NeoCon 2018: The 50th show was a riot of color, shape and texture - July 2018

By Darius Helm, Jessica Chevalier, Beth Miller and Anne Harr

This year marks the 50th NeoCon commercial design expo, held annually at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. And fittingly, this year’s show had record attendance-up 5% from last year. Showrooms were overflowing with innovative and thoughtful designs, and the overall mood was optimistic.

This year’s show ran from June 11 to 13, and it included ten new permanent showrooms and 100 new exhibitors in the seventh floor exhibit hall. The conference program included presentations from some of the leading voices in architecture and design, including Art Gensler, Cheryl Durst, Lauren Rottet, Gisue Hariri and more, along with over 100 accredited seminar sessions.

A celebration of the 50th anniversary, hosted by Mohawk Industries, along with Vitra, BuzziSpace and Mayer Fabrics, on the evening of the second show day brought together thousands of guests to the celebration outside the Mart overlooking the river-the crowds were overflowing. Next year, the expo will run from June 10 to 12.

TRENDS AT THE SHOW
For the last few years, the strongest commercial trend has been led by the corporate sector, with a movement toward making the workspace more fun, homey and appealing to today’s work force. Some refer to it as “resimercial” because of the use of residential elements, though in fact the trend goes deeper, including bringing in elements of hospitality design, and even retail and fitness. It’s really about designing spaces for the holistic needs of those who will populate them. And it has led to a lot of creative experimentation, particularly at this year’s NeoCon.

Among flooring exhibitors, the strongest visual trend this year was color-and that color was blue…or in some cases a blue-green-notable examples include J+J Flooring’s Solar Study, Shaw Contract’s PET Resilient and Mannington’s Northern Wonder. In the permanent showrooms on the third, tenth and 11th floors, most flooring spaces were drenched in color, even though the actual colorways for the exhibited products were invariably still dominated by neutrals, including some earthy tones.

Interestingly, it was a different story with other exhibitors, like case goods and office furniture producers. In the showrooms of firms like Haworth, Herman Miller, Teknion, Steelcase and Knoll, there was plenty of color, but the color theme was more about variety than specific colors. What stood out most in those showrooms was mixing patterns, materials and colors in unexpected ways. There were faux animal skins; sofas with one seat in a different material and color from the rest of the sofa; metals mixed with woods and textiles, area rugs of literally every variety, from bound broadloom to tribal to shag to faux fur (to one monster-shaped rug); and everywhere ottomans and small casual chairs with little leather handles on them so they can be dragged around the space as needed.

It was all about attention to detail. Every element was designed, from lamps with felt lampshades to organic wall hangings to mesh metal desk elements to coffee tables covered in fitted rugs (there’s no way that’s going to take off). In these workspace showrooms, the functionality of flooring was maximized-delineating zones, wayfinding, grounding the space, balancing color and texture against the other elements, dynamic design and pattern for collaborative areas, and soft, soothing, earthy designs for quiet and casual spaces. The overall impression was actually very biophilic, the randomness of nature refracted through the lens of human culture into the workplace environment.

It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of the furniture on display had clear mid-century modern sensibilities-clean, minimalist lines, pale woods, sharp angles and an overall sense of lightness.

In the flooring showrooms, beyond the strong color theme there were several noteworthy trends. One was shapes. In some cases, like with Shaw Contract’s Inside Shapes and Tarkett’s Pentagonals rubber tiles and the products of various LVT firms, the actual product came in various shapes. But just as frequently, the designs themselves featured lots of geometric shapes, like irregular polygons. And biomorphic designs were less literal this year and more conceptual and thought-provoking, like organic color washes across highly structured fields, natural effects through technological processes, and the mixing of geometric shapes to yield large-scale biophilic impressions.

In resilient flooring, while every producer offered wood looks, the most prominent introductions were generally abstract or mimicking stone or terrazzo. And they were often suffused with color (Mannington’s Northern Wonder, Shaw Contract’s Palette). And some, like Tarkett’s Illusion + Techtonic and Interface’s Drawn Lines, had an intricate, hi-tech feel.

In ceramic tile, stone and terrazzo trends were strong. For the large-scale thin gauged panels, introductions were almost entirely marble looks, since that’s what these panels compete against-look out, marble! Once the category is more established, it’s likely that we’ll start to see a wider range of looks.

This year, flooring showrooms also focused on telling stories and otherwise finding ways of engaging with attendees. Design collections came with design boards detailing inspiration and development-like J+J’s Solar Study-and Metroflor, for instance, had a fractal framework on a wall encouraging visitors to decorate it from bins filled with geometric wood blocks.

Beyond aesthetics, the biggest trend in flooring is non-PVC resilient products. This year we saw resilient tile made of polyolefins, PET, acrylic-based polymers and more from the likes of Mannington, Shaw Contract, Patcraft, Mohawk, Novalis, Upofloor, Shannon and Cleo (Congoleum). This trend is worth watching carefully. If these products offer the performance promised by their manufacturers, there could be a massive upheaval in the industry, and vinyl flooring could become very vulnerable.

Finally, there is one significant challenge in the new commercial environments that is driving trends-noise. With hard surface so rapidly taking share from carpet in commercial environments, everyone is talking about how loud these spaces have become. The last couple of years have seen a lot of felt to try to compensate-felt wall hangings, barriers, chairs, sofas, lamp shades. It turns out that it’s no easy task to compensate for the acoustical abatement qualities of carpet with other interior elements, and felted wall hangings and occasional rugs can only do so much. It will be interesting to see what innovations these product designers come up with next to quiet the space.

