Trends and highlights from the commercial interiors show: NeoCon 2015

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

 

This year’s NeoCon, held annually at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart since 1969, was awash in new design directions and thoughtful innovations, and it was also busy, with over 50,000 design professionals packing the hallways and cramming into elevators for the three-day show.

NeoCon is a showcase for all commercial interiors, with over a million square feet of exhibit space. The largest players have permanent showrooms on the third, tenth and eleventh floors, while the seventh and eighth floors feature temporary exhibits, though some of the more prominent players in high visibility locations tend to maintain the same spaces year after year. 

This year’s keynote speakers included Patricia Urquiola, a high profile designer and architect with a lot of experience designing commercial products, including flooring. A keynote was also delivered by Martin Lesjak and Anastasija Sugic who together operate 13&9, an Austrian design collective. Lesjak and Sugic’s Moving Floors design for the Mohawk Group took Gold in the Best of NeoCon awards in the carpet tile category. 

In a sign of improving conditions, or at the very least improving outlooks, there was a clear increase in after-hour parties hosted by manufacturers. Most of those events were held on Monday, at the end of the first day of the show. Unfortunately, the skies opened up, with prodigious downpours throughout the afternoon and evening, putting an effective damper on the festivities.

The showrooms this year, particularly the flooring showrooms, were often themselves heavily designed to convey themes and tell the story of their products. Bentley’s space, depicting an LA Dive Bar, won IIDA/Contract Magazine awards for best small showroom design and best in competition, and Universal Fibers took another for best large booth design, but there were other outstanding spaces, like Crossville’s retro urban design and Interface’s virtual reality experience.

And this year there were more resilient flooring producers than ever, as LVT continues to grow and evolve in the market. Milliken joined the ranks of carpet mills with LVT lines. Shaw and Mohawk both have LVT facilities. Bolyu sources a line. And for both Tarkett and Mannington, their hard surface programs are bigger than their carpet operations. Of the top carpet mills, only Interface, J+J, Bentley and Masland don’t have LVT programs. 

WORKSPACE TRENDS
NeoCon isn’t just about floors. It’s about all commercial interiors, and that includes seating, casegoods, lighting, fabrics, screens, wall coverings and a lot more. These days, all these product categories increasingly trend together; it’s part of what enables the A&D community to create such cohesive projects, where the colors, patterns and themes of all the product types work together to manifest the vision of the design team. 

So even in a show report focused on the flooring industry, it’s worthwhile to take a look at the overall show trends as well as relevant developments in categories like furniture and fabrics. And it’s worth noting that the modern office layout more often than not relies on the floors—and in some cases the walls—to provide the dynamic backdrop for the more sleek and quiet interior furniture elements. Or the flooring will be rough and rustic and the other finishes more modern and efficient. Either way, flooring’s aesthetic role in the corporate sector tends to be its juxtaposition with the other elements in the space.

Though it may seem redundant to name it as a theme, given how NeoCon is all about commercial interiors, the focus of the show clearly navigated around human spaces. More specifically, this year was all about balancing privacy in the open office format.

Over the last few years, there’s been an increase in privacy screens, casual spaces in corporate environments, and cozy materials. But this year all the exhibitors were aligned. You couldn’t go anywhere without running into a felt panel, a soundproofed booth or chairs with oversized backs and wraparound sides.

A memorable example came from Framery Acoustics, which reinvented the phone booth as a modern soundproofed space for private calls that goes right in the workplace. The firm placed a handful of booths along the center wall on the seventh floor, and throughout the show people were stepping inside them for the sheer pleasure of a quiet moment. Also, some furniture producers really built up the privacy barriers around casual chairs, like Sandler Seating’s aptly named Cocoons.

There was a focus on softness this year, though not necessarily in terms of what’s soft to the touch. It was about what’s soft to the eye and to the ear, best exemplified by the most important fabric at this year’s NeoCon: felt.

Actual felt, be it wool or a synthetic like polyester, doesn’t really have a place in commercial flooring, though its soft, dulled look is certainly well expressed in both hard and soft surface flooring (for instance, in the growth of sheared carpet). But when it came to casegoods, seating, fabrics, screens and panels, felt was pretty much de rigueur. 

Maharam had it piled like Persian rugs at the front of its space, and Knoll had hanging curtains of it. And everywhere there was furniture upholstered in it. Most of the big players on the permanent showroom floors offered screens and panels made of felt. Buzzispace, for instance, made freestanding felt panels in playful cactus shapes. There were also some trendy innovations on the temporary show floors, like Baresque, a new Australian exhibitor, which showcased its carved felt Zintra Acoustic panels in a dark grey on the eighth floor.

Another prominent textile design was plaids, in a range of expressions, including more straightforward ginghams. That characteristic color layering was in evidence throughout the show—though less so in flooring.

COLORS AND TEXTURES
In carpet, there was again no shortage of greys at the show, and this year there were plenty of charcoals and near blacks on display, often in textured stony looks, as though drawn from a palette of lava and ash. Shaw Contract, Interface, the Mohawk Group and Bentley were among the mills with the most prominent collections. However, lighter shades were not just greys but earth tones as well. And where there was color in carpet, it was often saturated, bright and confident. No single color dominated the show, but cropping up here and there were tomato reds, blue-based reds and peacock blue, along with some greens leaning toward yellow, and some greyed yellows. 

Hard surface colors ran the gamut this year, though in general there was a lighter look to the introductions. While there were plenty of wood looks in porcelain and LVT, what stood out most were the more inventive patterns, including: textile visuals; heavily stylized blends of stone, concrete, textile and wood; and abstract creations, like Tandus Centiva’s Asymmetric, which took Best of NeoCon Gold in the hard surface category.

There was a lot of sheen and sparkle on the carpet side, from products with high luster accent striations to others with glitter scattered throughout. The most glittery of all was Patcraft’s Deconstructed, with its lustrously metallic backing exposed in organic patterns. Tandus Centiva also had exposed backing, but in a more ordered pattern on its woven Indent carpet.

There were some geometrics, both in carpet and hard surface, including tufted diagonals (Shaw Contract’s Noble Materials and the Mohawk Group’s Moving Floors) and diagonals in tile, like the mosaics of Crossville’s Groove Glass line. And there was also experimentation with scale from several producers, including Near & Far from Interface, Mannington’s Traction Avenue and Shaw Contract’s The Park.

