NeoCon 2019: This year’s show delivered new levels of design sophistication - July 2019
By Darius Helm, Ruth Simon McRae, Beth Miller and Anne Harr
The hallways of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, which hosts the annual NeoCon show, overflowed with 55,000 visitors for the 51st edition of the commercial design expo, held June 10 to 12. And the exhibitors-from the booths on the 7th floor and the permanent showrooms on floors 3, 10 and 11-did not disappoint, from color and design to material use and innovative technologies.
There were a few changes at the Mart itself, including a new outdoor NeoCon Plaza facing the riverfront. The seventh floor saw the introduction of 85 brands new to the show, including Ava, Novalis’ commercial brand. But while seven new permanent showrooms opened, Knoll, one of the giants in workplace design, closed its NeoCon showroom this year and opened a showroom in Chicago’s Fulton district. And next year, another giant in the interiors industry, Herman Miller, will also pick up and move to Fulton.
Flooring booths and showrooms were thronged on the first day and stayed busy through much of the second day. And while there was a lot of color at the show, the flooring exhibits were by and large more muted, with many opting to showcase their new products in shades of grey-charcoal in particular-perhaps to compensate for last year’s flood of blues and greens.
LVT and rigid LVT dominated the space on the 7th floor, and they were well represented in the permanent showrooms as well, though carpet still took center stage. And many of the showrooms themselves underwent transformations, most notably exposing the windows and flooding the showrooms with natural light (like Shaw Contract and Bentley), a welcome departure from the traditional showroom aesthetic.
While manufacturers went long on products, some went even longer on the stories behind them…sometimes too long. Everyone loves a good story as long as it has a satisfying ending, but on those occasions when the final product bears no discernible resemblance to the story behind it, you tend to lose your audience.
TRENDS AT THE SHOW
In many ways, the design trends at this year’s NeoCon were particularly cohesive, representing a fuller, more evolved expression of, for one, the balance between humanity, nature and technology, and also of a movement toward an aesthetic that derives more from streamlined efficiency than from extravagance. These trends were most evident among the furniture and case goods producers on the third floor, with some designs resembling an updated mid-century modern style and where even the most casual workplace zones were free of any excess. There was an abundance of design detail, though it wasn’t fussy or crowded, with texture often used as an accent. And the flooring producers were also on trend, with designs achieved more through reducing and deconstructing than through a more-is-better approach, as evidenced by the openness of most showroom spaces.
The detail of design and the focus on functional aesthetics that was on display at the show is a philosophical perspective most closely identified with the Bauhaus movement, which was founded 100 years ago in Germany. So it was no coincidence that there were nods to classic Bauhaus styling scattered through the showrooms, particularly among the textile producers that launched entire collections based on textile designs from the Bauhaus.
Pale wood looks dominated throughout the show, counterbalanced by some darker woods. But those lighter tones were everywhere, often acting as the neutral base in place of the concrete greys and guiding the mood toward a lighter, warmer feel. Unexpected shifts in design-like sofas with cushions in a variety of distinct textiles and textures or, in flooring, Patcraft’s Deconstructed Felt-along with bold forms and generous infusions of color kept the spaces visually stimulating but still well balanced.
And it’s particularly noteworthy that these trends in some way seem to fold the modern, technological workspace into a nature-inspired human environment. Tech is minimized and seamlessly integrated-an elevated expression of the marriage of design and manufacturing.
Functionality was a strong trend among the flooring producers. There were bold experiments, like Mohawk’s fractal-based Relaxing Floors, and innovations catering to the modern workspace, like Tarkett’s Tatami System of broadloom bound into serged rugs and Metroflor’s Attraxion magnetic flooring system.
Rug concepts were themselves a strong trend, and seem to offer a new avenue of expression for commercial carpet-carpets and rugs as islands of warmth, zones of comfort.
Unlike last year, when blues and greens were the dominant colors, this year was more about variety. The hottest accent color among the field of neutral tones at the show may have been tomato red, which popped up in carpet, textiles and furniture, but there were also yellows, greeny blues, cooler berry reds, and even pinky beige hues, sometimes paired with soft golds.
Gradated color effects were also on display, like Shaw’s ReFrame and Gradation and Chilewich’s new wall covering, and in carpet specifically there were many designs with hand-worked effects. And distressed and timeworn looks were strong in both carpet and hard surface, though with less of an industrial feel and more of a deliberate designed aesthetic.
Another noteworthy trend was woven vinyl. It’s not just Chilewich anymore, or Bolon or Sunbrella’s Dickson. From small firms like Procedo and Fitnice to giants like Shaw, Mohawk and Patcraft, woven vinyl was on display in an array of colors and patterns, though more finely textured and with less dimensionality than Chilewich’s products.
Wood looks still dominated LVT introductions, but there were plenty of abstract designs as well, including from all of the major manufacturers, like Shaw, Tarkett, Interface and the Mohawk Group. There were some stone looks, and plenty of terrazzo looks as well, from literal representations to more fanciful takes, like Interface’s confetti-inspired Walk on By LVT. And there were textile looks too, including from Novalis’ Ava.
