Though still tough as nails, commercial floors show a flair for style & design
Whether they admit it or not, everyone is interested in the latest design trends, be they architecture, fashion, or color. And when it comes to commercial floorcovering, taking the pulse is fun and easy: All you need to do is stroll into any business open to the public. When you do, you will soon see that this is a category that draws inspiration from everywhere. You will also see that this is an area that continues to evolve.
The biggest change seen over the years involves expectations. Builders, designers and other decision makers now expect that any commercial flooring they install will stand up to heavy traffic, address safety and environmental concerns-and still look terrific. If the current crop of new products is any indication, the flooring industry is up to the task.
A look at what is happening in key areas of commercial flooring provides further proof that it is much more than the industrial strength version of the residential market.
Broadloom gains texture
Texture seems to be the by-word in broadloom carpet. Varying heights of pile combined with loops produce a delightful look. And the patterns finding their way into today's commercial carpet are very exciting. Most often the patterns seem non-directional, underscored with delicate curves and organic shapes. The overall effect is one of tranquility. In terms of overall direction for the industry, "linear" describes most of the designs, especially modular carpet.
Specifying carpet tile for a commercial project no longer means you have to sacrifice aesthetics to ensure performance. More manufacturers are stepping up and offering modular carpet options that rival broadloom styling. They are recognizing that commercial customers are demanding both performance and aesthetics. Without the aesthetics, you won't even get to the performance question.
A case in point: Mannington's Variations (which includes Variations Bights, and Variations Stripe) form a single, coordinated modular and broadloom carpet system. The Variations products are natural, random patterns with a surface finish reminiscent of raw silk. Seemingly unplanned strains of color form an organic pastiche that is as striking as it is unexpected. Designed for random placement options, the line offers the utmost in design flexibility and ease of installation.
Along those same lines, Initiative, a broadloom and modular tile series from Mohawk Commercial, creates an uncommon visual through the innovative use of yarns. The coloration has a randomness that is as compelling as the pattern. The mix-and-match compatibility would seem improbable, but it's impressive; and, in fact, the product can be installed in any direction and any series of combinations-the look is left to the initiative of the interior designer. It's a sophisticated yet playful series, highly functional and totally affordable, adding vitality to any facility.
We're seeing these types of compatible groupings from more and more manufacturers. It is a design trend that is be coming increasingly prevalent.
Resilient: a world of color options
Resilient floor covering has taken giant steps in design for the commercial market. Products are homogenous sheet goods, heterogeneous sheet goods, slip retardant sheet goods, or the old stand-by: rotogravure or inlaid sheet goods. Today they are usually made from recycled content and offer a world of color options. Some sheet goods even have coordinating tiles to complement them. It makes for a wonderful challenge to the interior designer to work them into various projects.
Mannington Assurance II is a homogeneous constructed, slip-retardant flooring available in 27 new colors in 6' sheet and 10 new colors in 18"x18" modular tiles. Assurance II has a new, patented urethane topcoat for excellent scuff and stain resistance as well as long term color consistency over time. The embossed texture provides drainage underfoot, enhancing slip resistant properties.
Armed with insights gained from a product development program launched nearly three years ago, Nora rubber flooring seems highly attuned to customer demands. Its collection has four significant product lines and more than 75 colors, providing designers with a balanced portfolio. They can experiment with different hues and different product lines, blending bold and innovative flooring designs with functionality in a single flooring solution. What fun to design with an seemingly unlimited range of color!
Ceramic Tile: classic and exciting
Technology has made ceramic tile exciting, colorful and fresh. Specifically, advances in roto-color screening, double-press and double-charging technology have made possible a plethora of tiles rich in visual texture with smooth, flat surfaces. While most finishes were soft and smooth, liquid glazes sparkled on wall tiles. The use of semi-polished lappato finishes in both glass and ceramic varieties has added a high-end twist to classical, traditional styling.
The concrete or minimalist look is also an emerging trend. Spanish producer Roca launched Huron in its Laufen line earlier this year - a cinderblock look for residential and commercial markets. Dal-Tile's Veranda, introduced last year, is another concrete design that is doing well, especially for loft applications. The minimalist look is very rich in texture, but it's easy to clean and manufacture. Simplicity seems more prevalent in interiors, with limestone and subtle tonal movement coming to the forefront.
Rustics flattened out - literally. Highly variegated colors and visual textures - especially in slate products offer lots of excitement visually while providing a smooth surface for easy maintenance. Stone looks are dressed up with soft finishes. Rex took a different approach to stone. Instead of trying to mimic one specific type of stone in porcelain tile, it rolled the attributes of four types of stone (zanzibar, jura, samarcanda and agina) into a composite creation called Frames.
Mosaics have surged, too. A Chicago-area retailer/distributor told me his mosaic business grew by 75 percent last year. The most sought-after lines offer mixed sizes to create a coordinated but visually varied look throughout the house.
When consumers want wood, they want wood. Even with the attendant difficulties, wood is always more popular than products that look like wood. Not long ago, wood floors came in three colors (oak, light oak and dark oak) and three plank sizes. Today, exotics have taken over the wood flooring industry and suddenly it's difficult to pronounce the names but the designs can be a feast for the eyes!
Now, we have many option including inserts and borders from top quality companies like Oshkosh Floor Designs. The addition of their inserts to any installation add a unique and stylish touch. You can choose from designs in their portfolio, or work with them to create your own. The choices are not only limited to wood, they include stone, metals and glass. The choices may be overwhelming, but the result will be one that embodies your personality.
Make Way for Cork and Bamboo
While cork flooring has been around for many years, it's finally getting its just due in commercial interiors. Many firms are offering various design patterns and the color selection is outstanding. While the natural colors are a mainstay, you can easily find a variety of colors.
Bamboo continues to gain ground as a popular flooring choice in commercial environments. Remember, this is a material derived from tropical grass, not trees (there is no such thing as a "bamboo tree") so it is much easier to cultivate the source material. It is also a highly popular choice from the growing number of Chinese companies trying to crack the U.S. market. While the variety of design and colors tends to mimic old oak flooring selections, look for this category to take off as more options appear on the market.