THE BEST OF NEOCON
CARPET: BROADLOOM
GOLD: Tarkett/Tandus Centiva, Velvet Fringe series
SILVER: Bentley Mills, The Drawing Room collection

CARPET: MODULAR
GOLD: Shaw Contract, Haven
SILVER: Patcraft, Dichroic
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Milliken, Textured Sky

CARPET FIBER
GOLD: Mohawk Group, Heathered Hues

FLOORING: HARD SURFACE
GOLD: Tarkett/Johnsonite, Pentagonals
SILVER: Shaw Contract, Natural Choreography

HEALTHCARE FLOORING
GOLD: Tarkett Tandus Centiva, Garden Walk
INNOVATION: Mohawk Group, Healthy Environments

SURFACES MATERIALS AND FINISHES:
SILVER: Crossville, Convergence

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS
Mohawk had three main talking points at NeoCon 2018: the introduction of five new International Living Future Institute-certified Living Products; its Heathered Hues yarn system; and its new segmentation strategy, which it implemented last year.

At NeoCon 2017, Mohawk Group introduced the first floorcovering ever to receive Living Product Petal Certification: the Lichen Collection. This year, it rolled out an additional five Living Product Certified introductions with a range of Petal certifications.

The company’s Water petals are earned by saving more water than is used to create the certified products, and achieved by retrofitting some dormitories at Virginia’s Hampton University with low-flow fixtures. And the Energy petals are earned through its new Smartflower photovoltaic systems, in partnership with Groundswell, which create and share more energy than is used to create Pivot Point and Sunweave. Four Smartflowers will be installed during 2018 at STEM schools in Chicago, Illinois; New York, New York; Eden, North Carolina; and Washington, D.C. Over the course of the next three years, the company will add six more, and ultimately it hopes to have its full range Living Product Certified.

Mohawk Group’s Nutopia carpet plank collection, which features an urban decay aesthetic, speaks to the way nature impacts all that humankind creates: oxidizing metal to create rust, reclaiming abandoned buildings with vines and other foliage. Featuring Heathered Hues nylon yarn, detailed below, Nutopia is made up of tiles that can be configured in different ways to achieve varying aesthetics, which can range from minimalistic to dramatic, based on the configuration. Nutopia features four styles in a flat loop construction and EcoFlex NXT backing.

Nutopia Matrix, also a plank product, is a complementing collection that features two lower profile flat loop patterns, made with standard 12th gauge weaving rather than the Pattern Perfect system used for Nutopia. Nutopia Matrix has EcoFlex Matrix backing and is created using both heathered and solid yarns.

Pivot Point is an enhanced PVC-free resilient tile collection that features no Red List ingredients, such as plasticizers. Pivot Point comes in four wood looks, four stone looks and four textile looks. It is the company’s first hard surface product to achieve Living Product certification and targets all sectors of the commercial market.

In addition, Mohawk Group unveiled its Heathered Hues direct-tufted, solution-dyed nylon yarn that comes out of the extrusion process with variation and dimension. Heathered Hues is available in both DuraColor and ColorStrand technologies. No water is used in the production of Heathered Hues. The product won Best of NeoCon Gold in the carpet fiber category. The company also won a Best of NeoCon innovation award in healthcare flooring for a new collection called Healthy Environments, which includes both carpet planks and resilient sheet.

Mannington devoted the front of its showroom this year to its new Northern Wonder LVT collection, inspired by the colors and patterns of the Northern Lights. The 4-1/2”x48” planks come in about nine colors, including several neutrals, but the show floor focused on the rich auroral greens for which the polar displays are best known. And the eight designs include Aura, with softened shifts of color conveyed through a brushstroke effect that tilts from the horizontal for a windswept effect, and Apparition, with soft, organic bands of shifting color along its length.

Center stage at the showroom was reserved for Moiré, a broadloom and carpet tile designed in collaboration with Gabriel Dawe, a prominent artist best known for his rainbow art installations using thread-in fact, one of his installations was on display this year on the second floor of the Merchandise Mart. True to its name, Moiré is an exploration of the different visual impressions of intersecting lines and the shifting patterns they create. The concept finds its most literal expression in Pure Wavelength, with crisp patterning with strong color contrasts. Visible Light, which comes in broadloom and tile, is a more deconstructed, fractured design. And Ray Tracing, which is tile only, offers a color gradient effect through striated bands. Colorways include a red-orange, a blue-green, a purple-indigo, a handful of neutrals and a full spectrum colorway that captures Dawe’s signature look.

Another important introduction from Mannington was a resilient tile called Cirro, a PVC-free product. While the PVC-free tiles introduced by the other big mills are made of polyester or polyolefins (like polyethylene), Cirro is primarily based on an acrylic polymeric composition-and, importantly, it can be installed with traditional LVT adhesives. The product was developed in Mannington’s operation in Coventry, England. And it’s also worth noting that Mannington did a great job with styling Cirro, coming out with 20 designs, including 16 trendy wood looks, a concrete, a slate and two abstract visuals. The 2.5mm tiles come in squares, rectangles and planks, with a 20 mil wearlayer.

The big splash at Crossville’s space was its Convergence glass tile in riveting hardwood end-cut designs with high-contrast graining elevated through eight alluring colorways, including a rich red, saturated blues and greens, a medium brown grey and a crisp, captivating warm grey. For its efforts, the firm was awarded a Silver Best of NeoCon award in the Surfaces Materials & Finishes category. The 4”x4” mosaics are mesh-mounted on 12”x12” sheets.

Also, Crossville came out with State of Grace, its first 24”x48” porcelain tiles in a single marble design, in a range of visual formats, including planks, chevrons and herringbones.

Among all the new products Shaw Contract debuted at NeoCon, its Palette collection from its new PET Resilient program was probably the most significant. After all, the most popular flooring type across the U.S. and the world is LVT, a product whose enviable attributes-design, performance and installation-are somewhat marred by its problematic chemistry. PET Resilient skirts the entire issue by making a tile out of polyester, 40% of which currently comes from drink bottles. The product fuses a solid PET cap to a PET base that is essentially rigid compressed felt. According to Shaw, its polyester tile has twice the stability of LVT, along with an 11% acoustical improvement, and it can be installed on subfloors with up to 99% relative humidity. And its 5mm thickness enables level installation with carpet tile.

