The Shows Must Go On: Coverings & NWFA Expo bring people back in person for a unique flooring experience in Orlando - Aug/Sept 2021

By Meg Scarbrough

The excitement was palpable in Orlando, Florida this July as the flooring world gathered for its first major in-person show since before the pandemic took hold. But like just about everything else in the past year, this event was far from normal. In fact, for the first time ever, Coverings and the National Wood Flooring Association Expo (NWFA) held coinciding conventions in adjoining spaces at the Orlando Convention Center, marrying two distinct shows with one common bond-bringing the flooring world back together.

It was a late start to this year’s shows, which were forced to go virtual in 2020 and then delayed earlier this year.

Despite challenges created by the ongoing pandemic, as well as a tropical storm that threatened to dampen the mood leading up to the show, organizers for both events were pleased with the turnout. Coverings, the largest global tile and stone exhibition in North America and the largest flooring show in the U.S., reportedly topped 10,000 attendees. And while it was a significant drop from 2018, when an estimated 26,000 people attended, organizers said the feedback for this year’s event was overwhelmingly positive. Said Jennifer Hoff, president of Taffy Event Strategies, the show management company for Coverings, “The attendees of Coverings 2021 were highly charged and enthused about being part of the onsite event. What’s more was the positive feedback we received from exhibitors, who were able to connect with new and recurring customers like never before through Coverings’ in-person and virtual opportunities.”

The outlook was much the same for NWFA Expo organizers. Said Craig Dupra, chairman of the board for the NWFA, “Everyone seems to be excited to be reuniting.” While the show floor was about half the normal size with attendance being about 60% of the normal at around 2,500, NWFA president and CEO Michael Martin was optimistic, telling Floor Focus, “We planned this show three times before we could actually have it. And we couldn’t plan this meeting until the last minute because Covid regulations kept changing, so that was a challenge logistically. But we didn’t have any challenges getting people here. People are excited to be here, they are excited to see each other again after 18 months of not seeing each other.”

Martin added that the co-locating experience with Coverings gave the NWFA the opportunity to expand its show hours based on traffic crossing over. He says it’s possible that after next year’s events, which are already scheduled, another collaborative event could take place.

Looking ahead, Coverings will head to Las Vegas next year, April 5 to 8, while the next NWFA Expo is slated for April 12 to 14 in Tampa, Florida.

Organic, biophilic design and large-format tiles continue to dominate conversations among designers and manufacturers, but there were plenty of other trends on display at the Coverings show.

Show spokesperson and ambassador Alena Capra of Alena Capra Design highlighted a number of this year’s favorite trends, pointing out that many of the top trends are overlapping right now.

• Flecked: This trend features a kaleidoscope of colors or floating fragments of shapes, where the patterns lend a burst of energy to floors and walls. From chunky to fine flecks, and large slabs to smaller tiles, the flecked effect offers endless unique style options.

• Greens: Using shades of green with tile textures reminiscent of nature will be a popular approach to bring the outdoors inside during 2021.

• Soft textures: With a growing preference for toned-down designs, look to trending tile options that offer softer and more natural looks as people yearn for a connection to nature in 2021.

• High-gloss: Glossy tiles offer eye-catching shine and durability for areas that need to be cleaned often, which is why the high gloss trend is expected to make a big comeback this year.

• Marble: Expect to see large-scale veining in 2021. Marble-look designs are evolving; some have fewer wide, river-like veins with flowing movement and clean edges, while others have more angular, frenetic looks.

• Large hexes: Non-rectangular tile styles, specifically hexagons, are growing to monumental sizes. Hexagons as large as 2’ in diameter can add tons of drama to a space.

• Concrete lookalikes: Concrete-look tiles continue to serve as a muse for designers, with playful patterns and infinite laying schemes that add a dramatic impact to any indoor or outdoor space.

• Expressive: Kristin Coleman, senior vice president for Novita, the marketing firm that represents Ceramics of Italy, told an audience at Coverings: “I think expressive designs are really gaining traction because people have been shored up for the past year. Now they’re finally coming out of their shells and re-entering their social circles and offices. So you’ll see a lot of fun patterns.”

• Skinny: Says Coleman, “Skinny tiles are starting to emerge as the new star. Unlike traditional subway tiles, which have a 1:2 dimensional ratio, these are really long and skinny, ranging anywhere from 2”x8” to 3”x16”. And they come in all types of colors so you can do really fun patterns with them, and there are different types of finishes.”

