterns of the natural world, like fragile leaf veining and elephant skin textures. The collection, which also features the Duracolor system, is made up of four designs and it features another broad range of colorways.

Karastan’s Lace It or Leave It is a piece dyed tufted broadloom line made up of three designs with the same fanciful aesthetics found in What Moves You? by Lees—though the designs are somewhat tighter and they use the loop and tip shear construction for crisp dimensionality—and again featuring the theme of broad colorways going from bold to subdued. 

• In 2011, Shaw Contract kept its Best of NeoCon winning streak alive for the tenth year in a row by winning both a Modular Gold and an Innovation award with the On the Edge collection. According to Reesie Duncan, creative director for Shaw Contract Group, Shaw polled a group of design advisors and asked if this collection should be square or a part of its 18X36 collection—which won Shaw the Silver award last year—and the vote was unanimously for the rectangular shape. Duncan also told us that the Innovation award was not for how the collection was constructed but more for the range of aesthetic looks that the designer could achieve by disregarding the orientation arrows on the back of the tiles during the installation.

True to the form of the original 18X36 collection, On the Edge is constructed with tight low-bulk face weights of around 18 to 19 ounces per yard. The background field is solution dyed and the accent color—which comes in 14 running line color options—is piece dyed. This collection is available to ship now and has three patterns and two textures to further extend the range of design options. 

A second noteworthy collection from Shaw Contract this year is The Music Project, developed in collaboration with industrial designer Todd Bracher. And while this product won’t be available until the fall, the scope of patterns in the collection should make it very popular for a wide range of end-use market applications. As with the music that inspired this collection, there is a little something here for everyone. The four music genres that were graphically mapped to create the patterns in the collection are classical, jazz, ambient and electronic, and the color line for the collection was inspired by the lighting effects found in music venues around the world. Bracher, who has never been tapped to design a flooring product before, engaged a team of software engineers to turn the sounds waves of the music into the graphic images that were integrated into this line of modular carpets. 

From a sustainability perspective, Shaw announced at NeoCon that, effective July 1, it is ramping up the percentage of recycled content in its Eco Solution Q nylon face fiber, which is widely used on most of its contract carpet products, from 25% to 45%. Of that 45%, 25% will be post-consumer and the remaining 20% will be post-industrial. Shaw also announced that it will be building a new modular carpet tile plant in China to handle the rapidly growing domestic Chinese market.

• This year, the biggest winner of Best of NeoCon flooring awards was Tandus, which took home three, including the Editor’s Choice award for the Change collection, Silver in Broadloom for Rough Hewn, and Silver in Healthcare Flooring (a new category) for the Estuary broadloom line.

Tandus’ Change collection for Powerbond and carpet tile, displayed on the showroom floor in a few colorways (most prominently, in a shimmery red, orange and gold colorway), vividly showcased the firm’s Sero design approach, which was originally introduced with the Manufactured Landscapes collection three years ago. Sero takes Powerbond to the next level by leveraging the firm’s Stratatec tufting equipment to design a full repeat across the 6’ width of the product and repeats along the length of 10’ to 12’ for large free-flowing patterns, and this works particularly well with today’s more open floor plans. When the product is cut up into modular tile, it creates 16 to 20 unique tiles, which, when installed monolithically, create an interesting fractured flow, almost like slate. It’s all about designing for the floor plan and not the tile. 

The design approach was further enhanced this year with the Change collection, which is based on those transitional effects generated during the changeover, when mills switch production from one pattern and colorway to another. The collection features three designs: Change, which shifts from one linear pattern to another; Nonconform, a transition from a geometric pattern to a linear design; and Factory Floor, a coordinate that is a quieter, more formal interpretation of Change. The line features the firm’s high luster solution dyed Dynex nylon 6.