PET Resilient, made in the U.S., will formally launch in October. The Palette collection features a wide range of looks, from richly colored plaster visuals to concrete looks, a textile, a hardwood look, a watercolor visual, a playful distressed terrazzo design, a small-scale aggregate look, and much more.

On the carpet side, the firm’s most prominent introduction was Inside Shapes, which uses the 24”x24” tile size for a range of creative options. It comes in four shapes: one is a simple square; another is two isosceles triangles that come together diagonally to make a square; a third is essentially a square made up of a quartered isosceles triangle slotting into the remaining shape-think of a club sandwich with only one quarter cut out; and the fourth is a square with a clean, half-circle bite cut out.

The line comes in 12 colors, about half neutrals, a couple of blues, a couple of greens, a deeper muddy red and a soft pink. And the line comes in 17 pre-mixed options, combining colors and shapes into a range of angular and curvy patterns.

The firm also came out with a commercial hardwood in two constructions-one engineered and the other a hybrid with an HDF core-in ash, oak, maple, hickory and walnut. Styles include cerused oak, another oak in a pale refined finish, rustic stained and reclaimed visuals, wirebrushed hickory, and character-grade looks.

Also new is Natural Choreography, a 5mm thick LVT collection designed through a collaboration with Rockwell Group. The 18”x18” collection includes Cut, an end-cut wood visual and Shear, a marble. Both feature lustrous metallic accent strips in sparse geometries, somewhat suggestive of grout lines.

EF Contract, the new specified commercial brand for Engineered Floors, came to the show for the first time in the former Bolyu space on the 11th floor with four new modular carpet collections. A modular carpet product focus was no surprise in light of its continued growth in the specified market, coupled with EF’s recent opening of a massive 500,000-square-foot carpet tile plant in Dalton, Georgia.

The theme for EF Contract this year was Surprising Beauty, and the names for the four collections are Spilled Ink, Folded Paper, Kicks and Rust Dye. Combined, they represent 14 different styles.

Common across all four collections is the Nexus carpet backing system that J&J has been using for years in a new 12”x48” skinny-plank format. The face construction with all styles except Folded Paper is solution-dyed nylon 6 in face weights that range from 18 ounces to 24 ounces per yard. Folded Paper has accents that are spaced dyed. Three of the collections come in 12 colors, and Folded Paper has 16.

In one area of the showroom was a photo gallery of images submitted by designers that helped communicate moments of surprising beauty.

Naturally, with a new brand comes new faces. Brad Root, formerly with Interface, takes the role of senior vice president of sales and marketing, and Susan Curtis, formerly with Phenix, serves as vice president of design.

Milliken’s product focus at NeoCon was the launch of three new modular carpet collections, additions to its LVT assortment, plus a new walk-off mat system. While at the show the firm’s permanent showroom on the 11th floor was awarded Well certification for its achievement in combining design and construction best practices with health and wellness strategies.

Milliken’s been known for years for its Millitron digital dye injection process, and two of its carpet collections this year, Free Flow and Motionscape, continue with that heritage with ever improving aesthetics printed on nylon 6,6 face yarns. Free Flow is the more textural of the two.

The carpet collection that drew the most accolades was Textured Sky, designed by Katelyn Campbell. This solution-dyed series comes in three patterns in visuals inspired by dramatic views of the sky. The face yarns, which come in 20 colors, are nylon 6 sourced from Universal Fibers.

All three collections feature Milliken’s proprietary closed cell cushion backing, which not only provides added comfort and acoustical properties but also solves moisture mitigation issues for the installation contractor.

Now starting its third year in the LVT business, Milliken added new abstract visuals in a 20” square tile format and natural visuals in a 9”x60” plank.

Last but not least, Milliken has updated its walk-off mat modular system and was featuring this product at the front of its showroom. Made out of coarse olefin fibers, this system has now been styled to coordinate with the firm’s carpet products.

Patcraft’s Dichroic carpet tile won Silver in the Best of NeoCon in the Carpet: Modular category. Dichroic, as the name suggests, has an ombre two-tone color effect. It is constructed from up to 35% post-consumer recycled PET fiber and with EcoWorx backing and comes in two formats: facet shapes and 24”x24” carpet tiles. No transition strips are needed as all of Patcraft’s products feature zero transition.

Artefact carpet tile, also new, was designed through experimentation with exposing various types of material such as cotton, linen and wool to metal, rust and water. The industrial-look patterns that emerged were incorporated into the new line of four products: Patina, Etched, Relic and React. The line is available in a 12”x48” plank with a multi-level patterned loop using Eco Solution Q Nylon. Artefact is constructed using EcoWorx backing and is Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver.

Patcraft also previewed its new PVC-free resilient tile, Woodtone, made entirely of PET, including 64 plastic bottles repurposed for each tile. In LVT, the firm introduced Splitwood-a 9”x60” plank with worn wood visuals-and a pair of tiles in abstract visuals, Surface Tone and Monochrome, one matte and the other high gloss.

In early March, Aquafil announced the commencement of operations at Aquafil Carpet Recycling #1 in Phoenix, Arizona, where it deconstructs used nylon 6 carpet back into raw material. The operation-a $20 million investment-is expected to be fully operational by September 1 with the capacity to process 35 million pounds of carpet annually. The recaptured nylon 6 will go to Slovenia for depolymerization; the polypropylene will be pelletized and sold to the injection molding industry; and the calcium carbonate will be used for either road construction or cement manufacturing. The company has already identified a location for its second recycling facility-Sacramento, California-and reports that there will be more recycling operations to come.

In addition, Aquafil has rebranded its recycled Econyl yarn with a focus on the “endless possibilities” it offers the market and its broad color line, rather than simply telling a story that focuses on its technical details. At the show, the company was showcasing expanded color offerings for the line, an additional 28 tones that brings the full line to 170.

Cleo, formerly Congoleum, launched its residential program, Cleo Home, at Surfaces and unveiled Cleo Contract at NeoCon. The first products from the Home program are currently hitting the market, and Contract products will be available toward the end of 2018.

