NeoCon 2016: Bold colors and innovative designs at this year's show - July 2016

By Darius Helm, Calista Sprague, Ruth Simon McRae and Anne Harr

By all accounts, this year’s NeoCon commercial interiors show was a success, with bigger crowds than last year, more bold designs and innovations, and increased use of cutting edge technologies, all taking place in the newly remodeled Merchandise Mart.

The show floors themselves weren’t remodeled, though one of them was missing entirely. The eighth floor, one of the two floors traditionally used for temporary booths, was permanently removed from the show this year to make way for year-round leasing revenue from firms like Allstate. Not only were all of the exhibit booths shifted to the seventh floor—though it’s worth noting that last year only half of the eighth floor was used for the show—but the space was also organized differently. Flooring companies were grouped together in one section of the show floor, with a tight cluster of LVT producers right in the heart of the group. And every LVT exhibitor claimed that they loved it.

The Merchandise Mart renovation, a $40 million investment, was mostly in the public space on the first and second floors, including a wide marble staircase connecting the floors that serves as a casual, albeit grand and expansive, space for lounging and taking a break. The renovation accommodates a cultural shift that has been taking place at the Mart over the last few years, as it has dedicated more of its square footage to leased office space, including tech firms drawn to the open office opportunities. 

The second floor has also been upgraded, with a range of local food vendors plying their trade in the stylishly renovated food hall. The renovation project, which was designed by New York based A+I, also includes a new park between the main entrance and the riverfront.

Inside the Mart, the show was busy from the start—in fact, registration was up 6% with over 53,000 in attendance. And it was immediately obvious that, at least when it came to flooring, bright, saturated colors carried the day—coincidence or not, showrooms decked in neutrals and earth tones didn’t seem to be as busy. There was LVT everywhere, with product from the LVT specialists on the seventh floor heavily focused on wood looks, and LVT from carpet mills or multi-category producers tending to be more abstract, more colorful and more of a design for design’s sake aesthetic.

This year, the exhibitors focused not just on product but on the experience in their booths and showrooms. Many manufacturers created interactive experiences, some digital and some physical, tying into products with varying degrees of success. But the central theme was that the showroom visit be an experience, something memorable.

Mannington, for example, literally transformed its booth between the first and second days of the show, switching out the flooring, the wall décor and even the lighting. And it used digital technologies to give visitors a virtual experience of the alternate showroom. Mohawk had massive mirrors on opposite walls, tilted to reflect the carpet from a higher angle, transforming what looked like an abstract organic pattern into a moonscape. Bentley’s Kinsey Street showroom had an aura photo booth. Universal Fibers encouraged visitors to thread yarn across a wall of color, guided through nodes by their response to choices, and had kiosks for digital interactivity. Armstrong let visitors try to scratch through its Diamond10 finish.

Overall, the most prominent development in flooring at the show was the embrace of color. Even though the colorways on many products, particularly carpet, were still dominated by neutrals, it was the bold and adventurous colorways that were on the floors and walls. Patcraft had colored nooks in crooked shapes in orange, purple, red, green and blue, echoing the mixed carpet tile and LVT display on the opposite floor in both shape and color. Tarkett’s showroom and booth spaces were all about color, led by what was arguably the biggest celebration of color at the show, its Riot LVT of clustered mixed flowers brought to life through high definition digital printing.

Mannington’s showroom—on day one—was a kaleidoscope of color. So was Armstrong’s booth, and Chilewich’s. And many more.

Some vivid hues were particularly prominent, rich and deep blues, for instance, sometimes paired with blacks, sometimes with earth tones. Those that were positioned along walls next to the hallways, like Bentley’s (Los)t Angeles and Masland’s Freehand, drew in a constant stream of visitors. 

Another trend was rugs and rug visuals. Over the last couple of years, area rugs have been gaining traction in some unlikely sectors, like corporate and hospitality, among others, including bound broadloom rugs. There were more of those on display, and there were also less conventional rugs—Interface showcased its Flor tiles, Tarkett illustrated LVT rug visuals in Collections Infinies. And in one of the most interesting expressions of area rug aesthetics, Shaw Contract came out with a carpet tile collection called Extraordinary, mixing two relatively traditional carpet tile constructions with a totally uninhibited shag, creating a visual and tactile display that seemed to speak directly to the trend toward soft places to land in a hard, fast-paced corporate environment.

Shapes continue to develop, in both carpet tile and hard surface flooring. LVT experimented the most, coming out with hexagons, chevrons, skinny planks and other geometric shapes designed to interlock, including products from Patcraft, Mannington, and Karndean. 

In carpet, distressed looks were big this year—worn textile visuals, looks reminiscent of rustic concrete and stone, patterns coming through patterns. Thick textures were also more visible, in both carpet and textiles. Carpet tiles in three formats were everywhere—design A, transition A-B, design B—with one of the most prominent examples coming from Milliken’s award winning Lapidus collection, along with Shaw’s Configure, and on the hard surface side coming from Tarkett’s Riot transitioning from high definition flowers into pixelation, and also from Tarkett’s Trans-Materia. Another trending trio came in the form of collections of three adjacent colorways, also captured well in Lapidus.

In general, there were a lot of hospitality looks on display, and this speaks not just to the high activity in the hospitality sector in general, but to the demand for hospitality looks across other sectors, like multi-family and senior living. More broadly, there’s a strong shift in interior commercial development toward mixed-use environments, demanding flooring products designed for traditionally disparate market segments. And there’s also more experimentation in general in the décor of commercial spaces.

Plaids were also a trend at the show. In flooring, firms like Interface and Chilewich provided fresh takes on the pattern. 