The firm also came out with Rough Hewn, a solution dyed woven broadloom in a linear design with the lush look of a tufted product. A second broadloom collection, Estuary, which features seven designs with patterns ranging from small to large scale, targets the senior living market in colorways ranging from a rust red to neutral earth tones.

J+J/Invision’s big introduction at NeoCon this year was Corregated, another striking addition to its Magnify collection. Available in modular and broadloom, its linear design was inspired by the ribbed texture seen in the cross-section of cardboard. With a face weight of 28 ounces per yard, the light tip-shear and striated texture of the skein dyed yarns give the product exceptional depth. Corregated, which uses Ultron branded nylon 6,6, is available in nine colors.

Another strong introduction that caught our eye was Fine Line, which is only available in a modular format. This 5/64th gauge, 22 ounce patterned loop product comes in nine neutral colors using the company’s in-house Encore solution dyed nylon yarn. The design is monochromatic with contrasting tone on tone streaks that run in plaid-like squares within each tile. This product is backed with the company’s eKo PVC-free backing.

Two other developments include a new NeoCon showroom designed by Bill Grant and a new company website that allows designers and end-users to download product images in three formats: Revit, SketchUp and Photoshop. The site also provides product specifications formatted to the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) standards.

Milliken introduced eight new collections at NeoCon, including a bright, playful printed collection called Fixate at the entrance to the showroom. Fixate is a multicolored striped design with bands of varying narrow widths that should do well in education applications. It also comes in earth tones and greys for sectors like corporate. The low, smooth cut gives the product a felt look.

Fixate, designed by Cresta Bledsoe, is derived from Fixation, a Milliken U.K. product, and it comes in 40 colorways from neutrals to dynamic high chroma colors.

The firm also came out with Monuments and Shrines, a solution dyed line using Aquafil’s Econyl fiber. The line is inspired by the culture of neon, epitomized by the Neon Boneyard, a Las Vegas museum where old neon signs go to die. Another collection using Econyl is Urban Knit, which draws inspiration from the “yarn bombing” phenomenon, an urban movement of artists who crochet covers on everything from fire hydrants to the Wall Street bull. Both lines are designed by Todd van der Kruik. The carpet tiles are random cut from 6’x6’ repeats.

Milliken won a NeoCon Silver award in the Resilient category for its Rinascita collection of recycled leather tiles. The tiles feature a top layer using waste from leather manufacturing with 10% natural rubber as a binder, and the backs feature 80% post-consumer content. The tiles, designed by Cresta Bledsoe in collaboration with leather upholstery manufacturer Spinneybeck, are embossed and hand tipped for a rich, sophisticated look.

Another green collection is Isos, a 100% wool tile colored along the diagonal to break tiles into triangles—a simple two-triangle design for Diagonios, a square sliced into four triangles for Finite, and a more complex symmetrical diagonal design for Myriad.

Patcraft has been focusing on the performance side of the business, and its New Ground collection targets the healthcare sector, from acute care to assisted living, with four designs inspired by both the natural world and the human landscape. 

All four designs coordinate, but they’re really two pairs. Earthen Weave, a linear against a background of perpendicular irregular lines, pairs with City Flora, a similar pattern but with a large scale abstract floral background. Clean Lines, a crisp linear, pairs with Cool Rain, the same linear against a whorled background inspired by raindrop patterns.

The solution dyed collection comes in 12 colorways featuring warm and cool neutrals, including some darker tones, alongside more saturated colorways like a vividly mixed green and blue colorway.

Also new are Flex and Yield, a pair of contrasting tile products that work well together. Flex is a medium scale abstract floral with a uniform pattern distribution that looks almost structured when installed, while Yield is an irregular blocky geometric design with a flowing connectivity and a rise and fall between the foreground and background that creates a much more organic shape on the floor. All in all, a thoughtful and well executed pair.