Also, more sophisticated tufting technology was in evidence at the show. Most of it was ColorPoint machinery, which a lot of manufacturers have been investing in. The technology’s enhanced capabilities, like tufting sideways or picking up and dropping yarn or tufting at multiple pile heights, hugely expand carpet’s design possibilities, and several mills, including Shaw and Mohawk, experimented with new design directions. Masland Contract showcased its CYP technology, through its acquisition of hospitality focused B Carpet, in a large-scale design on its showroom floor. In general, hospitality styles had a higher profile at this show, due in part to the momentum in that market. There were also more woven carpets this year, some rich and hefty and some more crisply tailored. And there were also some thicker face weights.

Another trend, one that will likely see a fuller expression in the years to come, is bringing residential feels to commercial spaces. At one end, it’s part of the development of senior living spaces, and at the other end, it’s part of the movement toward casual spaces in the corporate environment.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS MULTI-SURFACE SUPPLIERS
On the main floor of Shaw Contract’s NeoCon showroom, the firm featured two collections, The Park and Noble Materials. The Park, inspired by the range and scale of human interaction in parks, is made up of seven carpet tile designs, including two ColorPoint products and one artificial turf tile, in a range of formats, along with a resilient plank offering. The collection, first unveiled at the Hospitality Design show in May, won two Interior Design HiP awards in the Hospitality Carpet and Workplace Carpet categories. It was showcased in a colorway of browns and smoky blue with a vivid yellow-green accent, and it comes a handful of warm and cool colorways with vivid accents.

The two ColorPoint products are Reflect and Create. Reflect is an 18”x26” tile with a mottled look, reminiscent of a skyward view through trees, in a loop construction with tip shearing. When installed, the lack of directionality creates an open feel, suggesting a large-scale design. Create is more bounded, a rugged, distressed linear design that runs across the width of the 18”x36” tiles. There’s a great scraped paint visual going across the rugged banding that is echoed in a resilient plank of the same collection.

The Park also includes four other carpet designs. Explore is another uni-directional tip sheared design, with more chunky patterning than Reflect. Drift and Renew are rugged, textural linears, and Linger is the most low-key, a soft linear with gentle color shifts across its length. All four come in a 9”x36” skinny plank format. And then there’s Zone, a plank made of artificial turf, which works well as a playful, unexpected accent to the collection.

Shaw also came out with two 6”x36” resilient products for The Park. What’s most interesting about these products is that they are made from the firm’s EcoWorx polyolefin Cradle to Cradle Certified carpet backing with a print film on top. It’s the first Cradle to Cradle Certified resilient flooring in the industry, and as such will likely play a role in driving other resilient producers toward loftier green goals. One product features a rustic wood design, and the other is more abstract, with a scraped visual also expressed in the Create design. 

The Noble Materials collection, some of which is also produced using ColorPoint technology, took up the other half of the showroom floor in a colorway of blacks and greys with occasional gleaming accent bands. Noble Materials is made up of two tufted broadlooms, two woven broadlooms and four 24”x24” tiles, and the collection is notable for its plush striae and its overall bold design. Honed and Alchemy are two similar designs, with linear patterns running across the tile at 45-degree angles. Alchemy features additional metallic accent lines. Another tile, Form, is an organic design with a metallic accent band running across the pattern like a vein of precious metal locked in stone. Fault is the broadloom version of Form, reminiscent of striated travertine.

The two wovens, Base Metal and Monolith, add a tailored component to the collection. Monolith is a crisp textured grid while Base Metal features oversized loops in an ordered pattern.

Everything seemed to fall into place for the Mohawk Group this year as its feature modular carpet collection, Moving Floors, designed in collaboration with 13&9, was recognized with a Best of NeoCon Gold award in the modular carpet category. 13&9 is an Austrian design group comprised of architect Martin Lesjak and fashion designer Anastasija Sugic, and together they have achieved recent acclaim in the clothing, sunglasses, lighting and furniture businesses with award-winning product designs.

Moving Floors is a modular carpet system that creates pop with texture and pattern distortion, creating angles and circles that fade in and out. The collection gives designers a system of five different patterns, enabling them to create customizable spaces. The patterns are called High Plane, Low Plane, Diagonal Relief, Lenticular Relief (with a circular pattern) and Fade Relief. While the tiles themselves are made of 24” squares, they can be mixed and matched for an almost limitless range of texture and color visuals. 

Moving Floors, positioned under the Karastan premium brand, will be available in September and will be priced in the low to mid $30s. There are seven colorways, all of which were inspired by nature, with names like Moss Green and Volcanic Rock Grey. The nylon face construction is dense, due to its 12th gauge construction.

A second noteworthy modular carpet collection is Iconic Earth, which was designed in-house using Jackie Dettmar’s team. It comes in three styles—two plank and one square. The visuals with their metallic accents were inspired by gemstones and rocks found in nature, so it follows the biophilia theme, which was prominent at NeoCon this year. And while the collection looks rich and high-end, it’s actually a Bigelow branded product with a price point in the high teens. 

A coordinating LVT collection to Iconic Earth is Mass Appeal, which follows last year’s success with Hot & Heavy. Mass Appeal features a metallic sheen and it is 5mm thick, which eliminates the need for transitions when installed adjacent to carpet tile. 

With broadloom, Mohawk Group won a Best of NeoCon Silver award for its Lakir Collection. This product is positioned for the public space area in the hospitality sector. Shown at NeoCon in a rug format, Lakir is produced using recently developed tufting equipment that is capable of producing a cut and loop construction with up to 12 colors. The resulting visual is as close as you can get to woven Axminster using a tufting process.

It’s also worth noting that Royce Epstein has recently joined Mohawk, replacing Chris Stulpin as the design director in Mohawk’s New York Studio.

Tarkett Johnsonite had on display one of the best looking resilient products at the show, a heterogeneous sheet vinyl called Acczent Flourish, which received a Silver NeoCon award in the Healthcare Flooring category. Acczent comes in three styles, including two textiles (one subdued and the other with a more vivid and layered texture), and a textile with a subtle trellis overlay. It looks like fashion forward LVT, offering a level of sophistication not common in the sheet vinyl category. 