Also, there were some real wood floors, from both Mohawk and Shaw. It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of a trend. If wood floors can be shown to perform in a broader range of commercial applications, designers will be quick to embrace them.
Shaw Contract featured two overarching concepts in its NeoCon space. The first was an impactful statement about color-intensity of color, color gradation, color tonality and color mixing. Two new color-themed products were executed with completely different technologies.
The first product seen upon entering the color study zone was Gradation, a digitally printed style that uses dye injection technology to create a pointillistic interpretation of color flow. In Gradation, shades of a color flow seamlessly from light to dark. The palette encompasses the full range of the color wheel, allowing designers to create installations in a variety of combinations-monochromatic, analogous (related) or complementary (contrasting across the color wheel)-in order to create different spatial effects.
ReFrame, the second style in the color study, is a jacquard woven vinyl resilient flooring offered in a 9”x36” plank format. Inspired by ombré textiles, this product has a gradual tonal effect that shades from one color to a second contrasting color. In many cases, the two colors are neutrals, yet the style is most dramatic when the secondary color is a bright hue. The jacquard weave forms a precise stepping of color from one to the next that forms a glowing transition.
In addition, Shaw introduced 13 rich new colors into Dye Lab, an innovative, variegated tonal carpet currently in the line. Dye Lab exploits the inherent challenges in beck dyeing, turning that technology into an artisan experience.
Community, Shaw Contract’s other major focus at NeoCon, features a stunning collection of four carpets in a range of robust textures with ethnically inspired yet contemporary visuals, along with two LVT styles. The collection is made up of carpet planks in a range of textures, and tip shear and cut/loop construction broadloom and rug styles, including the high-touch carpets made on Shaw’s new Tailored Loop machine.
Suited, a tailored yet textural carpet that won Best of NeoCon Silver in the carpet tile category, illustrated how thoroughly residential and hospitality markets have influenced contract. Joy Squared is another new product that illustrates the blurring of lines between segments. Originally designed by Shaw’s educational segment team, this fine-line abstract geometric LVT has a clean color story that seems to work across market groups.
Shaw’s new Cabaret Oak engineered hardwood was installed throughout its space, with most of the product displays inset as if they were very large rugs.
The theme for Bentley Mills’ showroom on the 10th floor of the Mart was a laundromat/dry cleaners to accentuate the need to sort laundry by like colors, which tied in with the launch of the Sorted carpet tile collection. Bentley, the last commercial carpet mill in California, was making a social statement that segregation should apply to laundry, not to people. According to Ginger Gilbert, who left J+J Flooring to join Bentley as VP of creative, “There is a powerful desire to reverse hatred, separation and disconnection-and to champion freedom and respect for all.”
The Sorted collection comes in three patterns: Misfit, Square Peg and Typecast. Square Peg uses texture and shading to form a random and overlapping visual of circles and squares. The Typecast pattern fades from light to dark and also comes with an inverse companion of dark to light. The pattern with Misfit is more random and whimsical.
Bentley is celebrating a 40th anniversary this year, and in last month’s Commercial Market Report (June 2019), Floor Focus detailed how the firm enjoyed the fastest growth on a year-over-year basis in 2018. Bentley is owned by the Balta Group, which is based in Belgium.
Crossville recognized years ago that focusing more on the specified commercial market would help differentiate this family-owned porcelain tile brand from its competitors, and the strategy has been paying off ever since. Crossville is the largest tile producer that exhibits each year at NeoCon.
Part of Crossville’s message at NeoCon was expressed through imagery inspired by graphic artist M.C Escher, who asked, “Who says a floor can’t also be a ceiling?”-challenging us to rethink the planes within the cube of an interior space.
The product focus was a terrazzo-look porcelain collection called Alaska, featuring a dual matte and shimmer finish. Crossville feels that Alaska, which is available in five colors, could be the firm’s next “Shades” collection-which was a huge hit with A&D.
Another news item from Crossville is the rapid growth of its gauged porcelain countertops in partnership with Laminam-the Italian leader in this large panel business.
Mannington Commercial, another family-owned leader in the flooring business, titled its NeoCon presentation “Crafted with Purpose,” with three distinct feature product introductions: Mixed Monolith, The Hocus and Color Anchor Rubber-each of which, refreshingly, is focused on a specific flooring medium.
Mixed Monolith is an LVT collection inspired by the Brutalist industrial architecture style that peaked in the late 1950s but is becoming popular again and bringing with it a renewed interest in concrete visuals. The three patterns within this collection are Poured, Scored and Edge-the latter of which is a combination of the first two. Scored has a raked concrete texture, and it was interesting to see how the firm pulled this off using vinyl as the medium.
The Hocus is a modular carpet tile collection designed in collaboration with contemporary artist Larry Bell, whose latest fascination deals with how light passes through panels and cubes of glass, creating angular visuals. The patterns in this collection are Maquette, Observer and Transference. Roby Isaac’s creative team did an excellent job of translating the refractive glass visuals into carpet using a combination of low loop and tip-shear carpet production processes.
