Residential color trends along with other home design trends continue to play a fundamental role in the flooring industry. These style elements are remaining consistent in some areas while rapidly changing in others, surprising even the industry experts who study these trends across all flooring categories.

“Colors are getting lighter,” stated Jeanette McCuaig, principal designer, Armstrong. “For example, the Benjamin Moore color of the year is ‘Simply White,’ so think whitewashed walls and rustic beams. And ‘Alabaster’ is the Sherwin Williams color of the year, so think less is more and neutrals to coincide with more restful colors.”

Shaw Floors’ senior stylist, Sandi Ownby agreed that the reemergence of white is evident in several design trends for the home. “White-on-white rooms are impactful, crisp and soothing. However, white is also used to effectively counterbalance bold use of color within the design scheme.”

Robert Langstaff, director of design, Metroflor, said the industry will be seeing both the use of dark and lighter colors to accentuate contrasting furniture finishes along with more use of one design, color or product to help unify living spaces. “The mid-tone and lighter colors are showing more popularity in part to the changing of times as well as the general directions trends are headed right now, which is migrating toward lighter, brighter interior spaces.”

Ownby added, “As important as white is, we are seeing several different style trends where color is being purposefully used. Pastels are softly being incorporated into sophisticated mid-century modern design and saturated colors like teal, coral and sauterne are working themselves into traditional and eclectic designs.”

A lot of accents go into tile for these reasons. Shelly Halbert, director of product design, Dal-Tile, said, “We’re seeing a lot of blue; blue is very strong in all different color waves but especially in the darker blues right now. However, we’re going to start seeing all different shades of blue between now and throughout 2017. Metallic is also very strong in all of the industries right now. We’re not only seeing warmer colors, but also a lot of warmer-colored accents.”

Beiges and browns are beginning to settle in as well as more neutral and natural tones, such as an unfinished or driftwood style. However, until those shades emerge and become strong color trends, grays continue to be extremely prevalent, as they appeal to both traditional and contemporary buyers, and are expected to do so throughout this year.

“What we’re really entrenched with from a color story right now is gray is still going to be the bulk of what we’re seeing today in home fashion,” said Joseph Amato, vice president of residential styling, Mannington Mills. “And these grays are showing up in all types of shades and values, both warm and cool. Naturally, it’s a fluent thing in furniture and cabinetry, but it’s really taken over in flooring, especially in a lot of the wood trends we’re seeing out there.”

Halbert added, “Grays are getting warmer overall—warm, dirty whites and earth tones are going to really start coming up again, especially in 2016. Beiges are coming back; we’re seeing it in Europe, but I think it’s going to take a little bit longer to work their way back to the U.S. market because grays are pretty popular right now. So while it may take a little bit for beiges to reemerge, they will definitely be coming back, especially in 2017.”

Armstrong’s design manager for hardwood and laminate, Sara Babinski, also mentioned how closely European trends trickle into the U.S. over time. “We have Armstrong reps all across the country, of course, as well as into Europe. We typically see a lot of the color trends start in Europe and then they migrate to the West Coast, which would include California and Canada. Most of the folks we work with in California are saying things are changing quite a bit and kind of quickly.”

Caroline Willie, director of product development and design, IVC US Floors, expressed her thoughts surrounding future trends and their influence on the consumer. “I think, in general, consumers are more aware of all kinds of styles that are around them because they’re influenced by social media, Pinterest and what have you, so they’re more in touch with their own sense of style. We’re seeing more mixed colors, especially with the warm colors and cooler tones together, which can be used in all scenarios and matched up with all kinds of different and really versatile colors.”

Changes in Design

“As people are gaining confidence in the economy, they are ready to update their living spaces and search for fresh new looks,” said Ownby. “In many cases, they have played it safe with neutrals for so long that the stronger use of color will be more evident. However, these bold colors will be used on items that are easily changed out—like paint, rugs and accessories.”

Langstaff added, “Wood grains continue to be the driving design for all flooring products. One of the big indicators of this is the increase of wood grains being offered in porcelain tile. We have gone from the standard, narrow strip oak floor to a wide range of species, widths and constructions. Multi-widths, finishes (hand rubbed, oiled, scraped, planned, wire brushed, fumed and flamed) and even reclaimed wood with original surfacing are widely available. Today’s consumer and designer now expect this wide range of designs.”

“The rustics, which have always been a big trend in the U.S., have become more and more sophisticated and I think that will be a continuing trend,” Willie stated. “The same goes for the reclaimed looks, which I also think is a kind of rustic look that will continue to be big for a while. Those designs also tie together with the mixed colors and the growing consumer demand for more interesting patterns and textures. Texture is so important and it’s not just important visually, but physically as well. People like to touch and feel the product.”

“What we’re seeing is surface texture and surface glosses change,” stated Amato. “So, hand-scraped from one or two years ago are becoming very subtle, while wire brushing is becoming more prevalent. Painting and sanding is becoming more popular again, so it has more of what I would call a vintage or hand-made surface texture with something unique to each product line. We’re also seeing gloss levels become very low, almost creating an oil rough or very matte finish on the surface as well.”

