How style and design are reaching new heights
October 12/19; Volume 30/Number 9
By Jenna Lippin
As luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and plank (LVP) rose to flooring fame in recent years, other flooring options, including sheet vinyl, have been forced to step up their game. Many vinyl manufacturers have succeeded at designing sheet products that some consumers find even more desirable than their exceptionally popular sibling.
In fact, it can be argued that the widespread appeal of LVT has actually benefitted sheet vinyl as designers have sought to coordinate new sheet product with LVT options. IVC US, for example, will be able to “cross coordinate” tiles and planks with a new sheet line being developed at its new manufacturing facility in Dalton, according to Tressa Samdal, design development manager of sheet vinyl.
The company is assessing the customer, particularly the “new and fresh” millennial generation, given their significant buying power. “This generation isn’t familiar with sheet,” Samdal said. “So they don’t have any preconceived notions. They have plenty of desire for fresh things, a lot of linear and patterned looks. There is a connection to a ‘modernization of vintage.’ This group also has a connection to organic. They are very attracted to color.”
Kaye Gosline, creative director, residential, for Tarkett, also believes there is a generational aspect to maintaining sheet vinyl appeal. The company’s sheet product, FiberFloor, provides a number of visual and construction options, helping deliver more mass appeal. “FiberFloor can become a fashion item. I look at baby boomers who need to sell that mega mansion and sell to Generation X because right now they have the money to buy large suburban homes. FiberFloor is a great way to put down a new kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, etc., and give a lift in style and design. If that young couple is smart they’ll embrace that—easy to clean, install and perfect for kids and pets. When they are tired of it, they can just get another design. It’s not as costly as trying to rip up a stone floor you’ve spent thousands of dollars to install.”
In order to create sheet vinyl designs to be embraced by all corners of the market, suppliers are enhancing their design capabilities, investing in people and technology that can create the most unique yet realistic visuals. At Congoleum, vice president of design Doty Horn finds it imperative to track trends across the market, allowing the company to be on top of things. “When you are in with the trends you don’t only see popular looks but a forecast of what’s to come. That makes us more innovative.”
With those trends Horn said she has seen a lot of “texturized, natural materials, which will be the engine that feeds our system. But the pattern on pattern and embossing trends are coming back. It takes a familiar texture and puts it into pattern. We can do that much more readily with sheet than in tile. We can also lock it into a design pattern on the floor so it’s easy to roll out. In [tile] you have to work out the pattern before you install it; with sheet you have the luxury of laying out the design. In sheet you roll it out, have embossing texture and fidelity in print married together—it’s the winning combination.”
Steve Roan, sales and marketing director, North America, BFS USA, makers of the Beauflor brand of cushion vinyl, also noted the rise of the embossing trend. “It’s pretty amazing; the heavy deep embossing gives wood grain tones.” In the production process, “you can lay an inhibitor on certain parts of the vinyl in the design so when it goes through the cooking oven it doesn’t expand like the rest of the product, so it creates an effect.”
He echoed Horn’s sentiment regarding the design capabilities of sheet as compared to LVT. “There is no limitation in sheet from a design standpoint in terms of planks and tile. With LVT you are locked into size for both tiles and planks. You can [create] a lot of combinations in cushion [vinyl] that you have to make separate product for with LVT or laminate.”
Mannington, which released its Luxury Vinyl Sheet (LVS) collection last year, creates its product with a “more enhanced” printing technology called NatureForm HD, which allows for “almost 300% better dot placement” or print clarity, explained Dan Natkin, senior director of residential products. This process creates an even more realistic design, which helps the selling story. The company is carrying this over to the felt-backed side of sheet with a simplified good/better/best opportunity.
“Realism of visuals along with a better economy bring eyes back [to sheet],” he added. “It does something to spruce up a small room and it’s a product category that will perform over time. We’ve brought in some emerging visuals on the wood side, including brighter colors and enhanced features. Texture was exaggerated when we came out with NatureForm 15 to 20 years ago; now we brought it back to make it more subtle and realistic.”
Howard Montgomery, creative design director at Armstrong, also noted a shift back to an “authentic feel” in CushionStep, the company’s popular sheet product. There is a “texture in wood,” he said, “rather than something that looks contrived. Typical wood embossing is wood tick with no charisma or charm. Now we’re providing a much more authentic look in terms of wood texture, which gives an overall ‘feel’ to the whole plank.” These realistic characteristics will be reflected in Armstrong’s upcoming launch.