Beaulieu Commercial came to the show with new products and new branding. Until this year, the firm marketed its products under four brands: Bolyu, Cambridge Commercial, Aqua Hospitality and Pure Contract. When David Vita came in to head the commercial business, he combined the three contract brands under the flagship Bolyu brand and left the Aqua brand alone to focus on the hospitality sector. Glenn King was brought in as vice president of marketing, and the separate sales forces were reorganized under the Bolyu brand. The sales team now has the flexibility of giving their clients a full range of products from high end to value priced. The firm’s new tagline, “Look Forward,” represents its commitment to innovation in style, performance and sustainability.

Favorite new products include a spread of linear coordinates with different textural looks: Crossing, a textured linear pattern with a subtle cross-plaid, and Stitch, a broken linear pattern that creates an embroidered texture, are coordinates with a handcrafted spirit. The color combos are interesting, too—neutral field colors with surprise bright linear accents. Also exciting, Rush and Drift, two sleek, super-thin linear patterns in a softened tonal palette that create a sophisticated random ombre effect. Both collections combine tile and broadloom for signature combinations.

Masland Contract came to the market with its handsome new Chrome Collection of four coordinated architecturally inspired designs. Emblem, a crisp, multilevel grand scale architectural grid design (in broadloom only) can be mixed and matched with three beautiful metallic-accented linears—Torque, Shimmer and Trimline—each with its own personality, and each available in tile formats as well as broadloom.

The firm’s Rugs 4.0 program, which features an impressive spread of hand-tufted, domestically made customized rug designs, has been expanded to meet the growing demand for rugs in the commercial market.

Also interesting: Melange, a near-solid with a fluffy loop texture in varying pile heights.

• New from Blueridge Carpet is the Simplicity collection. The carpet tile collection consists of three patterns: Circuit, inspired by the textures and patterns created by computer circuit boards; Deco, which reflects the distinct geometric shapes of the Art Deco period; and Thicket, which interprets the organic patterns created by a tangle of shrubs. This tonal collection has a simple, elegant look. Also new, the Color Maze collection reweaves internal scrap yarn resulting in 33% repurposed nylon in a range of modular tiles. Blueridge says that its business is currently split about 50/50 between carpet tile and broadloom. 

• All you had to do was take a quick look in the showroom of Atlas Carpet Mills to see that its focus for NeoCon 2011 was about color. The walls and floors were awash in rich shades of oranges, golds and burgundies, among others. The company’s new Nouveau Collection features a low dense loop, incorporating a high luster Legacy styling yarn that gives the collection a subtle elegant look. The Nouveau collection comes in six patterns and 24 colors, and is available in both broadloom and carpet tile. The Dreamology Collection, still in prototype stage, is a loop collection featuring big bold textures. 

• High end specialty carpet manufacturer Fortune Contract introduced styles in Aquafil’s solution dyed yarn for the first time at NeoCon 2011. By offering these styles, Fortune is able to hit a lower price point, making its distinctive look available to the more price conscious consumer. New styles introduced were Smooth and Bounce. Both accentuate the beautiful texture created by Fortune’s unique process of tufting, which gives the carpet a tailored woven look. 

Fortune was also showing its new collection of all natural, all wool carpet featuring Enviroseal soy based backing. The collection is called Mouton, which is French for sheep (the firm previously introduced Ovis, which is Italian for sheep). 

• Italian fiber producer Aquafil, which makes nylon 6, showcased its latest product, Econyl, at its NeoCon showroom. The fiber features a minimum 25% post-consumer content and the balance comes from post-industrial content from internal and external waste, including everything from discharge from caprolactam and pellet producers to fishing nets and fabrics. The fiber, which uses no virgin material, is solution dyed in 93 colors in a cationic yarn that resists staining and bleach, and is bacteriostatic.

Post-consumer content of the fiber, which is produced from pellets created through a high efficiency process at the firm’s depolymerization facility in Slovenia, will rise quickly as reclamation volumes increase. The firm produces around 1,300 metric tons and brings back in 11,000 tons, so nearly ten times more than the firm actually produces.

