NeoCon 2012 - July 2012

By Darius Helm, Maurie O'Neill, Ruth simon McRae and Frank O'Neill


Just about everyone agreed that this year’s NeoCon contract furnishings trade show, held every June in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, was more dynamic, enthusiastic and energized than it has been in the last few years, with plenty of innovation, color and flair. And while that’s good news, it’s a bit mysterious, since the business pace of the commercial market is about where it was last year. But the word is that there’s more activity at the A&D firms, so it could be that the second half of this year is going to be busy for manufacturers.

This renewal was actually in evidence at last year’s show, while the corporate replacement business was still rebounding and markets like K-12 had yet to emphatically dry up—NeoCon attendance in 2011 was up 4%. But in the last few quarters, corporate work has slowed, sectors traditionally boosted by pent-up demand at the back end of recessions, like retail and hospitality, have only delivered sporadically, and publicly funded sectors, from government work to K-12, have gone quiet. Fortunately, sectors like healthcare and higher education have been strong, and corporate might be not be as dynamic but there’s a lot of it. And there’s sporadic activity across all sectors, the vast majority in renovation projects as opposed to new construction.

Slow or not, the corporate sector, including owner-occupied and tenant improvement, is the biggest part of the commercial market, so there’s always a lot of product at the show targeting that sector. But for now healthcare seems to be the most robust sector, and there was no shortage of flooring manufacturers at NeoCon showcasing programs specifically targeting both assisted living and acute care. It’s really assisted living that’s the most exciting market right now because the design considerations are so multifaceted. Hospitality designs fit with the leisure destination atmosphere while residential styles are reassuring, and at the same time products have to perform and must be tailored to both the demands and the limitations of aging clientele. In a slow economy, assisted living is a growing market with at least a decade’s worth of momentum to it, so everyone wants to get in on the action.

Considering the activity at the show, it was surprising to learn that this year’s NeoCon had lower attendance than last year’s event. In 2011, attendance was 42,899 and this year Merchandise Mart Properties reports that attendance came in at 40,947. Next year’s NeoCon will take place from June 10 to 12.

With modularity and flexibility still central to today’s collaborative, open workspace office environments, there’s been a trend this year toward counterbalancing that public space with close-quarters privacy, most notably in chairs with high backs and sides and enhanced sound-dampening properties. Perhaps the most prominent overall design trend is the balance between accents and fields. This year’s accents may have been brighter, but more importantly they were also bigger, sometimes even overshadowing the neutral field colors. The expansion of accents in the material designs goes hand in hand with the prevalence of untinted neutrals.

In flooring, the most prominent trend isn’t about design at all. It’s about carpet mills turning their attention to luxury vinyl. Now that they’re all selling carpet tile and they feel what it’s like to be in a share-gaining category, carpet mills have targeted the other big share-gainer. Also, being a supplier of multiple flooring categories—going to market as a single-source solution—is more important than ever in today’s commercial market. Mannington still stands alone as the only producer of both carpet and resilient flooring, but first Shaw and now Mohawk, Patcraft, Bolyu and even Fortune have LVT lines. Others partner up, like Bentley Prince Street and Parterre with the Astronomie collections. And both Shaw and Patcraft also have sheet vinyl lines.

• Mannington hit the jackpot for the second year in a row, winning a Gold Best of NeoCon in the Healthcare category for its second generation of the Vivendi Collection. Last year, Vivendi, a collaborative line of sheet vinyl flooring designed by HOK and the creative team at Mannington, featured a unique linen texture coordinated with Pallas Textiles’ interior healthcare products. This year, the firm extended the designs to carpet. The collection includes small, medium and large scale softened architectural patterns, reminiscent of formal European stone tiling. Vivendi Carpet comes in the same fresh, natural palette as its vinyl counterparts, in both carpet tile and broadloom. It can be heat-welded directly to the sheet vinyl for a clean transition, eliminating the need for strips.

Other interesting collaborations include the Connected Collection, designed with Corgan Associates of Dallas, which offers a dynamic group of sleek mix & match carpet tile linears in a variety of formats and a palette of sophisticated neutrals with surprise bright accents, where designers can create signature plaid and striated looks.

Also new and exciting at the show: the firm’s recent acquisition of trendy LVT producer Amtico, which looks like a strong marriage between two high quality, top design players. Amtico rolled out its first display under the new ownership with a creative combo of traditional wood planks and bright, color-rubbed wood looks with a 1950s spirit. 

• While some of the other fashion leaders shifted their focus away from textured patterns this year, Bentley Price Street came to NeoCon with several striking new carpet collections—most of which are available in broadloom, carpet tile and rug formats. Playing on a theme of weathered modernism, one of Bentley’s more exciting introductions was Malibu Colony, which comes in 12 colors and features three distressed patterns—Carbon Beach, Grotto Trail and Legacy Park. Two additional new collections with the same theme are American Riviera and Zuma Bluffs. All of these products combine tufted patterns with tip shearing, much like Oscar Worthy, the highly successful collection that won a Best of NeoCon Gold award last year. 

Two years ago, Bentley Prince Street partnered with LVT producer Parterre to come up with Astronomie, a coordinating LVT and carpet collection curated by designer Maurie Welsh O’Neill of O2 Strategies. This year, the firm, again with O’Neill, is launching Astronomie II, a collection using two BPS styles (Roadside Attractions and Oscar Worthy) to coordinate with 19 Parterre products, including eight wood looks, two linen textures, three leather looks and six designs derived from stained concrete, asphalt and worn stone. The firm also introduced its ninth series in collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern, called Modern Motion, a 28-ounce solution-dyed carpet with a large scale pattern of intertwining spheres with linear streaks of subtle color.

