Carpet tile blends style, substance and practicality

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May 26/June 2, 2014; Volume 27/Number 28

By Ken Ryan

Modular carpet is quickly becoming the go-to choice in commercial applications as specifiers leverage the product’s attractive styling and multiple format options along with ease of installation and maintenance benefits.

According to flooring executives, carpet tile now represents about 60% of the total revenue—and 50% of volume—in the commercial carpet market, a percentage that has only increased in recent years.

“I think the looks today in modular carpet are far superior to what they were a few years ago,” said Dan Frierson, CEO, The Dixie Group. “People have found ways to develop styling that is really attractive; at the upper end of the business, beautiful products is what it is about and I think that can be accomplished with broadloom as well as modular, which gives customers a choice.”

Natalie Jones, vice president, commercial brand development and creative product, Mannington Commercial, said carpet tile is clearly a design element in today’s commercial interiors. “Advancements in tufting technology, unique yarn processing capabilities and the introduction of different size formats are all creating looks we have never seen before. The result is a portfolio of design components with complex textures, rich aesthetics and colors, as well as formats that allow the designer to combine elements in ways that are tailored to the unique needs of each project.”

The functionality and maintenance benefits that modular carpet offers are among the factors that have fueled growth in the corporate, K-12 and higher education markets. But there is also cost to consider; in sectors where budgets are tight, carpet tile has fared well because it is a lower-cost alternative in comparison to products such as marble or tile.

Bill Blackstock, regional vice president of sales in the Americas for Milliken, said designers are elevating the flexibility of modular carpet and creating large patterns—in addition to original carpet design—by using color and strategically placing carpet tile in a space. “Gradations of color with an ombré [shaded or graduated in tone] effect are very popular, as well as expansive patterns, like the argyle design displayed with our recent Inis Mór collection.

“In today’s world, with information readily available on a global scale, design trends are happening quicker than ever, and that is influencing carpet tile trends,” Blackstock continued. “Another great thing about carpet tile is that collections can be easily switched for a different pattern or color, affording designers and end users greater flexibility to update office spaces easily over time.”

The benefits of carpet tile are applicable across all markets. Modular is easier to install than broadloom and requires less space for keeping extra product, which is especially important in challenging projects such as high-rise buildings. The use of carpet tile allows facility managers to easily keep inventory and simply replace individual tiles as needed.

John Stephens, vice president of marketing for Shaw Contract Group, said carpet tile continues to increase its share in sectors like hospitality and healthcare, in large part because of the product’s versatility and multiple format options. The variety of sizes available with modular carpet tile ranges from squares to rectangles, with the most common choices being 24 x 24 and 18 x 36.

“We will continue to play with tile sizes and innovations,” Stephens said. “Our Hexagon tile has been a strong success.”

Jones said she is seeing a great deal of interest in the rectangular plank format; to serve that market opportunity, Mannington will introduce several new collections in the 18 x 36 format. “We also have seen a significant trend back to texture as a key design differentiator—we like to say that ‘texture is the new pattern.’ And there has been a wonderful return to color. Neutrals are warming up and customers are specifying vibrant, saturated colors to pair with those neutrals.”

Todd van der Kruik, vice president of design at Bentley Mills, said the shape of carpet tile allows for the customization of a space in a much faster and direct way.

“The smaller size of modular means it has a mobility that

its clunkier broadloom cousin doesn’t,” van der Kruik said. “This enables easier access to hard-to-reach office space, especially in larger metropolitan areas. When all of these choices are made available with the same surface design, the specifier gains complete control of the environment and can truly design the floor that is right for [that project].”

Executives said yet more reasons for carpet tile’s growth is its ability to coordinate with hybrid resilient flooring in pattern and performance without a need for transition strips in between. There is also the flexibility of backing systems in modular carpet. Products can now be purchased with a cushion backing that quiets the space, adds comfort and saves energy in the building, thereby reducing the environmental footprint.

Innovations

Interface, the leading producer of modular carpet, this year launched interfacehospitality.com, offering the A&D community the opportunity to create unique carpet tile compositions for hospitality projects. A Design Your Floor tool on the website can be used to generate floor layouts with square and plank styles pulled from the complete product portfolio, allowing users to visualize their designs with a few clicks.

Technological advancements have also yielded hybrid or crossover products that blend soft and hard flooring surfaces. Svelte, for example, is the first product from Bolyü’s new category of precision flooring called Level, which is engineered to produce the best features and characteristics of soft and hard flooring surfaces.

In addition, FreeFit’s hi-definition carpet tile (HDCT) is suitable for situations where the familiar and comforting visual of carpet is desired but the water resistance and durability of LVT are required. Also, in environments where allergies and asthma can be an issue, HDCT is a solution because it is composed of virgin vinyl, is antibacterial by design and doesn’t trap particles the way real carpet does.

The popularity, functionality and value of carpet tile has grown to such an extent that retailers like Grigsby’s Carpet Tile & Rug in Tulsa, Okla., have created large, dedicated spaces for commercial flooring, with carpet tile as a centerpiece. “The end user likes the fact that carpet tile is easier to replace,” said David Stover, vice president at Grigsby’s. “Plus, it is not a whole lot more of an investment up front, but you are going to get a lot more life out of it.”

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