Plaids were also more visible in the workspace fabrics, as were felts, which rose to prominence last year, led by their acoustical properties, which are in demand as corporate environments try to develop quiet pockets. This time around there was felt everywhere, from felt dividers at BuzziSpace to hanging felt textiles at Knoll and ICF Group. And if it wasn’t felt, it had to look like felt, from textures to stitching. Colors in upholstery felt soft and warm, even if they came in cooler tones. Colors included light rusty peach, warm mushroom, soft greyed aqua, light cool blue, and creams and beiges inspired by taupe more than by wheat. 

Mannington took a fresh approach at this year’s NeoCon with its pop-up showrooms. On the first day, the showroom was “culturally infused,” with the flooring and wall art reflecting the theme. One section of wall, for instance, featured NYC-inspired imagery, and one of the central collections on the floor was colorful and dynamic LVT. And on the second day the showroom was entirely transformed into a “nature infused” space, highlighted by a white cutout screen against the wall in a floral motif, with the LVT switched out for carpet tile dominated by earth tones. A special transparent screen at the front of the booth, and also an app, allowed people to scan the room through the screen and see the other showroom design, as though the screen were a lens into yesterday or tomorrow.

The most prominent collections for Mannington this year were from a collaboration with One Global Design (OGD), a new network of small and medium sized design firms—currently there are 18 members. One group of OGD’s designers, mostly from the eastern half of the nation, put together Infused, made up of five LVT designs of stylized cultural motifs, like Hustle, which was inspired by umbrellas and the rain in New York City; Broad Street, based on the costuming from Philadelphia’s New Year’s Day Mummers Parade; Bordado, an interpretation of a close-up of the sombrero’s weave; Scratch That, the Atlanta team’s design of an extreme close-up of vinyl record grooves; and Bird’s Eye, a geometrical abstract interpretation of the city pigeon. A similarity in scale, stroke and space bring the different designs together.

On the carpet side, One Global Design developed Intrinsic, using the same principles of scale—Eames’ Powers of Ten—to create, at one end, Contour, inspired by the contour lines of San Francisco’s topographical maps to, at the other end, Magnify, a blow-up of dandelion seeds caught in the wind. Merge was inspired by braided horse hair—from the Seattle team—and Intertwine was derived from the connectivity through nodes that occurs in nature. 

Another notable Mannington introduction was the Portland collection, a geometrical textured design of angled lines irregularly intersecting for a visually arresting motif. Also on display was Divergent, an LVT and carpet tile collection that won Gold in Healthcare Flooring. Mannington also unveiled QuickStix LVT, a peel and stick tile using a water-based adhesive with exceptional water resistance.

Shaw Contract came out with several collections at this year’s NeoCon, and most memorable were Extraordinary and Modern Edit. Modern Edit, which won NeoCon Silver in the broadloom category, is a collection of broadloom, carpet tile and resilient. The 18”x36” carpet tiles include Narrative, a near-solid texture with subtle tip shearing and the glimmer of high luster yarn that conveys a distressed impression; Ornate, with the suggestion of sculpted, faded patterns buried in the pile; and ReThread, which almost looks like one rustic visual worn through to reveal another. 

The broadlooms are Inherit, with an underpattern that comes and goes across the width; and Edition, a small-scale striated pattern with inlaid texture. The collection comes in several neutral colorways—ranges of greys and browns—with paler, and in some cases higher chroma colors, like a bottle green, in the “threadbare” underpattern. The LVT in the collection, Intricate, offers a worn visual with a low-key opalescence and textured embossing that has a textile impression.

Extraordinary, a 12”x48” carpet tile line inspired by rustic barren landscapes, comes in three designs: a striated, slubbed, multi-level texture called Resurface; Foundation, in a crisp, low striated pile; and Primitive, a 50-ounce irregular shag that looks weirdly natural, as though someone watered their carpet and it grew—the shag is produced by using CYP machinery without shearing the tufting. On its own, Primitive seems a bit much, but an installation on the showroom floor that mixed all three designs was the biggest draw in the showroom—and it was one of the biggest hits at the show.

Shaw Contract also introduced a new hexagonal carpet tile collection, called Configure, that breaks the hexagonal visual with color-blocked asymmetrical patterns, transforming into what looks like a random large scale geometrical motif. The three designs include Base, designed in a neutral palette; Contact, which is like Base but with with an edge in a vivid colorway; and Color Shift in saturated colorways.

In a small showroom in the back of the space, where the firm often tests out innovative designs, Shaw displayed a 9”x36” woven LVT plank called Rethink, which will likely launch by the end of the year. It was displayed on the floor in three colorways—dark grey, light grey and medium blue—in a large-scale herringbone pattern.

The theme for the Mohawk Group’s completely redesigned showroom at the Mart was “Expand Your Boundaries,” and the angled mirrored walls and black ceiling, columns and furniture were a bold departure from what we’ve seen in this space in previous years. Austrian design firm 13&9, which Mohawk used last year to design the Moving Floors modular tile collection, designed the showroom and collaborated on two new carpet collections: Topography and Moonscapes.

In total, Mohawk featured 25 new carpet, LVT and rug products at this year’s NeoCon. The most striking modular collection, called Topography, is sold under the Karastan premium brand and is available in five styles—two 24” squares and three 24”x48” “stretch” tiles. The collection features eight tone-on-tone visuals and four accent colors. The product is made out of 38-ounce solution-dyed Duracolor yarn, and the look is a playful mix of geometric shapes with gradated fades of color. This product won a NeoCon Innovation award.

In broadloom carpet, the most striking new product was a woven collection called Homegrown, which is produced on new Wilton looms in Mohawk’s Eden, North Carolina plant. Homegrown has a beefy hand and an artisan craft aesthetic, and the collection comes in seven neutral colorways. 