Cleo’s commercial line of LVT is similar to its residential line, except that it has a reinforced wear surface for durability. The non-PVC products are constructed of three elements: a mineral composite core (primarily limestone), a digitally printed visual with solvent-free inks, and a low-VOC, solvent-free high performance coating-and the layers of the product cross-link to create an impermeable surface. Both the commercial and residential products are made in Trenton, New Jersey. The products carry both FloorScore certification and NSF-332 platinum certification. The company is currently working on an EPD.

Cleo doesn’t have all the details of its Contract line ironed out just yet, but several of the visuals that it had on display were eye-catching. One features a look reminiscent of oil spots but with the colors dialed up to lovely, rich tones. Another features a stucco look that appears to have a lively, three-dimensional texture.

Masland was all in with a bicycle theme for the 50th edition of NeoCon. The company’s Shift Your Attitude carpet tile collection celebrates the joys and many benefits of travel on two wheels with four products: Easy Going, Cadence, Bespoke and Tread. Shift Your Attitude products are in lighter weights-between 13 ounces and 16 ounces-and are constructed of nylon 6,6. A corresponding marketing video-on display at NeoCon and to be posted online-tells the story of a young designer who takes a bike ride to fight “writer’s block” and, inspired by the machine, designs the collection.

In addition, the company was displaying an eye-catching area rug called Amsterdam Bikes, hand tufted in China. The rug emulated a painting-also on display-with vibrant hues and lush texture. And the company added Karma to its Woodridge program. Made of 100% undyed sheep’s wool. Karma can be fabricated to any shape or size. It comes in six colors and four standard sizes.

Florida Tile launched Divinity color-body porcelain at NeoCon 2018. The collection, a replication of Angel Stone from Italy, comes in four colors and both square and plank formats. In addition, the company rolled out Local, a glazed porcelain plank collection with a painted wood visual that can be used to create both rustic and sophisticated installations. Both collections were created using the company’s high definition printing technology and will hit the market this summer.

The marketing for both products reflects the company’s new approach of adding “life” to its imagery. In addition, moving forward, each Florida Tile collection will have a story behind it, and that story will be pulled into the verbiage and imagery supporting the collection. Divinity, for instance, replicates Angel Stone, and thus the brochure pictures feature a warm, heavenly light. Similarly, Local, which was created to reflect the aura of a favorite local haunt, features lifestyle imagery with a casual, friendly vibe.

Tarkett’s new rubber line, Pentagonals, took home a Best of NeoCon Gold in hard surface. The collection features three hexagonal shapes-Monument, Shell and Diamond-that can be used together to create a broad range of designs. Tarkett created an online visualizer for use with Pentagonals, allowing specifiers to experiment with design, color and patterning to create customized installations. As a rubber product, Pentagonals carries benefits with regard to acoustics, comfort underfoot and durability, but the high-design nature of the collection-not to mention the metallic visuals that are available-take the collection beyond what is expected of rubber flooring. Pentagonals is available in 142 solid colors and a variety of marbleized patterns and speckled colorways. The collection is ILFI Living Product Challenge Petal and Cradle to Cradle certified.

Tarkett launched its new Techtonic application, an upgraded polyurethane finish, on Contour, a premium LVT with a 32 mil wearlayer; Venue, an LVT collection with a 20 mil wearlayer; and I.D. Freedom, another LVT collection featuring a 20 mil wearlayer. Techtonic increases scuff and scratch resistance and features a more matte finish than was used previously, which is both in line with customer desires and enables greater visibility of the visuals and embossing. The move also unifies the gloss levels across the company’s line, which means that all products can be used in combination.

Under Contour, the firm introduced Illusion + Techtonic, a new LVT by Jhane Barnes with captivating patterning derived from connecting and animating mathematical functions, creating something akin to a multidimensional glitch effect. The company also rolled out Color Play, which will launch on both the Contour and Venue formats later this year. The Color Play collection is comprised of both bold primary tones and neutrals-24 colors in total-all of which are available in three visuals: Beam, a striated abstract visual; Weave, a textile look; and Pop, a granite-like visual. Because the collection is created digitally, it can also be customized. Education and healthcare are the primary targets for Color Play, though it is likely to be specified in retail as well.

Terry Mowers designed the company’s new Tailored Twist collection in response to the social shift toward the use of shared space and the evolving concepts of community in the workplace and beyond. Tailored Twist features four products that differ in scale, color, patterning, texture and cost, yet can be mix and matched. Mowers describes the collection as both contemporary and nostalgic. Tailored Twist has four patterns-Tailored, Tailed Plaid, Tailored Bloom and Tailored Madras-for 162 total combinations. The product is installed with TarkettTape and, as such, can be reconfigured. In addition, it can be installed in spaces with adverse flooring conditions, such as high RH levels. The entire collection is made with solution-dyed fiber and features Ethos modular backing made from recycled post-consumer PVB film from recycled automotive windshields and other safety glass. The collection targets the corporate, acute healthcare and higher education markets.

Chilewich, the U.S. originator of the woven vinyl look, introduced new weave patterns and colorways at this year’s show. The firm, which also makes placemats, window coverings, wall textiles and upholstery fabric, serves the flooring market with rolled goods and tiles-both in square and rectangle formats-as well as area rugs.

One of the notable introductions this year was Dart, which uses a single-color accent line, fading in and out along both the warp and the weft, to define a sophisticated irregular grid. Dart comes in five colorways-Midnight, Onyx, Storm, Plum and Tobacco.

Also new and noteworthy is Wave, which takes a traditional twill herringbone motif that shifts from tight to open in wavy bands-almost as though the weave is being pulled apart-for a captivating ombré effect. Wave’s three understated colorways include Blue and Grey, both woven with off-white yarns, and White/Black.

Bentley Mills showcased a handful of collections at NeoCon this year, including Discord, a carpet tile that balances a pattern of sharp angles and “organic scrawls” with harmonious color collaborations, and Outlier, a carpet tile and broadloom collection that features an organic subtly diagonal design, highlighted by occasional bright accent lines along both the vertical and diagonal. However, the firm’s showpiece this year was The Drawing Room, which won a Best of NeoCon Silver award in the broadloom category.