Color Anchor Rubber is a collection of colorful rubber tile that showcases Mannington Commercial’s latest investment in a new rubber flooring production facility in Calhoun, Georgia. Color Anchor Rubber comes in two visuals and 36 colors.
Under the theme of “Second Nature,” The Mohawk Group covered a lot of territory in its showroom this year, offering, among other things, carpet made to “calm you down,” a line of woven vinyl tile, an engineered hardwood collection, a homogeneous vinyl line for the healthcare market and a new rubber program.
The most prominent new collection in the showroom was Relaxing Floors, comprised of four carpet styles designed by 13&9 Design in collaboration with Fractals Research-three carpet tiles and one that is both carpet tile and broadloom. Fractals are patterns found in nature that repeat at progressively smaller scales. It’s a pattern found in everything from snowflakes to sea shells to weather systems. Apparently, research has shown that being exposed to fractal patterns can reduce stress. Showcased on the floor of the space was Chilld, a grey field overlaid with occasional semi-ordered series of darker grey triangles in different scales, inspired by the pattern of seeds released by foraging birds.
Another interesting pattern was Connecting Neurons, shown in a field of darker greys in a sophisticated irregular grid overlaid with a meandering white band that follows a captivating organic course across the carpet, derived from the pattern of neuron growth in a nutrient matrix. Connecting Neurons also comes in a broadloom design, which was displayed in a glass-walled room deep in the space. The broadloom version won a Best of NeoCon Innovation award in a new category, contract area rugs.
Another Mohawk award winner was Textural Effects, which took Silver in the broadloom category. The carpet tile and broadloom collection, which features organic textures and patterns elevated with nubby yarns, has the softened look of wool. Two of the designs, Thematic Thread and Tactile Infusion, offer irregular, handmade visuals.
Sakiori, the firm’s entry into the woven vinyl arena, is made up of three different woven patterns across three plank formats, including Linked, a vertical striated pattern; Hemstitch, a traditional tight weave; and Weave, a pattern highlighted by vertical lines of thicker cord.
Also noteworthy was True Hues, a speckled rubber product in a range of colors, including some saturated hues, which won a NeoCon Silver in the healthcare category. While rubber products are generally manufactured using machinery with a non-stick coating that has to be removed through a chemical treatment upon installation, Mohawk’s rubber offering uses a proprietary technology that eliminates the problematic coating. In addition, Mohawk showcased Medella, a homogeneous sheet product with fossilated speckling. And the firm also came out with the Tentree engineered hardwood line of 7” wide planks in white oak.
Novalis brought its Ava commercial brand into the Merchandise Mart for the first time this year. Novalis launched Ava a little over three years ago and was finally able to secure a booth on the 7th floor that was large enough to tell its story. Novalis is a family-owned company based in Shanghai, China that has grown to become one of the top producers of LVT in the world.
Ava’s offering at NeoCon focused on three popular visuals: long plank European oak, concrete and linen/textile images. The three collections debuted at NeoCon were 2STYL, RSRV and VRSE-all three of which are produced using the firm’s AMP advantage coating.
The theme for Interface’s showroom at this year’s NeoCon was Look Both Ways, reflecting a new collection by inhouse designer Kari Pei that offers concrete and terrazzo aesthetics in both literal and stylized interpretations. The collection is composed of four carpet tile designs and four LVT designs. Step in Time, Step it Up and Step This Way are concrete-inspired carpet tiles: Step in Time reinterprets polished concrete with crushed velvet effects for an overall look that is subtly dynamic; Step it Up is a crisper, more tailored concrete visual, also with an irregular organic pattern that adds dynamism; and Step This Way, which was the attention-grabber on the show floor, offers a pattern that looks like trowel marks created by a Zen sand gardener. And the fourth carpet tile, Step Aside, uses flecks in contrasting colors to the field-and also multicolored flecks-to create a terrazzo interpretation.
The four LVT designs include Walk About, a matching visual to Step This Way; Walk the Aisle, a terrazzo visual that matches Step Aside; Walk of Life, a distressed concrete look; and Walk on By, which looks like terrazzo made of confetti, lots of confetti, for a captivating, playful visual.
At the firm’s showroom across the street from the Mart, Interface showcased more products, including Nora rubber flooring. All of Interface’s products globally are carbon neutral, including its rubber and LVT offering. Since Interface’s carpet tile has a smaller environmental footprint than its hard surface offerings, carbon offsets play a much bigger role in making its rubber and LVT carbon neutral while the firm develops strategies for greening those manufacturing processes.
At the beginning of June came the announcement that Metroflor, Teknoflor, Halstead, Aspecta and Vertex-a family of companies under the same ownership-would be brought together as HMTX Industries, though the brands will continue to operate independently. And at the show, the firm had three adjacent booths for its Metroflor, Aspecta and Teknoflor commercial programs, generating a high-profile presence on the seventh floor of the Mart.