• Warm tones: Tile of Spain representatives noted, “Earth tones continue to rise as we turn to hues that we use to render exterior spaces. Influences of raw nature are subtle with pure organic undertones that speak to comfort and home.”

• Geometric: Unique shapes are also becoming prominent, Tile of Spain said: “Tessellating geometrics with a rise in hexagons, triangles and chevrons abound. Solid colors finished in both glossy and matte coatings play incredibly well together, creating a dynamic yet subtle layer of interest.”

As part of the four-day Coverings offerings, TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan provided an update on the state of the tile industry.

He said, “We all know how difficult 2020 was, but, in fact, the tile industry fared pretty well, all things considered.” While tile consumption was down by single digits from 2019, he added, it was likely attributable to a near-halt in imports from China as a result of anti-dumping actions.

In terms of 2021, he said the year got off to a great start. He noted, “The first quarter rose 17.8% by volume. If we extrapolate that 17.8% increase, that would take us to 3.34 billion square feet, which would be an all-time high in consumption. But, realistically, what we’re hearing is that all types of supply constraints are starting to come into the market, between shipping containers and raw material shortages. But I will stick my neck out here in July and say between three billion and 3.2 billion square feet is my prediction [for the year].”

In terms of imports, the first quarter of 2021 was up 26% from the first quarter of 2020. Astrachan said, “So it’s very, very healthy growth.”

The big news Astrachan announced was publication of the TCNA’s new Material Ingredient Guide, which provides information about the material ingredients used industry-wide by North American tile, mortar and grout manufacturers, making it a first-of-its-kind by any building product industry. It provides health assessments of those materials and can be a resource for manufacturers to use when providing the content and chemical makeup of their products, Astrachan noted. He added, “That’s a level of transparency we don’t see elsewhere. And it’s a precedent that we hope other industries will follow.”

As for the hardwood market, Martin said during the NWFA Expo, “If there’s anything that is the theme of this year, it’s really the word ‘shortage.’ There’s a shortage of labor, there’s a shortage of product, there’s a shortage of people in the plant. And lumber prices are at least double what they were. It’s a tough market, but it’s also a really great market for most people.”

He pointed to the fact that import and shipping challenges may have actually boosted domestic producers. U.S. makers have had an advantage there, he said.

He added, “Everyone I’ve talked to at the show had the best year ever in 2020. We certainly didn’t see that heading into 2020, especially when most only had nine months to pack in the best year ever. In 2021, everyone is upbeat and excited about the product category. I’d say there’s a little bit of a resurgence in wood with people being at home so long they were ready to make a change. And there seems to be a natural tendency toward natural products.”

The past year was tough for the NWFA as an organization. Martin said, “When your whole business is bringing people together and you can’t do that, it makes revenues a challenge. But we have seen a lot of uptick on the marketing side with our advertising products, with our partners, and now the education part is back in full swing.” He also said the NWFA, like many organizations, took the downtime to reassess its strategy moving forward, adding that part of the focus will be to work on installation labor prices.

The National Tile Contractors Association awarded three Five-Star Project of the Year awards to contractor members during an awards ceremony at Coverings. The awards were sponsored by Daltile and were an opportunity to showcase craftsmanship. Projects were judged on scope, complexity, technical soundness and presentation in the residential, commercial and commercial elite (projects of $1 million or over) categories.

Residential Grand Prize: D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting
Project: Essence of Bliss in Atlanta, Georgia

Commercial Grand Prize: H.J. Martin and Son
Project: The Dick Resch & Family Learning and Conservation Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Commercial Elite Grand Prize: David Allen Company
Project: Grand Bohemian Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina

Crossville, a U.S. producer based in Crossville, Tennessee that focuses primarily on the commercial sector, released two collections earlier this year-Ossido and Shades 2.0-which were both part of its Coverings story.

The Ossido porcelain tile panel collection is crafted to look like materials left in the elements to weather and oxidize. The collection comes in three color variations: Nero, Bruno and Verderame, mimicking the appearance of verdigris copper and weathered metals. Panels come in 1m x 3m sheets with the Laminam 5.6mm thickness and are suitable for interior wall and floor applications in both commercial and residential settings.