Acczent Flourish comes in ten colors and features a hefty 32 mil wearlayer. It also is composed of 23% post-industrial recycled content and uses non-orthophthalate plasticizers.

Also on display was a new sheet rubber called Arcade Tonal with a palette of 40 tone-on-tone colorways, most of which are colorful but not too bright and vivid. It’s paired with rubber treads, transitions and other accessory products, targeting the healthcare and education sectors. Tarkett introduced its first rubber sheet products at NeoCon 2014.

In the corner of the booth, there was a window cut out of the wall revealing a section of a stairway within. With the interior light on, it looks like stairs covered with regular treads, along with a lighter strip at the edge, but with the light off, the edge strip glows, offering safe passage in the case of power loss. The Safe-T-First system will likely be in demand throughout the commercial market, or at least anywhere that has stairs.

Tandus Centiva, which is essentially the Tarkett commercial operation that doesn’t go through distributors, showed an abundance of new products this NeoCon, featuring diverse textures and exciting, fashion-forward color palettes. These included the abstract organic Cartography and Avant; structured, highly textured wovens; the detailed, multicolored Maelstrom; and a sophisticated abstract resilient, Asymmetric. 

Cartography was inspired by the look of antique maps, with horizontal and vertical lines referencing the lines of latitude and longitude, and with organic forms suggesting land masses. The overall effect is an abstract that combines multiple neutral tones with one fresh accent color per coloration. As seen in the showroom installation, mixing different carpet colors within one floor creates a watercolor effect. Cartography’s accent colors come straight off the runway (one viewer referred to new styles from Armani and Prada) in mixtures of gray with yellow, aqua, fuchsia and electric blue. Although targeted to the corporate sector, Cartography will also provide an interesting option for healthcare interiors. 

Avant, a solution-dyed style with a similar visual to Cartography, has more vertically oriented shapes. When seen in Powerbond form, Avant has a bold flowing aesthetic. In a tile, the design appears as a softer texture that varies in intensity. And in Tandus Centiva’s newest platform, Freeform, the look is a combination of the two. Freeform is a freelay building block of 9”x90” panels, which has the comfort of cushion backing and can be moved at will. Avant received a NeoCon Silver award for Modular Carpet. Llano Firma, a coordinate product, offers contrast with its rich tonal striations. 

In contrast, Linewave is a crisp geometric pattern built of vertical lines and angles that explore circuit board imagery. Sophisticated colorations allowed this very different design to look at home with the other very different products on the showroom floor.

Tandus Centiva received a well-deserved NeoCon Gold in Broadloom for Suzanne Tick’s new woven style, Indent, a thick ribbed product with a striking and unusual texture. The polyester backing is used as a design element. Voids create the lowest area in the design, while contrasting higher areas of the woven construction mass together like braided steel cables. The pattern created by this structure is horizontal in nature, while bands of color run in the vertical direction. Another chunky woven, Full Volume III, introduced four new colors—yellow, lime, orange and grey—to its current palette.

Two new products from Jhane Barnes feature her signature rich multicolor aesthetic. Maelstrom is a variegated vertical stripe, and Pandemonium is a coordinated shifted pattern that incorporates a texture of small rectangular shapes. Each of the 13 colorations is created with 14 individual yarns, forming a rich and highly usable palette.

On the resilient side, Asymmetric is a subtle design created by finely drawn lines on a solid field. According to Suzanne Tick, the intent was to give a feeling of shifting planes, referencing modern architecture. This product is very appealing; it is refreshing to see an LVT that stands on its own and does not try to be another material. Asymmetric received a NeoCon Gold for Hard Surface Flooring.

Mannington Commercial used the central part of its tenth floor showroom to showcase Traction Avenue, a carpet tile collection created in collaboration with Joey Shimoda. The design was inspired by the streetscapes of downtown Los Angeles, where Shimoda Design Group has its offices. The collection experiments with scale, with some products resembling geometrically stylized close-ups of tire treads while others use a steady gradation of intensity across the length of the plank to create a sense of movement, and the uncluttered visual suggests a shift in scale from the tread designs.

Traction Avenue comes in 18 colorways, from neutrals to high chroma colors, and use Antron Lumena nylon 6,6 fiber. The collection features five designs, all in 12”x24” planks.

Another major introduction at Mannington was its Anthology collection, which utilizes the firm’s unique Amtico technology to widen design options for specifiers. Unlike other producers, Mannington’s Amtico LVT uses two print film layers, not one. The top layer is printed on a transparent film that goes over the lower layer, and that’s where the design flexibility comes in. 

Anthology features 16 running line colors that can use any of five designs (top film layer) for 80 possible combinations. And specifiers can even select from an expanded palette of 30 colors to create a custom look. The designs include stylized textile, stone and concrete looks, and the designs end up looking very different based on the color choice. Mannington also offers custom cutting, so those tiles can come in just about any rectilinear formats.

Mannington also came out with an interesting rubber product through its Burke business. The firm calls Teles the industry’s first high resiliency rubber. The 35”x35” tile, which can be cut into squares and planks, has a PSI of 1,500 and is more flexible and resilient than traditional rubber flooring. And it comes in a captivating organic pattern that the firm says was inspired by natural earthscapes, in 15 colors.

Exposure was the theme in the Patcraft booth, and this Shaw brand got additional exposure when it won not one, but two awards in the Best of NeoCon competition: Gold in the healthcare category for its Life & Style, and the Innovation award for its Deconstructed Metal modular carpet. 

Life & Style is a carpet collection aimed at the multi-family, senior living, healthcare and student housing segments. The five broadloom styles and three 24”x24” carpet tiles in a range of pattern scales were created to coordinate with one another. The designs consist of soft geometrics and organics with a feel somewhere between residential and hospitality. 

Two of the more impressive styles in the collection are Urban Garden and Bohemian. Urban Garden is a carpet tile in a unique tone-on-tone floral graphic with sculpted overlapping blossoms against a crosshatch background. Bohemian, a broadloom, is a more striking oversized paisley and floral graphic in a hand embroidered look over irregular geometric webbing. 