Antron’s permanent showroom at NeoCon jumped out as a creative destination this year—which was a considerable contrast to what we’ve seen for the last several years when the firm has focused on lifecycle analysis and rapidly renewable ingredients. According to director of marketing, Diane O’Sullivan, the message this year is all about celebrating design with a colorful and interactive space. To pull off this almost Disney-esque funhouse, Antron strung 900 miles of virgin dyeable white nylon 6,6 from the ceiling and integrated white opaque tubes, colored lights and abstract video. 

Since our last NeoCon visit, Invista has integrated its commercial (Antron) and residential (Stainmaster) businesses into a new Surfaces organization under the direction of Dan Haycook. It has also developed a new 900 denier carpet fiber. Part of the celebration this year at NeoCon was in honor of the 20th anniversary of Antron’s solution-dyed nylon carpet fiber, which is now available in over 200 colors. 

• One new exhibitor at NeoCon this year was Bristol, Virginia based Universal Fibers, which was the first company to produce and market solution-dyed nylon over 40 years ago. More recently, the firm was also the first carpet yarn producer to developed a post-consumer recycled nylon 6,6 carpet yarn, sold under the EarthSmart brand name and introduced to the market several years ago on InterfaceFlor’s commercial carpets. Unlike most carpet yarn suppliers that tend to specialize in one type of fiber, Universal produces both nylon 6,6 and nylon 6 carpet yarn. 

The big news this year with Universal is its new ReFresh Fibers, a premium priced nylon 6 fiber that has 45% recycled content. Initially, these solution-dyed yarns will be available in the 25 to 30 colors that are the most popular of Universal’s standard 260 bank of colors. Demand of Universal’s fibers is strong and the firm is currently expanding its extrusion and texturing capacity at its Virginia operation.  

DuPont was at NeoCon talking about its Sorona triexta carpet fiber for commercial applications. DuPont expanded its Sorona polymer to the commercial market in 2009. The company believes that the performance and environmental profile of Sorona fiber will make it a natural fit for the commercial market. 

Mohawk has held exclusive rights to the Sorona carpet fiber for the residential market since 2004. While Mohawk doesn’t hold exclusivity for Sorona in the commercial market, The Mohawk Group won Best of NeoCon Gold for its SmartStrand Contract made with the fiber. 

Karndean won a Best of NeoCon Innovation award in the Resilient category for its Loose Lay flooring, which installs without either adhesive or a locking system. Instead, Loose Lay, currently consisting of six wood look planks with in register embossing (with four tile designs to follow), features a supple vulcanized rubber backing in a wave pattern that firmly adheres the product to the floor. Loose Lay is priced the same as other Karndean luxury vinyl. It’s a bit thicker than traditional Karndean luxury vinyl due to the backing, but the wearlayer is the same, as are all the performance specifications.

Parterre, the Massachusetts producer of luxury vinyl tile, celebrated its 20th anniversary at NeoCon. When the firm started business in Brooklyn in 1991, it was one of the first producers of LVT, an exciting new tile product that combined the practicality and toughness of sheet vinyl with a high fashion look. Its founder, Wally Ruttgeizer, called the firm Wonder Works. When Fred Roche joined the firm as a partner in 2000, he changed the name to Parterre. In 2008, he became the sole owner.

Today, Parterre is a style leader in the growing LVT market. This year, Parterre added several new products to its FusedToo line, the second generation of Fused, the collection that won Interior Design’s Hard Surface Product of the Year award in 2006. New products include Footings, Gridlock, Infrastructure, Traffic Cop and Underground. All were influenced by urban sights, like the wires strung from city telephone poles, which inspired Infrastructure.

Last year, Parterre partnered with Bentley Prince Street and design consultant Maurie O’Neill, to create the Astronomie Collection of coordinated carpet and LVT. Astronomie won a 2011 ADEX award for design excellence.