Aspecta previewed its Contours commercial LVT collection, slated to be launched in Q4 2019. It will be available in three formats-Chevron, Whalebone and Basketweave-and includes the DropLock 400 installation system. The 8mm products are coated with Aspecta’s proprietary Duraspect Extreme Surface Protectant and come with an attached HDPE underlayment. The waterproof products feature a micro-beveled edge on all four sides.
Aspecta Five showcased three new designs. Turkish Marble is made up of five SKUs that offer rough concrete embossing to create natural stone looks. Perfect Oak Herringbone comes in four colors with “barnside” embossing, where the texture and imperfections found in barn wood are replicated, to create rich earth tones in this wood look. And Perfect Oak has three new SKUs for a total of six contemporary wood looks.
Metroflor’s Metroforms LVT collection is made using Attraxion Magnetic Attachment Technology, utilizing MagneBuild’s magnetic underlayment. It won the Best of NeoCon Award for Product Innovation. The system’s benefits include speed of installation, indoor air quality due to no adhesives, performance and safety. A wide range of pre-cut shapes are available and can be calculated and assembled via the online design tool that is expected to be available by the end of Q3 2019.
Teknoflor’s Coordination collection received a Best of NeoCon Gold Award for Healthcare Flooring. The collection includes three sets of coordinating resilient sheet, planks and tiles that do not require the use of a transition strip. Forestscapes HPD and Forest Plank HPD are wood looks available in plank and sheet and come in 22 colors. CS Sheet and Tile are PVC-free and come in 20 colors. Naturescapes HPD and Nature’s Tile are also PVC-free and qualify as a Living Product Challenge Petal Certified coordinating duo.
Patcraft previewed its Deconstructed Felt, Metal Collective, Subtle Impressions and Handloom collections. Both Deconstructed Felt and Handloom won Best of Neocon Gold awards in carpet tile and hard surface flooring, respectively.
Inspired by textiles, Deconstructed Felt carpet tile comes in three visuals-Topstitch, Binary and Modern Serge-using the carpet’s construction to achieve the textured look that makes up the yarn and felt-backed products. The needlepunch technique creates a high and low effect with the yarn and allows the felt to be a larger part of the visual in the low areas. The collection comes with EcoWorx backing and is certified Cradle to Cradle Silver.
The Handloom collection is a woven resilient product that comes in complementary offerings-Painted Weft and Wooden Warp. The highly textured, textile-inspired aesthetics blend natural looks with threads of color woven throughout. Painted Weft’s aesthetic is inspired by grasscloth wall coverings while Wooden Warp blends soft jewel tones and wooden graphics. The launch is planned for October 2019.
Another resilient product, Metal Collective, is inspired by Kintsugi, a Japanese technique of repairing broken pottery using lacquer made with gold, silver or platinum dust. Oxidized, a worn metal look, features soft metallic accents that create a reflection of light, while Molten’s embossed-in-register finish gives off the appearance of natural surfaces with filled crevices.
Subtle Impressions is inspired by delicate flower pressings with its Scatter, Pressed, Floraculture and Perennial styles. The shadows and outlines left behind by the pressings are reflected in the carpet tile collection and provide a diffused look. All four styles were designed to be used together, with the colors and textures playing off each other. Subtle Impressions comes with EcoWorx backing and is certified Cradle to Cradle Silver. The collection won a HiP Award in the Health and Wellness category.
German luxury carpet manufacturer Object Carpet has been in the U.S. for seven years and is distributed exclusively by Summit International Flooring. It has a permanent showroom on the 11th floor of the Merchandise Mart, where it showcased its collections. The emphasis at this year’s show was on wellness. Object Carpet uses no fillers or PVC in its carpet and all of its collections are 100% recyclable. The firm manufactures both woven and tufted carpets in both broadloom and carpet tiles, and it also offers a custom rug program. Its Places of Origin collection is made with Econyl 100% recycled nylon 6, including industrial waste and discarded fishing nets. This collection is available in either carpet tiles or broadloom.
The Freestile carpet tile collection is a 100% PET product made on flatweave technology. This digitally printed collection is available in 16 lively styles named for historical cultural cities such as Budapest, Marrakesh and Paris.
In Aquafil’s permanent showroom on the 11th floor, a screen on the back wall played a visual representation of the recycling process at the firm’s facility in Phoenix, Arizona-collecting, sorting, shredding, dry separation, wet separation, cleaning and pelletizing 95% pure nylon 6 for shipment to the firm’s depolymerization facility in Slovenia, which turns it into new, pure Econyl nylon 6. Econyl is 100% recycled, half post-consumer content and half post-industrial. The two biggest post-consumer sources are commercial fishing nets and recycled carpet. A second recycling facility will open later this summer in Sacramento, California.
Aquafil designed its glass showroom walls like department store window displays, highlighting the various prominent brands-mostly apparel-that use Econyl fiber, like Stella McCartney, Adidas, Patagonia, Tretorn and many more, including makers of everything from sunglasses to backpacks. Mills with new Econyl products included Milliken and, for the first time, Masland. Its biggest partner, Interface, showcased Econyl on the carpet it created for the outdoor NeoCon Plaza.