Life & Style is constructed with Solution Q Extreme nylon 6 and EcoWorx tile backing, and the performance backing in the broadloom includes a moisture barrier that allows common spills to be cleaned with water. 

Deconstructed Black and Deconstructed Metal debuted at NeoCon and both expose some of the EcoWorx backing as part of the design, hence the exposure theme. Deconstructed Metal combines varied fiber heights with the exposed polypropylene backing for interesting textures. Three looks—Metallic Alchemy, Alloy Shimmer and Anodized Metal—come with six different yarn combinations and three metallic backing colors (Bronze, Titanium and Graphite) for 18 total colorways. The subtle sheen and the unique textures combine for an award-winning look.

The fractured patterning of distressed vintage rugs is the design inspiration behind Bolyu’s Moresque tile. Offered in both plank and square format, the design references traditional patterning, yet has a soft abstract visual. Six color combinations mix a hint of accent color within a primarily neutral shade, an approach to color that seemed to permeate this year’s NeoCon.

Batiste is a coordinate style for Moresque as well as other new products. Its design explores the interlacing threads of a plain-weave fabric at varying densities, creating an overall texture in a lovely, usable style. The pattern itself is defined by the tonal contrast created by cut and loop pile, and it shifts based on the viewing angle.

Thread Count is a new addition to Bolyu’s Level platform of products, the category described as a hybrid between carpet and resilient. The first products in this collection were Svelte, a suede-like texture, and Backstitch. Thread Count uses closely spaced lines of stitches in both neutrals and small lines of accent colors in order to create an ombre effect, with shaded, graduated tones spanning the width of the tile. A tailored look suitable for any end use market, Thread Count has a stitch-bonded non-woven construction with a minimum of 70% post-consumer recycled PET content.

The Abstract collection features two new LVT visuals with looks that blend wood, stone and leather. In addition to these more classic resilient styles, at this NeoCon Bolyu introduced the Elevate collection, using real wood veneer in a 6”x36” plank format. The wood veneer is embedded in a vinyl substrate with a 20 mil wearlayer on top. Because this is real wood, there is no pattern repeat. The high-end looking palette includes nine wood tones, including maple, cherry, subtly stained basswoods, walnut and Asian padouk.

One of the more noteworthy items for Milliken at NeoCon this year is its entry into the LVT category. This is a big step for the firm, which grew up as a textile company and up until now has focused solely on carpets and rugs within its flooring business.

Milliken has chosen to enter this business by partnering with one of the largest LVT producers in China, which has a long history as a quality OEM supplier in the LVT category. Milliken’s official launch in this category is in early July with 109 styles that cover wood planks, stone looks and abstract squares. The format is a 2.5mm gluedown product with a 28 mil wearlayer.

Now that Bob Hutchison has been with the firm for over a year, his fingerprints are showing up in Milliken’s latest carpet designs. Most noteworthy is a modular tile collection called Naturally Drawn that was inspired by watercolor paintings. The collection, with high definition Millitron printing, comes in four designs and eight colorways.

SOFT SURFACE SPECIALISTS
The focus of Interface’s space this year echoed the defining theme of NeoCon 2015, which centered on human spaces. With its emphasis on biophilia design in the workplace, the firm launched two collections designed to stand alone or work with existing products in Interface’s portfolio. For instance, Near & Far is made up of a pair of linear planks, one with low-profile striations with random bands of raised loop and the other with a higher, more dimensional textured surface overlaying the striated field. It’s a design that could work well with last year’s Human Nature.

The other collection, Equal Measure, is made up of three designs. At one end is a low-key loop texture, at the other end is a higher profile level tip shear with rectilinear groove lines creating shapes reminiscent of timeworn pavers and cobblestones, though in a shifting scale. The intermediate tile features loose rectangles and squares on the loop texture field. What’s interesting about the collection is that it calls to mind the outdoors, not through nature itself, but through humanity’s relationship to it.

On hand in the space was Bill Browning, co-founder of Terrapin Bright Green, an environmental consulting firm that is a leader in developing restorative, regenerative environments, talking about workplace impacts. A lot of the discussion was about the Human Spaces Global Report, which surveyed 7,600 office workers across the world. The report revealed, among other things, that workers in offices with natural elements like sunlight or plants are 6% more productive and 15% more creative, and they report a 15% higher level of well-being. However, 47% of surveyed offices have no natural light and 58% have no greenery of any sort.

J+J Flooring Group introduced collections in both its Invision carpet and Kinetex textile composite flooring lines.

Inspired by digital photography—and the way it has permeated our lives—Invision’s Filtered Effects explores the imagery created by combining photography with filters. Five products make up this collection. Three of the products are based on the same pattern, an abstract design built of crosshatched lines at varying angles, and each of the styles offers a different color effect. Chroma has a tonal, neutral palette. Spectra adds a light tint by placing some colored yarns at intervals in the warp. Exposure shows a full wash of color with intermediate tones of the same color.

F Stop is a 12”x48” plank, again mixing clear accent colors spaced within a neutral field. Interestingly, the accents are yellow, orange, fuchsia and mid-blue hues, on trend with those seen in other new products throughout the Mart. Each of the colorations features a single accent color. Several different colorations are combined in J+J’s dramatic showroom floor layout.

Kinetex featured two innovative new products, Analogue and Umbra & Umbra Stripe. In the first real change-up of the Kinetex aesthetic, Analogue starts with either a solid or striped substrate. The style is then overprinted with a soft, monochromatic, inkblot type pattern. In addition to creating a unique visual, the overprint mitigates seaming issues and allows for a monolithic installation. Four solid colors and five striped combinations make up the line.

Silver Award winners for Hard Surface Flooring, Umbra and Umbra Stripe are Kinetex’s first introductions in a plank format. Umbra is designed with a gradation of color across each plank. Like F Stop, each color combination can be used by itself or multiple colorations can be mixed together. This effect was in evidence in the beautiful, iridescent color flow on display on the showroom floor. Umbra Stripe introduces a thin contrasting stripe at intervals into Umbra’s more subtle tonality. Kinetex is constructed of PET fiber with 55% recycled content. 