Johnsonite Eco-Naturals collection features Eco-Shell with Cork and CorkTones, two lines of rubber tiles and treads, along with Ecolibrium wall base, introduced at last year’s NeoCon. Eco-Shell with Cork features 6.9% content that is both post-industrial and rapidly renewable. Cork Tones has 2.5% cork by weight. Ecolibrium features walnut and oyster shells along with vegetable oil and pine rosin.

Also new is Masquerade wall base that features a printed high definition image. The line, which is part of Millwork Finishing Borders, includes 12 wood looks along with 11 stone looks, and the best part is that it’s customizable.

In addition, the firm came out with sister collections of high performance vinyl enhanced tile. Azterra features a terrazzo look while Color Essence is a small scale tone on tone, and both are naturals for the education market, among others. The products feature 23% post-industrial content and 6% post-consumer content. Also, all of the firm’s VCT features a minimum 12% post-consumer content from the firm’s reclamation program.

Centiva has built its reputation in the contract flooring business by giving its A&D customers a distinctive palette of products that allows them the latitude to create unique spaces for their clients. And this year, when Centiva came to the show for the first time as a Tarkett company, the firm continued that tradition. Just as Tarkett promised, Centiva continues to carry its own identity and its own line of LVT products, produced in Florence, Alabama. Much of the excitement among the Centiva staff members at this year’s show came from the news that the company had experienced its best order week in the history of the company—so the momentum continues for Centiva. 

New this year is an iPad and iPhone app that is designed to simplify the sample ordering process and cut down on wasted samples. Centiva is taking advantage of the iPad’s mobility and screen resolution quality to present its products in a manner that will help specifiers make better and faster decisions. In addition, product photos and data sheets are linked to the company’s Facebook page via this app, which includes multiple photos of recently installed projects. 

Amtico, came to NeoCon this year with a new branding message and the largest product launch in the company’s history. It continues to pursue a value line of product under the Spacia name with a 20 mil wearlayer and a premium line of products under the Amtico brand that feature a much thicker 40 mil wearlayer. As part of this huge retooling of products, Spacia has 49 new products and Amtico has 30.

To help separate the company’s brand name from the Amtico product brand, the company will continue to use the distinctive lower case block letters, which are preceded by the lime green lower case “a,” but the product brand has a whole new cursive type treatment look and the tag line “I Amtico.” 

Four of the more distinctive new products introduced at NeoCon in the Amtico brand were Dark Walnut in the wood collection, Urban Marble in the stone collection, and Infinity and Alchemy in the abstract collection. Under the Spacia value brand, Smoked Cedar stood out with its distinctive dark hues in the wood collection.

Forbo, the global market leader in linoleum flooring, brought more new tools to NeoCon this year to build on its momentum as a flooring company with environmentally responsible products. As an extension to its Marmoleum line, Forbo is introducing a collection called The Unexpected Nature of Linoleum, which is inspired by the unusual patterns and colors found in nature. More specifically, many of these designs were inspired by the Gunnison River in Colorado and by The Wave, a sandstone rock formation in northern Arizona. Unexpected Nature is part of Forbo’s composite sheet line and comes in nine linear patterns and nine marbled designs. Marmoleum has become Forbo’s flagship brand and now commands a 60% share of the global linoleum market. 

Forbo also expanded its Flotex collection—the flocked resilient product that Forbo bought from Bona three years ago—with 16 new wood looks and 12 new marbleized tile looks. In the new wood line, two of the new products are designed to look like cork. Flotex continues to do very well in senior living and long-term healthcare applications. 

In addition to these new products, Forbo has pulled together a new specification tool for designers. The new Sustain catalog lists all of Forbo’s products and explains how each one can contribute to LEED points on either natural ingredients or recycled content.

• Privately owned Roppe, a leading producer of commercial resilient flooring, has been somewhat insulated from this economic downturn thanks to its healthcare focus, and so far this year business is up close to double digits. 