Tarkett’s showroom was arranged with integrated areas of hard and soft surface that moved seamlessly throughout the space. Unlike some other years where each product created one bold statement, the emphasis this NeoCon was on this inter-relatedness, aided by an overall palette of sophisticated neutrals that included just a bit of punch.
A highlight of the show, the Tatami System answers the current dilemma of how to integrate carpet in a contemporary way into interiors that are trending toward harder surface flooring. This Best of Neocon Gold winner in the broadloom category is made up of a series of woven and tufted carpet styles-rich, scruppy and highly textured-bound into area rugs with either complementary or contrasting stitching. A designer can pick the flooring material and size for each unit, then select from a broad palette of serging colors for each, and tape the whole unit together to create a unique floor plane that can be reconfigured as workplace needs change.
The Composition Series by Suzanne Tick is a collection of three carpet tile products and a resilient coordinate, Meshwork LVT. Meshwork is a stunning pattern that is both architectural and delicate, with a subtle gradation across the repeat that creates a pleasing soft visual flow.
Drop Cloth LVT from Float Studios offers a stylish take on terrazzo, with circular drops of color randomly spattered across the surface. The overall effect is both strangely classic and fun, and the colorations are outstanding. To address a need in the market for a very light, crisp flooring color, the firm developed the Strato No. 1 color, with its nearly white base and a combination of warm and cool neutral color accents, so that it would work with any kind of interior design. The range also includes other clean neutrals along with a few distinctive bold colors, such as tomato, pale orange and a dark olive.
The Essentialist Collection consists of three different coordinating carpets-Savant, Saveur and Substance-each pattern created by varying amounts of visual texture. And Solana, a teaser pattern from the Essentialist Collect for healthcare, has a completely different look with soft botanical imagery; the single colorway seen at the show featured an on-trend pink-influenced neutral mixed with a golden fleck.
Tarkett’s iD Mixonomi is a modular LVT system with eight graphic shapes and three mini-shapes that can be combined in a huge variety of impactful layouts. It is available in a palette of 35 colors, including metallic tones, that can be combined to create a completely custom installation. And Tarkett showcased its new LinoWall product in a dramatic corner installation, showing both wall and floor linoleum tiles in a bold design.
Bloom LVT offered a happy infusion of rich color and larger-scale design. Originally designed by Tarkett’s hospitality team for carpet, this gorgeous watercolor-inspired abstracted floral has been successfully translated into resilient for the corporate market. A stadium area featured Bloom in a combination of square and plank flooring surrounded by a matching print on Tarkett’s Masquerade wall base.
Chilewich, the stylish purveyor of woven vinyl flooring, introduced a new product, Saville, that has the look of a sophisticated suiting fabric shot with thin color accents, in a range of five colorways.
A second introduction, Glow, embodying the gradated color trend, is currently for wall application only. What is interesting about this style is the technology; it is a digitally printed woven vinyl. A previous introduction with a similar aesthetic, Shade, is made of 100% woven vinyl, making it appropriate for flooring. Shade also had an ombré coloration but it had more limited color options due to yarn availability. It seems logical that a digitally printed woven vinyl process will be developed that can stand up to commercial flooring demands.
Chilewich considers itself “the un-LVT,” produced by self-described textile designers who create fabrics and then find the appropriate market, be it table-top, wall-covering, carpet or rugs. The product backing is a combination of PVC and recycled polyester, although some heavy products can be sewn into rugs with no backing. Chilewich works with a weaving partner to make the textiles; fabrication of the textiles into appropriate end-uses is done in Chatsworth, Georgia.
Atlas and Masland Contract successfully combined into one space this year, creating a visual impression of the two brands merging together.
Elena Cordoba assumed the role of creative director for Atlas Masland in September 2018. Previously the two brands were separated by technology, yet now that Invista is exiting the white yarn business, both brands are designing product with similar tools. Regarding the design differentiators, Cordoba said, “Masland product has a softer aesthetic with organic texture. Atlas has a crisp, precise visual that pushes the nuance of pattern details. Another difference is that Atlas’ carpet construction has traditionally had more physical texture and range of pile thickness. Masland’s texture has more of an illusion of depth, transitions are softer, with a more diffused texture.” The challenge is to create products that stand on their own while maintaining the signature brand aesthetic. Atlas and Masland products are currently marketed in two different architect folders and sold by a single sales force.
Masland introduced the Crafted Collection at NeoCon this year-its first product using Econyl nylon 6, a 100% regenerated yarn. Aptly named products included Frost, with imagery of moisture on glass, and Foam. Happily, the showroom also dispensed craft beer during its cocktail hour.
Atlas’ Transitions collection is a group of four harmonious styles in plank format. Grand Entrance, a deconstructed textile look, is the showcase pattern; Effect, a grid design, and Impact, a nubby stripe, are smaller scale coordinates. Conclusion completes the collection with a range of coordinating solids.