Bentley Mills returned to its roots with the Born + Raised campaign, inspired by the company’s origins. Founded in 1979, Bentley grew up in the early years of the contract carpet industry, emerging in the 1980s as arguably the most fashion-forward of the commercial carpet companies. Bentley was known for classic, iconic design and luxury products—for example, the cut pile Kings Road, with its broad color palette and fine finish, as well as many elegant cut and loop textures.

The design team at Bentley is now building out a complete strategy for its brand. A few years ago, there were only a handful of products in Bentley’s line at the middle to lower price points, and the tile story wasn’t recognized or understood in the market. Last year, Bentley addressed these issues with a prolific series of product collections. And now the firm feels it is time to go back to its roots. At this NeoCon, Todd van der Kruik and his team revisited Bentley’s history and created a series of modern products with the equipment that built its legacy. Concurrently, Bentley is also emphasizing flexibility and custom color with the Colorcast piece-dyed technology.

Anthem begins the next phase in the Kings Road journey with an elegant cut pile ombre made of evenly spaced stripes. The shading can be either high or low contrast, tonal or with a contrasting color. In broadloom, Anthem has a pattern of sleek, shaded stripes; in carpet tile, a more angular geometric is created.
Anthem will be part of Bentley’s Black Book collection, a group of high-end luxury textures. Anarchy, a subtle cut pile in a palette of tea-washed colors, is another style that will be part of this group.

Subliminal is a linear, geometric cut and loop pattern. Unlike earlier cut and loop products, this time around the cut is low and the loop is high, giving an embroidered or hand-knotted effect. The loop pattern is made of twisted, high luster yarns set against a matte, almost velvet textured cut pile. Vertical pattern bands look like the stripes of fabric sewn together to create a traditional African textile, yet the tone-on-tone colorations keep the design modern and fresh.

A preview of fall 2015 introductions features a chunky, contrasting luster loop stripe, Altitude, and the tip-sheared Vertex. Altitude is offered in broadloom only; its companion is both tile and broadloom. These styles will join the Curio Collection, which includes Trance, a chunky loop, and Magnetism, a geometric created of large tonal cut and loop blocks. Magnetism served as an elegant backdrop on the floor of Bentley’s Kinzie Street showroom, across the street from the Merchandise Mart.

Bentley received Best of Competition in the NeoCon Booth and Showroom competition for its quirky and fun space, which visually expressed Bentley’s roots in the 1970s culture.

Aquafil came to NeoCon immediately after an exciting milestone—its “Sweet Sixteen” celebration in June marked 16 years in the U.S., as well as the inauguration of its second manufacturing plant in Cartersville, Georgia. The new plant substantially expands Aquafil’s production and recycling capacity in the U.S.

One of the biggest stories at Aquafil this year is its Econyl Global Color palette. The Econyl color line now has 138 colors, up from 98, and is identical at all Aquafil facilities worldwide. This palette was developed in collaboration with the product development team in Europe, taking best sellers from each region, dropping less relevant colors, and adding new colors from both U.S. and Europe. Aquafil also manufactures in China and Thailand. 

The second story is the expansion of reclamation capacity for Econyl face fiber. In the U.S, there is an abundance of carpet with thicker pile; more material can be accessed here than other parts of the world. This year, Aquafil will be shearing 10.5 million pounds of reclaimed nylon 6 fiber at its new plant in Cartersville. Next year, the goal is to expand capacity to 30 million pounds in the same facility. 

New product introductions are being launched by Aquafil’s key partners this NeoCon. Interface continues its Econyl product introductions with Equal Measure and Near & Far. Mannington is launching four Econyl collections: Good Form II, Urban Grid, and Urban Patina were introduced at NeoCon; and Divergent will launch later this year.

Atlas Carpet Mills joined the Dixie Group in March 2014, although it has retained its own operations and identity. Representatives say that the transition has been “exceptionally smooth” since Atlas has enjoyed a long association with Dixie, which supplied yarn processing and carpet tile backing to the company for many years before the acquisition. 

Atlas debuted five new collections at NeoCon that will officially launch later in the year. Three of them were created on the company’s new Vision Weave machine that produces cut and loop or all cut pile pattern carpet with a look similar to Axminster and hand tufted carpets. 

The Metropolitan collection was created in collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern Architects, and the Vision Weave effect is readily apparent. Four sophisticated geometric designs give the impression of tailored woven wool, although the construction is tufted Antron nylon. The patterns are intriguing as well, creating almost an optical illusion that appears to be a large-scale basketweave in one way, but viewed differently looks like a diamond pattern. The broadloom comes in 17 colors, including several bold accent colors in blues, reds and yellows.

Bellissimo lives up to its name with an attractive group of three cut and loop designs in solution-dyed Antron nylon. The brown, soft taupes and light blues play well against one another in two random organic looks and a distressed crosshatch. The intricate color placement and texture created by the variation in the cut and loop result in appealing, sophisticated broadloom designs.

Masland Contract, the Dixie Group’s mid-tiered contract brand, debuted new custom CYP patterns in response to the trend of corporate design leaning more toward hospitality. One of the focal points on the showroom floor was a striking example with bright orange, red and grey in distressed striations.

A collection of two new Earthsmart solution-dyed nylon carpet tiles was created to mix and match along with a coordinating broadloom. For flexible design options, Succeed, a subtle geometric, and Flourish, a more organic linear, can be combined with Emit, a striated broadloom. 

Masland also introduced a new custom line to its Elevate Rug Collection. The plush rugs are made of 100% New Zealand Wool and are hand knotted in India. The organic pattern comes in four standard colors that can be mixed with greens, blues or reds for custom combinations.

Universal Fibers is clearly looking at product development through the eyes of its customers. This past year, the company updated its website by adding detailed product information and offering an interactive, usable tool for product design. A designer can go to the Universal website and learn about the fiber platforms available—nylon 6, nylon 6,6 cationic nylon, PET and triexta—including properties, chemistry and sustainable attributes. The user can also put together palettes of colors and experiment to see how these yarns will look in a range of innovative yarn constructions.

Universal won the Large Booth award at NeoCon for the second year running. According to Joe Parry, the theme of the space is approachability. A large and colorful pom back wall is the start of customer engagement. This is taken a step further as the designer interacts with a free-standing photo kiosk and is encouraged to alter any photo from a camera/phone or a selection of photos offered by Universal. After uploading, the image is printed with squares of colors pulled from the Universal Color Palette on one side. The viewer can then edit the photo, selecting different colors from the Universal palette, and print to see the new image—overall, a fun and engaging process. 

