For almost 30 years, Coverings has been the most prominent event for the ceramic tile and natural stone industry in North America. Sponsored collaboratively by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Ceramics of Italy, National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Tile of Spain and Tile Council of North America (TCNA), each year the tradeshow attracts thousands of attendees, including distributors, retailers, specifiers, contractors, installers, fabricators, architects and designers.

This year, the event returned to the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Fla., where it welcomed more than 28,000 industry professionals from April 4 to 7—a 9% increase from last year’s show in Chicago, and a 10% jump from the Orlando show in 2015. “The big gains of attendance at Coverings are in line with growth of the tile and stone market overall—consumption of ceramic tile in the United States has increased for the seventh consecutive year, with 2.9 billion square feet of tile consumed in 2016,” said Alena Capra, Coverings’ industry ambassador. “Attendees are continually taking advantage of the show’s opportunities, doing business and boosting their bottom lines.”

Of all attendees, show management reported the highest contingent of contractors and installers, whose attendance increased by 36% from last year and 12% from 2015. Fabricator and distributor segments also increased by 16% and 13% from 2015, as well as retailers, which saw a 15% increase from last year and a 3% increase from 2015. “We’re thrilled with the expansive growth of the industry,” Capra said.

Retailers Report Growth

While walking the crowded aisles of the OCCC, we observed the significant boost in attendance, among both visitors and exhibitors. New exhibitor, Artaic, who shared booth space with Bostik, showcased its innovative technology that aids in the creation of custom mosaic tile installations. “This was my first time at Coverings, and the show lived up to its reputation; our space had so much foot traffic,” said Ted Acworth, founder and CEO of Artaic. “We’re pleased with all the connections from the show and are looking forward to growing these leads into meaningful relationships.”

Sicis, a veteran exhibitor and Ceramics of Italy-branded manufacturer, expressed that the show was essential in building relationships for global sales. “I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of architects and designers at Coverings this year,” said Charles Zelaya, sales manager. “It’s a great opportunity for us to build strong relationships with these industry professionals. The show not only provides great access to the regional market, but with attendees from around the world, we’re also able to make global connections.”

Crossville, one of the leading American tile manufacturers, has been trying to cater to the A&D community for a couple of years now, preparing for the imminent merge of both industries. “Our new collections can be mixed together; it’s up to the designer as to what they want to do. We just want to make sure that we give them the tools to be as creative as they can be,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing at Crossville. “I think we’re in the middle of a big design mix. I think that the people who are entering into interior design right now don’t have the traditional notions of what goes with what. And the rules don’t apply, so you’re going to see a whole bunch of incongruous colors that you never thought could go together or materials.”

Lunada Bay Tile, a company that specializes in handcrafted glass and ceramic tiles, showcased its newest collections together on the same wall panels, with up to three different collections on each, encouraging the intermixing of designs. “When we design something, we never design it solo,” said Feras Irikat, director of design and marketing at Lunada Bay Tile. “We always keep in mind the brand, the story, the soul of the company and also how it integrates into the existing product lines. I was a designer and there were times when I wished the manufacturer just made it a little easier for me. Instead of having to go figure out what goes with this and what goes with that. So, we’re helping designers specify tile better. Helping them imagine it, think about it and really utilize it in an artistic way.

“I think we’re in the middle of a big design mix. I think that the people who are entering into interior design right now don’t have the traditional notions of what goes with what ... so you’re going to see a whole bunch of incongruous colors that you never thought could go together or materials.”

– Lindsey Waldrep

“It’s a little bit more different than functional—more artistic, with the combinations and even the orientation,” he went on to say. “We really try to take the mindset from functionality to artistic, when it comes to installation. I think it’s catching on.”

This artistic mindset—following the contemporary notion of design—is being noticed and recognized among all types of manufacturers. Subtle, neutral colors are highlighted in new collections, while textured surfaces continue to evolve, showcasing the ability of innovative technologies. “As I walked around the show, I saw a lot of concrete. Concrete can run the gamut of looks, but ours is more subtle and sophisticated. It’s very soft,” said Waldrep of Crossville’s new porcelain collection, Notorious, developed in response to the current trend. “I think that very rustic looks have a place. So in response to that, there is a desire in the design community for more refined, subtle, elegant approaches to these different materials.”

With natural materials as a main source of inspiration for flooring surfaces nowadays, manufacturers are looking to replicate and recreate renditions, incorporating their own twist. Stone and wood looks have been dominating the market for nearly a decade now, and with the advancements of printing technology, the realism created on certain surfaces is unprecedented.

With its new porcelain tile collections, Modern Formation Chateau Reserve, Marazzi USA remains at the forefront of tile innovation. “Modern Formation is a natural limestone look that comes in six colorways, and there are completely different graphics in each colorway,” said Micah Hand, brand marketing manager at Marazzi USA. “There are a lot of different looks, but they come together cohesively. Our wood-look, Chateau Reserve, was inspired by a dry, aged European wood. It has a little bit of texture and a little shine to it.

“We have a lot of variation, especially with the marble and the limestone looks,” Hand added. “Because of the printing technology, looks keep getting more realistic and possibilities are endless.”

The next edition of Coverings will be held from May 8 to 11, 2018, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. For more information, visit