Two new styles, Rough and Tumble, have been added to the recently introduced Natural Elements collection, whose existing styles include Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Clever layouts of the collection were arranged on wall displays in the showroom. Natural Elements is beautifully styled, dramatic yet with an Asian simplicity.
This year, EF Contract and J+J Flooring, the two specified commercial divisions of Engineered Floors, displayed product together in the same showroom on the 10th floor of the Mart, with each brand taking one half of the space. On the EF Contract side, the firm came out with a handful of carpet collections and a new LVT line, and it also displayed a range of Kinetex designs-Kinetex is a soft surface tile that’s 100% polyester, including its knitted face.
The Palimpsest collection took center stage on the EF Contract side-palimpsests are scrolls or manuscripts with older effaced text visible through newer text, from the days of parchment, which was expensive and hence often recycled. The more literal design in the collection is Script, a tip-sheared carpet tile with a large-scale pattern of letters subtly rising and falling through both positive and negative space, while Codex is a more subtle, small scale pattern with metallic highlights.
Also new is the Brewhouse collection of heathered loops in two carpet tiles and a broadloom. Another pair is Strum and Maple, 18”x36” tip-sheared carpet tiles, with a patterned scroll and a casual banded design constrained by shifts in scale that looks like music.
On the J+J side of the showroom, new products included Network, a new Kinetex product that plays with the idea of off-register shifts to create a captivating visual that seems both organic and almost digital, but most interesting is that it has the look of a tufted carpet.
However, the boldest new J+J design was probably Fire & Ice, a tip-sheared loop carpet tile with a large-scale pattern that looks more than anything like glacial fractures. It comes in a 24” square format in 13 colorways from neutrals to more vivid hues. And another new Kinetex style is Brookstone, a layered visual with organic patterns and irregular angled grids emerging through timeworn effects.
Karndean showcased its new Art Select Wood LVT colors, launched at Surfaces, including Classic Hickory, Vintage Hickory and Weathered Hickory. The collection’s new Reclaimed Hickory and LooseLay Longboard Worn Fabric Oak products won ASID Design Impact Awards at HD Expo.
The three new colors are reclaimed hickory wood looks inspired by boards recovered at a Midwest lumber yard. The planks have a subtle cross-sawn appearance and texture that translates to the LVT product.
The firm’s LooseLay Longboard line comes in a 59" length and is 4.5mm thick, allowing it to transition to carpet tile. Worn Fabric Oak is one of five new colors added to the Longboard line. Shadow Fabric Oak is another new addition and is a light grey wood look with hints of brown. Vanilla Oak is a soft, pale, almost white-colored grey look. Weathered American Pine is a mottled brown and grey with the weathered look of old wood planks. Distressed American Pine mimics the boards recovered from a tobacco barn with grey tones accented by cool browns.
The Van Gogh gluedown collection has been around for some time, but Karndean decided to broaden the line with the addition of its new rigid core option. Each line is the same size and wearlayer, but the thickness is where the biggest difference lies. The gluedown format comes in a 3mm thickness while the rigid core is 4.5mm with a locking system for a floating floor installation. Fourteen colors are available in the rigid format.
The company added 45 colors in total across all of its gluedown, looselay and rigid core lines.
It was quite fitting that the collection that attracted the most attention with Milliken this year was called Change Agent. Not only was the collection of coordinating plank format modular tile and LVT a break from the traditional Millitron print carpet that the firm has focused on for many years, but the company is also undergoing a major transition with a heightened investment in new team members and production equipment. Most notable is the addition of Todd Van Der Kruik, who came over to lead Milliken’s design team from Bentley Mills last year. It’s worth mentioning that Todd first learned product design as an understudy to legendary Jack Mishkin.
Other personnel additions at Milliken include Steve DeCarlo, formerly with Shaw; Lee Blair, formerly with Durkan Hospitality; and Sherry Dreger, formerly with Bentley Mills.
The Change Agent collection, presented in three separate architectural folders, does an excellent job of coordinating soft and hard surface flooring, using a matching color line that offers 16 solution-dyed yarn colors on the soft side and 28 colors on the LVT side. Milliken continues to focus on metric sizing, and both the carpet and LVT share the same plank formats. The aesthetics on the LVT side of the collection, which depict natural materials like aged stone and charred wood, attracted the attention of the Best of NeoCon judges, who gave the product a Silver award in the hard surface category.
For those who like the color capability and price points of Millitron print carpet, the newest printed modular tile collection is called Color Thesis. Also noteworthy was Heavy Meta, a plank carpet tile collection with high contrast geometric patterns that are available with inverse shading-where one tile has the pattern in a light accent on a dark background and the same pattern is available with a dark accent on a light background.
Mortarr made its debut at this year’s Neocon, inviting attendees to sample its commercial project building and networking software. The free app and website require an account to access the project library, create Design Rooms and invite others to view collections. To start, users log in and search through the library for images of projects for inspiration for their own projects. Users who want to save the images must create what is called a Design Room to store the inspirational images for that project. It’s basically a virtual folder. If there are others with whom the user would like to share the Design Room, they can be added. Each person on the team has the option to communicate in the app or within the website.