The collection, which comes in both carpet tile and broadloom, takes inspiration from the culture of books-with style names like Dog Eared, Dust Jacket, Chronicle and Redacted-to elevate the modern office culture with bold textures and edgy geometric and organic designs. The colorways are made of a three-color palette of either dynamic neutral contrasts or neutrals with subtle color infusions.

Dog Eared and Dust Jacket are the more extroverted designs, characterized by angled organic geometrics. In the case of Dog Eared, a design of organic banding fractured by random diagonal lines seems overlaid with random washes of color, creating a timeworn feel. Dust Jacket is a design held together with random angles in various scales, with an overall crisper feel than Dog Eared. Both Chronicle and Redacted are more staid designs, mixing matte and high luster yarns in velvety constructions. Chronicle features a diagonal pattern like abstracted chevrons.

Also new at the show was a Modulyss product called Blaze. Modulyss is a tile line made in Belgium by Bentley’s parent company, Balta. Blaze features a clean, minimalist design, akin to a flatweave, in a subtly organic pixelated design that is near monolithic. The collection comes in nine colors, including neutrals and more vivid colorations.

Roppe launched a range of new products at NeoCon this year, including LVT, rubber sheet and tile, a new wall base system and FlashCove prefabricated bases, which are used to strengthen the weakest part of coved installations and are guaranteed puncture-proof.

In terms of design, its Northern Parallels LVT line, scheduled to launch this month, offers some fashion-forward options, like Chevron, a distressed whitewash hardwood design expressed as strips in a chevron pattern. The line is designed to coordinate with the existing Northern Timbers line, which now comes in 23 colors.

Roppe also showcased Envire, a rubber sheet and tile line made in the U.S. The sheets are 6’ wide and come in 50’ rolls, while the tiles are 24”x24”. The line comes in 32 tone-on-tone colorways, including alluring marbleized designs.

Also on display was Roppe’s Contours profiled wall base system, a wood-look vinyl product in a 30-color palette. The line comes in 14 profiles, and Roppe has also launched a contest for designers to submit unique profiles. The winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to NeoCon next year along with $1,500, and the profile will be added to the line.

Interface showcased a stunning new David Oakey collection called Visual Code, made up of ten unique designs in a 25cm x 1m carpet tile format. The collection coordinates with other Interface lines, as well as its LVT offering.

“I was inspired by the juxtaposition of…the glitch effect and organic textures,” says Oakey. “This concept of joining simple greys with bold, bright and scrambled colors and balancing in four striking black and white textures promotes a playful, creative experience and provides calming qualities that mirror the natural world.”

The core design of the collection is the glitch effect, expressed in several of the designs as synchronized spiked disruptions of linear pattern, from Stitchery and Stitch Count in shades of grey to Hard Drive and Static Lines with crisp color infusions.

Then there’s Circuit Board, which eschews the glitch motif for an interpretation of modern circuitry that at the same time looks like an abstraction of traditional tribal rugs. And Circuit Board comes in eight high chroma hues-orange, yellow, teal, green, blue, purple, magenta and red.

The collection also features four black and white textures-Haptic, Darning and Decibel in tufted pattern loop constructions, and Overedge, a tufted cut pile.

Interface also came out with Drawn Lines, a new LVT collection, designed by Kari Pei, that is entirely mesmerizing. Inspired by fractal patterns found in nature, the design looks like the tile has been scored with an array of thin lines, vertical and diagonal, with mathematical precision, creating a sense of depth and translucency-which, from a distance, translates into shadowed effects for an organic feel. Drawn Lines comes in ten colorways, from soft neutrals to deeper hues, to a handful of more vivid colorations.

Also, Interface announced at the show that its entire portfolio of products is carbon neutral through its entire lifecycle. While Interface’s has not yet achieved complete carbon neutrality per its Mission Zero 2020 objectives, it is using carbon credits to bridge the narrowing gap. And right after the show, the firm announced that it is purchasing Nora, the German rubber flooring manufacturer.

High-end carpet mill Atlas, part of The Dixie Group, was at NeoCon talking about its brand refresh, which was launched in December 2017. Long a design leader in the industry, Atlas sought to align its brand image with that role in a fresh way. In addition, while the company has traditionally served the mid- to high-end of the market, it is currently getting into lower priced goods. The company is also expanding its carpet tile program.

Atlas featured several new products at the show, including the Shimmer Ikat collection, which launched in April. Shimmer Ikat, inspired by the traditional ikat designs of Bali and Southeast Asia, is available in broadloom (four patterns), plank (three patterns) and area rug formats. The collection features depth of color and texture via combinations of high and low luster Antron Legacy nylon and is available in 16 shimmery hues. It was designed for corporate, hospitality, education, multifamily and healthcare settings.

The company also unveiled Adapt, made of Antron Lumena solution-dyed nylon 6,6 fiber and featuring Infinity Loop technology. Adapt encompasses two of the company’s current efforts: making more affordable products-Adapt is about 20 oz.-and offering carpet tile. In fact, Adapt is tile only. Inspired by the way nature adapts to its surroundings, the collection comes in four patterns-Moss, Stream, Brush and Pebble- and 13 colors, which can be used either together or separately.

The company is also in the process of recoloring several of its best-selling lines to include trendy tones such as “Millennial pink,” which can be seen in its Terra Nuovo and Kendari collections.

In an off-site showroom, Ava by Novalis launched the NTRGE and SNRGY collections of sheet goods, which target the healthcare market. The SNRGY introductions are stone looks, and the NTRGE roll-outs are wood looks.

Both collections are PVC-free, heterogeneous products with a 20 mil wearlayer. They are built to perform under rolling loads and feature a seven-year warranty. The products will hit the market in a couple of months, and Ava is currently seeking GreenGuard Gold, FloorScore and Declare for the lines.

