Ceramic tile with matte, textured finishes that simulate natural materials will be a featured choice. Shown is TAU’s Tuscany which takes an inspiration from Rapolano marble. Photo courtesy TAU.

Design is an adaptive, ever-changing business. Since we are mired in a stubborn recession that demands design dollars to stretch further and accomplish more, the new directive for interior design is: Create functional, memorable environments which are cost-conscious and provide aesthetic staying power.  

Consumers are willing to invest in their homes, but they are also looking for a long-term return on their investment. In the case of baby boomers especially, I am hearing a desire to “do it right, and not need to remodel again.”

With a finger on the pulse of several key design organizations (Color Marketing Group International, The National Kitchen & Bath Association, and the American Society of Interior Designers), I have researched the top design trends that are actively being embraced. Here is a brief overview of those milestone trends and how they will influence floor coverings.

Design Dollars are Being Channeled into Kitchen and Bath Redesigns
Kitchens and baths are the spaces that seem to become dated more quickly than other areas of the home. This could be the reason why we are seeing a large percentage of decorating dollars being designated to K & B design. The influx of better gadgets, evolving technology and “must-have” appliances, combined with consumers spending more time at home, are the predominant drivers behind this.

According to the NKBA, “The quiet incorporation of the kitchen into the home’s primary living and entertaining rooms provides homeowners with far more flexibility in their lifestyles. The incorporation of integrated and concealed appliances allows the kitchen to enhance rather than intrude into other spaces. Clean structural lines coupled with sleek color palettes enable the space to establish a distinctive identity, without overpowering the surrounding rooms.”

Relating this to floor coverings, we will need to select floors that perform well in rooms subject to high traffic and wet spills. Ceramic tile with matte, textured finishes that simulate natural materials will be a featured choice. Slip-resistant properties are also of high importance. Since easy maintenance is also high on the list, natural stones and woods may not be the best choice for these areas.

Because resilient floors are warmer underfoot and easier to stand on for long periods of time, baby boomers are discovering lvt in record numbers. A top contender for the K & B floor of choice will be luxury vinyl tiles in wood plank or stone looks. Don’t overlook the porcelain tile lookalikes available in lvt. Stunning tiles with soft geometry and linear designs bring a contemporary touch to the floor. Several manufacturers have slip-resistant lvt collections available for added safety.

Tactile Appeal Through Texture
Hardwood floors continue to have mass appeal across the country. Manufacturers are focusing on making floors with more texture, graining and distressing. Real families live on these floors, and beautiful textures make hardwoods more forgiving. High texture floors can better handle the wear and tear of kids, pets and entertaining.

An economical alternate to hardwood is laminate flooring. High pressure laminates are approved for even high traffic areas, and busy families can have the look and feel of hardwood, with great scratch and scuff resistance. These floating floors are easy to install and can cost much less that their real wood counterpart. However, since the core of laminate flooring is made of wood, it is susceptible to moisture. Care must be taken not to let water or liquid spills sit on the surface, as this can absorb into the core and cause warping.

Another headliner in bringing high-definition texture to flooring is carpet. Tufting technologies and innovative cut/uncut loop pile constructions continue to bring style-setting carpets to market. Dimensional geometrics and carved organic designs (vines, leaves, florals) are all beautifully expressed in this flooring choice. Americans love to live and play on their floors, and carpet lends itself best to that lifestyle.

A Commitment to Color

The Color Marketing Group’s ChromaZone event this summer in Irvine, Calif., featured a preview of upcoming color trends. You might be surprised by the trends that were identified during this confab of design professionals. It’s true that interesting neutrals are major international color stars, but did you know that gray in every tint, tone and shade will be a big player over the next several years? Green has also stepped over into the neutral zone, tempered with brown or gray undertones. This makes green big news as a chameleon neutral (a color that changes with the light of day).  

But while the love affair with smart neutrals continues, the even bigger news is that Americans are embracing real color. We are constantly exposed to global color through the Internet, the media and of course fashion. With this connection to worldwide colors, we’ve developed a comfort level with vibrant palettes, balanced with the neutrals we love so much.

Blue is a big story in our color future--everything from washed denim blues to energetic cobalt. Reds are tempered and tweaked to give us some fresh choices that are easy to live with long-term. And brace yourselves for exciting orange, a mature hot pink, and several purples to make the “A” list. Strategically placed pops or bursts of color in every room will bring color into sharp focus and keep us feeling optimistic in our home environments.  

Floor coverings are already experimenting with the new color directions. Washed, weathered, limed looks in hardwoods and laminates will satisfy the vote for gray tones. Some lvt manufacturers are already introducing the intense, optimistic solid colors I mentioned earlier. That gives the consumer the opportunity to mix and match to create a playful, one-of-a-kind floor.

Carpet will be one of the great interpreters of chameleon neutrals. Mills have been attentive to the coming color directions, and you can expect stunning new interpretations in soft surface introductions. Can they hit the right purple, the right russet, the right true neutral gray? Absolutely.

Ceiling and Floors Become Works of Art
Two high-impact surfaces in the home are the ceiling and the floor. As we unclutter our lives and our homes, these surfaces become even more important in making a design statement. Ceilings dressed in rough sawn beams, faux-plaster designs or tin or copper vintage looks are all stunning statements. Conversely, consumers are playing with flooring materials with a mix and match mentality that is producing true works of art.

Variations of inlaid flooring are being incorporated into many new designs to produce ultra-contemporary or old-world replications, and everything in between. Travertine paired with hardwood, real metal tiles mixed with porcelain, ceramic tile crowned with touches of mosaic glass; these marriages are unexpected and truly unique. Expect this trend to continue as we explore more combinations of quality flooring materials.

Design trends are laying the blueprint for some exciting new directions and applications for floor coverings. There has never been a more promising time for floors to become the focal point of design. This equates to creative opportunity and solid sales for those retailers who understand coming trends and are prepared for where we are headed.