New for NeoCon this year is a leather look LVT collection called Northern Leathers, available in six colors, and a new LVT wood collection called Northern Timbers. Both products contain 50% recycled content.

Other news with Roppe includes the 14 million pounds of post consumer rubber flooring it has taken back as part of its Impact Reclamation program.

• Cork is one of the more interesting flooring products, not only because it’s natural, but also because of its unique textures. But it hasn’t been used widely in the commercial market because its unique properties also limit its applications. But USF Contract may have found a solution to this problem with Cork Décor, Volume 2. This new collection took home a Best of NeoCon Gold award in Resilient. By encapsulating the cork with vinyl, USF Contract is able to offer a 15 year heavy commercial warranty with this new product that is still 98% cork. With its 2 mil vinyl wearlayer (infused with a nano-ceramic protective component) it can be used in high traffic, heavy commercial applications, among others. 

The line has 18 18”x24” products in a range of classic and cutting edge cork designs, and it should do well in markets like acute care, assisted living and education. The product is priced comparably to 20 mil VCT. 

• When Randy Gillespie bought Expanko about four years ago, he set out to further expand the firm’s cork products into the commercial design arena. Gillespie says cork can be specified anywhere wood is specified. (It is, after all, the bark of a tree.)

This year, the firm introduced the Heritage Series of Traditional Cork, a 12 mm (1/2”) thick tile that comes in 12” and 24” squares and three natural colors: light, medium and dark. The company also markets products in two other thicknesses: 4.8 mm (3/16”) and 8 mm (5/16”). All are finished with BonaKemi Traffic, a water based polyurethane coating that’s very popular with the wood industry.

Also new this year: XCR4, a cork/rubber sheet flooring designed for seamless installations, particularly in the healthcare market; and an “orange peel” texture on the firm’s Reztec line of recycled rubber—it’s engineered to cut down on maintenance.

Abet Laminati updated its Vintage collection of commercial laminate flooring by adding ten new colors. In addition, the Vintage collection is now available with the company’s simple click installation system, making it less costly and easier to install since no glue is required. The Vintage collection combines the warmth and texture of antique wood flooring with the durability and easy maintenance of laminate.  

• Alabama based Flexco—another supplier of commercial resilient flooring—introduced its Natural Elements Collection, which emulates both stone tiles and wood planks. The tiles are available in 18” squares and eight colors, and the planks are 4”x36” and come in 18 colors. In addition, Flexco introduced a new line of textured rubber tiles that are ideal for data room flooring due to their electrostatic discharge (ESD) properties. These tiles are 24” squares and are available in ten colors.

• Topseal, Lonseal’s factory applied urethane finish, is now available on 15 lines and will be standard on all lines moving forward. Since Lonseal has manufacturing facilities in Japan, the recent devastation caused a slight delay for Lonseal’s new product introductions. They had planned to be launching a new 5” wood plank collection at NeoCon 2011. Now, the debut of this collection is slated for the Healthcare Design Conference in Nashville. Fortunately, Japan’s earthquakes did not affect Lonseal’s ability to supply customers. They had plenty of goods in stock when the quake struck. 

Chilewich Contract added two new collections to its unique woven vinyl flooring line. Ribweave consists of several different thicknesses of vinyl in tonal variations to create a modern linear look; it comes in four contemporary colorways. The Kono collection is a modern basketweave of vinyl—also in four minimalistic contemporary colors. Both collections have an edgy metallic looking quality about them. The colors of the Chilewich collections are interchangeable and are designed to work with the firm’s array of wall coverings, upholstery fabrics, and shades and window coverings, giving customers the ability to have a complete coordinated or monochromatic look. Chilewich’s flooring products are available in tiles, rolled goods or custom area rugs. 