A second broadloom collection, called Moonscapes, combines printing and patterned tufting, with Mohawk’s Synthesis digital ink jet dyeing process printed on a single greige good base pattern. Fitting for the name, the printed image is a moonscape visual. This collection allows for custom installations using seven cut sizes, four base colors and three levels of saturation. 

For rugs, Mohawk was showing its Onyx collection, produced on Definity tufting equipment. 

In the LVT category, Mohawk launched a new kaleidoscope visual collection called Geometry. The product, which will be available in two months, will be the first commercial LVT product made in the new IVC LVT plant in Dalton, Georgia. This 4.5mm thick product features a 20 mil wearlayer with a matte finish and a concrete visual. Designed primarily for the education market, the collection features spirit colors to match school mascot colors.

A second LVT product called Grown Up is an extension of the Hot and Heavy collection, and it features a European hardwood visual with embossed-in-register surface texturing. This is a free-lay product.

In addition to new product, the Mohawk Group showroom also displayed a new layout visualization tool, which enables designers to customize their space with the new products introduced this year and then output the design straight into SketchUp and Revit. 

All of Tarkett’s brands, Tarkett, Johnsonite and Tandus Centiva, were shown together in the third-floor showroom this NeoCon, and the products rocked the show. Tarkett showcased real innovation in both concept and technology, while bringing in the combined creative energy of four designers.

Collections Infinies, a group of four LVT products, received the Best of NeoCon Gold for hard surface flooring. The technical achievement here is the development of a digital print technology that has an 8’ to 12’ repeat. 

The first of these products, Riot, was designed by brand strategist Georgie Stout of 2 x 4. Fun and irreverent, Riot has the look of a field of hyper realistic flowers. Yet when seen up close, the imagery turns out to be a montage of photos and renderings, each flower seen from a different angle. The product is made up of three designs: one is 100% floral, one has the floral transitioning to an overall pixelated image, and the third is 100% of the pixelated abstract. This allows a designer to create a floor that can flow from one pattern to the other. It also offers the opportunity to create “area rugs” of the floral within the overall ground, a very interesting concept for the hospitality market, with its growing use of hard surface flooring. Riot is offered in four colorations with flexible custom options.

Glow was designed by Krista Ninivaggi of K&Co, an interior design firm. Ninivaggi had two key goals as she and her team developed this project. One was to use materials to create pattern on the floor. The second was to express a particular color concept. The concept for Glow was inspired by watching the sun set over the Hudson River, focusing on the one spot during the sunset where colors transition. This would sound frivolous, yet it is very clearly the inspiration for the style and color effect. In long plank format, each colorway glows. The palette includes A colors and B colors; designers can put together their own combinations by picking from each.

Suzanne Tick, the lead Collections Infinies designer and creator of Trans-Materia, mixed a group of products with marble, felt, foil and wire visuals. The Trans-Materia system is made up of full tiles of each material and transition tile, allowing the designer to shift from one “material” to another seamlessly. 

Crystal by D.B. Kim rounds out the collection with a design created of crystals seen from different angles. At the same time, the faceted patterns merge into abstract geometric shapes, creating an architectural look. To emphasize this, the showroom layout combines planks of Crystal in two contrasting colors to create a subtle cityscape. 

Mesto Configurations, a softly marbleized rubber flooring, received a Best of NeoCon Innovation award for healthcare flooring. Mesto has been expanded into new colors and sizes. Each color consists of a hue, tint and shade, very subtly different, which produce a soft, randomized installation.

On the soft flooring side, the Open Archive collection won two awards. Woven styles OverStitch and Moquette received Best of Neocon Gold for broadloom carpet. Tufted styles GeoKnit and Cache Tweed received Best of NeoCon Innovation for modular. There is complete coordination between all the products In the Open Archive Collection.

Development of these products is a real example of the synergy of multiple companies and connected development teams. Products are highly textural, with the bulk and irregularity largely due to a styling yarn originally developed by Desso, which has a bulky core wrapped with two tiny black yarns. Crossweave is a big, heavy texture, woven from this yarn; Moquette is a finer gauge, with cut rows between rows of a larger loop. 

The new color range has cleaner greys, grey-based (rather than wheat-based) cream and taupe-leaning neutrals, and accents including a Knoll type orange red and two types of blue, green-based turquoise and red-based sapphire. Modular styles include GeoKnit, with its lower tight construction; Cache Tweed, a chenille look with a Chanel-type texture; and Loop Stitch, a bulky, linear look.

Tarkett also featured an LVT collection, Indigenous Earth, with subtle patterning derived from distressed concrete. 

Bentley continues exploring the company’s connection to its roots, this time with a gritty interpretation of Los Angeles’ culture and history. The (Los)t Angeles collection celebrates the constant cycle of demolishing and rebuilding of the city. As vice president of design Todd van der Kruik put it, “Los Angeles has an aptitude for reinvention so strong that its deep roots are easily overlooked as new buildings grow over the old. The gems of L.A. are hidden in plain sight. Our (Los)t Angeles collection goes beneath the glitz and glamour and behind the urban decay to discover extraordinary, exciting and unexpected things.”

The (Los)t Angeles collection is made up of two modular styles, Trespass and Underground. Trespass embodies the look of a large-scale textile, with a softened plaid that has the appearance of an ikat or tie-dyed fabric. Underground is a hard-edged geometric, built of abstract blocks of color. The palette for both is saturated, enhanced by rich textural depth. 

Bentley is expanding its portfolio with new designs based on the types of patterns the firm can now achieve. Colorpoint technology allows the design team to add more shading, drama and depth, as well as the ability to create more dynamic types of patterns. These new patterns give Bentley entry into additional markets, such as hospitality, yet still fit its performance story.