The Shades 2.0 porcelain tile line features a subtle linear graphic in a nod to the biophilic design trend in 13 neutral hues from cool to warm and light to dark. Colors include Ash, Camel, Clay, Foam, Fog, Frost, Haze, Ink, Midnight, Mist, Russet, Thunder and Vapor, in both semi-polished and unpolished finishes. Additionally, the collection offers a multidirectional graphic in a new patterned accent tile in a 12”x12” right triangle, and there is a 2”x2” unpolished solid mosaic or 1”x3” semi-polished mosaic in Cool Grays, New Warms, Warm Grays and Whites. The collection is rounded out with 4”x24” bullnose or 6”x12” cove base.

Marazzi, a brand under Dal-Tile, has introduced Scenario, a glazed porcelain collection that emulates tone-on-tone brush strokes typical of majolica tiles found in Mediterranean architecture. It is available in 8”x8” matte tiles and comes in three solid colors-Bianco, Blu and Nero-but also includes six designs-Blu Triangle, Blu Convex, Blu Crescent, Nero Triangle, Nero Convex and Nero Crescent.

Marazzi also has its new Treverksoul collection, an assortment of wood-look, glazed porcelain tiles inspired by antique parquet floors. It comes in 4”x21” planks in neutral, brown and grey. The company’s proprietary printing, Reveal Imaging, was used to create realistic color, detail and veining. The collection is suitable for floor, wall and countertop use, as well as indoor and outdoor applications.

The new Look collection of Ragno, Marazzi’s sister brand, pays homage to the majolica tradition, or tin-glazed pottery, and the rich history of Italian ceramics. These 2-3/8”x 9-7/16” porcelain stoneware wall tiles have a handcrafted aesthetic with unrectified edges, a glossy, imperfect finish and organic variations in color and pattern. Look comes in seven colors-Avioa, Binge, Bianco, Blu, Nero, Ocra and Olivia-in a glossy finish for both residential and commercial use.

American Olean, another Dal-Tile brand, has two new collections this year-Crafter and Clay Canvas. Crafter is a porcelain tile line that offers a concrete look inspired by the visuals of the unique fibers found in craft paper. It is available in 2”x2” and 12”x24” in five neutral colors-Paper-Mache, Twill, Origami, Sketch and Ink. And in keeping with the trend toward larger-format tile, it also comes in 24”x24” squares. A corresponding 8” hex delivers a unique 3D effect in colors Paper Bloc Hex and Carbon Bloc Hex. All feature StepWise technology that makes it 50% more slip-resistant.

Additionally, American Olean launched Clay Canvas, a stone-look colorbody porcelain floor tile for commercial and residential use on floor, walls and countertops. It features 12”x24” or 24”x24” tiles in colors Chalk, Paint, Stencil, Leads and Coal. Clay Canvas is suitable for floor, wall, and countertop use. It features ClimatePro, so it is a tile that won’t freeze, fade or crack due to cold weather, making it suitable for indoor use or vertical applications for outdoor spaces.

Florida Tile won Best in Show this year for its dynamic booth that put its latest releases front and center, including a large installation featuring its new East Village collection.

East Village HDP, a colorbody porcelain floor and wall tile collection, boasts a wide range of rectified formats, as well as solid mosaics in five colors-Avenue A Gray, E. Houston Warm Gray, Potter’s Red Clay, Stuyvesant Charcoal and Tompkins Blue/Black. These are complemented by a dramatic, oversized waterjet-cut hexagon in Cool Mix and Warm Mix.

Florida Tile also showcased Amplify, which is a mix of color, pattern and texture for wall applications. The collection features solid tiles in shades of white, black and blue, as well as textural tiles in the same colors but with geometric or undulating lines that play with shadows and light.

American Wonder Porcelain was one of several producers that set up shop inside meeting suites set up on the perimeter of the showroom floor, but the location didn’t stop visitors from filling the space.

Among its offerings this year was Annora Porcelain, its modern take on linear travertine. A soft graphic creates the light and airy series, which comes in two colors, Perspective White and Horizon Gray, and matte or polished finishes.

Stonepeak, which is owned by the Italian-based Iris Ceramica Group (that just celebrated its 60th anniversary), has introduced Wave indoor/outdoor porcelain tiles. The collection has a honed and textured finish, with the idea that the design inside the house can easily be carried to the outdoor spaces. The higher slip resistance of the textured finish makes it suitable for patios and pool decks while still looking just as sleek as the honed finish installed inside. It comes in 12”x24” and 24”x24” in colors Wave Ash, Wave Ice, Wave Sand, Wave Seaweed and Wave Coal.

Del Conca USA unveiled two new products at its Coverings booth this year, both inspired by the people and places rich in history and culture that are known to produce the most exclusive and exquisite natural stones.