Each project in the library offers the information on that specific project, including the A&D firm, the location, project goal and contact information. But what is unique about the images is that if an arrow is highlighting a particular product, the user can click on the arrow to view that product’s information. Also available is a Brands tab where companies like Crossville are listed, along with projects on which the brand’s products have been specified as well as a listing of products offered, sectors served, product specs and contact information. There is a Professionals tab to locate architecture firms, construction companies, concrete solutions specialists, lighting specialists and commercial sign designers.
At Roppe’s space on the 7th floor, the focus was on Envire Rubber Sheet & Tile with FlashCove, Rubber Tile and Tread, the Contours wall base system and its Northern Timers and Northern Parallels LVT program. Roppe’s LVT is produced domestically, buffering it from the tariff wars, and it comes in 47 options. And the firm’s rubber sheet, tile and tread are Red List Free.
The firm also previewed Tuflex Spartas multipurpose flooring, a new formulation that is also Red List Free, because instead of using crumb rubber the product is made from recycled pre-consumer rubber only. Some of that will come from Roppe’s Impact rubber recycling program.
Sunbrella’s Dickson Flooring made its U.S. debut last year with its finely woven PVC flooring welded to a cushion backing. Glen Raven Mills, which owns the Sunbrella brand, purchased Dickson 20 years ago and launched the woven product six years ago in France. Now that the product has been in the U.S. market for a few years, Sunbrella is working to educate the design community on the benefits and stylishness of the woven product in an effort to change vinyl’s negative perception and help designers understand where the product fits between the hard and soft surface categories. There are several benefits, including its acoustical properties and comfort underfoot, making it ideal for any application that specifies carpet tile.
Cleo Contract, a division of Congloeum, is a fully non-PVC resilient brand. The name stands for Congoleum Leading Environmental Options. Cleo first showed its residential line at Surfaces 2018, much of which it showcased at NeoCon 2018 as it turned its attention to the contract market.
This year, Cleo came to NeoCon with a full complement of commercial styles in a range of textures and a total of 36 quick-ship SKUs. Two of the styles have longer color palettes available. A display of mood boards beautifully captured the collection origin story and color palette. Styles include the aptly named Denim, Linea, Limetex, Terrazzo, Soft Concrete and Limestone, along with a series of woods-Studio Wood, Euro Oak, Maple and Weathered Oak. Also new is Intersection, a textile look.
From a color perspective, the wood selection is very specific. As Doty Horn, senior vice president of design at Congoleum, explained, “Everything is cleaning up on the floor and getting lighter; even the woods are going away from being dark. The white maple we have is new. We’re looking at the contrast of dark and light, and then focusing also on the medium tones, which are becoming more refined. Honey tones are still selling in healthcare, so these are also included.”
Fitnice is a Spanish company whose products are being distributed in the U.S. by Summit International Flooring. A first time Neocon exhibiter, it showcased its woven flooring and wall products that are designed for hospitality, corporate, retail and residential use as well as light healthcare applications. The resilient product comes in a wide variety of colors, neutrals and color blends. The Chroma weave in Red is the most vibrant color option, but Memphis in Steel Blue with its blue and black blend creates a unique all-over color. Wicker in its various color options provides a wide woven pattern reminiscent of a basket weave, and IMO is a tight weave with a sophisticated blend of black and purple in its Java color option.
Kährs offered a range of new products at this year’s show, including Kährs Luxury Tiles, a line of both rigid and flexible products most notable because of the full complement of installation options available in the line. The program includes SPC in a range of thicknesses that come with click systems for floating installations, dry back for full spread adhesive and loose lay. The line also includes Dry Back Enomer, which is a PVC-free resilient tile, and a high-performance marine tile. Designs are mostly wood-look planks and stone visuals in square tiles, but there are also some textile visuals and faded deco tile designs.
Kährs’ Upofloor brand, which is best known for its range of PVC-free resilient sheet and tile, introduced a line of safety floors in a 2mm format.
American Biltrite showcased its new UltraCeramic Contract engineered stone inspired by Italian ceramic tile. Launched at Surfaces, the commercial grade product comes in ceramic and stone looks and is more resistant to cracking than stone or ceramic. During installation, there is the option to leave the beveled edge or to grout it, providing a realistic tile look. The four colors are heavily saturated with texture and color, giving them a highly sophisticated aesthetic.
Gerflor did not show in the Mart, instead opting to introduce its three new ranges during a boat ride around Chicago.
The color line of Mipolam Symbioz, a homogeneous sheet flooring with a 100% bio-based plasticizer and a fresh non-directional, tone-on-tone design, was updated to a palette of 31 colors with the addition of 14 fresh fashion hues to its neutral core color range.
Another introduction came about through the acquisition of DLW Flooring’s linoleum line in 2018. The new DLW Linoleum Landscape has a palette of 43 colors in a full spectrum of vibrant hues.
