You may remember in my pre-Surfaces pep talk I urged you to optimize your time at the show. Even more important, I encouraged you to follow-up on everything (product or company) that caught your eye. So I thought now would be a good time to check in on your follow-up work. The consensus is that, while attendance may have been a bit down, the show was a huge hit with retailers and exhibitors. So how did you do? Did you come away with colorful visions of new products dancing in your head? For my part, even a couple of months later I am still on a visual “high” from my Las Vegas Surfaces experience.

Mostly, my excitement comes from the many ultra-creative products that made their debut at the show. There seemed to be a double-edged theme weaving its way through the exhibit halls this year. It was not enough to offer beauty in all its glorious colors- the buzz was sustainable beauty!  Kahrs Wood Flooring may have said it best with their new marketing tagline: “Beauty with a Conscience-Having a Responsible Relationship with Nature.”  The show was a further reminder that sustainability has become the benchmark for new product development. While manufacturers may be more keenly aware of their environmental responsibility, that is not really a new development in our industry. What is different is the consumer mindset. Let’s be honest: sustainability has hit its stride with mainstream America. Green products are quite simply hot commodities. Maybe some are genuinely concerned and maybe some see it as trendy (they keep hearing “Green is the new black”). Either way, “green” translates to righteous profits (pun intended).

After covering nearly every inch of the show floor I can attest that many items on display at Surfaces ’08 were real winners. But now, having had some time to probe deeper, I am in a much better position to analyze which products truly made a statement-either through color/design and sustainability, or hopefully, both. Here, in no particular order, are some of the standouts:

Wools of New Zealand.  By their very nature, wool carpets are natural, environmentally friendly and (if you remember to feed the sheep) sustainable. Combine that with superior styling and it’s no wonder several of Wools of New Zealand’s new entries made an indelible impression. This mill got creative and used Surfaces to showcase a few “experimental” items. To better gauge the response, those visiting the exhibit were asked, in what has become an annual tradition, to vote for their favorites. So WONZ was asking rather than telling retailers what they want to sell on their retail floors. What a fresh approach-and how can it ever be a mistake to encourage customers to feel “invested” in the decision-making process?  If anything, retailers will be looking to see if their favorites made the cut, and just how soon they can have it in their store.

Among the WONZ contenders was “Mushi Mushi,” a playful combination of cut pile carpet accented with contrasting fringe-like tufts. It definitely fell into the “never-seen-anything-like-that-before” category. “Mallorca” was another attention-getter. This cut/uncut level loop graphic was constructed in a scrolling leaf-and-vine motif. The large pattern repeat was sweeping and graceful, but it was the color palette that gave it star quality.  The obligatory neutrals were all present, but add to that a pale rose, a butter cream yellow, a misty blue, and a pearl gray, and it became a work of art.

Masland Carpets.John Frink, Masland’s Western regional manager, graciously gave me a personal tour of his booth and the newest products. Leave it to Masland to shock our aesthetic senses (in a pleasing way, of course) with “Zulu.” The name captures the essence of this carpet:  exotic and edgy. It combined super-sized loops with a frame of fringe-length cut pile in contrasting and monochromatic colors. To say it was highly tactile would be an understatement. It is not a stretch to say area rugs may forever be redefined with the advent of “Zulu.”

If you visited the Masland booth, no doubt you were drawn to the raised vignette in the center of the exhibit. Contemporary leather loveseats created a cozy sitting area, but it was the carpet underscoring that vignette that was the real star. “Twist and Shout” was aptly named.  This new baby has character to spare. Picture a hefty frieze construction sporting a longer pile height with an exceptional twist. It all translated to richness and luxury. If the hand and comfort underfoot didn’t win you over, the tweed-like colorations certainly did. “Twist & Shout” was sophisticated and contemporary.

Surface Companies Inc.  How about an entire product line created with 90 percent ground-up travertine! Now, that’s what I call using recycled content. If I hadn’t seen The Crowning Touch Collection for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it either. But the uniqueness of this new entry spoke volumes. Distributed through this Kansas City-based company, the product is a collection of architectural stone comprised of  recycled travertine. The line includes classical door mouldings, architectural trims, mantels, pedestals, columns, cameo wall medallions, and much more. Whether you are an interior designer or a flooring retailer, these products could add an entirely new dimension to the offerings on your floor.  (Visit their web site to find out more.) 

Landmark Metalcoat.If you are looking for new product offerings that take design to the next level, this exhibitor from Temecula, Calif., filled that prescription quite nicely.  Intriguing metal applications to mosaic wall tiles, listellos, and trim pieces were elegant eye candy. Add to that graceful wrought iron pedestals for bronze and copper sinks, and you have all the makings for a memorable powder room or master bath. For more information and visuals, you can visit

Hakwood Floors.Solid hardwood flooring is all natural and has an exceptional life cycle. In addition, this is flooring that can either be recycled or repurposed to assist the cause of sustainability. Hakwood Floors, a company based in the Netherlands, has taken this venerable flooring to a new level of design with the introduction of their “primary” color line. Washes of whimsical reds, greens and blues have now found their place in hardwood floors. As a designer, I would say this translates to some playful new applications that could be used in contemporary or casual settings. This is a welcome addition. By now, it is safe to say manufacturers have unearthed every exotic wood that sprouts from the Earth. It makes for a stunning array of design options, but as wonderful as that is, along comes Hakwood to give hardwood a fresh interpretation. That’s the foundation of good design. It’s not just thinking outside the box but recreating the box itself.

Dal Tile.You have read in previous Designs in Style columns that the direction of color is fueled by global influences. Never has this been more evident than in the new items I witnessed at Dal Tile’s exhibit at Surfaces. Walls tiled in brilliant reds, dazzling blues, and scintillating yellows created a gorgeous mosaic with designs that recall art from India and China. As a refreshing contrast, Dal Tile also offered a new collection of ceramic tiles reminiscent of the 1950s-a retro look in updated colors. Also featured were trim pieces with pearlescent and iridescent finishes to give them a light-reflective “glow”.

G & G Home Supplies Inc.  This tile manufacturer was new to me, but certainly made a colorful impression. Headquartered in Monterey Park, Calif., G & G offers a full spectrum of glass tile and tile combinations ( Their products include iridescent rippled glass tiles, crackled glass ceramics, translucent glass borders, glass pebble tiles, jade and onyx tiles, stainless steel and marble tile creations, and even stainless with glass tiles. These fresh and whimsical variations were among the most imaginative glass tile products at the show.

Well there you have it: a mini-tour of some of the attention-getters that made a lasting impression on me since I first saw them at Surfaces. Each of us toured the show with a different agenda and perspective, no doubt. But what I have tried to share with you today is a color-marketing specialist’s agenda and a designer’s perspective. You may have walked right by some of the exhibits I have highlighted here, and that’s okay. As hard as we all try, we can’t possibly cover everything at Surfaces, and that’s okay too. Hopefully, by now, you have come to count on me to point you in the right direction as to Designs in Style. And if you take the information in this column to heart, you might just research further some of the amazing products mentioned here. And that would be absolutely more than okay!