It’s said that fortune favors the bold. Ah yes, but does it favor the bold color palette? If the new product rollouts – and the enthusiasm with which they were received – at Surfaces were any indication, 2013 looks bright indeed.

The 2013 Surfaces Convention and Trade Show at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 29-31, attracted thousands of retailers, distributors, installers, architects, designers and builders from around the world looking for the latest products, educational opportunities and operational insights the floor covering industry has to offer. And offer insights it did.

“When I sit down with a client, I always start with color.” Erinn Valencich, owner of Erinn V. Design Group and the design and style expert for QuickStep, said. “Building up from the floor, I use what I call the Oreo Cookie Theory: dark-light-dark. It’s about tone. If you have a dark floor, you have a lighter rug, then a darker sofa. If you have similar tonality, even if you have great texture and interesting materials, the room is flat. It’s the contrast that really makes a room shine.”

Today’s designers blend technology and influences to achieve ever-higher levels of styling innovation in floor coverings, and nowhere is that blending more apparent than in the hard-surface categories. Crossville’s Manoir collection is classic, elegant, touched with a casual contemporary look and stately undertones, striking without being distracting. Its fresh, light style is interpreted in five soft, cool colors. Daltile’s Levaro, with its Reveal Imaging technology, brings a contemporary travertine graphic with layers of color, detail and veining that is uniquely produced on every tile.

“We’re seeing more complexity, a moving away from traditional looks,” Daltile Senior Marketing Director Lori Kirk-Rolley said. “We’re seeing more commercial influences, and our imaging technology is allowing us to explore a variety of new opportunities in design and style.”

Design isn’t the only area seeing new opportunities arise; of late there’s been a marked shift in the way floor covering manufacturers, distributors and dealers view themselves and the business in which they operate. More and more, the emphasis is being put not just on the product itself, but also on what it represents and how to best present it to the consumer.

“Style leadership starts with a great design team,” Mannington Mills’ Senior Vice President Residential Marketing Ed Duncan said. “Our people operate across all categories of hard surface, so we can apply what we learn in one area to others. What we learn in porcelain tile is applicable to LVT; what we learn in hardwood is applicable to LVT, to laminate, etc. That’s really at the heart of our strength.”

“You’re not going to be around for 150 years if you don’t adapt and change,” Mara Villanueva-Heras, vice president residential marketing for Armstrong, said. “We’re looking to build on the legacy of the ‘let the buyer have faith’ mindset, but obviously the products change, the services, the way we go to market has to change, and we have to have value.”

“We’re in the fashion business,” IVC USCEO Xavier Steyaert said. “We’re making significant investments in design, in color. We sell style and design, but that needs to be backed up by performance and staying focused on our customers’ needs. Whether they’re a retailer or distributor, this is key.”

Circling back to products, soft surfaces are shouldering high expectations this year as well, with an emphasis on “soft.” For example, Cortona is the latest addition to Beaulieu’s Healthy Touch Collection. The 70-ounce Softsense Polyester product features a full-bodied hand and what the company describes as an “opulent” finish that highlights the lavish texture. The coming year should be telling whether this renewed focus on softness is around only for the short term, or if it has the legs to go the distance.

But be it soft surface or hard, savvy retailers know that the most stylish, luxurious surface is only as good as what lies beneath, unseen and, if done properly, unnoticed for the life of the floor. After all, the flashiest sports car in the world does you little good without the right stuff under the hood.

“When we came out with FUSION PRO, it was really a culmination of a lot of R&D work, a lot of research, a lot of interviews with contractors to help us best identify how to bring a product to market that was going to solve their problems,” Anthony Pasquarelli, Custom Building Products marketing services manager, said. “It’s not something that happens overnight; we go through an extensive field trial program, we validate a product’s performance in a wide variety of settings, and we know that the product’s performing successfully in both residential and commercial applications when it goes to market.”

In addition to all its other trappings, Surfaces is a focal point for industry awards; recognition by one’s peers is no small thing. The Surfaces New Product Marketplace Best New Product Award, sponsored in part by Floor Trends, is an opportunity for attendees to look over some of the latest products and accessories the industry has to offer and vote for that item they see as truly game-changing. This year’s winner was Tile-Redif or the Redi-Trench, a one-piece shower pan with an integrated linear trench and trench drain, and choice of either tileable or non-tileable drain top. Congratulations to Farrell Gerber and everyone at Tile-Redi.

The Surfaces Convention and Trade Show presents an opportunity like no other for professionals working in the floor covering industry. The combination of education and networking opportunities, mixed with the chance to view the broadest selection of new product introductions in the industry, give floor covering pros unparalleled access to the information they need to succeed in their businesses.

Surfaces 2014 will be held at Jan. 28-30, 2014 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.