Aside from product introductions, Bentley Prince Street was also promoting its new Tile Configurator—a virtual design tool that can be accessed on With this tool, designers are able to mix and match the company’s wide array of tile products and discover which products give them the look they are seeking for their client.

• Imola, one of Italy’s leading ceramic and porcelain tile manufacturers, has been marketing its products in the U.S. for some time now, but until recently the company has run the U.S. business from Italy. Last July, the company brought in Tom Smith, a long time executive in the U.S. industry, as president of North America, and things began to change. The North American business now has a U.S. based sales force, and a product line specifically targeted to the U.S. design market. And most importantly, the company is now selling the Imola brand, not just porcelain tile.

Smith and his team worked with designers from across the country to choose nine product lines from the parent company’s vast collection that are specifically suited to the U.S. commercial market. New at NeoCon 2012 is Cliptile, a line of 12 styles that has a plastic underframe with a clip system that makes installation quick and easy. It can be used for temporary installations or for workplaces that don’t want to disrupt employees while the new floor is installed and drying.

• Once again, Shaw Contract won the Best of NeoCon Gold award in the modular category, taking its Gold winning streak to an unprecedented 11 years in a row. Reesie Duncan attributes this streak to “a little bit of luck and an incredible design team,” but based on that track record, it does appear that Shaw has figured out what the judges are looking for. It takes more than a striking product design. To win, the product must be distinctively unique and the story behind the design needs to resonate with the panel of judges. 

This year’s winning entry was Dye Lab—a colorful tie-dyed looking cut-pile carpet collection with random shifts of color that give the product character. The dyes used to create this look are derived from natural sources like the madder root, indigo and the cochineal. The color shifts are created by twisting and bundling the product with ropes during the beck dyeing process. 

A second new modular collection featured throughout half of Shaw Contract’s NeoCon booth on the 10th floor was Natural Palette, which also derives its color from natural sources, but with this collection it’s rust, logwood and onion skins. To develop the collection, which comes in 12 colors and four designs, Shaw worked with a team of students from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Natural Palette’s texture is created using a new tufting innovation called Plush Pile that incorporates an exaggerated loop into a felted cut field. Based on the plush face weight of this collection, it is targeted for the upscale part of the market. 

All of the products on display in Shaw Contract’s space this year were modular. A third collection called Unearthed, targeted for the healthcare market, is constructed in an 18”x36” format. The organic patterns in this collection are inspired by the evidence-based design principle that nature is “a proven force in healing.”

This year, for the first time, Shaw rented a temporary space on the eighth floor of the Mart to display its resilient sheet and LVT products. In previous years, Shaw’s hard surface products have been incorporated into the Shaw Contract space on the tenth floor. And just to prove once again that Shaw understands how to win awards, the company won a Best of NeoCon Gold in the resilient flooring category with an LVT plank product called Quiet Cover. This floating series features a locking system for quick install and a silencing underlayment layer to give it added quieting performance. Quiet Cover comes in 14 colors featuring various wood species and it is over 7” wide with a micro-beveled edge.

A few other LVT collections that caught our eye were Uncommon Ground and Jeogori. Uncommon Ground has a striated wood grain visual and comes in a 6”x36” plank format in 23 different colors. Jeogori, which in Korean means “shirt,” has a linen visual.

• About 80% of Americans now live in urban areas, and the average person’s connection with nature is getting more and more remote all the time. That’s why architects are increasingly integrating different forms of nature into their building designs, to reconnect people with their deeper ties to nature, which the philosopher Erich Fromm called biophilia. This June, designer David Oakey incorporated the concept into his latest Interface carpet tile collection, Urban Retreat.

Urban Retreat beautifully mimics nature in the way its designs can morph from monochromatic texture into organic forms that look like moss growing on trees or algae on a pond. There were many carpet designs at NeoCon 2012 that fused solid color fields with random, organic shapes, but none as striking as Urban Retreat. There are nine basic patterns in the collection, which can be melded together in a nearly infinite variety of colorful floorscapes, or laid out more conservatively, using a single style, such as Urban Retreat 301, a solid textured pattern flecked with small dots of color that creates the look of French limestone. The wide variety of possible designs makes Urban Retreat infinitely specifiable. It should be a big hit with designers.

Urban Retreat is being launched globally this summer, as part of Interface’s effort to design products that can be used worldwide. While every culture in the world still has its own unique take on color and design, there is a growing trend toward global standardization in architecture and design, a trend that Interface intends to embrace.

Another interesting and unique new creation from Interface: Walk The Plank, a one meter long by 25 centimeter wide linear tile that looks like wood. It can be installed in either ashlar or herringbone patterns. Keep you eyes on this striking style. It could be the start of a trend toward more unique shapes in carpet tile.

• Recycled rubber leader Ecore International introduced the Studio collection, an edgy line of sophisticated colors and patterns for applications beyond the usual places rubber floors are specified. The collection, which was designed by interior designer and colorist Maurie O’Neill of O2 Strategies, has the look of hand-pressed, colored cork. It’s targeted as a companion to high-end carpet for corporate, university and upper end hospitality and retail projects. There are 20 rich neutral colors and patterns, ranging from pale creams to stony greys to deep chocolates, offered in both tile and sheet goods. 