The theme at J+J Flooring’s showroom this year was sunlight, with the front of the showroom floor devoted to its new carpet tile collection, Solar Study, displayed in blue colorways. Also new was a Kinetex collection, Cyanotype-also shown in blues-and Undertones, a companion wood-look LVT.

J+J Flooring, a commercial division of Engineered Floors-which acquired the firm a couple of years ago-used to make its carpet tile through a joint venture with Mannington, but now its tile is made in a new Engineered Floors facility in Dalton, Georgia.

Solar Study is made up of three designs-Azimuth, Photon and Zenith, the showpiece design-in colorways ranging from warm and cool greys to more saturated blue, green, yellow and red palettes. Zenith is a geometric interpretation of photovoltaic cells, midscale hexagon based, with patterns of dark and light filtered through the shapes. Azimuth is a smaller scale linear design with tailored stripes of shifting color, reminiscent of pulses of light. And Photon is a banded grid in a multilevel loop construction.

Cyanotype is another great Kinetex design, a mottled abstract that seems to shift in and out of focus, anchored in a crisp surface texture akin to basketweave. It comes in mostly neutral colorways, including a couple with low-key suffused color, and the blue colorway spotlighted on the show floor.

New for Metroflor at this year’s show was its Aspecta Ten Tilt and Tones LVT floating flooring. This new product is designed with elements of biophilia in mind-shadows cast by the sun and random patterns found in nature. Tilt is characterized by hard angles, and Tones has more muted stone-based colors and fabric-like patterns. Tilt and Tones are available in 24”x24” tiles.

Tilt and Tones offer a completely different locking system called DropLock 400. This new locking technology no longer requires the typical staggering of tile, limiting designers. It allows for corner-to-corner installation with its vertical system, making the installation of larger formats much easier and providing designers with a wider variety of patterns.

The focus for Armstrong’s display on the seventh floor was not only to highlight its wide range of commercial resilient products as one of the brand leaders but also to debut a new heterogeneous resilient sheet product line called DecorArt Rejuvenations that is created to help designers add more of a residential feel to healthcare, education and workplace environments. Created by in-house designer Razieh Council, DecorArt Rejuvenations comes in three collections: Timberline with wood visuals, Stonerun with stone and concrete visuals, and Ambigu with textile visuals.

For increased durability, Armstrong has added its Diamond 10 coating to this collection. In fact, Diamond 10 is now available in almost all Armstrong product lines, including LVT, homogeneous and heterogeneous sheet, VCT, and solid hardwood. The resolution of the images offered with this product far exceed what was available with resilient sheet even three years ago.

DecorArt Rejuvenations fits within Armstrong’s Continuum Solutions structure, which means it works seamlessly with other Armstrong commercial flooring products. Expect to hear more from Armstrong Commercial as the firm works to turn up the noise for its brand in the commercial specified sector-a wise move, considering that this sector is more focused on durability, aesthetics and sustainability than price.

We mentioned Sunbrella’s Dickson Flooring briefly last year in our NeoCon review because it was featured on the floor of the Sunbrella exhibit to test interest among designers, and it caught our eye as well. But this year is its U.S. commercial launch with product inventory ready to go in the firm’s warehouse in Somerset, New Jersey.

Glen Raven Mills, which owns the Sunbrella brand, bought Dickson 20 years ago, and the firm launched its finely woven, phthalate-free, PVC flooring welded to a cushion backing five years ago in France. Over the course of the last year, the firm has been building out a U.S based A&D team that includes Natalie Jones (formerly with Mannington Commercial) and Catherine Minervini (formerly with Bentley) to help launch the product through a network of dealers.

The six styles introduced at NeoCon come in 2m rolls, 20” squares or shapes that include hexagon, planks and diamonds. Pricing varies depending on volume but runs between $5 and $8 a foot, and the product is sold directly from the manufacturer, not through distribution.

In addition to its textural and colorful look, designers like it because it is easy to clean like hard surface flooring but has the acoustical and comfort-under-foot properties of soft surface flooring.

The big news at NeoCon for Shannon Specialty Floors and its Teknoflor Naturescapes HPD resilient sheet product was its Petal certification-the first resilient flooring product to earn this designation by the International Living Future Institute. Thanks to its PVC-free construction-made from organically-derived polyurethane processed from castor oil-this product passed 16 out of 20 imperatives and qualified for the Petal designation. Naturescapes HPD comes in 24 designs in three different styles.

A second product, called Teknoflor Rare Plank HPD-the firm’s first LVT product-offers 22 wood visuals and is sold in a 7”x47” plank format. It is made from phthalate-free virgin vinyl. This product is made in the U.S. and, like all Shannon products, is sold as a no-wax, no-buff flooring.

New to the market, Bella Flooring Group is launching three brands with both hard and soft surface offerings: Bella, which serves the specialty retail market; Dalton Main Street, which will serve the mainstreet market; and Dalton Contract, which will serve general contractors and flooring contractors. The company has offices in Dalton, Georgia and Shanghai, China.

What makes Bella unique is its sourcing model: the company starts by determining which products each manufacturing partner has the ability to produce and compares that with the activity and trends it sees in the market. Bella then constructs a flooring solution that brings the most value to the customer. The company is constantly evaluating possibilities for new and innovative products, and its structure allows it to adapt to the market.

Bella’s branded hard surface products will feature a 20 mil wearlayer. The company currently has 90 SKUs in production and hopes to expand to around 500 by 2020. Its Dalton Contract brand features sample boards and folders with a distinct seafoam green color, so that they will stand out, and its Main Street brand will feature a bright orange.

Flexco had such positive results with the FreeFlex rubber flooring it introduced last year that the firm has continued to add new sizes to the collections. Last year, the plank sizes were in a testing stage and as a result of that testing the firm has added 6”x36”, 12”x36” and 18”x36” plank sizes. These are available in all of the rubber collections: solid colors, speckled colors and wood element styles. At NeoCon this year, Flexco had numerous prototype base sculptures that it is testing. Based on the feedback, the firm anticipates adding several new base sculpture styles to its offering.

