Ceramic: Producers continue to master digital imagery
Different looks, shapes, sizes also take center stage
By Louis Iannaco
Volume 26/Number 19; February 4/11, 2013
Once again, advancements in manufacturing techniques seized the day at Surfaces as ceramic and porcelain tile producers were all about the techno-pop. With state-of-the-art technology, tile manufacturers have been able to make any surface look exactly like a different material. Whether it’s slate, travertine or marble, things don’t always have to be what they appear when it comes to ceramic and porcelain tile.
Utilizing techniques such as digital imagery/ink jet printing, tile producers created numerous looks for the perusal of Surfaces attendees. From rectangular planks to even larger formats than in previous years, ceramic players offered their customers something new, better or different.
Residential products were a major focus in its redesigned booth with the introduction of Limestone, a porcelain tile collection designed to capture the appearance of the natural stone from which the product borrows its name. “Limestone is a hybrid product line,” said Lindsey Ann Waldrep, vice president of marketing, “developed with an array of design elements to offer targeted appeal to commercial and residential markets. We were intentional in the development of colors and sizes, so this line is well-suited for commercial and residential applications—for floors and walls.”
Waldrep explained Crossville is viewed by some as solely a commercial manufacturer, “but we’ve got many amazing retail partners who sell their products residentially.” So, from a strategic standpoint, Crossville evaluated all its products and decided to come up with a few different sizes and shapes, as it wasn’t about look or style. “When we launched Limestone, the first of these hybrid designs, we unveiled it in many more sizes, including residentially friendly ones such as 3 x 6 and 8 x 8.” Other sizes include 8 x 8, 8 x 16, 16 x 16 and 16 x 24 with 4 x 24 bullnose trim.
Another popular new product in the Crossville booth was Manoir porcelain tile. Developed as a budget-friendly alternative, Manoir offers a versatile, upscale look at an attainable price point, she noted. Manoir has a natural stone look that comes in five colors, each of which enhanced by subtle veining and stone details. The overall appearance blends well with a range of design styles. The collection comes in six modular field tile sizes with a 4 x 12 bullnose trim and cove base. The field tile may be accessorized with 2 x 2 mosaics. Manior may be specified for interior wall, floor and countertop applications as well as exterior walls and is suited for commercial and residential use.
The mill took its expansive product launch to new heights as it used Surfaces to show off a wide breadth of new products and existing lines, including several eye-catching designs and fresh programs. “There’s
always a lot of excitement around our attendance at Surfaces,” said Lori Kirk-Rolley, senior marketing director. “This year, we presented our largest new product offering in years and shared new programs and technology initiatives that will not only inspire our customers, but empower them to better service their own customers.”
Booth visitors also got a sneak peek at the company’s spring launch, which includes Florentine glazed porcelain floor/wall tile, Cortona glazed porcelain (both with Reveal Imaging), Bay Bridge colorbody porcelain and Parkway glazed ceramic. Florentine seemed to create the most buzz. “I believe it’s getting the most notice among the attendees because of how realistic it looks,” Kirk-Rolley said. “The classic marble look has been making a resurgence recently, and we believe we’ve capitalized on that with Florentine.”
Attendees also had the opportunity to explore the company’s growing number of digital tools, including daltile.com tool demonstrations, product visualization tools and exclusive video tours of projects sponsored by Dal-Tile.
For Emser, as director of marketing Bob Baldocchi noted, Surfaces is all about product introductions and merchandising ideas. “A major focus for us here has been a concept we call Design Made Easy, which is simplifying the selection process for our customers. We offer various options, such as product coordination, website enhancement or merchandise display units that can actually help bring design concepts to life.”
Emser launched several products with both a polish and matte complement, which elicited positive responses from show attendees. “We brought six or seven collections [with polished and matte finishes] to the show, and people have responded very well to them,” Baldocchi said. “They’ve also reacted very well to the natural stone introductions we’ve debuted as well as the expansion of some of our best-selling lines. People have been really surprised by the number of introductions we have at the show.” One such product was Champagne Light, which features an elegant honed finish in 12 x 12, 18 x 18 and 12 x 24 sizes.
At the MS International booth, sales and marketing director Manny Llerena was very happy with traffic. “The booth has been full from the time we opened. We’ve seen a good mixture of both fabricators and retailers. They are interested in not only our porcelain lines but our natural stone lines as well.”
With a broad assortment of porcelain, mosaic and natural stone products, MSI had something for everyone. The company received excellent reviews on its Botanica Redwood series of wood-look porcelain tile. “They love its natural look, texture and feel,” he said. “It also comes in a variety of sizes, so this line has been received as a red-hot product in this category.” Dimensions, a minimalistic porcelain tile available in four colors, also received a warm reception, as did the company’s Pietra series, a marble-look line with 11 colors.
(Editor’s note: Mannington’s tile introductions can be found in the Jan. 21/28 issue of FCNews.)