Pictured clockwise from top left: Exotic hardwoods are becoming more popular, such as BR-111 Exotic Hardwood Floors' Indusparquet 3/4-inch prefinished solid, 5 1/2-inch-wide plank in Tigerwood; Tarkett's Presence features soft visuals with the new Media pattern; Mohawk Industries' Bristol Estate is a small-scale carpet pattern. Consumers are going for more conservative patterns to decorate their homes; San Giovanni Queen Carpet is made with Anso Caress nylon, and is one of many soft carpet styles selling briskly; Royalty Carpet Mills' Astoria features a speckled pattern with a soft feel; Formica's Wood Reserve collection has been expanded to offer more natural wood looks.

The floor covering industry is in an upswing, with more and more people buying new homes or renovating their existing living spaces. Many are still “cocooning,” wanting to surround themselves in comfort, inviting friends over and not traveling as often in the past. Whether the cause is due to international conflicts and health scares keeping people indoors to beautify their homes, or some of the lowest interest rates in years making new homes more affordable, sales in residential furnishings and flooring continue to rise.

NFT spoke with several leading manufacturers to find out what they’ve identified as emerging design trends in residential flooring, across all lines. The main thread from these conversations is that homeowners are adopting more conservative tastes than in years past, but with some nuances, an openness to new colors and textures, and the ability to choose more textures due to technologies such as embossed-in-register flooring and twist techniques.

Alloc TimberView in Beech Rustic, an embossed-in-register wood-grain laminate with beveled edges.

Hard surfaces

“One of the biggest trends in laminate flooring is embossed-in-register for ceramic tile visuals, to create a smooth grout line,” says Mark Kieckhafer, marketing director for Alloc. “That technology is now also finding its way into wood-grain visuals.”

According to Pat Wertz, principal designer for the styling department at Armstrong, hard surfaces are continuing to show a trend toward natural colors with more realism. While these colors currently are more conservative and based in Earth tones, she feels that more color will start asserting itself in the marketplace over the next few years.

“I think eventually a consumer gets tired of looking at the same color palette,” Wertz says. “Brighter colors will be coming on.”

Joe Amato, vice president of residential styling for Mannington, says that natural looks are “without a doubt, the hottest home fashion trend today.”

“The stunning realism and detail of many varieties of natural stone looks continues to be the style of choice for hard surface flooring products,” Amato says.

He adds that other trends — such as geometric patterns, and softer visuals replicating the looks of leather, sisal, linen, and cork — are starting to become apparent.

George Graboshas, Domco Tarkett Residential vice president of styling, says his company is pursuing “more malleable and delicate visuals” in hard surfaces.

“Stones and ceramics are becoming more subdued in their look,” he says. “They’re not as pronounced, dominant or strong. Even the color aspect is being treated softly, with more tone-on-tone effects.”

Nafco's New Generation in Exotics, luxury vinyl tile with an exotic wood look.
Graboshas’ company is also pursuing visuals outside the realm of stone and ceramics, incorporating such textures as linen looks and other, softer images.

In the residential vinyl segment, a trend toward larger-format designs and enhanced naturals is being felt, according to David Cassady, Nafco product manager.

“We’re seeing a trend toward a color palette with a lot of dirty neutrals and some bold colors for accent,” he says. “Designs mimicking exotic species of wood, with a wide variation in color and graining, are the hot trend in the vinyl plank category.”

In the kitchen, flooring trends can end up in the countertop, according to Renee Hytry, vice president of design for Formica.

“We’re seeing travertine in flooring again — a natural stone that’s non-directional. It started out as a flooring line, and now it’s reached the countertop,” she says.

“Natural stone is definitely a trend,” she adds. “We’re seeing lots of natural colors, slates and browns.”

On the higher end, in both cabinetry and in flooring, exotic woods are coming into play.

“While oak is definitely the mainstay, with a swing towards maples and cherries, exotics are being accepted more,” Hytry says. “These exotics are sculpted and distressed — they offer a real, lived-in feeling. Consumers need to surround themselves with something warm and familiar. It gives houses a sort of history, a prestige.”

Oriental Weavers Sphinx Division's Oceans line, in Blue Moon. Ocean motifs and soft blue colors are making themselves felt in the area rug business.

Soft surfaces

Ronnie Magee, director of design for Milliken, says that softer and softer textures are becoming more and more popular, as people want their homes to feel more comfortable.

“There is no question that the home has become a place of retreat and security,” he says. “People are just not venturing out as often as they used to. They’re shopping at home more. They have more offices at home now. Homes are becoming more individual. And because of that, people are starting to decorate to make themselves feel comfortable.”

“Soft yarns are very, very popular,” says Paul Engle, vice president of marketing for Royalty Carpet Mills. “When you touch a softer yarn, it’s like touching a cashmere sweater — your hand sort of melts into that feeling.

“What’s prevented soft from becoming a real player in the past was the mindset that soft means it’s not hard-wearing,” Engle continues. “But with new technologies, a product can be soft and durable.”

Soft carpeting “has taken hold in every category,” says Randy Sanford, director of product development for Mohawk Industries.

“When you feel one of the soft fibers, it has the same result as if someone were touching a piece of silk versus cotton,” he says. “It’s a great tactile sensation. The consumers are imagining ‘If my child is on that carpet, they’re going to be very comfortable. If I walk in on bare feet, it’s going to be like walking on a cloud.’”

Color-wise, palettes remain conservative but are beginning to warm up, from bone and off-white colors to more medium tones and golds, Engle says.

Neutral colors themselves are beginning to see a more complex color base, according to LaShon McGinnis, advertising and promotions coordinator for Honeywell Anso Nylon.

Vitra Tiles USA's Cotto Naturel ceramic tile collection showcases the color variations and design aspects popular in today's ceramic tile market.
“Neutrals now can mean more blue in the beige, or a rose tone, or yellow based,” she says. “Consumers who go for neutral palettes are finding more options. Consumers overall are more comfortable with these choices, and more color.”

The carpet side of the business is seeing a real increase in the demand for patterns, Sanford says.

“It’s no question that the simpler, smaller-scale patterns are the best-selling patterns,” he says. “But the other side of that is that if somebody walks into a store, what draws them in is the bold, innovative, large-scale patterns. Purple will draw them to the rack, though they’ll probably end up picking a beige, gray, green, or blue for their home.”

According to Michael Riley, executive vice president of Oriental Weavers’ Sphinx Division, area rug patterns are beginning to show ocean motifs with lots of soft blues and sea foam greens, as well as rugs with florals and lots of color.

“A lot of people have their sage or ivory couches, and they color their rooms through accent pillows, throws and area rugs,” he says. “We really follow a year to two years after ready-to-wear. A lot of trends we see in fashion end up on the floor in a year or two.”

He also says that scatter rugs are making themselves known in the industry.

“With scatter rugs, you can have brighter, vibrant colors. There’s simply things in smaller rugs that you can’t do in larger, room-size rugs,” he says.

Chip DeGrace, designer and vice president of marketing for InterfaceFLOR, says that modular flooring is seeing more residential use because of its design capabilities.

“The beauty of modular flooring is that that you can replace certain accents,” DeGrace says. “Say you want to pull out the gold and put in some citron color. Or say your child’s older, and pink isn’t happening anymore in their room. You can pull up the flooring, or refine a design.”

He says that people are, on average, redesigning every five to six years.

“There is an abundance of spending in the residential area,” DeGrace says. “People are feeling more in control of their homes. They feel comfortable making design decisions, and they are comfortable spending for it.”