This year at NeoCon, Bentley joined the ranks of carpet mills that have chosen to add a sourced collection of LVT products. Bentley is starting with three styles with broad-based appeal—Canvas, Core and Quarry—in a collection called Elements. Sourced from Europe, Elements unites the rich, warm tones of stained wood, quarried stone and linen textures in 23 color options. 

Across the street from the Mart, Bentley’s Kinsey Street showroom was hopping with activities intended to take designers on a journey of discovery. Many flocked to pick up key-shaped jewelry inscribed with inspirational messages made by The Giving Key, a charitable organization that offers work to the homeless population. An aura photography booth allowed visitors a more inward experience. 

Milliken won a NeoCon Gold in the modular category for its Millitron printed Lapidus collection. Its industrial weathered look somehow seems as much like a distressed concrete as it does a heavily traveled plush silken carpet—it’s hard to believe that the rough fading, the stormy play of color and the scoring and scraping is designed not by nature but by a skilled artisan. And what really takes it to the next level is that the 1m x 1m tiles are designed so that the edges match, seamlessly continuing the design for a large scale look. 

Lapidus comes in 20 smoky color families, from neutrals and earth tones to softened blues and muddy greens. Each color family comes in three related colors, and four transition tiles per color family ensure that colors can be shifted along any axis to any other color in the family with complete pattern continuity.

For a different look that’s also very compelling, Lapidus comes in 25cm x 1m planks for a fractured, more dynamic visual—it was installed in a herringbone pattern on the showroom floor.

The firm also introduced City Proper, a solution-dyed carpet tile line, 50cm x 50cm, of stylized patterns derived from the networks of cables, tunnels and the like that run under city streets. Design Quarter uses crisply tip sheared lines to define rectilinear shapes in different textures, while EC1 uses angled lines in a more open design. Underground is a textural companion style.

Milliken also added to the LVT program it introduced last year with the Freelay line of 5mm floating LVT with a non-skid backing and a 28 mil wearlayer. The boldest new design is Eero, featuring a range of weathered planks with underlying visuals ranging from architectural diagrams to faded distressed decos in eight unique planks. Also new is Fargesia Bamboo, with the narrow banding of vertical construction bamboo; Heritage Wood, with the look of rustic barnwood with occasional band saw marks; and Powergrid, with a woven visual.

Patcraft showcased two product platforms at NeoCon, illustrating its message that performance has multiple definitions, combining not only wear properties, but also the contribution a product makes to the environment, such as health, safety and other wellness-related attributes. 

Mixed Materials Converge, the latest iteration of Patcraft’s Mixed Materials platform, was prominently displayed in the showroom. With the Mixed Materials system, designers are now able to combine hard and soft floorcovering within one floor design cleanly, without the use of transition strips. New colors and shapes are expanding the collection, with eight new hard surface colors and the addition of a 12”x48” plank to the original square and facet shapes. Patcraft illustrated two different types of installations in its space. The front area showcased “Expressive Installation” with rich, saturated colors in a playful arrangement; the back flooring was installed as an “Effortless Installation” with tiles installed randomly, just as they came out of the box. 

A new resilient product, Admix, was awarded a Silver Best of NeoCon award for healthcare flooring. A homogenous tile made of a high molecular weight solid PVC resin, Admix offers the aesthetic of a terrazzo floor. Tiles are 12” or 36” square with nearly invisible seams; the installation in the showroom used the larger tile with a deliberately placed colored heat weld to dramatic effect. Admix’s chunky-flecked aesthetic competes with both terrazzo and rubber, with some unique performance advantages such as the ability to buff out stains.

Admix has a clean neutral palette accented with a few bright colors that may be used for wayfinding or to restrict areas. As laid out in the architect folder, the total color range has an elegant, modern aesthetic.

Patcraft’s showroom was very colorful and cheerful, and it featured three-dimensional vignettes of a single color. According to Pam Rainey, vice president of creative and design, people seemed to like the intense color-on-color impact of the cubes that lined one full wall. “The color cubes reflect the way people are working now. Spaces are being designed so that people can continue to work no matter where they are. The cubes also illustrate the importance of collaborative spaces in the workplace.” She also commented about the merging of market segments. “Markets have converged so much that you can’t identify one specific target market for a product, such as, ‘This is a healthcare product.’ This is especially true when you are a performance brand.”

Beaulieu America’s contract brand, Bolyu, has continued to diversify beyond its carpet roots with several exciting new introductions in the resilient category in its showroom on the 11th floor. New for 2016 is an LVT plank product called Evowood that uses a real wood veneer for the visual layer, which gives a true wood look with the performance attributes of LVT. The first collection, called Elevate, has nine colors in a 6”x36” plank format.

In the sheet vinyl category, Bolyu introduced a high resolution digital product, made in the U.S., with running line visuals, but it can also be produced with custom visuals with a minimum 100-square-foot order. The sheet product is solid vinyl with a 75 mil wearlayer.

In modular carpet, Bolyu came out with three new styles in 18”x36” formats, produced on recently purchased ColorPoint tufting technology. The new styles are called Pen & Ink, Cast Shadow and Line Weight.

While at the show, Beaulieu announced that Steve Hillis was expanding his role to serve as president of Beaulieu America’s residential and commercial businesses.

Interface introduced a sophisticated carpet tile collection of skinny planks and Flor squares, called the World Woven collection. Designed by David Oakey, World Woven is inspired by traditional textiles from regions around the world, like Japan, the U.K. and Australia, in a modern reinterpretation that is neither too literal nor too abstract. Two of the Flor patterns, for instance, are Collins Cottage, that shifts abruptly in wide bands between two different scales of houndstooth; and Scottish Sett, that looks like a tartan design with irregular offset banding.