Karndean previewed the Color Pop collection, an offshoot of its previous Kaleidoscope collection. The new introductions are available in the Kaleidoscope hexagons or strips. Color Pop offers both 3mm and 2.5mm thicknesses in a total of 16 colors that can be paired with any of Karndean’s other products. It is a glue-down LVT product that is ideal for education, healthcare and retail.

Design, feature and grout strips, which can be placed between tiles to create a natural grouting effect or to enhance the design of a floor, are now available in more than 20 colors and designs. These vary from solid colors to natural looks to grout looks. The strips provide designers with another option to accentuate a flooring pattern.

Gerflor decided to once again showcase its products on Lake Michigan. It chartered a boat at Navy Pier and entertained designers with new products and a presentation on design trends for 2019 by Gino Venturelli, Gerflor’s creative and styling director.

The Creation Exclusive Edition is a palette of new designs for the Creation LVT line. This new series of designs was created in-house by Gerflor’s design studio. Patterns range from realistic wood looks to different types of sheet metal. The high-end commercial grade flooring is 2.5mm thick with beveled edges. It is ISO 22196 certified to prevent the spread of bacteria and is 100% REACH compliant.

Taralay Impression, a multilayered sheet product, is available in Comfort, ideal for sound abatement and comfort underfoot, and Compact, ideal for heavy traffic areas. Both come in wood looks, including two herringbone patterns, cement and fabric looks, and vibrant color designs for a total of 61 colors.

DuChâteau will be launching its new engineered wood products in the third quarter of 2018. The new offerings will come in a wider 240mm plank as well as a random width collection. DuChâteau’s new products will debut at Surfaces, and the company will also show at BDNY for the first time. All of the new introductions were designed based on customer feedback. The color profile will range from light grey to darker browns.

The Tretford brand has been around since the 1950s but it launched its Tretford Americas division at NeoCon 2018. It sells roll goods, area rugs, carpet tile and wallcoverings, called Acousticord. The company’s tile products are made in Germany, and its roll goods and wallcoverings are made in Ireland.

Tretford’s soft goods are extremely durable, and the key to that durability is two-fold. First, all products are made with cashmere yarn sourced from Mongolian goats. Unlike some natural fiber, this yarn is straight, and the company contends that this results in stronger final product. Additionally, the products are made using a proprietary corded fiber design that is fusion bonded to the backing.

Tretford products are suitable for both commercial and residential use. They are available in 48 tones and do not fray, even when cut. The rug samples on display were design-forward and striking with geometric prints in bold color combinations.

Divine Flooring, which just last year joined the LuxeHome group of high-end showrooms on the ground floor of the Merchandise Mart, is best known for its higher end hardwood offering, but it also has lines of LVT and laminate flooring, across a broad range of price points. This year, the firm introduced six 12”x24” WPC tiles, focused on stone looks. Its WPC offering includes the Voyage II collection of planks in 8-1/2” widths and 5’ lengths, including The Score, a near-black vintage painted wood design with heavy texture. This year the firm also showcased complex, large-scale medallions.

Altro, headquartered in the U.K., was founded in 1919 as the Adamite Company, and in 1955 it introduced Vynoleum, its first safety flooring product. In 1968, the firm changed its name to Altro. Now, just one year away from celebrating its 100th birthday, Altro manufactures a broad range of flooring and wall packages. In conjunction with its birthday celebration next year, Altro plans to launch several new products. At NeoCon this year, the firm showcased new color additions to its current collections.

Fifty-two year old, New Hampshire-based Carlisle Wide Plank Flooring was in its permanent LuxeHome showroom on the first floor of the Mart talking about its custom-made hardwood flooring. All products are manufactured at the company’s mill, from furniture-grade lumber, and are available in solid and engineered formats, prefinished and unfinished.

At the show, the company launched its Carriage House Collection, which is available in four species-cherry, hickory, white oak and walnut. A prefinished collection, Carriage Oak planks are between 6’ and 7’ long and 8” wide.

The company emphasizes that all products are customizable, requiring only a six to eight week lead-time. Carlisle serves the high end of the hardwood market.

Surya held its grand opening for its new permanent Chicago showroom, located in the Merchandise Mart. Last year, the company built a one-million-square-foot warehouse that now supports product shipment within 24 hours. In addition to the 5,000 rug SKUs Surya offers, it sells accent furniture, textiles and over 500 lighting options.

Temple, an updated traditional rug collection, is new for 2018 with its two-color, distressed pattern. It is available in three colorways: black/khaki, dark blue/khaki and ivory/khaki. The hand tufted, viscose/wool blend comes in seven sizes, ranging from 2’x3’ to 12’x15’.

Festival, another updated traditional collection, is a vibrant pattern containing multiple colors, such as eggplant, lilac, lime and violet. It is available in six hand-knotted patterns made of 100% wool.

A unique attribute to the new showroom is a design center located in the rear of the space where designers are exposed to natural lighting and the Chicago River while they discuss custom rugs for commercial use through the Surya Contract division. In addition to Surya Contract’s yarn offerings, it has now added Sunbrella and Bella Dura yarn.

Summit International Flooring was at NeoCon with a booth dedicated to Object Carpet, a luxury brand from Germany that has been in the U.S. market for about eight years now. Object Carpet, which serves both the residential and commercial markets, manufactures woven and tufted products in broadloom and carpet tile formats. Its digitally printed Marrakesh is a highly dense 100% PET carpet tile with laser cut edges. It features a mosaic-look pattern in saturated, predominantly pink tones for a stunning result.

Products like Marrakesh are suitable for hospitality applications because of the tough construction and the fact that its PET doesn’t absorb liquid. Object Carpet products do not contain PVC or bitumen and are very low in VOCs, in part because the firm washes its products before they go to market.

At NeoCon, Object Carpet launched Places of Origin, which is comprised of eight designs available in both broadloom and tile. The products are made using recycled Econyl nylon 6.