• Most of the ceramic tile companies that come to NeoCon set up on the seventh floor, with the exception of Crossville, which locates itself on the eighth floor to distinguish itself from the other producers that do the bulk of their business in the residential market. Crossville has focused on the contract end of the business for many years and gets almost 80% of its business from this sector. Having just celebrated its 25th anniversary, Crossville brought two new developments to NeoCon this year. To satisfy the demand for minimalistic, contemporary, urban looking floors that emulate concrete or subtle stone without the cracks and inconsistencies, Crossville has introduced a new collection called Main Street. This collection serves perfectly as the type of foundation that designers like to use as a background in the urban designs that are winning awards today. It has one finish, comes in five neutral colors and contains recycled content that ranges between 4% and 20%, depending on the color.

Crossville has also entered into an arrangement with Toto, a global leader in porcelain plumbing products, to recycle its fired porcelain sanitary-ware products using Crossville’s EcoCycle recycling process. With this new waste stream, Crossville will be able to increase the level of recycled content that goes into its products. Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) recently verified that Crossville is now recycling over 12 million pounds of waste back into its porcelain tile products. 

American Marazzi clearly recognizes that the commercial market is growing and has reacted by coming to the show with new products that are tailored to the specified design market. Most noteworthy is Sistem N, a neutral collection of unglazed, high-end minimalistic products that are produced in Italy. Designed primarily for the hospitality and retail sectors, this product is manufactured using a double press system.

Evolution Stone is another porcelain (color-body) collection that is modeled after unique European stones. While this collection still has the monolithic shading, it also has digitally produced variations that make the product look more like natural stone. 

Daltile did not exhibit at NeoCon, but it had representatives on hand in the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) booth to introduce its new scholarship contest for students studying interior design. Daltile and the ASID Foundation have joined forces to sponsor the contest, which will provide a total of $50,000 in scholarships. There will be one $10,000 grand prize, three runner-up $5,000 scholarships, and ten merit scholarships of $2,500 each. 

The contest will begin August 1, 2011 with an entry deadline of October 15, 2011. Students will be asked to design an interior space using Daltile products, though not exclusively. The space can be any size and can be either residential or commercial. The project should be inspired by a particular artistic movement such as expressionism or modernism or by a particular work of art. To find out more about the contest, go to

Tile of Spain showcased a number of unique looks from member firms, including a color-body tile called Titanium Neo from Roca with a metallic reptilian design. Also new from Roca is Green City, an addition to the Top Green collection that features a stone look in a matte finish. Top Green products feature 80% post-industrial content.

Also on display were mosaic products from Ceramica Elias, which is best known for its handmade red body ceramic tiles. The firm also produces white body products that are machine made and tumbled for a natural look.

Tile of Spain also showcased clinker tile from Ceramicas Brancos. Clinkers are thick, dense, durable tiles with slip resistance, often specified for outdoor applications.

Tau came out with the Kemberg series of abstract stone looks in four different colors, featuring low key graining and light distressing with an “orange peel” finish. Tau’s Karim Rashid No-Stalgia line—four series in four designs each—was also on display. In addition, Saloni came out with a wood look tile called Fusion that features in register graining and high definition digital inkjet printing.

Florida Tile continues to expand its commercial product offering and its presence in the commercial specified business. Similar to Marazzi, Florida Tile is owned by a leading tile producer in Italy—Panaria Group—but makes most of its products in its own factories here in the U.S. Today, roughly 15% of Florida Tile’s business comes from the contract sector, but this is a growth area for the company. 

Two of the firm’s latest introductions are Birkshire and Stellar. Birkshire is a collection of distressed wood look tiles sold in 6”x24” planks. The realistic wood graining is reproduced using a high definition digital printing process and the surface is also textured to look like aged, distressed wood. This collection comes in five colors to emulate hickory, maple, oak, olive and walnut. Stellar, on the other hand, is a concrete looking through-body tile available in four colors and three formats, the largest of which is 24”x24”.

