SURFACES 2016 COVERAGE – Ceramic tile: New products aim to cover more surface area

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February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Tile booths at The International Surface Event showcased all kinds of innovation in terms of visuals, shapes and sizes. Traditional wood looks have become the norm but manufacturers continue to develop ways to expand the beloved style while brick designs are gaining prominence. Larger formats and hexagons have also found a place and bright colors reflect optimism within the design community. To top it all off, tile producers are no longer focused on just one surface. Instead, concerted efforts have been made to aid retailers in everything from selling the whole package to layering products to fill an entire room, including both floors and walls.

As wood-look tiles have become more commonplace over the years, some tile manufacturers decided to take it to the next level. “Everyone’s got it now,” said Bob Baldocchi, vice president of marketing and sales support for Emser Tile. “Within the wood look you’ve got to come up with unique applications. We’re excited about mixing genres and materials whether it’s a concrete or wood look and putting them together.”

Emser’s Formwork features the look of concrete with the graining of wood, extending a popular style but introducing it in a contemporary manner. It is available as a 12 x 24, a format suitable for concrete vs. a wood plank.

Brick looks could also be seen throughout the show floor and were well received, according to Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, MS International. “We have a collection called Capella. This year we added a porcelain brick and it has taken off like skyrockets.” The 2 1⁄3 x 10 product recently won a Best of Houzz in the design category with 28,000 consumers having downloaded it into their idea books in the last 60 days. “It’s a departure from your traditional tiles,” Llerena continued. “And that’s how popular this porcelain brick look has become.”

Hexagon shapes that began to emerge at past shows grabbed the attention of distributors and retailers this year, and manufacturers predict the trend will only continue to grow. “They seem to be pretty popular right now and we’re definitely seeing an appetite for it, too,” Baldocchi said. “I think it’s a long-term trend; it’s fun and it’s giving people something else to look at vs. squares and rectangles. It’s taking a category that has been really square, rectangular and linear and allowing it to play with shapes.”

American Olean is currently offering a glass mosaic program called Entourage that has eight series within it. In June, the company will launch an additional five series including Alair, which features an elongated hexagon stone and glass blend in six colors.

Other brands are putting a larger spin on the hexagon format to achieve a more striking look. “The hexagon has always been a strong shape and it’s growing in popularity,” said Kim Albrecht, senior brand marketing manager at Dal-Tile, parent company of Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean. “When you supersize it, it makes a bolder statement. But a lot of it has to do with the color palette you choose as well.”

Aside from hexagons, large formats were gaining ground in various trends. For example, Daltile’s Haut Monde collection is a stone look highlighted by a 24 x 48 rectangular tile with complementing 2 x 2 mosaics. American Olean’s Theoretical is a minimalistic cement look available in 10 colors and addresses the large format trend with 6 x 24, 12 x 24 and 24 x 24 sizes.

Crossville launched Oceanaire, a collection inspired by windswept sands. This line comes in 36 x 36 tiles, among other size options, and is available in five colors and two finishes. The company’s Laminam is a thin tile nearly 3 feet wide and nearly 10 feet tall, but Crossville chooses to call it a “porcelain tile panel” to leave an opportunity open for thicker versions. Although Laminam was launched a few years ago in the U.S. it has taken some time to get installers up to speed.

“Laminam is something that is new for us,” said Rick Abellana, sales representative for Longust Distributing. “We’re getting involved with certification training because there is a lot of product knowledge to gain.”

Complementary design

One main goal for tile manufacturers this year is to help retailers sell multiple products for various spaces in a room. Case in point: Daltile’s kitchen vignette showcased different textures and finishes all playing together in one room scene. With Brickwork on the walls, a One Quartz countertop and Consulate installed on the floor, end users can easily layer different products together to create complete looks.

Another example: Marazzi’s Urban District speaks to brick and wood looks as well as hexagons. “The urban industrial look is moving into residential,” said Micah Hand, brand marketing manager, Marazzi. “Urban District is based on people restoring old buildings downtown utilizing materials like bricks, metals, wood and cement.”

Urban District comprises BRX, STX and HEX lines. The BRX graphic comes from a Chicago brick and is available in 2 x 8, 4 x 8 and 16 x 16 formats. STX balances out the rough textures with four monochromatic colors in a wire-brushed oak look available in 6 x 36 and 9 x 36 options. The HEX portion of the collection comes in six colors and can be installed on floors or walls—another emerging trend in the tile industry.

“A lot of our work is showing people how to pair the products to make the whole room feel like it was put together by a designer,” Llerena explained, “and it’s very easy to do that with different looks.” MS International’s Capella display allows end users to easily see coordinating products in one place, consequently enabling retailers to sell the combination. “We bring all three items that match together in one board and all the coordination is done for you between the floors and walls,” Llerena added. “We try to make it easy for the retailer to sell multiple products for multiple surfaces, to sell the whole room—not just an individual piece.”

Baldocchi shares the same sentiment and urges dealers to “look up and stop staring at the floor. What I mean by that is we’re decorating all over the house now and we’re not just doing floors,” he explained. “Part of that is because of Pinterest and part of that is because of HGTV. These are really showing off the ways in which you can use your products, and they’re giving you the inspiration to get rid of your wallpaper and not paint up to the wainscoting. You can even do some kind of feature presentation using decorative product.”

Emser’s Terrain is one such versatile product that would typically be seen in a larger format on the floor. The product is a cross between a vein-cut travertine with a wood-look influence and will be merchandised vertically to showcase its wall applications. Newberry is another product that is flexible in its usage. The visual is one of a façade typically seen on the outside of a building yet it is suitable for floors and feature walls in both interior and exterior applications.

Daltile’s Dignitary, a member of the Stone Attaché collection, comes in a variety of sizes for wall and floor applications and can also easily transition from interior to exterior settings. “The outdoor living space is a strong trend overall in the industry,” Albrecht said. “People are putting as much time and care into creating those outdoor spaces as they do interior spaces.”

As far as color goes in the tile segment, soft neutrals and grays are warming up but they are here to stay. A positive outlook on the economy, industry members say, is ushering in bright pops of color. “Color is coming back in a very big way,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville. “Most of the time color is an indicator of a strong economy. I don’t think our economy is as strong as some people let on; new jobs have been created but a lot of them are part time. If you look at the retailer index as far as selling and consumer confidence goes it’s not where it should be yet. So it’s kind of a false positive. That being said, the design community is relatively positive and I also think they’re just tired of ‘greige.’ So we’re seeing these bright pops of color as well as luxurious finishes and decorative tile like gold, platinum, metallic and glass.”

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