Avant, a fairly new brand that is part of the Dixie Group, featured several interesting designs inspired by simple geometry and the effects of light. Designer Angie English explored her fascination with shadows in styles such as Lace Tattoo, a design built out of stacked ellipse shapes. “When light hits a simple shape, you get so much more detail and interest,” English says. “From a technical perspective, the Infinity machine affords the same opportunity to show this shading by varying pile heights.” Lace Tattoo is offered in 12”x36” planks.

Dither, a design formed of pixelated circles, was a highlight of Avant’s product introductions. With the appearance of a perforated metal screen with different size openings, the groupings of circles cluster to create negative and positive shapes. Dither’s color palette includes a combination of gray or khaki neutrals with fresh accents, including peacock, lime, yellow orange and sea foam, and a fashion-forward navy with purple.

Also shown was the Handcrafted Collection, where the styles were influenced by the trend in men’s fashion of mixing checks, stripes and patterns. Stitched Twill is the simplest texture; Shadow Stripe layers horizontal gradations over a twill base, and Ombre Plaid adds a geometric maze pattern with dashes of a color accent. 

Chilewich is a family owned company that makes woven floor, wall and window coverings from extruded vinyl yarns. Its tiles have traditionally been 18”x18”, but this year Chilewich introduced a 6”x36” plank as a new tool for designers to configure additional custom designs. The planks are available in vinyl or BioFelt backing.

Metallics were trending at the show, and designer Sandy Chilewich and her team brought two new metallic colors to the Ikat collection. White Gold and White Silver combine white yarn with shades of precious metals to create sundrenched looks with a subtle sparkle. 

Prestige is the distributor for Tretford, a non-woven carpet with a thick ribbed texture and European aesthetic. Tretford is composed of 85% goat hair, 15% nylon and 5% rayon in the face, and has a rich color palette of 48 hues. Custom colors are available for 300 square meters. Tretford’s Waterford Ireland factory can produce and assemble complex designs such as logos and intricate patterns to create a custom floor, all done by hand, rather than laser cut, for a precise fit.

Summit Flooring, an importer and distributor of unique flooring products, brought Dickson woven flooring to NeoCon for the second time. Dickson flooring is a woven vinyl available in a variety of styles and colors. Most styles come in both tiles and rolls, and all have a 15-year commercial warranty for indoor commercial use. Dickson is owned by Glen Raven, well known for the Sunbrella line of fabrics, and the Dickson brand utilizes that same weather resistant durable fiber in the flooring line. The product is manufactured in France and inventoried in Dalton, Georgia.

DuPont had a space at the show on the eighth floor, opposite Universal Fibers, a recent partner with its Sorona fiber. While Sorona has made huge strides in the U.S. residential market through Mohawk’s SmartStrand program, it has found limited traction in the U.S. commercial market, in part because it comes at a premium. However, Universal has now developed a Sorona fiber system that allows for the construction of lower face weight tiles than were available previously with the fiber.

Sorona has met with more success in the Asian markets, including firms like Japan’s Nissin, which blends Sorona with wool for Axminster constructions, using a 70/30 wool-Sorona blend. Others, like China’s Orient and Artistic, use it in a 50/50 wool blend. The most promising news coming from DuPont at this show is what appears to be a sincere commitment to finding ways of lowering the cost of Sorona, focusing on the polymer production process.

Tricycle provides digital carpet samples to aid designers and manufacturers in reducing sampling time, cost and waste. The samples, called Tryks, are generated through virtual tufting machines, showing realistic texture and color, and they can also be viewed in custom room scenes. In addition, the firm provides online tools and software for manufacturers that allow designers to easily browse products, create product visualizations and share Tryk samples. 

Tricycle says that designers often use its products and don’t even realize it when they access online tools embedded in the websites of manufacturers like Shaw and Mohawk. Tricycle was pleased with the energy and attendance at the show, where its goal was to reengage with the design community and continue to strengthen relationships with manufacturers.

HARD SURFACE SPECIALISTS
Forbo set its sights on advancing its linoleum and has created some new products to move the category forward. It debuted a brand new Marmoleum called Textura, in two embossed styles, Driftwood and Flow. Each pattern comes in three colors, and the collection will become available sometime in July. 

Forbo’s booth reflected the shift in the market from design and color to an emphasis on texture and shape. A new linoleum called Touch Duet got an injection of texture from cork flour added to Forbo’s traditional wood flour. The texture picks up the light and gives the flooring a different visual, depending on the direction and strength of the light. It is available in 12 colors.

Introduced in 2014 and expanded this year, Marmoleum Modular gives designers a chance to experiment with shape. Designers will soon be able to access an online design tool with several templates that incorporates 59 Marmoleum colors and four sizes of tile from 10”x10” to 10”x40”. Designers then will be able to view their creations in online room scenes. 

All Marmoleum products are Declare Red List Free, and the entire Forbo product portfolio has EPDs and HPDs available. 

Flotex, Forbo’s waterproof performance carpet, has been working in recent years to bring higher design to its lines. It launched square carpet tiles in fashionable looks early last year, and this year it previewed new planks at NeoCon, which it plans to launch later this year or in early 2016. Digital print options, which are already offered in broadloom, will eventually make custom looks available in a 10”x40” plank, and the new format will be added to some existing and new collections as well. 

Gerflor set up shop a block from the Mart in the Ligne Roset furniture showroom. The firm recently retooled its LVT designs for the U.S. market. It started off by touring the U.S. and conducting 50 interviews with architects and designers, as well as some end users. Then Gerflor assessed its existing 300+ SKUs, and it ultimately determined that 60% of the styles it needed for the U.S. market already existed in its offering. The other 40% were designed and manufactured specifically for the U.S. 

In all, the firm’s new line of Creation LVT is made up of 58 designs. Most are wood looks, ranging from traditional to fashion forward rustics, including some European white oak designs. In addition, Creation offers textile looks and a range of stone designs. Plank lengths go up to 54”, with widths from 3” to and 9”. Other sizes include 18” and 24” squares, as well as rectangles of 12”x24” and 18”x36”.