Caesar Ceramiche, which produces rectified porcelain and does most of its business in the U.S. in the commercial market, came out with Flow, a through-body tile with a matte finish, a “mini scratched” finish and a bright finish, which is a mixture of matte and high gloss. The five colors in the line display subtle shade variance. Tile sizes go up to 24”x24”. 

Also new is Supreme, a natural stone look in five designs, ranging from pale stone looks to a textured grey to a slate design with a dramatic, volcanic look. Sizes go up to 24”x48”. Summa, a marble design with a smooth, sophisticated look, is a through-color tile that comes in five colors and two thicknesses (standard and 4.8 mm) with a polished lappato finish.

Mondo rolled out Mondo Idea, a new rubber flooring system that was developed specifically for commercial environments. Mondo Idea features patterns embedded into vulcanized rubber, an industry first. The new line is a coordinated system with three parts: One, a solid color flooring that comes in 30 colors; Grain, a speckled flooring that comes in the same 30 colors as One but with coordinated color flecks; and Decors, a patterned flooring that is available in six designs (with two colors available per design).  

Burke came out with a cove base that features a factory made skive mark in the back for when the product is installed in corners—the skive is the groove of material that is cut out to allow the product to be bent. The new feature, on the firm’s RubberMyte wall base, simplifies the installation process by eliminating the need for installers to make skive marks by hand.

Also new at Burke is sheet rubber flooring, which comes in 4’x50’ rolls. The Endura Works sheet flooring line, which should do great in healthcare, comes in 16 flecked colorways. In addition, the firm came out with LVT stair treads that match current LVT lines, in five designs, with seven more to come.

Junckers introduced new 5” solid hardwood planks with rustic wirebrushed looks. The planks range in length from 5’ to 12’ and the wirebrushed visuals cover a range from deep, almost burnt hues to medium tones to pale, cool finishes. The line features products with either oil or polyurethane finishes, including a matte urethane finish.

NSF International, the not-for-profit certifier and standards producer that is behind the NSF/ANSI 140 and NSF/ANSI 332 carpet and resilient lifecycle assessment standards, came to the show to talk about the product category rule (PCR) the organization is developing. Product category rules determine what impact categories need to be reported for an environmental product declaration, and the PCR NSF is developing will apply to the flooring industry—carpet, ceramic, hardwood, laminate and resilient flooring.

NSF started working on the PCR in March and anticipates completion by the end of the year.

Propex, the world’s leading producer of carpet backing, made its debut at NeoCon this year to introduce a new woven primary backing for modular carpet tile, which is made from 85% recycled polyester. This new Isis branded backing is designed to provide better mechanical and thermal stability during the manufacturing process and reduce defects that occur during beck dyeing. 

Manufactured at its plant in Gronau, Germany, this product will allow the modular carpet tile producers to create looks that were once only possible with broadloom carpet. Early adapters of this technology are J&J, Mannington and Masland. 

RFMS is keeping up with the fast moving world of technology with its updated Measure Mobile product. Measure Mobile software is a subscription product that now runs on all smartphones and iPads, giving the retail salesperson the ability to do on the spot bids and proposals in the field. Designers are also finding use for the software.

UL Environment, a division of Underwriters Laboratories launched in 2009 to take the firm’s testing, evaluation and certification capabilities into the environmental arena, had experts on hand to talk about the new LEED Pilot Credit for Certified Products, which gives extra LEED points for products that have been verified or certified for their lifecycle environmental impact.

UL Environment acquired Air Quality Sciences and the Greenguard Environmental Institute at the beginning of this year, and in 2010 the firm acquired Terrachoice and the Canadian EcoLogo program. 

Copyright 2011 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Mannington Mills, Karastan, Interface, Crossville, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Beaulieu International Group, Tarkett, Mohawk Industries, Marazzi USA, Carpets Plus Color Tile, Daltile, Parterre Flooring Systems, CERAMICS OF ITALY, The Dixie Group, Roppe, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Coverings, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)