Shown is Provenza Floors’ Metallics Collection Mystic.

The word ‘exotic’ conjures up a variety of notions, especially when applied to flooring. Webster’s Dictionary lists an array of synonyms for exotic:  mysterious, colorful, striking, unusual--just to name a few.  I was especially intrigued by ‘mysterious’ as it relates to floor coverings, but certainly each and every one of these could apply.

The first thing that comes to mind in the world of exotic floor coverings would have to be hardwood floors from distant lands. Even with the necessary protection of rare species of trees (through amendments to the Lacey Act), there are still many amazing wood species available from FSC Certified forests around the world.  Many of these intriguing woods are imported from South America, and customers are enthralled with how these woods translate to unique floors for their homes. Let’s take a closer look at those adjectives listed in the beginning of this column to see how they fit floor coverings:

Mysterious –Picture beautiful, exotic wood grains enhanced with precious metal finishes. That certainly evokes some mystery. I called upon the Provenza Gallery in Southern California to see some of the latest and most exciting varieties that wood flooring has to offer. Ron Sadri, vp sales & marketing, and cfo Reza Jozi gave me a personal tour. Here, I found the distinctive hardwoods I was searching for to define “mysterious.”

Artistic director Kian Pour explained the story behind the Metallics Collection of fine hardwood floors crafted from hickory and walnut. What I saw were beautiful wood surfaces finished in softly brushed metals. These hardwoods were enhanced with ribbons of color woven through the grain of the wood. Try to visualize Moonlit Platinum, Silvered Mint, Sunset Gold, Mystic Pewter and Luminous Pearl. These were among the romantic choices in the Metallics Collection and each is a masterpiece.

Adding to the element of mystery is the softly shimmering metallic accents, achieved via special machinery that imbeds the metallics right into the wood. Accolades should be given to Provenza Floors for their artistic creation of custom looks. Beyond that, they have found a way to produce designer hardwoods that are affordable for everyone. Considering that this collection was two years in the making, it’s definitely worth taking a longer look (

Colorful –What’s inspiring tile manufacturers? They are creating distinctive new looks, and all of it is centered on color. Frosted glass, crackled glass, gem-like colors, iridescent finishes, and surprising combinations of all of the above are bursting upon the marketplace. Of particular note, Bedrosian’s Ice Crackle Series showcases gloss and matte mosaics in 2010 forecasted colors ( Their Pebble Series also deserves a mention. These remarkable glass pebbles are hefty mosaic tiles (mounted on 12” by 12” sheets) that can spice up any design. Deep sapphire, amethyst, emerald, topaz and smoky quartz hues provide a rich selection of jewel-like colors. What fun and what inspiration!

Crossville is stunning the market with their glass mixed finish mosaics as well.  Great colors with iridescent qualities have been designed to give a balanced mix of matte to gloss tiles for your customers-already mounted on 11 1/2” by 11 1/2” sheets. These can be found in their Water Crystal Mosaics collection, and definitely will capture your interest (

Also making colorful news in hard surface flooring is a highly sustainable flooring product - Marmoleum from Forbo Flooring Systems. The ingredients used in Marmoleum are all natural: linseed oil, wood flour (sawdust), rosins (hard translucent resin harvested from pine trees), natural jute backings, and natural pigments. And at the end of its long life cycle, this floor is biodegradable!

Knowing this product is environmentally friendly is a very marketable story, but it’s the inspired new color lines that make it memorable. Each colorway tells a story in its name: Sunsets Boulevard, Mixed Greens, Rhythmic Blues, Grey-dations, and Neutral Collaborators. Residential or commercial design projects will find Marmoleum an appealing product that lends itself to fresh, creative applications (

Striking –This word stands out among all the other descriptive words as the attention getter. So, which flooring product qualifies for striking? Torlys recycled leather floors fit the bill-redefining what a beautiful contemporary floor can be. The details of these flooring planks will give you a better visual: Micro-beveled edges on all four sides; extra long cut planks; made from 100% recycled leather; 7 5/8” (width) by 45 7/8” (length) x 3/8” (thickness); finely textured leather grains; cork backing; and a 25-year residential wear warranty.

Colors range from mid-tone and deep chocolates to pure ebony. And the best part about these contemporary floors is they make use of unneeded trimmings from leather belts, jackets and boots that otherwise would end up in landfills. Now there’s a striking combination:  beauty, durability and environmentally responsible.

Dal-Tile more than qualified for the striking category when it added four new colors to its popular Continental Slate product line. These tiles are ColorBody porcelain that mimic the look and feel of natural slate, including natural random shading. Joining the four existing colors are Persian Gold, Moroccan Brown, Tuscan Blue and English Grey. A variety of sizes and decorative borders are available to round out the collection, and make decorating effortless for your residential or commercial customers. Keep in mind that Continental Slate can be used for floors, walls, backsplashes and countertops, plus interior and exterior floors and walls. (

Unusual –Every one of the floors mentioned has earned “unusual” status. I find it promising that manufacturers are employing artists and designers to help them develop new product lines. Color, texture and special finishes will continue to reign supreme in the quest to launch something of unusual beauty. You may think it’s risky business in today’s economy, but if so it’s a risk well worth taking.

Manufacturers know that to score a big winner, they have to step outside their comfort zone, employ the most creative of minds and surprise the marketplace. Manufacturers obviously understand the true meaning, and meanings, of ‘exotic.’