The plank designs mostly take their cue from classic woolen textiles, like British bespoke textiles, including tweeds, and boucle textures, in neutral colorways, but they also feature a couple of designs in more vivid colorations. Many of the styles in the collection, in linear installations, have the look of tailored broadlooms. A third Flor tile, Mod Café, has a retro look resembling stylized starbursts, calling to mind hospitality motifs from the ’50s and ’60s.

Though it wasn’t showing product at the Merchandise Mart, Interface is working on the development of an LVT program, a curated collection that it plans to launch at the beginning of next year.

Interface also introduced at the show the new president of Interface Americas, Matt Miller. Miller joined the firm in 2015 as chief strategy officer. Prior to that, he was a senior vice president at American Standard, where he worked under Jay Gould, Interface Inc.’s current president and COO.

At an event during the show, Interface also discussed sustainability developments. It announced that it was on track to meet its Mission Zero goal to have no negative impact on the environment by 2020, and it also unveiled a new goal, called Mission: Climate Take Back. The firm hopes to leverage the success of Mission Zero to be a leader of a new frontier in sustainable manufacturing, by both guiding Interface toward the goal and working around the globe to get out the word and generate momentum. 

The four core platforms of the mission are: Live Zero, which means having no negative environmental impact; Love Carbon, as in sequestering carbon into products and back into the earth; Let Nature Cool, which means moving with nature and not against it, like the idea of factories as forests; and Lead the Industrial Re-revolution, through developing better business models that are more inclusive, particularly when it comes to the supply chain. 

Universal Fibers won a Best of NeoCon Gold award in the carpet fiber category for its new Thrive solution-dyed nylon 6,6 carpet fiber with 75% recycled content—an unprecedented level of recycled content for a high performance nylon 6,6. Prior to the development of Thrive, Universal Fibers focused its sustainability story on its ReFresh program, but the new Thrive product has a much higher level of recycled content. Thrive is a 600 denier fiber and is available in 284 colors.

Universal Fibers engaged its NeoCon guests with a playful and interactive activity developed by Gensler’s Chicago office that allowed designers to compare their creative thought process with other designers.

Aquafil focused on two themes at NeoCon, color and sustainability. Franco Rossi, president of Aquafil USA, discussed two color trends that are being seen in products using Aquafil fiber. One is more traditional with a tonal color palette of neutral or deep rich colors. The second approach is innovative and risky, mixing small bits of surprising contrasting colors within one coloration. 

Sustainability is a core principal for Aquafil, which was the recipient this year of CARE’s Recycler of the Year award. Rossi noted that today is a challenging time, because the cost of virgin nylon is at its lowest level in years due to the low price of oil. The cost of recycled material does not go down as quickly, as it is based on labor and other variables. In addition to floorcovering, Econyl is being used by consumer brands in other markets that want to enhance their sustainability, such as Levis, Speedo and Outerknown.

While Aquafil has focused on promoting Econyl for its sustainability story, it doesn’t want people to forget about the strong performance attributes. The StayClean campaign promotes Econyl’s anti-stain chemistry. This is especially important in applications like residential settings when a smaller DPF (denier per filament) fiber is used; the finer fiber augments the exposed surface of the carpet, making it more susceptible to staining. 

Masland Contract had a visually arresting showroom this year, highlighted by bold shapes and colorways featuring a range of vivid blues in collections on the floor and wall. Along one wall was Freehand, a broadloom, carpet tile and area rug collection showcasing the sophistication and flexibility of Masland’s tufting technologies, including CYP, multi-level cut loop and Infinity machinery. The resulting collection—seven broadlooms, two carpet tiles and an area rug—offers abstract organic patterns along with some elevated linear designs. Among the notable products was the area rug in a soft, abstract watercolor design.

On the floor was Diminishing Grid from the Distressed Solutions carpet tile collection, also in a blue colorway, with a geometrical pattern that shows through here and there as though it’s wearing through the pile. Also noteworthy in Distressed Solutions is Faded Batik, with a small organic pattern rising and falling irregularly and in random orientations across the field, reminiscent of woodblock printing.

The firm also added to its Elevate area rug collection with Watercolor, in a linear fluid design made of New Zealand wool. It comes in six colorways and three standard sizes, along with custom colors and sizes.

Masland also added to its Avant program, which focuses on higher end corporate styling with an artisan flair. On the floor were Layered Plaid and Stitched Twill—blocky geometric patterns that shift through color reversals, softened by linear banding.

Atlas’ showroom displayed the full range of its product introductions from the current year, including Bellisimo, the Metropolitan collection, a collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern, along with three new product collections. The showroom was absolutely full of pattern. Creative director Diane Hahn described Atlas’s intent, saying, “We are showing selections rather than collections, with a mix and match of vibrant color, texture and pattern that will complement each other, coordinating across all product lines.”

Momentum is made up of five products, available as both broadloom and tile. Tufted on Atlas’ Interloop machine, an all-loop Infinity scroll with multiple pile heights, these designs are intricately shaded, with the highest loop piles showing the much darker appearance associated with cut pile construction. With 24 colors—a combination of 18 neutrals and eight accent colors—Momentum is a bridge to other products, such as the Shibori and Brio collections, creating a combined palette for all of 48 colorations.

With themes regarding both motion and space, the Momentum collection includes two standout designs: Velocity, with its vertical movement of texture; and Mass, a structured geometric with rectangles of varying shades, created by the variable pile height texture. Other products include atmospheric and flowing organic patterns, all designed with rhythm and movement.

The Ville des Lumieres collection features four running line patterns and 12 custom designs, offered in both broadloom and carpet tile. Patterns reference impressions during a stroll though Paris at night, including Solaire, a geometric with an Art Deco feel, and the self-described Kaleidoscope. Products in Ville des Lumieres have additional colors and textural depth, due to the fine gauge and true cut and loop Ultraweave tufting machine. 