• Crossville’s booth on the eighth floor may have been small in size, but it had quite an impact, by featuring two large product concepts.

The first was Laminam, a full line of lean profile, large format tiles that are suited for interior wall installations and may be used on an array of surfaces, launched as part of an exclusive alliance between Crossville and the System Group of Italy. The initial offering of 3mm thick fiberglass reinforced porcelain panels will be available in over 50 items.

The second was Shades, a product that embodies an ideal partnership between project/customer need, design collaboration and product development. The inspiration for Shades began with a challenge from Cannon Design. While working on the renovation of the John C. Kluczynski Federal Building, designed by Mies Van Der Rohe, they came to Crossville with a question: “How green can you be?” 

Crossville initially explored the process of recycling the building’s current tile, then followed with the more complex challenge of recycling plumbing fixtures from the building into new ceramic tile. In partnership with Toto USA, the first cradle-to-cradle product in the ceramic industry was created.

With a subtle, linear texture, Shades has a soft, natural look that has been described as evoking the feel of “frost on birch trees.” The color palette consists of warm and cool neutrals, ranging from pale to deep shades. Tiles are available in 6”x24”, 12”x 24” and 24”x 24” as well as custom sizes. They can be mixed and matched, or highlighted with the bling of smaller metallic accent tiles. 

• This year, Mohawk’s showroom revolved around four themes, each a social trend impacting everyone from designers to end users, and each embodied in a single collection. Each theme was interpreted by a prominent designer and concisely curated for the design community with a handful of images drawn from a broader design context.

The DIY theme, interpreted by guest curator Todd Oldham, was about putting design back into the hands of designers, and the associated carpet tile collection, State of Mind, served as the backbone of Mohawk’s program at this year’s show. State of Mind, made from the firm’s Duracolor solution-dyed nylon, features an ombre design in two looks, Curious and Mischievous, and 25 colorways. Curious has a steady linear ombre transition between two colors, while in Mischievous the ombre has a tonal shift, with added visual interest from a carved pattern of narrow branching. Two other designs, Amused and Enthralled, using space-dyed Duracolor, have the same linear theme but without the color gradations, giving designers more control over how the design moves across the floor.

The second collection, under the Generations theme and curated by Robin Osler, was Power Surge, a broadloom and carpet tile line, also using Duracolor, with crisp linear geometric designs. The most dramatic design is Amplitude, a linear loop pattern that seems to run one way with broad bands that reveal a linear pattern underneath running in the perpendicular direction. The use of buried high luster yarns adds vitality to the design. Power Surge comes in 13 colorways of mostly soft tonal neutrals.

Guest curated by Joey Shimoda, the Spiritualism theme served as inspiration for Bending Earth II, a Colorstrand nylon line of modular carpet made up of three designs. The low-key line is characterized by sophisticated tonal designs. Reflective Symmetry, for instance, features irregular tonal stripes while Vanishing Point features a more open design, with curving stripes forming on overall linear direction. The collection comes in 12 colorways.

The fourth collection, Play of Light, is based on the Rurban trend of rural lifestyles in urban environments, as guest curated by Lauren Rottet. Play of Light, using SmartStrand Contract fiber, features three carpet tile patterns. Filtering Through was particularly dramatic with its linear field seen through irregular angled bands, while Streaming In’s linear design is energized by playful small scale horizontal tilts that also soften the directional pattern. The collection comes in nine colorways including neutrals and more colorful options, like a smoky blue.

• DuPont, which produces the Sorona polymer used to make SmartStrand fiber, had a space on the seventh floor where it showcased product from different parts of the world using its triexta polymer, which is 37% bio-based. The firm recently acquired a Danish firm called Danisco that has a subsidiary called Genencor that DuPont considers a perfect fit for its focus on industrial biotechnology in its DuPont Industrial Biosciences division. The firm had on display a flat woven product made by Denmark’s Fletco using Sorona fiber. The fiber is also gaining traction internationally in apparel manufacturing.

• Tandus’ latest collection using Sero design technology is Natural Formations, with three designs—Winwood, Jasper and Canopy. The collection was installed on the floor at the back half of the showroom in similar colorways to last year’s Sero product, Atmosphere, from the Change collection, and both share the concept of a strong linear design running over an organic field. The line comes in ten colorways, including a few eye-catching vivid options, on both carpet tile and Powerbond, with the firm’s Dynex nylon face fiber.

Toward the front of the showroom was DV8, one of the most dramatic new products at the show. The line, also using Sero design technology and inspired by the needle-shifting of tufting machines, is made up of narrow lines that run down the length with mathematic precision, at intervals zigzagging as one like repeating oscilloscope patterns. DV8 is captivating in the neutral and earthy colorways, but it’s a showstopper in the brights. The line is available in Powerbond or carpet tile, including the 18”x36” format, with solution-dyed Dynex SD nylon face fiber.

Tandus won Best of NeoCon Gold award this year in the broadloom category for the Needle Tech Collection. There was a sample in the far corner of the showroom, a design called Breakout in rich black, which was a dramatic choice for the small scale folded geometric patterning. The construction uses high and low luster solution-dyed Dynex SD nylon in variable level loop constructions, creating the effect of a handcrafted cut loop product. 

