When a product is specification-driven, it makes sense to enlist the creative help of the professionals who write those specifications. Who knows better what is needed in the commercial carpet market than the A&D community? Also, who better to counsel manufacturers on what kind of products are missingfrom product lines?

Now, it would be impossible to focus on every product being rolled out by every design-savvy manufacturer, but here are a few products that are sure to have a big impact in the commercial marketplace.

Mannington Mills has once again paired up with HOK Design in Texas, this time to create a Vivendi carpet collection for their commercial portfolio. According to Donald Cremers, lead product designer with HOK, “The Vivendi Collection strives to provide solutions that might reward patient experience by transforming healthcare facilities into a luxurious setting.”Although the Vivendi carpet tile collection was designed with healthcare in mind, it will also suit a myriad of high-performance commercial settings.

The carpets include soft linear, curvilinear, and grid designs (some with tip shear texture), bringing pattern to the foreground. The Vivendi patterns are subtle and layered, and were designed to create an environment of calm. The palette of 13 colors reinforces that same feeling of wellbeing. Cool metals, complementary neutrals, and natural woods influenced the palette.

Bottom line, hands-on professional designers brought the collection to life, and Mannington factored in high performance, backing choices, and sustainability traits. This example of the collaborative approach to product development has proven to be effective on many levels. It brings the best aesthetic creations to reality, combined with state-of-the-art manufacturing.

Surfaces 2013 provided an excellent opportunity to interview prominent designers from around the country to find out their thoughts on standout styles in commercial carpeting. Shaw Contract Carpet was mentioned more than once, and in particular, their carpet tile pattern “Dye Lab.”  This product brings a homey feel to commercial interiors, incorporating gradated tones of color within each tile.

Described by Shaw’s marketing group as “an amalgamation of color drawn from nature, merged with texture and technique,” this pattern is artistic in every sense.Shaw has reinterpreted ancient wash and dye techniques, while exploring the use of natural dyes. The result is varied and somewhat unpredictable. But the hallmark of this technique is that no two tiles are exactly alike! Fourteen deep, rich colors define “Dye Lab.”

Jack Noller Designs, based in Naples, Fla., specializes in country club design and hospitality work. Jack shared a recent design he created for Cypress Woods Golf and Country Club in Naples. He chose a commercial broadloom product from Tandus, in the pattern “Myrtle.” This high-performance carpet is made with Dynex solution dyed nylon in a tufted, tip-sheared construction. The stylized leaf pattern gave a luxurious, homey look to his commercial dining room design.

As senior designer on the project, Noller stated: “Specific architectural elements of the room needed to be complemented with a floor covering that would provide high interest and character--to balance the strong architectural features. At the same time, long-term performance and function needed to be a prime consideration.” The earth-drawn color palette provided calm but interesting colors to choose from in tone-on-tone combinations. The end result was a statement floor covering that added depth to his design.

Other preferred resources for Noller’s design firm include Milliken, J&J and Burtco for medium-range budgets, and Ulster for higher-range budgets. If you are not familiar with Ulster, this mill has seven decades of manufacturing experience. Headquartered in the UK, they have design offices in Ireland, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Ulster is noted for their collections of traditional, woven Axminster designs as well as their Wilton carpets. They cater to the specific design needs of the hospitality sector (ulstercarpets.com).

Two mega-trends in commercial carpeting are emerging. The first is carpet tiles being introduced in non-traditional sizes. Plank-shaped tiles provide a variety of options in patterning and achieve custom looks for commercial applications. Interface recently introduced “Urban Retreat,” an inspired collection of nine styles sorted into patterns that range from refined textures to broad organic forms. Interface had this to say about their new Urban collection: “With its natural, neutral color palette, Urban Retreat evokes the quiet sanctuary of an old-growth forest floor down to the occasional moss or lichen-covered stone.”(interfaceflor.com).

The second mega-trend is color choice beyond traditional palettes. We need to briefly mention Mannington Mills again, with their recent introduction of the “Connected” collection. Made up of four coordinating styles, two of the styles have an interesting twist that deserves some attention. “Social” and “Media” are both tip-sheared patterned loops made using 100% Antron Lumena Type 6.6 solution-dyed nylon. Both patterns feature a contemporary open-grid plaid with a specialty accent color. Here’s the twist: YOU get to choose that accent color.

Both styles share a color palette of 16 foundation colorways—all of them fresh and relevant to today’s commercial market. Add to that 30 color stripe options, and you have a collection that lends itself to customization. Designers love choices, especially when the manufacturer allows them to customize their design with a minimum of only 500 square yards.

Mills are investing millions in new machinery that can accomplish the vision of carpet designs with more sophisticated patterns, textures and constructions. What’s so impressive is the important shift from internal-only product development to a broader-based, collaborative effort.  Architects’ and designers’ voices are being heard loud and clear, and this has given a meaningful new dimension to the mills’ perspective. The bar has been raised in the caliber of commercial introductions, no doubt about it. The result is solution-driven carpet designs that happen to be some of the best we’ve seen in a long time.