The inspiration for J+J Flooring Group’s new carpet collection and NeoCon showroom theme, called Stellar, came from the firm’s in-house design team camping out in an Airstream RV in Death Valley, California. Of the four styles in the collection, two are focused on the sky—Milky Way and Time Lapse—and two on the landscape—Terra Firma and Dunes. Dunes will most likely be a broadloom product and the other three will be modular in a 24” square format. The products share the same solution-dyed high luster nylon yarn system with a range of 13 colorways. The visuals within each style are accented with variations in tuft height, which makes the collection very textural.

Now in its third year, J+J’s Kinetex product was introduced to provide the commercial market with a hybrid flooring surface with the durability of hard surface and the tactile features of carpet. All Kinetex products are constructed of knitted polyester fabric with a cushion backing. This year, J+J’s two new Kinetex products were Strata and Timber. Strata mimics natural stone and Timber has a hardwood look. Timber comes in a 12”x48” plank format, and Strata comes in an 18”x36” format. Both products feature the firm’s Pre-Fix pre-applied releasable adhesive for quick and easy installation. 

Since launching the Chilewich Contract line in 2001, Sandy Chilewich has been producing cutting edge fashion looks in woven flooring, and this year was no exception. Chilewich launched two new woven collections at NeoCon. The most stunning collection was Plaid, which made a bold statement on both the floors and walls of the booth in six-foot wide rolls, with more saturated colors than the firm has used in the past. Plaid uses a weave pattern with a rotation of 14 different colors in solid and bi-color yarns. The collection is also available in square tiles and planks. Chilewich introduced Speckle, as well, a quiet sophisticated weave that has a nubby textured look in Onyx, Taupe, Blue and Mercury colorways.

Object Carpet has been exhibiting and manufacturing in Germany for more than 40 years, but this year was the first time the German manufacturer has exhibited at NeoCon. The company partnered with Summit International Flooring and was here to promote Freestile, its collection of woven polyester carpet tiles. The collection consists of 16 designs in four color schemes. The designs are created using a digital printing process. The 20” square carpet tiles have the look and feel of a hard surface product but also offer the advantages of a textile surface. 

Area rugs are growing in importance in the commercial as well as residential markets. The vast range of leather materials and finishes offer designers a new texture for the floor plane.Garrett, a leather producer known for exotic textures and unusual colors, featured a sheepskin rug in its display from its Sky Rugs program. Through Sky Rugs, a designer can specify an area rug using any of Garrett’s 600 SKUs of leather, an easy task thanks to Garrett’s online Rug Designer tool.

Edelman Leather also displayed area rugs, with an entire showroom wall featuring a prominent display of designer Kyle Bunting’s patchwork designs created with boldly colored leather strips. The line is available in both wall covering and patchwork-type rugs.

Metroflor came to NeoCon to continue to build on its specified commercial LVT business with a new display in a new location on the 7th floor and a third new Aspecta product collection. Two years ago, Metroflor launched its Aspecta 5 LVT collection, which is 3.2 mm thick with a 28 mil wearlayer. Last year, the firm introduced its Aspecta 10 rigid core waterproof LVT with its Isocore structural core and pre-attached acoustical backing. New for this year is Aspecta 1, on the budget side of the spectrum. Aspecta 1 will start shipping this fall and is 2.5mm thick with a 20 mil wearlayer. The collection will have 46 total visuals that emulate wood and tile, but with abstract visuals as well. 

While Aspecta 10 was previewed last year, today the collection has 24 plank visuals and ten tile visuals. The planks are approximately 9”x60” and the tiles are 18”x36”. All products attach via a DropLock click system. This product, which offers a 25-year non-prorated warranty, is 10mm thick with a 28 mil wearlayer.

Additionally, Metroflor announced at the show that all Aspecta products have achieved NSF 332 sustainability certification. 

Crossville showcased on its booth floor a new metal-inspired porcelain tile series called Altered State, which will officially launch in July. Five rich visuals of oxidized and aged copper, iron and chromium range from a bright, subtle option called White Hot to Melting Point in deep blue and rust tones. The overall pattern is not directional, but a slight sheen in the glazing adds a layer of striations, as if the tiles were weathered by water or wind.

Altered State comes in a variety of formats from an 18”x36” down to a 2”x12” mosaic. Since Crossville does major business in the hospitality sector, designers need smaller tiles for shower pans. The mosaics can also be used to create borders in a floor or to help with wayfinding. 

The new collection also coordinates well with Satori, the new thin tile Laminam collection, which officially launched during NeoCon.

On the floor of its booth, USF Contract highlighted Stratum Defined LVT. The collection has a patented WPC core, so the flooring can go over an existing floor without telegraphing imperfections. 

Stratum Defined features a 30 mil wearlayer and a four-sided enhanced bevel on an 8mm thick plank with a 1.5mm attached cork underlayment. It also comes with a 15-year warranty. Eight wood plank visuals and four tile and stone looks will be available during the third quarter of this year. 

After a long hiatus, Armstrong Flooring returned to the show this year for the first time as an independent entity, having split from Armstrong’s ceiling business earlier this year. The main focus in the space, on the seventh floor, was its Natural Creations LVT line, which now features the firm’s proprietary Diamond10 high performance wearlayer. Activities in the booth included an LVT demonstration, where attendees were invited to try to scuff and scratch Natural Creations samples.

The firm showcased its three Natural Creations lines: Arbor-Art, with its wood visuals; EarthCuts, focused on stone looks; and Mystix, which includes textile-inspired designs in neutrals as well as a line of more or less solid brights. The entire Natural Creations offering has been fully updated, a two-year process yielding 138 new designs.