Gerflor was also promoting its Your Creation, Our Guarantee program, which allows for the replacement of Creation installation, up to 3,000 square feet, for six months after installation, if clients change their mind. Among other things, the program is designed to help designers proceed with their first design pick, which is often rejected by cautious end users, with the Gerflor guarantee to back them up.

Crossville’s booth design, with its city silhouettes and walls of stylized comic book art, street signs and subway motifs, showcased the firm’s focus this year on the “grit and glam” of urban spaces. On one wall was I Metalli, the latest thin tile by Laminam, a 3mm product—the 5.6mm version is the one that goes down on the floor. Also on display, and the product behind Crossville’s “Move with the Groove” theme, was Groove Glass, a distinctive mosaic program with glass squares bisected diagonally into pairs of colors for a look that feels retro. Interesting color combos elevate the line.

The booth design also highlighted another product, Gotham, an unpolished tile with a subtle distressed concrete visual. The tiles, which aren’t rectified, are more competitively priced than most Crossville products. They come in a running line 12”x24” format, along with a 2”x6”, in six colors.

USF Contract added some new visuals to its Stratum line, which was the recipient of a Best of NeoCon Silver award last year. This engineered LVT product is constructed using an LVT wear surface over a WPC waterproof core with a click profile and backed with a cork underlayment. New this year, are eight wood visuals in the Eiris collection and five linen visuals in the Linear collection. All of these new products are embossed in register with a tough UV wear surface to match the traffic demands of the commercial market.

Stratum, which was awarded a U.S. patent earlier this year based on its innovative construction, has become very popular in the marketplace due to ease of installation over subfloors with minor imperfections. The two biggest growth markets for this product are hospitality and multi-family condos.

It is also worth noting that Rick Morris, formerly with Mannington, has joined the firm and is building a team of company reps. The firm hopes to have ten on board by the end of the year.

Designers have been asking for new looks in electrostatic discharge (ESD) tile, so Flexco introduced Delane, an ESD solid vinyl tile. Ten percent chip content was added to its existing ESD design for a new style in 12 new colors. Flexco also kept eight colors that performed well previously for a total of 20. The tiles come in several different sizes, including a new 12”x24” plank for the popular linear look. 

The 8th gauge vinyl comes with a lifetime conductivity warranty and does not require waxing. It may be heat welded for a seamless installation and performs under rolling loads up to 2,000 PSI. 

Florida Tile came to NeoCon with a wide variety of looks and textures, mainly stone, wood and textiles. Rhyme is a new fabric inspired collection with a background graphic and an overprint for more depth in the visual, giving an authentic linen look to the tile. It comes in five colors and is targeted to A&D.

Alava is an interesting collection with coordinating stone and wood looks, each in the same three colors, so the tiles can be used together in a space. Three tiles have a stone texture and a slightly distressed edge for a more realistic stone look, in 12”x12” and 12”x24”, while the wood look has graining texture in 6”x24” and 8”x36” planks.

Earthstone is a more rustic stone visual with heavier texture and more color in four looks and three sizes. It boasts 100 visuals per color per size for a huge shade variation and a more authentic looking installation. A porcelain stacked-stone wall tile coordinates with the collection as well. 

Florida Tile is making an effort to expand in the commercial market, and recently added a new sales representative for Chicago to its dedicated commercial sales team.

While a lot of companies have gone in to the LVT business recently, Karndean has been producing LVT, and LVT only, for more than 40 years. The firm is based in the United Kingdom but has a global reach in both the residential and commercial market. Last year, Karndean began an expansion on its U.S. headquarters that will more than double the size of that facility, increasing warehouse, distribution and office space. At NeoCon, the firm was showcasing its latest collection, Art Select Stone. This collection features designs inspired by travertine, marble, slate and limestone. All the looks are available in multiple sizes with a 30 mil wearlayer, featuring a 15-year commercial warranty. 

Metroflor created quite a stir at NeoCon last year when it held a launch party for its Aspecta line of 85 new commercial LVT products, so the visit to the booth this year threatened to be anticlimactic. However, the firm did not disappoint.

Metroflor announced its entry into the engineered LVT or WPC (wood polymer composite) category with a product called Aspecta 10. The matrix features an Iso-core 100% extruded cellular PVC (no wood dust). It clicks together using a Uniclic profile on the long edge and Välinge profile on the short end. And for added acoustical comfort, it’s backed with a 2mm polyethylene foam backing. The 10 in the name denotes its 10mm overall thickness. Metroflor claims it’s the lightest and strongest engineered LVT on the market. From a styling perspective, the initial launch, available in the fall, will have 20 wood grain planks and ten stone squares. One added feature is the product’s Ultra-fresh antimicrobial protection. All the components and the final assembly of this product is done at one facility in Asia.

Additional NeoCon news from Metroflor is the addition of 24 abstract visuals to its Aspecta Five LVT line that was launched last year. This is a smart move, as designers often use abstracts to create custom spaces for their clients. These new products are available in large format planks and squares. 

A 5’x10’ porcelain slab called Plane was the biggest draw in StonePeak’s booth. The rectified tiles come in 15 ultra-realistic stone looks and a variety of sizes, many with bold veining. The collection is suitable for floor and wall installations, both interior and exterior, and has been specified for an array of commercial spaces, including an auto dealership.

Zebrino is a new collection with four striated stones in soft neutrals and one rustic wood look. The porcelain tiles range in size from 24”x48” down to mosaics, and are particularly attractive laid in chevron patterns, accentuating the linear design. 

Roppe is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The Fostoria, Ohio based firm, which started off making rubber products, then later added vinyl to meet the needs of the market, makes most of its products in the U.S., including its rubber tile and rolls. The firm had on display its Health & Learning line of vinyl tile and rubber tile and tread, which is notable for the color matching of its 15 colorways so that they are identical in both the rubber and vinyl formats. According to the firm, it was no easy task to match colors between the two materials, but it has proven to be a real problem solver for specifiers.

In CBC Flooring’s space on the seventh floor, two collections stood out: Piesta by Toli and Takiron’s Pathways. Pathways, an indoor/outdoor slip resistant sheet vinyl, was actually unveiled a couple of years ago, mostly targeting utilitarian applications like locker rooms and other wet high performance environments, but its interesting texture and design—small scale ribbing creates a crisp herringbone pattern for a textile feel—have been attracting the attention of the design community. Pathways comes in ten colors, half neutrals and half brights.