Other significant introductions included two woven broadloom products in small-scale textured grid designs, one ultra crisp construction called Bella and one softened visual called Milarepa. Also compelling was the Radiance Line, featuring two modular designs (Radiant and Lumen) coordinating with a broadloom called Echo. The line also uses high and low luster fibers for a layering effect. Radiant and Echo feature shifting short tip-sheared bands of high profile texture alongside laddered bands peeking through the lower profile.

Cypher and Uproar, inspired by the look of DNA sequencing data, are sophisticated designs that have a strong organic feel to them yet at the same time seem to be inspired by the intersection of data and design. Cypher is blocky and Uproar has a wave pattern, and they both feature high and low luster Dynex yarns in 13 colorways. The line, made with Sero design technology, comes in modular and Powerbond.

• Lonwood Madera, the latest addition to Lonseal’s resilient sheet vinyl product line, is a wide plank wood look that is available in six colorways. Lonwood Madera has more realistic knotting and graining than previous vinyl wood looks and comes standard with Lonseal’s Topseal, a factory applied urethane finish that protects the floor and simplifies maintenance. Lonwood Madera comes in plank lengths of 32” and 16” and is approximately 4 ¾” wide. Lonseal plans to roll out another new introduction with a linen look at the HealthcareDesign Expo in Phoenix this November.

• Aquafil’s showroom on the 11th floor was busy with enthusiastic customers during the show, as the firm’s Econyl 900 denier 100% recycled nylon fiber continues to attract everyone from mills to designers. All the big mills are using Econyl fiber, some more than others, but it’s a green story that’s hard to resist. The 900 denier fiber is currently 60% post-consumer content and 40% post-industrial. The firm’s 1260 denier value brand has 25% post-industrial recycled content. 

Aquafil is using a number of recycled nylon streams, including face fiber sheared off reclaimed carpet. Another new stream the firm is focusing on is nylon fishnets. The recaptured nylon is processed into pellets in Slovenia and extruded at the firm’s facility in Cartersville, Georgia. The 1260 denier fiber, along with 1170 denier automotive fiber, is also extruded in Cartersville. Aquafil’s goal is to reach 100% post-consumer content in the 900 denier fiber in the next few years.

• This year, Amtico introduced its new Vivids Collection with a stunning and unusual floor layout. Fifteen new colors were being previewed at Neocon, as the first phase of the premium Amtico brand product expansion. Most of the colors are intense and vivid, as the name suggests; a few are subtle with a striated texture. The Vivid Collection is the first step in a Fall 2012 product launch of 80 to 90 new colors and textures, the largest in the company’s nearly 50-year history. 

The collection’s new palette reflects global design directions as researched and interpreted by Amtico International’s design studios based in the U.K. 

Amtico anticipates that these first colors will appeal to the healthcare market, especially pediatrics, as well as the retail, education and corporate markets. The products are ideal for wayfinding and logos, as well as traditional floor layouts. As evidenced by the floor and wall displays, the Vivid Collection will offer new and creative options for mixing with its current extensive product offering. Displays also provided an interesting visual link to the exciting parquet flooring layout upstairs at Mannington, Amtico’s new owner as of May 2012.

Amtico also showed new brand identity and marketing collateral for its Spacia line. After a large line expansion in 2011, Amtico is continuing to round out the Spacia collection to 89 products, with the addition of four new abstracts, six stones and six wood looks.

• Antron’s new logo features a thread of Antron fiber moving in one fluid stroke. It represents a concept, the “uncommon thread,” that permeates its showroom. Designed by Perkins+Will, the showroom tells the story of the process of fiber to carpet, with strands of yarn fiber that flow between woven and solid carpet forms, and multisensory features such as interactive imagery projection and live violin music.

The big news at Antron is the introduction of a comprehensive new 895 denier palette housed in a new user-friendly tool kit. Offering smaller denier yarn components is a key to product development today. It allows mills to design lower weight products, particularly tile. The small fiber bundle allows for a larger number of component colors, giving great maximum color flexibility.

The 895 denier color palette was designed by Invista’s team of color experts: Todd VanderKruik, innovation director; Judy-Lea Engels, representing Asia-Pacific; and Heike Schmidt, representing the European point of view.

In addition to the global perspective, the truly excellent thing about the palette of 105 colors is that it was built in one process—as opposed to an evolution over time. The palette is deliberately designed in color families with light, medium and dark values within a given hue. Having multiple shades of each color allows a carpet designer to create depth, both in richness of color and visual depth within a design or construction.

The color palette also includes several super-saturated brights. Happily, the accents have a point of view. Mulberry, a hot trend pink important in the Asia-Pacific market, is probably the biggest surprise. Other trend colors include the highly chromatic Blaze Orange and Lemon Zest.

• Ceramiche Caesar showcased its new Flair.7 through-body porcelain tile. This minimalistic, contemporary collection comes in seven chic colors, ranging from beige to greys and blacks, along with bold, contemporary shades of red and navy. It is available in three large format sizes, the largest being 75cm x 75cm (almost 30”x30”). The finish has an iridescent brushed concrete look, adding to the modern feel of the collection. Also new for Ceramiche Caesar is its Concept Collection, a natural stone look available in five colors and both a matte and textured finish.

• Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is one of the hottest growing flooring categories, and Parterre is one of its most creative practitioners. Designer Roche Fitzgerald consistently churns out some of the category’s most beautiful styles, and this June was no different. The company introduced a collection of five new patterns called Sensatia, which comes in 32 colors—most are lighter than previous styles. The textures are also softer, which make them ideal for the healthcare market. Our favorite: Serenity, which looks like fine linen.
• The Bolyu showroom was clearly a hot spot. A festive venue when seen from the hall, it was loaded with designers and accented by the thematic color of the day.

The biggest story at Bolyu continues to be its focused strategy of brand integration. This includes the LVT products from its joint venture with Toronto-based LSI. Rebooked into three compact volumes and organized as workable coordinates to the carpet line, these products are attractive and usable. The coordinated LVT styles are helping Bolyu expand its menu of solutions, especially for the retail and senior living markets.

Bolyu’s featured carpet collections include the classically elegant String of Pearls Collection. String of Pearls uses a vocabulary of small circles to create four coordinated styles: Freshwater, Tahitian, Cortez and South Sea. The styles build from a simple texture to linear to geometric, all with the string of pearl or dotted line motif. A second introduction, The Expressions Collection, includes woven-inspired linear and geometric textures. 

Geo Accents is a recent introduction that balances subtlety with excitement, tracing bits of crisp color against a tone-on-tone geometric design. 

Collections orbit a palette of accent colors, fittingly named The Brights.

Bolyu has recently introduced a comprehensive catalog known as the Look Book with appropriate and user-friendly digital tools. Look Forward, an online publication designed to communicate company culture and actions to the design community, has been creating excitement about Bolyu’s design ideas and company focus. 

• Forbo’s goal with this year’s NeoCon presentation was to emphasize its role as the king of linoleum, and although the company has many complementing product categories, most of the exhibit space was devoted to celebrating the 150-year history of the Linoleum Federation—from which several of the brand leaders in this category arose. New for Forbo in 2012 is a tough, water based, UV cured wear finish for its Marmoleum products called Topshield2. This finish has been formulated to resist stains and discoloration from chemicals used in the healthcare field, like liquid hand sanitizer.

Also new this year is an adhesive called Sustain 885M, which touts a longer open time and moisture resistance, but more importantly it eliminates the need to heat weld the seams in healthcare environments.

• J+J/Invision showed a full range of new products. Some were dramatic, some understated yet elegant. One collection was specifically targeted to the senior living market. The most dramatic were fittingly in the Drama Collection, with Curtain Call, a large asymmetrical paisley design; Marquis, a classic bar pattern; and Cameo, a universal and classic tweed. 

A favorite was the elegant Urban Canopy Collection. Merging organic shapes in a geometric framework, the product has a subtle color line with such soft color contrast that it reads as a texture. Up a Tree is a standout design, with a clever positive/negative approach to an abstract branch design. Titanium adds a refined and sophisticated texture to J+J’s product offering.

J+J/Invision won a Best of Neocon Innovation award for Kinetex, which was previewed in a separate display on the seventh floor. Kinetex is a hybrid flooring product, a textile alternative to hard surface. With a thin knitted face and soft backing, Kinetex is extremely lightweight and high in post- consumer recycled content, both important green attributes. After nine years of development, refinement and testing, Kinetex is a significant new material.

• Centiva has long been recognized as an LVT contract player with some of the most distinctive looking visuals, and this year the company’s new collections build on that reputation. Out of the five new product collections (which total 27 new SKUs) two of the visuals, called Montage and Crossweave, are abstract and three are wood plank visuals. Crossweave has an antique woven textile visual and Montage is a patchwork of little squares that blend into an abstract base that almost looks like carpet yarn. Of the three new wood visuals, Cane is most distinctive with a high contrast graining effect on a distressed bamboo visual.

Centiva has also been busy redesigning its website, which is probably one of the most dynamic new sites in the commercial interiors sector. The navigation from the product area to the visual design tools is non-linear and therefore easy to work with, and now that the “flash” code has been removed, the site works on all the new mobile devices. Designers can easily use this site to build out their own design vision using Centiva’s product visuals. Where this site excels is with strong visuals and ease of navigation.
This is the second NeoCon since Centiva was purchased by Tarkett, and the brand continues to be the boutique leader in LVT visuals.

• For the last several NeoCons, Milliken’s design focus has been heavily influenced by the patterned textures introduced to Milliken with the acquisition of Bob Weiner’s Constantine brand. This year, however, the focus shifted back to the laboratory-based innovation that has been giving Milliken its edge for decades. The visuals on Milliken’s latest carpet collections, called Color Wash, would not be possible without the next generation of injection dying. Yes, Milliken has updated its Millitron print capability and the latest (XI) version is capable of injecting 22,500 dots per inch versus the 625 dots per inch with the previous version. 

Color Wash comes in two patterns, Matter and Medium, but they both use the same basic substrate—a one square meter carpet tile where the face yarn is a level combination of loop and cut, so most of the visual undulations are done with the color printer. Matter has two visual variations called Methodical and Arbitrary, with the former having a large scale (10’x13’) pattern repeat. With Medium, the tile’s edges fade to raw to give a visual of raw canvas. Both collections use the same 40-color palette.

• Universal Fibers won a Best of NeoCon Gold in carpet fiber for Revolve, which the firm hopes will be an alternative to long space-dyeing. Space-dyeing can make the yarn heavy and color consistency can be a problem, according to the firm. Revolve is a solution-dyed yarn with tonal color shifts. The 600 denier nylon 6,6 allows for the creation of lower face weight products than can be produced with space-dyed yarns.