Top Trends in Residential for 2016

  • Lighter, warmer neutrals with purposeful use of color
  • Mixing colors and styles
  • Rustic and vintage looks
  • Neutral & natural
  • Texture
  • Large-format planks and tiles
  • Square tiles
  • Wall tile

Rectangular sizes in tile are set to remain popular, but square sizes are coming back. “We’re going to start seeing a lot of square sizes emerge back into the market—both small and large formats,” Halbert stated. “Wall tile is very strong right now. Over the last year and a half, wall tile has grown very quickly and now we’re seeing a lot of 3-D structures and very large sizes. We’re not seeing the floor/wall combination anymore but instead more standalone wall tile in 3-D shapes.”

One strong trend lately is what Babinski calls patchwork and mismatched. “It’s all about moving away from monolithic looks on the floor and into a lot of variations. We have so many customers that are taking three SKUs and mixing them together for a total randomization and variation of color.”

“The main thing for me is to help consumers and designers not just look at one SKU but look beyond that and use multiple SKUs in an installation,” she added.

McCuaig agrees with combining looks and thinking outside of the box. “For example, you can put vintage rustic feel on the floor and then combine it with contemporary décor. So it’s about mixing and playing with different colors, looks and decors.”

According to Ownby, design selections are very personal decisions and as unique as the people making them. “Although we track those choices, it is the shifting tide of opinions, culture and environmental influences that makes studying them interesting. Events such as the Olympics in Brazil, a presidential election or even a fictitious television show can change the mindset of consumers, and it is both challenging and intriguing to pursue these shifts.”

Tried-and-True Trends

Even as times change and trends evolve, there will always be those products that naturally stick with consumers.

“On the wood side, most of our sales continue to be in the traditional hardwood area,” said Babinski.

Langstaff noted, “The reclaimed, re-purposed or Industrial Heritage (Industrial Chic as it is called in the U.S.) is still a dominant trend for both residential and commercial markets. This look is not as rustic as it was five years ago, as it comes with more refined wood graining, less knots and rich, hand-rubbed finishes, driving the looks in natural and LVT products.”

McCuaig discussed a newer collection from Armstrong, including traditional designs inspired by nature that reflect a respect for wood and craftsmanship. “Three of the traditional designs are all walnut visuals but each have their own unique character. The traditional is definitely a part of our new collection.”

Willie believes neutrals and naturals will always be one of the more popular trends in terms of flooring. “It’s a floor we’re talking about so people tend to choose a classic pattern or a neutral design and then they can just decorate their whole house around that, which makes it a long-lasting thing. It’s just like that little black dress that you have in the back of your closet. I think what is remaining the same in terms of design and trends is just the basic, the natural and neutral designs and colors.”

Amato discussed the popularity surrounding rustic and contemporary looks. “These have been popular and are continuing to be popular. Consumers today are comfortable with mixing the two together but it’s because everything is evolving. Within each style things are changing and I think consumers are more comfortable with the mixing of both because each look is now established.”

Surprising Directions Trends May Take

“The choice of white selected as the Color of the Year by Shaw Floors and other color trend-driven companies was a surprise to many,” explained Ownby. “Perhaps some were expecting a bold offering of color, but white, in its seemingly quiet way, will impact design decisions throughout 2016.”

Halbert expressed how shocked she was to see how wall tile has taken over in the way it has. “Also shocking was influences of the past and how old is new again, such as the smaller sizes and the color influences, the handmade structures, hexagons—these are the kinds of things that people kind of acquaint with older, and they’re reemerging back into the trends, apparently. I was also surprised by the strength of concrete I saw at our latest show, but I think it’s probably because of all of the urban design and similar trends.”

While not a surprise, tile sizes also continue to get larger, Langstaff stated. “You see this in porcelain and will also begin to see this in LVT, just not quite as large. For porcelain, you see 18” x 36” to 4 x 10 ft., whereas for LVT, you will see more 16”x 32” or 18”x 18” square becoming popular. These sizes give the space a more current look.”

Texture also rules. “Texture is huge across all of our categories—wood and laminate,” expressed Babinski. “On the laminate and resilient side, it gives it a sense of realism when you have an accurate texture that reflects whatever the image is. The color aspect of it, the variation of color from plank to plank—right now that’s really the name of the game.”

Willie said technology plays a big part in design trends as well. “It’s all about the realism of your floor in LVT and sheet vinyl and truly evolving with the technology too, whether it’s texture or high-definition printing. If you think about the many improvements in printing technology, the results could be even more unique patterns that don’t reflect just what nature can provide. That’s going to be an interesting direction of trends to look at.”

Amato stated that designers are continuously striving for what’s next. “We’ve gotten to a point where sizes have gotten so big—is it going to continue to get bigger in format? Is it going to get smaller? We’ve actually been seeing plank woods go back to 2” and 3” mixed together with different textures and species so I’m starting to question have we peaked? Have we peaked with gray and these muted browns? We always try to ask when is something going to change, because we have to always be looking for what will be the next popular look.”

At the end of the day, the colors introduced along with the designs that are created all circle back to the consumer.

“I think color, design and everything all comes down to the people—it’s the people that truly make the color trends and the design trends,” Willie remarked. “It really is a group effort. Everything that we’re going to sell eventually comes out of a group of people wanting to buy these designs and it’s just so interesting to see, especially as things are changing and evolving. Maybe we, too, can set the bar alongside the changing technology.”