The Navona Italian collection originates from the natural travertine found in Italy, one of the most sought after materials in contemporary interiors. Navona is available in colors Bianco, Grigio and Sabbia.

Quartzite aims to embody the mystery and magic of stone and comes from the heart of Brazil’s quarries. Each piece is crafted to enhance any space with its own unique personality and is highlighted by natural characteristics, colors and striations, making each piece unique and unrepeatable. It comes in four colors-Bianco, Gray, Dark Gray and Sand.

SomerTile highlighted several new offerings in its suite, including Palm Hex and Haromina.

Palm is a porcelain series of 6”x7” hex floor and wall tiles that comes in solid options in black, blue, green, grey, mustard, pink, turquoise and white. For a little added drama, the lines also features unique geometric options like Honeycomb, Linear, Rombo, Starburst and Windmill.

Harmonia is a ceramic floor and wall tile collection that creates the look of a mosaic design in a square tile and features realistic imitations and scuffs and spots, creating a loved, worn and century-old appearance. It comes in 13 designs in a 13”x13” format.

As part of this year’s Coverings event, the TCNA donated tiled doghouses to the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.

Companies that participated in the unique creations were American Wonder, Anthology, Casa Ceramica, Crossville and Del Conca. The houses were made and donated by Wedi Corp.

Angela Miedema, Pet Alliance director of operations, said in a statement, “Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando is appreciative to again be chosen by TCNA as their charity partner for this project. Support from TCNA and its members in this truly creative undertaking will allow us to continue to provide for the needs of the thousands of shelter pets that come to us each year. We are very thankful for their commitment to helping homeless pets!”

About the houses:
• The theme of the American Wonder Porcelain doghouse was “Canine in Chief” and featured Polar Style Porcelain. The tile was installed by Paul Magyar, and Kaylee Ledford added the presidential details.

• Creating a luxury home for four-legged family members was the inspiration for Anthology’s 2021 doghouse. The pawprints, roof and front of the doghouse were made from recycled glass, inkjet-printed to resemble Carrara marble. The back of the doghouse is accented with Anthology’s classic royal gem mosaics.

• Casa Ceramica’s doghouse was designed and installed by its team of in-house designers, using hand-painted tiles from its classic Mediterranean collection. Moorish-design tiles decorate the sides of the doghouse, while the roof features handmade subway tiles to create a more transitional feel. The front fascia is decorated with Mediterranean tile inserts, along with a custom fleur-de-lys relief.

• Crossville’s doghouse showcased its colorful Cursive mosaic wall tile collection in Oxblood, Soft Teal, Iris and Goldenrod. The custom pattern was made with Crossville’s Cursive Pattern Visualizer, a digital design tool that makes it easy to create fun looks.

• Del Conca USA’s doghouse featured tile from its Nature marble collection. The body of the house is constructed with Calacatta Gold, a marble with a white background and golden veins of various sizes. The roof is finished with Dolomite marble.

AHF Products had one of the most exciting releases at the NWFA Expo, unveiling for the first time its new Dogwood Densified Wood technology. According to the company, this patent-pending process creates a 100% natural wood floor that is resistant to scratches, gouges and dents, including pet nails and accidents, and is twice as hard as traditional wood floors. It is available in hickory, red oak and walnut varieties.

AHF engineers developed Dogwood by taking real wood and doubling its density through a process of heat and pressure. During a demonstration at its booth, an AHF representative dropped a metal ball through a tube, showing how the impact dented other wood products, in some cases leaving a large crater. When tested against Dogwood, the metal ball left an almost indistinguishable mark.

Dogwood is initially launching under the Bruce brand but will roll out within AHF Products’ umbrella, including Hartco and Robbins.

Mannington this year released four new hardwood lines-Kodiak, Mountain View XL, Forest Park and Sanctuary.

Kodiak is described as “global boho,” featuring a hand-stained and handscraped finish that creates a warm, rich visual that lends itself to the eco-friendly vibe still gaining in popularity. This white teak species comes in planks that are 5” wide, with lengths up to 4’. Kodiak comes in colors Champagne, Rye, Autumn and Fawn.

Mountain View XL is an update to the Mountain View line, highlighting the trend toward longer and wider planks. It is 6-1/2” wide and 7’ long, featuring artisan handscraping and hand-staining, and comes in Mountain View’s existing shades of Autumn, Bark, Fawn and Smoke, as well as two new, lighter Nordic-influenced colors, Champagne and Platinum.