Revolve, which is premium priced, is available with post-consumer content from reclaimed carpet fiber. The firm recently expanded its color offering with Universal Color 2.0 to nearly 300 colors, including several metallics. 

• Johnsonite’s core “Solve for X” booth message at NeoCon builds on the company’s Balanced Choice theme, which basically tells the designer or customer that no matter what flooring equation they are trying to solve, Johnsonite has the answer. So, with every resilient category covered (vinyl, linoleum or rubber) and any texture, finish, visual or color desired, Johnsonite offers a solution.

This year, Johnsonite won a Best of NeoCon Silver award for IQ Natural, a homogeneous vinyl sheet product that features a natural castor oil (bio-based) plasticizer with a non-directional visual that comes in 24 colors. This “no wax required” product has a low maintenance profile and also contains 25% recycled content. Also, just to keep things exciting, Johnsonite reworked the color line for its rubber tile products with 82 new colors. 

• Patcraft had plenty of reasons to celebrate at this year’s NeoCon. First, its new space on the tenth floor is a much more welcoming space than the bowling alley to which it had been previously consigned. Second, the firm has entered the commercial vinyl market, unveiling a luxury vinyl collection as well as both heterogeneous and homogeneous sheet vinyl lines. Third, the firm’s Cultural Layers carpet tile collection was unique and memorable with its fusion of global iconic designs.

Cultural Layers comes in four designs. The base design, Ecot, is the firm’s interpretation of the ancient Ikat textile dyeing process of creating pattern by binding fibers to resist color penetration. The Ikat look is conveyed through a linear pattern shifting through colors in the same family with a tip-sheared construction supported by higher loop piles. The construction, which protects the tip shearing, enables the product to be specified in higher performance areas.

The Ecot design is the base pattern for all four products. Ecot Color is the Ecot design with a handful of sporadic accent lines cutting across it. Ecot Script features a wide band that looks like an overlay in accent colors of stylized Arabic calligraphy. 

The fourth design, Layered Expression, features a large scale pattern overlay based on a fusion of iconic global designs. The collection comes in nine colorways made up of earth tones and neutrals, including some tinted neutrals.

On the resilient side, Patcraft came out with two luxury vinyl planks, Highland Forest and Woodland View. Woodland View is a 6” wide plank with a 12 mil wearlayer, and it’s available in ten colors, ranging from light pine tones to deeper exotics and one reclaimed wood look. Highland Forest, a 4” plank, features a thicker 20 mil wearlayer, and it comes in 12 designs in both warm and cool colors, ranging from exotic hardwoods and domestic oaks to rustic barnwoods.

Another collection of wood looks is found in Patcraft’s Brookwood heterogeneous sheet line, a high performance product, also with a 20 mil wearlayer. The 12 styles range from several warm mid-tone and deep colorations to strand bamboo designs and a whitewashed look. Forge Ahead, the homogeneous line, features a speckled design in 12 colorways that go from neutrals through sage and olive to a soft medium blue and a near black.

• Estrie Flooring, the U.S. division of American Biltrite Flooring, introduced its new patent-pending collection of rubber flooring called AB Pure. This new collection features clean, crisp colors without the yellow cast that you frequently see in rubber flooring. Thanks to the absence of the yellow cast, AB Pure is able to produce a pure white along with colors that are more vibrant and true. To come up with the 36 colors in the line, Estrie consulted with professional designers to find out what colors they would like to see. The color palette ranges from pure white to neutrals to playful, vibrant brights. Estrie can also custom color match any Pantone color. AB Pure is available in either rolls or tiles all in a variety of textures. 

• Ardex Americas displayed its Pandomo product line, a cementitious floor topping that was initially launched at The World of Concrete in Las Vegas in January. Pandomo is a system of floating high quality specially selected aggregate into fresh mortar to create decorative concrete floors. The Pandomo system includes concrete toppings, sealers and maintenance products. There are five initial color schemes that can be altered to match most any color.

• Tricycle introduced new iPad and iPhone apps to better suit the immediate needs of the design community. The new apps make it possible for users to achieve immediate custom configurations and deliver high-quality PDF images for presentations on mobile devices. Re-coloring custom products and virtual room scenes can be achieved in real time, and PDFs are simulated, rendered, and sent via email in minutes.

• Fortune came to NeoCon with a highly edited group of boutique wood looks in luxury vinyl tile, including natural, sawn and scraped textures. Grouped in related color families, the LVT products enhanced Fortune’s new carpet introductions. Fortune will include additional looks in LVT with new surfaces and imagery. 

The other big story at Fortune Contract is the transition to Aquafil products, with a collection of richly textured initial styles. Bounce is characterized by a gridded cut and loop texture and a rich all-neutral color palette. Twine, which like Bounce is available in both broadloom and tile, has a solid background accent by a small, high luster yarn. Glaze takes it up a notch with a larger percentage of the higher luster contrast and a chunkier texture. Glaze has a broad palette of 24 subtle neutrals. 

• StonePeak Ceramics’ Plane Collection went right along with the NeoCon theme of Think Big with its amazing 5’x10’ porcelain tile. This 6mm thick engineered porcelain is available in four sizes. The collection consists of three color options mimicking the look of natural stone. Stone Peak also had a new weathered wood look, the Crate collection. This collection, which is available in three realistic distressed wood colorways, appropriately named Charred Bark, Weathered Board and Colonial White, comes in a 6”x24” and an 8”x48”. 

