The commercial sector has been one of the most negatively impacted by the pandemic. With vaccinations finally available, and companies slowly reopening, industry leaders and specifiers are optimistic about the rest of the year. They are looking to flooring to help revitalize interiors as we get back to business. 

There’s never been a greater need for flexible spaces, and this concept will continue to evolve as we embrace a post-pandemic world. “A resilient space prioritizes flexibility and adaptability to make short-term adjustments that can eventually be modified to meet changing needs,” said Anna Webb, vice president of marketing and product development, Interface. 

With versatility a priority as we reconfigure all of our high-traffic indoor areas, specifiers are selecting multiple flooring options to go into commercial buildings. “We are still seeing carpet and hard surface together. LVT is definitely taking some market share from carpet. But I don’t think carpet will ever go away completely, especially as we are trying to create these comforting spaces,” said Suzanne Zurfluh, director of design and trend for Emser Tile. 

Indeed, LVT continues to be a popular choice for a range of settings, and it is often used in tandem with other flooring for performance and visual interest. “Modular, integrated flooring systems continue to be the trend within commercial segments. Currently, designers are opting for a mix of hard and soft surfaces, mostly made up of LVT with carpet insets. Integrating both kinds of flooring in an interior can contribute to its functionality, while creating spaces within a space,” Webb noted. 

Webb also explained that biophilia is key as people have a renewed focus on healthy living, which COVID-19 has put in the spotlight. “Biophilic design—the connection of our built spaces with nature—increases occupant well-being, productivity, and creativity by including natural systems and processes.” 

Zurfluh agreed, and noted that the draw to nature is a reaction to the inordinate amount of time spent indoors, as well as digital fatigue. There’s a longing for human interaction and personal touches in residential and commercial arenas. “We’re looking for natural, handmade materials that are highly tactile, and even somewhat imperfect. We want to add comfort to our spaces with texture. I think it’s because we’re all spending so much more time on Zoom, and it’s a counterbalance to that,” she said. 

Not only is tactility important, but tiles with organic shapes are appealing. Another nod to the great outdoors, watch for forms that reference natural elements—from water droplets to leaves or shells. There’s an emergence of curves and rounded edges for a freehand, relaxed appearance. Color runs the gamut from black and deep navy palettes to muted, whisper-light tints. “Along with pops of blue and green, there are some of these subtle, dusty tones, like a blush pink or a paler sky blue. Pastels are being used with deeper, saturated colors. It’s kind of a new take on the pastels from the 80s or 90s,” Zurfluh added. 

Flooring that is easy to clean is essential in high-traffic areas like retail stores or corporate environments. “Specifying flooring that is hygienic in nature and does not require harsh chemicals to be cleaned is critical, and it adds value by reducing the time and effort used to clean and maintain an area,” said Webb.  

Larger tiles for floor and wall are being requested for cleanability, and because they can be used to create striking focal points at strategic locations where an enhanced look is desired. “Tile is one of the easiest products, I believe, to clean. You just need soap and water. With tile, grout is always a big issue, and with the larger formats, there is less of it. People are requesting the larger square tiles for the wall, especially in commercial spaces because it is so much easier to maintain,” Zurfluh explained. 

Webb noted that flooring also plays a role in health and safety via cues on how to move in a space. “The need for integrating social distancing methods into the built environment emerged through the pandemic, and can be remedied by strategically using design elements—color, texture, pattern, and format—to create restrained, yet intentional reminders that are appropriate for both today’s needs and after the pandemic has passed.” 

For any commercial project, flooring is one of the first considerations when deciding on products. “Flooring is the only surface in a building that we are all held to by gravity, making it one of the most important selections a specifier can make,” Webb added.