In its space on the seventh floor, American Biltrite was highlighting its Nfuse technology that was initially introduced at this year’s Surfaces show in January. The technology enables pressed rubber floor tiles to be ready for use straight out of the box-once installed, the floor does not require any set-up to be ready for occupancy. Nfuse technology is applied to all AB Pure products. The Nfuse process seals the pores-increasing durability and improving performance against soiling, staining and scuffing-making the floor easier to clean and maintain.

CBC Flooring is working to revitalize its flagship Toli brand in an effort to create a strong brand awareness with younger design professionals. It has plans for further rebranding efforts toward the end of 2018. In addition to new branding, it plans to launch a new product category in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The company showcased its Toli brand of HVT2 homogeneous vinyl tile products: Arborpath, Kolurpath, Strataline and Terraline. Toward the end of last year, the company did a soft launch of these products, but the first quarter of 2018 marked the hard launch. The company reports that it has had a great response to the new introductions.

Tred-Mor, a Leggett and Platt company, attended NeoCon for the first time. Sponge Cushion, Inc. started in 1961 as a manufacturer of sponge rubber carpet cushions and acoustic underlays. It developed the Tred-Mor line in 1985.

The company showcased its Modular PVI (Passive Vibration Isolation) barrier used under carpet tile. Modular PVI is constructed using synthetic rubber, weighs 62 ounces per square yard, and has a density of 33 pounds per cubic foot. It includes a moisture barrier called StainStop as well as Guardian, an antimicrobial treatment. Modular PVI also qualifies for CRI Green Label Plus certification.

D-Barrier underlayment is used under LVT, laminate and hardwood floors to help with acoustical abatement as well as help smooth out minor floor abnormalities. Made from compressed synthetic rubber, it has a density of 62 pounds per cubic foot. It also features the Guardian antimicrobial treatment and is CRI Green Label Plus certified.

Alabama-based Procedo Flooring came to NeoCon with several resilient products, including Loom+, a woven vinyl flooring that comes in a range of designs for a total of 47 SKUs. And some of the designs, like Accents and Cord, feature intricate, sophisticated constructions that elevate the category.

The firm also offers 1/4” thick Maxime homogeneous rubber sheet goods, which have been expanded from eight colors to every single Pantone color with a 500 square foot minimum.

Sweden’s Kährs was at the show with new hardwood offerings, as well as resilient flooring from its Upofloor business. In hardwood, the firm added six colors-light to mid range-in its Kährs Prime line. And on the resilient side, the firm took its Zero polyolefin sheet product and came out with Zero Tile, a 20”x20” homogeneous tile in 23 colors, from neutrals to a range of vivid, saturated hues.

Six Degrees introduced its Impression Stair Tread collection with ten color options named after U.S. cities as well as tree species. Designed to fit perfectly with its 3mm/28 mil LVT products, it has an optional J-channel. The U.S. made products are FloorScore certified.

The company has plans to add more colors to its existing commercial collection, Compass. Designers were asked to vote on their five favorite colors out of 20.

Schluter Systems came to NeoCon with a wide array of products. One of the new products on hand was Schluter Finec, a finishing and edge protection profile for tile countertops or walls or plaster/rendered finishes with a very minimal reveal. Some of the other new products the firm showed were collections of decorative drain grates in new finishes and shower pans with a waterproofing membrane that comes attached.

Tennessee-based StonePeak unveiled eight colors in Plane 2.0, the gauged thin tile panels the firm started making at its U.S. facility earlier this year. StonePeak is the first U.S. producer of thin tile. Plane 2.0 coordinates with The Thirties, an existing line of stone looks-including Calacatta and Carrara marble looks, as well as travertines-that comes in 30”x30” formats. According to StonePeak, it’s the only domestic producer that can manufacture in that size.

Also on display was Royal Alabastrino, a dynamic limestone visual in Opal, Diamond and Topaz in a range of sizes.

Levitate magnetic flooring by Floor Folio, a looselay LVT made in the U.S., is a flooring system where a magnetic base layer is applied to the subfloor and the LVT has a magnetic backing, making LVT stick directly to the base layer. This creates a quick and easy installation requiring no glue or adhesives. It is available in all the FloorFolio LVT patterns. The base layer has a 100-year warranty so floors can continually be updated and changed. Floor Folio also introduced its new Rigid Hybrid. This hybrid is a bit more flexible than a traditional rigid core product and offers more sound absorption.

Floor Folio also just announced it is expanding into cabinets, countertops and wall tiles with its new Design-Suite division. This new division will cater to both residential and commercial markets.

Junckers, a Danish hardwood firm specializing in prefinished solid hardwood, had on display oak, ash and beech products with thicknesses ranging from 9/16” to 7/8”. The firm displayed its Hex Parquet as well as its herringbone program, with widths of 2-1/2” and 5-1/2”.

INSTALL, the International Standards and Training Alliance, partnered with Roppe for live installation demonstrations in the Interiors + Sources Materials Pavilion on the seventh floor, to illustrate the value of certified installation. INSTALL does a lot of outreach as well as collaboration with manufacturers, but its number one priority is expansion.

According to INSTALL’s John McGrath, union labor for flooring installation, which is strongest in the Midwest and Northeast and weakest in the South, has been growing most rapidly in the West. And the alliance, a collaboration of labor, manufacturers and management, has been working on developing contractor partners in the Pacific Northwest. INSTALL’s partner network currently serves about 25 or the country’s 35 largest metro markets.


Copyright 2018 Floor Focus 


Related Topics:Schluter®-Systems, Tarkett, Fuse Alliance, Mannington Mills, Armstrong Flooring, Interface, Carpet and Rug Institute, Metroflor Luxury Vinyl Tile, Mohawk Industries, Novalis Innovative Flooring, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Rottet Studio, Stonepeak Ceramics, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Coverings, The Dixie Group, Fuse, RD Weis, Roppe, Engineered Floors, LLC, Crossville