Capitalizing on the popularity of hickory, Forest Park is a 7-1/2” wide plank with extra-long lengths up to 7’. It comes in four colors-Twig, Sunbeam, Natural and Trail.

Rounding out the offerings is Sanctuary, a European white oak with an ultra-matte finish that highlights the soft, natural character of the wood. Sanctuary’s massive planks are 5/8” thick, 9-1/2” wide and up to 7’ long with a 4mm thick face. It is available in six colors-Driftwood, Dune, Fresh Air, Oyster, Sea Salt and Shell.

Mullican announced three new series of Castillian engineered hardwood flooring products inspired by the old-growth forests of Europe. Castillian Cottage, Castillian Estate and Castillian Premier aim to offer a modern take on the classic hardwood floors found in European castles, cottages and manors. Made with European white oak lumber, the collection is suitable for both commercial and residential uses. The three new series are available in three widths and ten colors and include a wirebrushed aluminum oxide finish.

Cottage comes in 6-1/2” widths and random board lengths and is available in Alabaster, Blakemore and North Short. Estate comes in 7-1/2” widths and random lengths up to 7’ in colors Tranquility, Hardwick and Oldtown. Premier is the widest of the group at 9-7/16” and up to 7’ long and it comes in four colors-Coastal Fog, Monroe Bisque, Brindille and Offshore Mist.

Quebec-based Mirage has introduced new colors and looks into some of its current collections. Color additions include: Clay Marbles, Jump Rope, Paddle Ball and Rocking Horse in the Sweet Memories collections; Desert Rose, Sailing Stone, Sandy Reef and Stardust in the Flair collection; Park City in the Escape collection; and Maui in the DreamVille collection. Additionally, the Natural Collection now includes “Exclusive” (like select grade with some color variation) and character grade floors with DuraMatt finish on Smooth Maple and Brushed Red Oak. Hickory, White Oak R&Q and Walnut are now also available with a brushed texture in this collection. Maple, Red Oak and White Oak floors now also come in 73/4” widths.

Mercier this year expanded its existing Atmosphere white oak line with the addition of Maple and Hickory Hush. These two new products are offered in a variety of widths ranging from 3-1/4” to 6-1/2” for hickory and up to 8-1/8” for maple, depending on the platform (solid or engineered) in a matte finish. Maple Hush is also offered in herringbone.

Harris Wood recently launched a new collection called Signatures SpringLoc, featuring 3/8” x 6-1/4” planks in eight colors-Cider, Carob, Flaxen, Chiffon, Lace, Sandcastle, Amber and Fossil. The U.S.-made line has a click-locking system for easier installation.

Harris’ existing Americana Escape line has also been expanded and now offers hickory and maple in addition to the existing red and white oak. The collection comes in 20 colors.

Maxwell Hardwood Flooring used the show to highlight its existing products, including Townsend Additions and Legacy. Townsend is an engineered line that is available in red oak, white oak, hickory, walnut, maple and American cherry in varying widths. And Legacy, which debuted in 2017, is a white oak collection that is available in 3/4” solid or 5/8” engineered.

At Emily Morrow Home, owner Emily Morrow Finkell has been focused this year on Milled Naturals, the company’s 2021 color family of the year, and how it pairs with the existing hardwood flooring line. The brown-based story features nine unique shades, including Goat’s Milk, Mill Stone, Khaki, Cardamom Husk, Camelback, Mojave Cinnamon, Mochatini, Wheatfield and Good Earth.

Välinge announced it has begun a sponsor partnership with the NWFA. As part of the agreement, Välinge’s Hardened Wood Floors will feature at a selection of NWFA training courses this year, and Välinge’s patented surface and floor-locking technologies will be highlighted in NWFA training and guideline materials. In June, Hardened Wood Floors featuring Woodura surface technology achieved Greenguard Gold certification.

Inside the NWFA Expo, Emily Morrow Finkell, owner of Emily Morrow Home, said it’s a good time to be wood-or even look like wood. She said consumers are looking for locally sourced, healthy and warm-toned flooring.

On the color side, she said there’s been a shift in recent years from the use of grey more toward light, natural colors, like oat and camel. The current color palette is warming to more golds.

Longer, wider planks also continue gaining popularity in the market.

Copyright 2021 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Mohawk Industries, Armstrong Flooring, American Olean, AHF Products, Marazzi USA, NWFA Expo, Crossville, Mirage Floors, Mannington Mills, Stonepeak Ceramics, Daltile, CERAMICS OF ITALY, Coverings