Cork flooring goes hi-tech

Cork flooring goes hi-tech
December 01, 2011

by Louis Iannaco

Cork flooring has been around for 100 years or so but has never been more popular than it is today. From its sustainable attributes to the increasingnumber of patterns and colors now available, the sky is the limit for cork.

The trend in cork flooring continues to be patterns that approximate the appearance of slate, granite or other products of nature, noted Lanny Trot-tman, president of Qu-Cork.   “The advantage over other types of flooring is the natural level of comfort, quietness as well as warmth; these characteristics combined with the eco harvesting of the cork without damaging the tree make it the perfect choice for the health of the environment as well as interior environments.”

According to Karen Deel, brand manager for Torlys, the most important trend the company has seen during the past few years is that cork floors appeal to the mainstream consumer. “Although it’s still a niche product in the context of the total flooring industry, cork floors have gained acceptance by many consumers who are seeking out a different looking floor that offers many benefits.”

As such, Torlys is seeing people installing cork floors in rooms traditionally reserved for carpet, hardwood or ceramics, such as bedrooms, family rooms and even bathrooms. “Textured interiors have been a design trend for the past few years,” Deel said. “The ability to layer textures through drapery, up-holstery and cushion fabrics has been very popular. The textured look and feel of cork floors is built in and a perfect complement for today’s trend.”

Although natural cork floors are always popular, there has been a move toward darker floors. “Cork floors are being used to create a unique design statement, and the attraction of colors such as Sicilian Olive, Coffee Bean and Earl Grey have become best sellers. Beveled planks have also become more popular.”

According to Gary Keeble, marketing manager for USFloors, the company’s new Almada product is a “reflection that narrow planks are a continuing trend in the evolution of consumer preferences for cork flooring in the American marketplace.”

Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork, said the company is seeing significant growth in its Timeless Collection, which provides two formats with beveled edges in three patterns. “The tile size is a nominal 18 x 24 and the Baroque pattern resembles slate or stone, depending on the color chosen, and is replacing hard surfaces where the stone look is sought but warmth and comfort is a top priority.”

What they’ve got that’s hot

At Qu-Cork, the company’s hottest new products are hand-laid cork patterns Midnight Slate and Golden Slate along with Porto Moon, Trottman said. “In fact, our Midnight Slate pattern was chosen by designer Diego Binetti, known for his thought-provoking designs, as the centerpiece of his show, Diego Binetti Fall/Winter 2011. He featured it along the model platform. It was a fabulous complement to his fashion designs.”

According to Peter Barretto, president of Torlys, the company is in the process of recreating its entire line of cork floors. “It’s too early for us to provide specific details about the line, but we can share this: Torlys introduced a simple-to-understand good/better/best selling strategy in 2011 with a reconfiguration of its brand new hardwood and laminate collections. This strategy makes it much easier for consumers to understand the product and cost difference between collections in order to match budget criteria for today’s value-conscious consumer. The 2012 cork collection has been designed according to this easy-to-shop format.”

Durability has been an issue in the past with consumers believing cork does not offer the same kind of wear protection as other popular floors such as hardwood, he noted. “Torlys is addressing this need and will offer more durable, hassle-free cork flooring. We will also address the trend toward a lineal look in some styles and well-proportioned dimensions of the product line. We have created styles that offer ‘see through’ color or color-on-color, a new design technique which will appeal to a broad range of consumers looking for something new.”

At USFloors, the Al-mada cork line introduced at Surfaces 2011 is growing into one of the company’s most popular cork products. Almada is comprised of four patterns in a range of colors in 4-inch-wide plank with a Drop & Lock glueless profile, Keeble noted.

“Almada has 22 products that are stocked in our inventory. There is also a custom option where the consumer can mix and match patterns with any color in our 24-color bank to create their own unique look. The patterns include two organic, swirl and burl type looks (Nevoa and Tira) and two linear, more graphically geometric visuals (Marcas & Fila).”

Expanko Resilient Flooring has continued to improve the availability of solid cork and offer custom patterns and sizes, noted Randy Gillespie, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Public libraries have rediscovered cork and all the benefits to this type of space. Glue down solid cork continues to lead the commercial market and with the increase in understanding of maintenance and repair of cork, the use of solid cork will continue to improve.”

For WE Cork, its strongest segment is its Eco-Nomical Collection which, indicative to its name, is aimed at the value-conscious consumer. “Its price/benefits advantage has made it our strongest seller this year,” Wicander said. “The pattern is derived from rejected cork stoppers and tells a great story while offering a beautiful look in four colors. It is being used in wine cellars, ‘man caves,’ kitchens and bedrooms, as well as in boutiques and offices.”

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