My Taraflex Inspirations is a program available as part of the Taraflex Sport M Plus flooring system. Four examples shown for inspiration-Blue Wave, Golden Herringbone, Wood Crosscut and Pure Concrete-suggest just a few of the wide range of looks that can be achieved through this custom program.
Flexco’s Tuflex sports flooring is the industry’s only Red List Free and 100% recyclable sports flooring product, according to the firm. In an effort to provide carefully sourced raw materials, Flexco is working to provide a healthier option for healthcare facilities, exercise areas, locker rooms and various fitness centers. It qualifies for LEED v4 certification and the WELL Building Standard. A ten-year performance warranty is offered as well as a lifetime delamination warranty.
Five new wall base profiles and three new white colors were introduced. The new colors-Antique White, Baby’s Breath and True White-were in response to customer feedback. The profile additions come in new 4” and 6” sizes, bringing the total of styles offered to 18.
Lonseal showcased its new Lonstrand Topseal sheet vinyl flooring at NeoCon. The collection comes in rolls of 6’x60’ in eight wood look visuals that mimic the bark of a tree. The product is phthalate free and features Lonseal’s Topseal formulation that reduces scuffing and simplifies maintenance. The collection also features Lonseal’s GreenAir technology, which reduces VOC emissions and includes GreenMedic for increased microbial resistance. Lonseal’s products are manufactured in Japan.
Six Degrees held a contest at last year’s NeoCon where it asked attendees to vote for their favorite new color introductions in response to a request for more color options. This year, Six Degrees returned with a preview of the new introductions-Black, Silver Gray, Bright Royal Blue, Deep Grass Green, Maroon and Purple. To celebrate the new colors, the theme was Chicago in Color with an outline of the city on the booth floor made out Six Degrees’ colored tiles. The new colors are slated to launch in Q4 2019.
CBC Flooring’s Toli added 20 new SKUs in wood looks to its well-established Mature Select collection of commercial sheet flooring. In addition to the new wood visuals, Toli added 18 non-wood looks to the style, including stone visuals and woven vinyl looks. The firm also unveiled Kariena Asento, a new Toli LVT collection of wood-look planks. The planks, which are available in 4”x36” or 7”x48” and are 2.5mm thick, can easily be water jet or sonic cut for custom inlaid designs.
Ecore debuted its Origins line offsite at the Spartan Showroom. Origins combines cork with vulcanized composition rubber and is designed to provide an elevated level of acoustic mitigation compared to traditional resilient flooring. Origins is only available in tile and is recommended for any space that would typically specify carpet, and it comes in 15 vibrant colors and 11 neutrals.
Also, a new color palette was introduced to Ecore’s existing Ecosurfaces collection. The 76 original colors were streamlined to 32 to offer customers on-trend options made up of metal- and wood-colored neutrals in addition to a variety of complementary colors to appeal to the corporate, education, hospitality and retail sectors. Ecosurfaces is available in rolls and tile.
Swiss Krono manufactures interior, building and flooring solutions in eight countries, including the U.S. At NeoCon, the firm showcased its Compact Density Fiberboard (CDF) product, which is designed for interior use in wall accents, office furniture, kitchen cabinets and lockers, among other applications. CDF is stronger than HDF and MDF. It is available in solid colors but can be laminated with a wood print.
The firm is currently looking for U.S. distribution of its Swiss Collection North American Edition TFL and HPL furniture products. These products hit the mid- to upper-end of the furniture market with realistic textures and a wide range of colors.
It also launched its new Beyond particle board line, which uses bio-based adhesives with a minimum of 98% wood materials and exceeds Carb Phase 2 standards.
Schluter Systems previewed its new VinPro division of finishing, edge protection and transition profiles for resilient flooring and wall coverings, which will launch later this summer. It showcased its new shower shelves that coordinate with the existing grates. The shelves come in corner, niche and wall options. The Corner Shelf is available in six styles while the Niche Shelf and Wall Shelf offer two.
New finishes are coming for the Kerdi Drain grates. The natural stainless-steel look is being complemented by Nickel, Rose Gold, Vintage Gold and Classic Gold in the new Metallic Finishes. Matte White, Cream, Greige, Stone Grey, Bronze and Matte Black are available in the Trendline Finishes.
The Recessed Curbless Shower (Kerdi Shower TT) tray is designed to allow open access to a shower for those with mobility issues or those who simply wish to make bathroom maintenance easier and simpler. It features a thin perimeter height and is designed for curbless applications.
GOLD: Tarkett, Tatami System
SILVER: Mohawk Group, Textural Effects
GOLD: Patcraft, Deconstructed Felt
SILVER: Shaw Contract, Suited
CARPET: CONTRACT AREA RUGS
INNOVATION: Mohawk Group, Connecting Neurons Definity
HARD SURFACE LVT & PLANKS
GOLD: Patcraft, Handloom
SILVER: Milliken, Change Agent
INNOVATION: Metroflor, Metroforms with Attraxion
GOLD: Teknoflor, Coordination Collection
SILVER: Mohawk Group, True Hues
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