Floor coverings have never been more creative, nor have there ever before been so many options from which to choose.

The importance of evolving design trends cannot be overstated, especially because they filter down to influence every segment of home interior goods. Of course that includes floor coverings, and the new product introductions exhibited at the big trade shows this first quarter give credibility to that statement.

  This is a great opportunity to share key design trends. These are the “drivers” influencing color and design. Just for fun, let’s add some examples of how flooring manufacturers are interpreting those trends successfully. Here’s what Color Marketing Group International identified as the top five influential trends:

1. The "Good Old Days"

The post-World War II era was a period of growth and extreme patriotism for Americans. The colors from that time represent hopefulness and happier times. With those positive associations tied to them, colors popular in the 1940’s, 1950’s and even the ‘60’s are selectively reappearing in the color palette. A true turquoise (circa 1957), cotton candy pink, and lemony yellow are examples of these re-energized colors. In this same vein, hand crafted and “made in America” products are gaining new respect and attention across our country. <br><br>

Example: I found a perfect example of “turn-back-the-clock” design from Nourison Industries (nourison.com). Their new carpet introduction, Gross Pointe, is difficult to put into words. Gross Pointe is a lacy masterpiece that brings to mind delicate crewel work. Highly dimensional, the different heights of loop pile sculpt a finished product that looks like a mid-century, hand-crafted textile.

2. Eco-Living

It is official that living “green” has graduated from a trend to a way of life for many Americans. Earth-friendly interior products have become very important, and natural dyes and materials are gaining momentum. There is a strong emphasis on where products are made; closer to home is more eco-friendly. Product life cycle is also a prime consideration (longer is better). And consumers are choosing products that are either all-natural or recyclable.

Example: At Surfaces 2012, a Netherlands-based company exhibited samples of their specialty: color agents derived solely from natural materials. Rubia Natural Colours provides all-natural coloring agents for flooring, fashion, fabrics, cosmetics, papers and packaging. Right now, there are several U.S. carpet manufacturers utilizing these natural dyes in the fabrication of area rugs. Expect many more applications for carpeting to arrive as manufacturers discover the benefits of replacing synthetic dyes with natural.

Another example focuses on a nylon carpet fiber that is cradle-to-cradle recyclable. That would be Shaw’s Anso nylon. While other nylon, polypropylene and polyester carpets can be recycled into other products, Anso nylon can be totally recycled into new carpet.

The Anso nylon fiber from used carpet is broken down into the original raw materials (including caprolactam, an oil-based component of nylon), then rebuilt into fiber for all-new carpet. So not only is Shaw able to keep used carpet out of landfills, they are conserving raw materials by using (and reusing) basic nylon components (see shawfloors.com) Closed-loop recycling such as this continues to gain momentum.

3. Caution and Care

This trend comes as no surprise; we live in treacherous times that have each of us searching for our personal safe havens. Consumer confidence is still low, and with all the uncertainty, we are craving colors that will stabilize our psyche and give us a sense of comfort. For that reason, gray, in all tints, tones and shades, will be a staple in the new color palette.

Example: One major trend I’ve observed in hardwoods, laminates, and LVT wood-look flooring is the introduction of gray tones. The grays in each of these categories range from light to dark values, with most new products favoring mid-toned grays. Weathered, limed, and antiqued finishes added to the floors’ character. These new grays are easy to live with and provide a neutral – but highly interesting – foundation to a design. Amtico International focused heavily on the family of grays in their extensive LVT collection of woods (america.amtico.com).

4. A Global Perspective

Most of us cruise the Internet on a daily basis, and we are being exposed to color like never before. Global fashions, exotic destinations, luxury interior designs around the world and more are all available to us. Because of that, we have developed an appetite for stronger colors. The new home-interiors palette will be a genuine mix of the safe, comfort colors punctuated with bright global stunners.

Example: You would expect tile manufacturers to embrace the global color influences, and they have. Coral, turquoise, pine green, and bright, gem-toned hues fit the global color category. But an unexpected interpretation of these global colors came from Provenza Hardwood Floors. Their “Infusion” floor collection featured an exclusive color-impregnation process that brought to life true hardwoods in deep purple, rich aqua, and even a true red! Their patented process results in premium performance while maintaining the natural beauty and graining of the wood. These are amazing to see first hand, and the bonus is that they are suitable for residential or commercial use. (provenzafloors.com/products/infusion).

5. Affordable Luxury

This may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s a sign of the times. We may not be trading up our homes to “bigger and better.” We may be vacationing a little closer to home. We are definitely entertaining in-home more often and, with all that said, these shifts in lifestyle have us improving and redecorating our living spaces. The most in-demand products will have high-style looks at affordable prices.

Example: Flooring manufacturers have responded to this new direction with a flurry of luxurious products that mimic high-end goods. The “cross-over phenomenon” is astounding. There are ceramic/porcelain tiles that look like wood or solid metal. There are LVT floors that you would swear are real stone or hardwood. There are simulated “leather” floors that are dead-ringers for the real thing. And let us not forget to mention synthetic carpets and area rugs that have the luster and feel of real wool, sisal, or even silk! These great pretenders are offering consumers aesthetic luxury that fits recession-stressed budgets.

Hats off to the ingenuity demonstrated by product development teams around the world. Floor coverings have never been more creative, nor have there ever before been so many options from which to choose. Manufacturers are wisely ramping up attention to emerging design trends, and interpreting those trends into highly sellable products.