• Cork has been used in flooring since the early 1900s. Initially it was 1/2” thick, sturdy, like a board. As cork flooring products became mainstream, the material evolved into a thinner profile, typically 3/16” thick.
After receiving requests to supply replacement flooring for some older historic projects, Expanko has built on the value of its heritage with its new Heirloom product. Expanko has proprietary equipment for production of the thick cork boards, as well as user-friendly tools for the creation of unique floor designs. Heirloom is offered in three natural tones—light, medium and dark—with added complexity from cork’s natural patina.

Expanko recently purchased Fritz Tiles, a terrazzo manufacturer, expanding its offering of flooring solutions. An inherently appealing material, Fritz tiles are flexible from both a color and material perspective. Designers can be creative in the development of custom colors in a variety of ways, including the addition of colored glass chips to the stones or adding color to the binder. 

• Roppe’s product focus this year was centered on its new Dimensions rubber tile collection. These 50cm (just under 20”) tiles contain 10% natural rubber with three texture profiles—stripe, random and crackle. The collection is available in 70 solid colors. Since the product is rubber, it has a slightly higher initial cost but a much lower maintenance profile than sheet vinyl or VCT.

Four years ago, Roppe introduced its Impact program to reduce the amount of post consumer resilient flooring ending up in the landfill, and to date the company reports that it has recovered 6,400 tons of flooring material. With this program, all the flooring contractor has to do is toss the old flooring into Roppe’s Gaylord container and the company collects it and converts it back into new flooring.

One growing part of Roppe’s business is its custom water jet service, which is popular with schools that want to personalize their floors with logos and mascots. An intricate sample of this type of custom flooring was on display in Roppe’s NeoCon space.

• INSTALL, the installer training organization, was on-hand at NeoCon with a booth on the eighth floor to promote the benefit of using professionally trained installers on all commercial flooring projects. In particular, INSTALL’s goal is to tie the manufacturers’ warranties to the use of certified installers. Knowing how to properly install the latest flooring materials requires on-going training, which requires an investment that can only be justified if those people who are properly trained get paid for their expertise.

• Karndean unveiled Iobac Magnetised Flooring Technology, a two-part system that involves troweling on and rolling a thin magnetized coating that sets within an hour, then loose-laying Karndean LVT with a magnetic backing. It’s like a giant version of those magnetic business cards or mini-calendars you’ll come across sometimes that you slap onto your fridge, but in this case the fridge is the kitchen floor. And, according to the firm, the product will not harm credit cards or portable electronic devices because the magnetic field does not penetrate upward.

The technology comes out of the U.K., via a partnership between Iobac Corp., 3M, Interface U.K. and Karndean—Interface owns the rights to carpet tile systems. The product should do well in retail spaces, where it’s important to regularly switch out flooring with display changes. Karndean is offering dozens of wood options for the Iobac technology.

• USF Contract had on display its Citadel line of high character hardwood planks in an engineered construction and oil finish. A thermal modification process on some of the products in the line dramatically distresses the top veneer. The process also significantly hardens the wood. Citadel features 15 styles divided into three series: Fortress is rustic and thermally modified; Bastion has a smoother sculpted surface; and Tower is heavily wire-brushed. The firm also displayed Britannia, which is oil finished but not rustic. The lines are made of white oak.

• Flexco added ten new colorways to its Natural Elements LVT collection in the Stone series for a total of 18 stone colors and 18 wood colors. The new colors go from a handful of bold hues to a collection of neutrals in a range of intensities. Also the firm added five new profiles to its Base Sculptures wall base line, including two with crisp architectural elements.

• Masland showcased two striking textile looks this year: Serigraph, a random textured cut and loop; and Silkweed, a subtle, high luster crosshatch pattern with a linen look. Each style comes in beautiful neutrals, both in broadloom and carpet tiles. 

The firm’s luxurious hand-knotted rugs, which are computer generated and made in the U.S., are making strong inroads in the hospitality and corporate business sectors.

• Chilewich showcased two new Plynyl weaves this year, Lounge and Bouclé, along with a new tile backing system called BioFelt, developed in conjunction with Velcro. BioFelt features 82% recycled content, both post-industrial and post-consumer, and is promoted as a PVC-free material, which doesn’t seem that significant considering that the Plynyl to which it is attached is made of PVC. Lounge and Bouclé, both tile constructions, come in a range of neutral colorways including compelling moody grey designs.

• Metroflor, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, came to this year’s NeoCon with Engage, an LVT featuring a Uniclic glueless locking system. The firm was also previewing a loose-lay system. 

Engage comes in 7”x49” plank and 12”x24” tile designs. The firm soft launched Engage Essentials last year, with a 12 mil wearlayer, and this year it unveiled Engage Select, with a 20 mil wearlayer and, at 5mm, it’s one of the thickest LVTs on the market, according to the firm. Select Plank comes in eight wood looks and Select Tile comes in six designs from pale to medium earth tones and neutrals.

• Florida Tile’s new Berkshire collection is a color-body tile with a digital inkjet glaze and a timeworn sculpted face. The line comes in five colors. Later this year, the firm is coming out with Natura, a more contemporary commercial look, as well as Cinema, a three-color travertine design.

