By FCNews staff
Whether it’s elements found in the natural world or emerging trends seen in other interior design sectors, there’s no shortage of inspiration when it comes to developing products, collections and designs that will appeal to a broad range of shoppers in the market for floor covering. The key to successfully curating offerings consumers will crave, experts say, lies in better understanding those trends and the guiding principles that influence end users’ tastes and styles.
Following are key themes across the primary floor covering categories.
Pattern reigns supreme.
Soft surfaces introductions today bear little resemblance to the beige looks of yesteryear. Today’s carpet and rugs are bolder, brighter and more stylish as patterned goods have taken hold and been dominating the landscape.
Patterned carpet has grown in popularity over the last several years for a number of reasons, with the growth of hard surface at the top of the list. “As hard surface demand continues to rise, consumers are seeking a soft surface solution to pair with it—like rugs or adding carpet to smaller spaces like a bedroom,” said Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management-residential for Shaw Floors.
Tran’s sentiment was shared by other mill executives who said they see carpet and rugs dominating the bedrooms and upstairs due to the desire for something soft underfoot combined with noise reduction qualities. “Although fewer units may be put in, it is giving the customer the change to upgrade to better goods, specifically patterns,” said Joe Young, soft surface category manager for Engineered Floors. “Patterns not only provide seamless transitions from other surfaces; they also allow for unique styling that can bring character to any room.”
Patterned carpet today is certainly a far cry from a dozen years ago, or around the time Jamie Welborn, vice president of residential carpet product development at Mohawk Industries, has covered the segment. “When I got into carpet, we would buy the same colors, the same constructions for the bedroom, the hallway and the living room,” he explained. “Back then, people thought patterns were expensive, so they would look at base cut pile instead. [Today,] tonal and multicolor patterns have taken over the market vs. a solid color. Patterns seem to be trending a little bolder than the past with some bigger-scale patterns and more contrast.”
Another trend within the carpet segment focuses on pet-friendly designs. Within the Stainmaster PetProtect line, for example, there are hundreds of styles currently in the marketplace including several new introductions for 2020 worth highlighting. For starters, Anderson Tuftex continues to build out its Stainmaster PetProtect franchise with the addition of Wizard of Paws. It is a hip new striated LCL that gives a modern look to a bedroom or featured living space.
In addition, Masland, a brand within The Dixie Group (TDG), this summer introduced Grace, a unique coloration developed to set this product apart. Grace is made with Stainmaster PetProtect fiber; it is processed using TDG’s Colorplay technology to create 16 colorations that fit seamlessly in today’s home interiors where hard and soft surfaces coexist in harmony.
Manufacturers are looking to dispel old notions about hardwood flooring’s ability to resist moisture incursion via enhancements to both the product’s core structure as well as through installation systems designed to keep water from penetrating the joints. The multitude of introductions in this subcategory is clearly in response to the rising popularity of certain resilient floors—SPC products in particular—whose claim to fame is high resistance to water damage and/or moisture incursion.
Case in point: a pair of offerings from Shaw Floors designed to expand the areas of the home in which wood can be installed—Floorté Hardwood, which combines the attributes of waterproof SPC flooring with the classic character and feel that only genuine hardwood can provide—and Repel Hardwood, a genuine, top-to-bottom hardwood floor featuring water-resistant properties.
“Shaw Floors is proud to drive unchartered advancements, from waterproof and water-resistant hardwood to advanced finishes that provide ultimate protection,” said John Hammel, director of category management, hardwood and laminate. “These innovations provide our customers with industry-leading performance and give consumers greater peace of mind that their investment will last for many years.”
Wider, longer still prevails.
In the flooring industry—much like other fashion-oriented businesses—trends come and go. But when it comes to hardwood flooring, one movement in particular seems to be defying the ages—wide-plank, long-length boards. Case in point is the new XL and XXL flooring with Woodura technology from Välinge Innovation. The company employes advanced technology that allows for the production of ex-wide planks up to 11 inches wide x 8 inches long. “We have developed a great first collection for the U.S. market and are especially proud of our capability to produce XXL planks that everyone can afford,” said Emanuel Lindberg, head of design.
SPC pulls in front.
Last year the industry witnessed the growing dominance of the resilient category’s SPC subsegment and especially that over its sister subsegments, WPC in particular. “SPC has been the darling of the residential side of the business,” said Dave Thoresen, senior vice president of product and innovation, Armstrong Flooring. “It allows for better cost and indent resistance vs. WPC, and it has a very solid wear and waterproof story vs. flexible LVT.”
Ed Sanchez, vice president product management, Mohawk Industries, agreed SPC is the superior product and noted the impact of its growing design benefits vs. WPC’s glaring pain points—not only for the consumer but for the specialty dealer as well. “Consumers are spending more time at home and are looking for something that is both beautiful and drives resale value,” he explained. “Couple that with indentation claims tied to WPC that dealers are now dealing with; I think this is only going to continue to drive a shift toward SPC as we go forward.”
Executives also say COVID-19 further placed SPC in the spotlight. “I believe the pandemic has accelerated the shift to SPC at a faster rate than ever,” said Sam Kim, senior vice president, national product, MSI. “All the great virtues of SPC have elevated the growth of this category further, while the downfalls of other types of flooring have accelerated their decline. This pandemic has also highlighted the importance of value, but also the importance of purchasing from a reputable brand that is here to stay.”
Fashion and home trends have long inspired tile design. As such, today’s tile makers often keep a close eye on evolving fashion and interior designs in order to develop coordinating collections that reflect those changing inclinations.
Large-format tiles continue to make waves in the market, and decoratives continue to prove their worth. In terms of colorways, blue has moved to the top of the design heap as buyers continue to reach for this fresh, calming neutral to complement various design tastes, while black and white is coming on strong once again. Within the decoratives segment, metallics are taking an even edgier turn these days.
In addition, popular shapes such as hexagons are coming on strong and have been growing in popularity. In illustration is Daltile’s Beehive, which was developed to help users create fun, playful spaces. Featuring a small 8 x 10 size and seven colors in addition to a 3D cube and geometric pat- terns, the hexagon-shaped collection features a concrete look.
Suppliers are pulling out all the stops, utilizing advancements in embossing techniques, screening and digital printing technologies to render not only extremely realistic wood visuals but also textures and heft.
Case in point is CFL, which continues to focus on being innovative with texturing, including embossed-in-register and handscraped finishes via its signature AtroGuard collection (see page 12). “This is especially showcased in our larger and wide-width plank collections,” said Barron Frith, president, CFL North America. “Retailers can leverage the realistic look with the impeccable scratch and stain resistant surface with our durability story. When you pair the visuals, water-resistant feature and performance attributes, it is a compelling story.”
When it comes to replicating wood looks, Inhaus looks to the source—Mother Nature. “Over the years, laminate production particularly with our proprietary processes, has become quite detailed in its ability to mimic real wood,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO. “Today’s laminate production processes actually use real wood as the base to which further enhancements are added.”
Inhaus has continually made investments in its people and its technology to control the design process in house. The company acquires real wood, scans it and manipulates it digitally to make its own decors to create genuine wood-look laminates (see page 26).