The firm displayed its Medintone and Medintech homogeneous sheet vinyl offering, which also now features Diamond10 technology. While Medintech offers 18 distinct colors, Medintone comes in 64 tonal colorways, from neutrals to high chroma colors. 

Harris Wood, a division of QEP, came to NeoCon for the first time this year to introduce its Luxury Vinyl Cork (LVC), a multilayered 6mm thick composite structure with a vinyl wearlayer and a waterproof cork core. This product comes in ten wood-look visuals in 6”x48” planks that click together. 

The primary selling features of this product are its soft comfort, quieting acoustics and waterproof durability.

Karndean previewed the new Kaleidoscope collection, featuring six distinctive modular shapes cut from Karndean’s established stone and wood designs. All the shapes are designed to work together and are custom cut to order, giving designers tremendous flexibility. The program will officially launch this month. Also previewed was a longer loose-lay plank. Currently, Karndean offers loose-lay LVT in a 42” plank, but in October Karndean will also offer 12 SKUs of loose lay in 59” planks. These planks offer the same gripper back, but the larger size provides an even faster and easier installation. Karndean also showcased its new logo specifically for the commercial market. It is the same recognizable Karndean logo, but adds the word “Commercial” at the end to demonstrate the firm’s dedication to performing in the commercial sector.

Roppe previewed its new Envire rubber sheet, manufactured domestically for use in high traffic areas and even on gym floors. It comes in 6’ wide rolls in 15 flecked patterns and is expected to do especially well in the education and healthcare sectors. The product is easy to maintain and can be dry buffed for higher shine. 

A new wall base called Contours was also displayed by Roppe with profiles that resemble wood trim but are made from thermoplastic rubber, a new alternative to its current thermoset line. The collection, which will launch this month, features decorative corner blocks to give a finished look without time-intensive labor. Contours is expected to sell well in the hospitality, assisted living and healthcare sectors. 

Florim ran planks of its Stained Cement porcelain collection along the floor and up the walls of its booth. Stained Cement showed at NeoCon last year in a smaller display that got little response, so this year Florim exhibited the collection prominently, giving designers the chance to see a wider range of the line’s varied hybrid cement and wood visuals. The rectified planks are available in four soft colors—white, grey, taupe and pearl—and the linear visuals lend themselves well to the herringbone and chevron installations that have become so popular. 

Faroe, a porcelain in a textile look that premiered at Coverings, was also prominently displayed and garnered attention from designers at NeoCon.

LVT manufacturer Earthwerks has had a strong presence in the residential market for many years but this was the company’s first trip to NeoCon to promote commercial use of this increasingly popular flooring segment. While the majority of Earthwerks’ business is still residential, the commercial side is rapidly growing, and the firm is gearing up for expansion into this market. All Earthwerks products carry a commercial warranty, which varies by product from a ten-year light commercial to a 30-year commercial warranty. 

Flexco expanded its Natural Elements wood-look LVT line, adding nine new colors for a total of 25. The additions are mainly lighter hues with a preponderance of greys. A new larger format of 6”x48” is also available in all colors. Eight colors were added to the stone-look LVT as well—four marbled and four concrete visuals—available in a new 12”x 24” format. The Natural Elements line comes with a 28 mil wearlayer and will soon be produced domestically by the Nox LVT plant in Ohio, a joint venture with Flexco’s parent company, Roppe Holding. 

Flexco’s Base Sculptures wall base system got an update as well, with three new profiles and 27 new colors for a total of 58. The company now offers seven to ten days lead time for product delivery compared to as much as ten to 12 weeks for its competitors. 

This year marks FloorFolio’s first showing inside the Merchandise Mart. A young company, FloorFolio will celebrate its tenth anniversary in November. Michael Friedman, president and CEO, describes FloorFolio as an intimate customer-driven company. Its product mix is approximately 30% running line and 70% custom. A product may be customized by size, texture, wearlayer or gauge.

FloorFolio featured two programs at NeoCon. On the product side, Lakehouse is a 24”x24” LVT tile with a rustic yet contemporary visual. Each tile has the look of parallel wood planks outlined by a border of aged wood.

EnviroQuiet is an LVT tile system with an attached 3mm acoustic rubber sound-reducing layer. Produced in the firm’s new U.S. manufacturing facility in New Jersey, the double-patented EnviroQuiet tile can be installed in a one-step process. The total material has a minimum post-consumer content of 60% and is available on any plank size and 18” square tiles. 

Upofloor, which produces both PVC and polyolefin commercial resilient flooring, was joined at NeoCon this year by Kährs, the engineered hardwood producer that is also the parent company of Upofloor. This is the first time Kährs has been at NeoCon since before the recession. Other than the firm’s Linnea brand, all of Kährs’ products have commercial warranties. The program is strongest in the retail and restaurant markets.

Kährs had on display its Canvas Collection, which comes in eight cool and eight warm colors selected by a panel of U.S. designers. It also showed Classic Nouveau, a brushed white oak line, and European Renaissance, which includes hardwood in pre-patterned constructions and its high gloss Shine collection. 

New to the show this year was Six Degrees, a fledgling flooring producer under the Roppe Holding Company umbrella, joining the likes of Flexco, Roppe and Seneca Millwork. Six Degrees started building its product line in December, with LVT produced through its partnership with Nox, the Korean LVT producer that recently launched operations in Fostoria, Ohio. The firm’s preliminary offering of 68 SKUs targets multi-family and other light commercial markets.

The firm’s DeGradus collection features 2mm products with a 7 mil wearlayer in mostly 6”x48” wood looks, along with three 12”x24” stone looks for a total of 13 SKUs. And Radius, a collection of 3mm product with a 12 mil wearlayer in 42 SKUs, is mostly wood looks, along with stone visuals, a textile look and a painted board design.