• CBC Flooring’s focus this year was on its new Halo LVT introduction. Asento, designed for light to medium commercial applications, is a 2.5mm product with a 20 mil wearlayer—Halo has products up to 3mm thick with 30 mil wearlayers. The competitively priced line comes in 14 wood SKUs in 4”x36” and 6”x36” planks and eight tile SKUs in 18” squares. The wood looks include a vertical construction bamboo and both classic and rustic looks. The tile features both stone and concrete designs.

Halo also updated its Halo Stone collection to keep up with growing demand for stone and tile looks. The firm came out with five new designs, including some that are not actual stone looks, so the line was renamed Stones & More. For instance, Strings is a linear design that looks like stylized stratified stone, and Café has a leather texture.

• Atlas’ showroom continued to be a “gallery” for its unique and elegant design perspective. Four new product collections were exhibited, each with a unique flavor. The Dreamology Collection took center stage. With five distinct patterns, ranging from labyrinthine curves to a landscape of softened horizontal elements, Gossamer, Flux, Labyrinth, Kinetic and Mesmeric are all available in broadloom and carpet tile. The nature of carpet tile changes these designs; whereas the broadloom designs have a graceful flow, the same pattern in tile creates a much more dynamic visual. Dreamology has a very dense yet textured all loop construction with complex color combinations. The 24-color palette has a rich, earthy feel.

Another standout at Atlas was the La Dolce Vita Collection with its true cut and loop construction and crisp, tonal patterning. Created by combining solid, tweed and lustrous color effects, this luscious collection included products evocative of Italian treats. Two favorites are Ciambella (onion) and Bellini (no translation needed). The La Dolce Vita Collection has a 24-color palette, with 12 rich neutral colors, and 12 bright and clear on-trend hues.

Italy also inspired The Botanici Collection, a series of carpets that offer a fresh interpretation of traditional botanical motifs. Partially hidden, the flora-inspired designs are mixed textile elements. Filligree and Giordano are exceptional examples.

• Abet Laminati, which makes high pressure laminates for the higher end of the market, has added a click system and ten new patterns to its Vintage Line of 4 ¼”x7 ½” planks. The firm also offers Parqcolor Gold, with over 50 wood designs, and Parqwood, a high pressure laminate with a real wood top veneer.

• Mapei has been busy promoting its 75-year anniversary sweepstakes. In January 2013, during Surfaces and World of Concrete, Mapei will be giving away $50,000 in cash along with a Polaris Ranger RZR XP 900, four 60” flat screen TVs and eight iPads. The sweepstakes is open to contractors in the tile and stone and floorcovering installation sectors and in the concrete restoration sector. 

Joining Mapei’s family of Kerapoxy products is Kerapoxy CQ, an epoxy grout containing quartz. The nature of the quartz aggregate used in Kerapoxy CQ makes it easier for installers to remove grout from the surface of tile during application. The reduced amount of residue and film present after grouting makes clean up much easier. Kerapoxy CQ comes in 18 colors.




1. Dramatic ombre effects were a huge design trend, with many carpet producers offering their own special interpretation:
• using graduated color and tufting methods for a delicate stitch by stitch effect: Bentley Prince Street’s Weathered Modernism, Interface’s Urban Retreat, Mannington’s Shadow Play.
• implementing colored linears: in hi tech, oscillating colored linears with Tandus’ DV8; in gentle linear transitions with Mohawk’s State of Mind.
• using labor-intensive methods that come close to random hand dyeing: Shaw’s Dye Lab
• printing: Milliken’s Color Wash.

2. Linear looks have evolved: 
• new stripes are thinner, often thread-thin 
• and interrupted by random breaks of movement, like directional turns or cross-hatching
• or stripes gently morphing into random, softened squares. 

3. Big textile influence on surfaces this year, especially on the subtler side, such as linen and silk looks.

4. Wider color lines that include all ranges of neutrals: light, medium and deep color, in both warm & cooler casts; untinted greys used with vivid and substantial accents.
• plus all-important clear, trendy bright accents, including some very hot pinks.

5. Metallic yarns continue to be important, as both accents and fields. 

6. Lower face weights with flatter, (sometimes) sleek looks in both carpet tile and some broadloom.

7. More carpet manufacturers are beginning to offer hard surfaces in their repertoire (Shaw, Mohawk, Patcraft, Bolyu). Mannington has been featuring coordinated programs for some time: Mannington’s Vivendi Collection of vinyl and carpet; more recently, Bentley Prince Street has come out with coordinated programs: the Astronomie collection of carpet and LVT and the Color Blox collection of carpet and porcelain.

1. Softer textures in LVT and porcelain: 
• strong influence of textile surfaces, especially thread-like linen looks (Mannington, Parterre, Amtico).
• washed concrete and lightly worn plaster effects.

2. Low and zero gloss finishes.

3. Expanded woody looks in both LVT and porcelain: 
• new, wiry retro–linear wood effects (Mannington, Parterre, Crossville).
• pickled whitewashed wood looks (Centiva). 
• mix and match combos with bold brights in wood (Mannington, Amtico).

4. Striated looks in VCT and linoleum.

5. Broader color palettes that include both neutrals and bolder, edgy brights.

6. More recycled content in rubber and vinyl (Ecore’s Studio Collection, Johnsonite’s IQ Natural)

Copyright 2012 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Tarkett, Roppe, The Dixie Group, Rottet Studio, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Interface, HMTX, Parterre Flooring Systems, Metroflor Luxury Vinyl Tile, Crossville, Stonepeak Ceramics, Mohawk Industries, Mannington Mills, The International Surface Event (TISE)