Cork, the ultimate alternative flooring, has come a long way in the last few years. With new developments in the manufacture and production of this niche offering, cork has increasingly become an option for designers, architects and specifiers who are seeking something different, fresh and environmentally friendly.
New colors, shades and textures have expanded the applications for cork, allowing it to be used in almost every room of the house as well as various commercial settings, where it has found favor for decades.
The following is a look at just some of the latest looks and hottest sellers.
Capri continues to emphasize homogeneous construction because it can be sanded and refinished, making it the preferred choice for commercial installations, according to Margaret Buchholz, marketing and design director. “We’re finding a lot of interest in interesting, intricate patterns and seeing them being used alone or with our basic light, medium and dark patterns in both 12- and 24-inch formats,” she said.
Among Capri’s hottest sellers are Pick-up-Strips Light, Pick-up-Strips Dark and Grid, which has been added to the Mediterra collection. These new additions bring Capri’s cork lineup to 21 homogenous and five veneer patterns.
Pick-up-Strips Light is comprised of hand-laid strips of light and medium, and offers subtle shade variations, while Pick-up- Strips Dark, comprised of hand-laid strips of medium and dark, offers bold shade variations. The placement of the strips in both patterns is random, offering opportunities for unique installations used either alone or with other Mediterra cork patterns. Grid, exclusive to Capri, is an intricate handcrafted pattern, created by combining small squares and strips of light, medium and dark cork.
Viale Solid Colored Cork is neither a stain nor surface treatment, according to Randy Gillespie, director of sales and marketing. “This color-through flooring is perfect for commercial use as well as residential projects. It can be sanded and refinished like a hardwood floor.”
Gillespie added that patterns in cork are trending toward a more linear design. Pesca and Spinato are Expanko’s response, a pair of handcrafted Italian veneers that captured a Best of NeoCon in 2009.
Linear patterns and the basic solid light, medium and dark are Expanko’s hottest sellers right now, he noted. “The basic looks are used in large expanses while the linear, more complicated designs are used as borders and accents in the overall design. The flexibility of tile size and availability of material offers the designer a freedom to be both creative and budget conscious.”
“We see the market moving away from the monolithic square-edge looks that are widely available,” said Gary Keeble, marketing manager. “There is also a trend to make cork floor- ing more environmentally friendly. All of ours are Greenguard certified for indoor air quality and our floating cork floors are Greenguard Children & Schools certified, which is its most stringent testing requirement.”
New from USFloors is the Almada collection, set to debut in the fall. These floating planks are 4 inches wide and positioned as an alternative to hardwood floors, Keeble said. The line includes new patterns and colors with 18 stock products and offers custom coloring with 24 new colors that can be special ordered on any of the four patterns in the collection. The company’s commercial division, USFContract, will be launching Cork Colors Vol. 1, a series of seven gluedown cork veneers available in 36 colors as well as several commercially rated floating floors in 18 x 24 tiles and 4 x 36 planks. There is also custom coloring available in this portfolio. Current hot items include the Dimensions collection, which has been experiencing solid growth since its late 2008 introduction. “New Dimensions is a more style and design oriented product,” he said, “and is the trend we are seeking to capitalize on with Almada.”
Sheila Furtney, technical advisor, believes with the introduction of the floating floor, the cork flooring landscape has changed dramatically. “The patterns and colors have blossomed. The classic, granule look of cork is still available in a floating floor but with the use of cork veneers the look can be strikingly similar to slate or even bamboo while retaining the benefits of cork. Cork is a wood product, so it can be stained or painted to any colored desired, which allows us to manufacture in colors that reflect today’s design trends.”
Hot sellers for WE Cork include the new Timeless Collection, a floating floor in a 17 x 24 tile (Baroque Castle has taken off) and 71⁄2 x 36 plank, both offered with a micro-bevel edge; and the traditional Classic Pattern in the Avant Guard Collection as well as Saddle Madrid and Sable Gibraltar. Aluminum oxide is now available on all of the company’s lines, while the Unilin locking system is utilized on both of its floating floor lines.
The most recent introduction is the Vinylcomfort Collection, which combines the best qualities of LVT, including a commercial 20 mil wear layer, with two full layers of cork to provide the comfort, warmth, durability, and hypoallergenic and acoustical benefits, said Chris Schneider, director of marketing. The planks feature realistic looking, current and traditional North American wood species designs.
“The response to the Vinylcomfort collection has been phenomenal,” he said. “It has been the most successful launch in our history.”
The Corkcomfort Tile Collection, launched just prior to Vinylcomfort, is available in two product series that offer an array of colors, wearlayers, product profiles and designs. Patterns include a textured leather grain, metallic, slate and traditional cork flooring looks.