CBC Flooring featured Mature Select, premium vinyl sheet from its Toli brand, touted as the next generation of its Mature line. The new product comes with a patent-pending ClearGuard wearlayer that offers true no-wax construction, not only for the 20 mil wearlayer on top, but also extending to the vinyl underneath, treated with a proprietary additive. And the warranty has been extended to 15 years.

Mature Select has antibacterial properties built into the material, rather than an applied chemical treatment. A heat-fused compressed backing with a fiberglass reinforcement delivers increased dimensional stability, and additional texture provides better adhesion to the floor while still allowing pliability for flash coving. Seams can be heat-welded or chemically cold-welded.

Mature Select includes an expanded offering of 18 new wood grain and 12 new flecked colorways with a UV coating, and it is designed for high traffic areas in healthcare, education and retail environments. The sheet contains 26% recycled pre- and post-consumer material and is FloorScore Certified. An HPD is available. 

Florida Tile highlighted a display of products by Cotto d’Este, a sister company within the Panariagroup. Florida Tile recently expanded its warehouse space significantly in order to inventory Cotto d’Este tiles, known for high-end visuals and strong commercial appeal. 

The new Limestone collection comes in both 14mm extra thick tiles and Kerlite 5plus 5mm thin tiles, and sizes range from 12”x24” up to 1m x 3m.The porcelain tiles feature four light colors from Amber to Slate in authentic stone visuals with subtle natural graining, veins and pockmarks. The realistic looks are printed with a new ink jet system that produces graphics with enhanced depth for a three-dimensional look. The visuals appear most impressive in the larger formats, where the veining becomes more prominent. 

The natural matte finish is suitable for heavy commercial foot traffic, and a blazed finish is available for use in commercial settings that require enhanced slip resistance and for outdoor applications. The tiles include Microban antibacterial protection as well. 

American Biltrite unveiled its recolored Texas Granite line of solid vinyl tile with a lot of tonal colorways. The tiles feature a visual much like electrostatic dissipative tile, with a captivating small scale pattern defined by jagged little lines of carbon. The new colors include some trendy, vivid hues like Spice Red and Andros Blue.

The firm, which goes to market with vinyl and rubber products, manufactures its products in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Think Ahead is an innovative Tuf Stuf LVT line launched by Shannon Specialty Floors with inventive visuals inspired by carpet tile design that set the collection apart from other LVT products. Developed in collaboration with designers, the line offers eight styles with 39 designs and colors that can be mixed and matched to create larger patterns, to improve wayfinding, to define zones in a space and to create “area rugs.” 

Some of the looks emulate textiles, like linen, leather and shirt striping, and the woods come in both traditional tones and strikingly bold hues. The most carpet-like looks are an attractive scroll pattern called Waltz and a modern arabesque graphic called Bling with a touch of silver metallic. 

Think Ahead is made of 100% virgin PVC with non-phthalate plasticizers and no heavy metals. The no-wax, no-buff tiles are 3mm thick with a 23 mil wearlayer and a 15-year commercial warranty. 

The DuChateau booth was crowded with people interested in its 3-D hardwood wall panels, including Metamorphosis, which garnered a Best of Neocon Gold award in the Wall Treatments category. The wood panels feature a dimensional diamond pattern that comes in several finishes, including a striking gold. 

For the floors, DuChateau showed new additions to the Atelier Series, an engineered hardwood line. Prominent in the booth were planks in a deep black finish, such as Diablo from the Essence Edition, achieved by scorching the surface of the wood. 

Raftwood Edition offers a rich weathered look in multi-width planks from 3” to 5-1/2”. Four colors include a dark and lighter grey, a soft tan and a warm red tone. Pure Edition provides a more modern, select grade appearance in four lighter colors, both warm and cool. The wide 91/2” planks come with a 4mm wearlayer. And Tidal Edition has five looks featuring natural character with knots and prominent graining in 81/2”-wide planks. Both cool and warm colors range from dark to light.

Schluter Systems had a small but energized booth with exuberant designers literally cheering as they entered in sincere appreciation of Schluter products. The company offers installation systems for ceramic tile and introduced a new product called Design Base. The wall base is a durable, hygienic and dimensionally stable alternative to vinyl, rubber or wood base trim. An introductory offering of Design Base is available in three finishes: a chrome look, a matte white and a brushed stainless look, as well as two heights, 2-3/8” and 3-1/8”. 

Metallic strips called Profiles that give tiled corners a finished look have been a huge hit with designers, and now the company is adding Trendline. With new powder-coated textures in seven matte colors, Trendline will provide a finished edge that blends more with surrounding tiles, offering an alternative to the more striking metallic look of the current profiles.


GOLD: Tarkett, Open Archive: OverStitch and Moquette
SILVER: Shaw Contract, Modern Edit

GOLD: Milliken, Lapidus
SILVER: Interface, World Woven Collection
INNOVATION: Mohawk Group, Topography
INNOVATION: Tarkett, Open Archive: GeoKnit and Cache Tweed

GOLD: Universal Fibers, Thrive

GOLD: Tarkett, Collections Infinies
SILVER: Mannington Commercial, Infused Collection

GOLD: Mannington Commercial, Divergent Collection
SILVER: Patcraft, Admix
INNOVATION: Tarkett, Mesto Configuration

LARGE BOOTH: Universal Fibers

GOLD: Shaw Contract, Shaw Contract Design Tool

GOLD: DuChateau Floors, Metamorphosis 

Copyright 2016 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Florim USA, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Mohawk Industries, Schluter®-Systems, Karastan, Armstrong Flooring, Mannington Mills, Roppe, Coverings, HMTX, Metroflor Luxury Vinyl Tile, Crossville, RD Weis, Interface, The Dixie Group, Tarkett, Beaulieu International Group, Shaw Industries Group, Inc.