Piesta, produced by Japan’s Toli, features the firm’s vinyl composition tile construction, which, unlike most VCT, is actually a higher end product. And what elevates Piesta is a soft four-sided bevel, which adds a ton of character to the product. Piesta comes in 17.7” squares, 12”x17.7” rectangles and 4”x17.7” planks, and it’s available in eight soft colors, including two light neutrals, four earth tones, a dark charcoal and a soft, washed out green. 

Altro, founded in 1918 in the U.K., with offices in Massachusetts and California, is best known for its slip resistant safety vinyl flooring, including a loose-lay option called Altro Xpresslay. 

Altro is new to NeoCon this year, usually attending NeoCon East, but the company has been expanding and now has representatives farther west. The booth was clad with bright colors that ran from the walls onto the floors, a combination of its vinyl flooring with its hygienic wall cladding called Altro Whiterock, which comes in matte and glossy finishes and can be digitally printed for custom walls. Its LVT, called Lavencia, offers the largest plank in the industry at 10”x60” with 48 colors and five types of embossing: registered, smooth, handscraped, saw cut and ticked.

In April, Altro launched new senior living marketing materials that combine all of Altro’s most relevant products into a single book to help hone choices for specifiers. The company also offers installer training at its East Coast and West Coast operations, and recently doubled the size of the training center in Wilmington, Massachusetts in order to meet demand. 

Florim USA’s seventh floor booth focused on its new 24”x24” paver system, called Outdoor. The tiles, which are 2cm thick, target the growing outdoor market, which includes rooftop installations as well as a range of outdoor commercial spaces. The firm anticipates plenty of demand from landscape architects. The line comes in 11 designs, including three wood looks.

Florim has also added to its Charleston line of 3”x36” rectified planks, originally introduced last year. The four new colors include Timber, a dry rustic look.

Over 100 years ago, American Biltrite started by making rubber soles and heels for shoes, primarily for soldiers. Today, while the firm still has some footwear components available, it primarily focuses on industrial rubber and commercial flooring. At NeoCon, American Biltrite brought its re-vamped Mirra Line of LVT with new wood, linen and stone looks. Also new for American Biltrite this year is a stone look in its floating floor system. 

This year Parterre displayed over 30 new LVT designs from its InGrained and HardCore collections. Twenty-four of the new products are 6” wide planks in a variety of wood looks, including jatoba, alder and applewood. The new looks were created for designers who have been asking for rustic looks with fewer knots. InGrained is designed to coordinate with a more contemporary line called Vertu. When shown together, the sample book contains 80 wood look LVT options. 

Two new stone styles called Tivoli and Deco were added to the HardCore LVT collection. Deco is a heavily striated stone design, while Deco is a softer travertine look. Both are expected to perform well in the hospitality sector. 

This was the first trip to NeoCon for Del Conca, and the tile manufacturer chose to highlight its porcelain pavers, emphasizing to designers the beauty of being able to coordinate the interior living space and exterior living space through the use of tile. The pavers are available in a variety of graphic designs, including wood, stone and concrete looks in multiple sizes and shapes. Since Del Conca starting manufacturing in the United States just last year, the firm has been busy building its U.S. offerings. 

Upofloor, which is based in Finland but owned by Sweden’s Kährs Group, makes resilient flooring, including Xpression polyolefin tiles and planks and Zero, a homogeneous polyolefin sheet. The firm also makes heterogeneous sheet products. This year, Upofloor has added to its Zero line, which goes to the healthcare and education markets, with lighter and brighter colors. Upofloor also makes Quartz Tile, which is like an upgraded VCT, though with added flexibility from bio-based plasticizers, and the quartz sand gives it durability. It has a 3,500 PSI.

The primary focus at the DuChateau space this year was around its compelling new line of architectural wooden wall coverings. These sophisticated geometric designs are available in 12 styles and 12 colors in either white oak or walnut. DuChateau was also showing a new click system that is now available for its vinyl flooring line. 

Shannon Specialty Floors is another newcomer to NeoCon. The company has been in business since 1921, and is now focused on expansion. It recently increased its salesforce and is making a strong push to build its brand awareness as well. 

One of the main products highlighted for NeoCon was its Tuf Stuf LVT, which won an Adex Platinum Award for Design excellence in June. The latest collection, called T3, includes wood and stone looks, textiles, patina metal and stained concrete designs in 39 colors. The 3mm tiles have a 23 mil wearlayer. 

Terra Mai, which specializes in reclaimed hardwoods, is in the midst of a major reclamation project in Bayano Lake, Panama, pulling logs from the water, with species including mora, zebrawood and rock walnut. Terra Mai targets the higher end of the market and is best known for its reclaimed teak, most of which is reclaimed from Indonesia. This year, the firm won NeoCon Gold in Wall Treatments for its Lost Coast Redwood Paneling.



THE BEST OF NEOCON

CARPET: BROADLOOM
GOLD: Tandus Centiva, Indent
SILVER: Mohawk Group, Durkan’s Lakir

CARPET: MODULAR
GOLD: Mohawk Group, Moving Floors
SILVER: Tandus Centiva, Avant
INNOVATION: Tandus Centiva, Mixed Message

FLOORING: HARD SURFACE
GOLD: Tandus Centiva, Asymmetric
SILVER: J+J Flooring Group, Umbra & Umbra Stripe

HEALTHCARE FLOORING:
GOLD: Patcraft, Life & Style
SILVER: Tarkett, Johnsonite Acczent Flourish

SHOWROOM & BOOTH DESIGN:
SMALL SHOWROOM & BEST IN COMPETITION: Bentley Mills
LARGE BOOTH: Universal Fibers  

Copyright 2015 Floor Focus 


Related Topics:The Dixie Group, Roppe, Mohawk Industries, Coverings, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Mannington Mills, Crossville, Karastan, Parterre Flooring Systems, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Stonepeak Ceramics, Metroflor Luxury Vinyl Tile, Interface, Florim USA, Spectra Contract Flooring, Tarkett