For its 26th edition this year, Coverings, the international tile and stone exhibition held annually in the U.S., filled the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, which is the second largest convention center in the country. The four-day exhibition ran from April 14 to 17, 2015 and was anticipated to be the largest since 2009, with an overall increase in square footage and the number of attendees. Approximately 23,000 visitors and 1,000 exhibitors were expected, and as TILE walked the crowded floors of the convention center each day, it was evident that show management’s predictions weren’t incorrect.

Aside from the hundreds of new products on display, the show featured an array of activities for every type of professional in the tile and stone industry — from live installation demonstrations and tours of the show floor to accredited seminars, ACT certifications and networking events. An impressive amount of distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors, specifiers, architectural and design professionals, builders and real estate developers, as well as journalists and media professionals, frequented the event each day. The show was sponsored by The Ceramic Tile Distributor Association (CTDA), Tile of Spain/Spanish Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER), Ceramics of Italy/Confindustria Ceramica, National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), and it was managed by National Trade Productions (NTP).

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New show features

This year, Coverings revamped its structure a bit — adding some new programs and unique features. To kick off the event, the show hosted a newly created “Opening Night Celebration,” where the traditional Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards were paired with a special reception the first night of the show, allowing attendees to meet the winners in a relaxed setting, while also enjoying an interactive showcase of the winning projects. The annual CID Awards, sponsored by TileLetter and Contemporary Stone & Tile Design, TILE’s sister publication, is a program in its fourth year that honors outstanding design and installation of tile and stone in residential, commercial, sustainable and international projects. A panel comprised of notable editors, leading designers, installation experts and representatives from Ceramics of Italy, the TCNA, Tile of Spain and NTCA evaluated nearly 150 submissions based on technical execution, unique material applications and overall design and purpose, and awarded high honors to those projects demonstrating spectacular tile and stone applications.

“The projects submitted in the 2015 CID Awards program once again represent some of the highest levels of skill and creativity in the tile and stone industry,” said Karin Fendrich, Coverings show director and COO of NTP. “Coverings congratulates and commends all the designers and installers from these winning projects for truly illustrating visionary designs and exacting installation techniques.”

Two extraordinary projects earned the title of Grand Prize — one for its exceptional use of stone materials and one for its exceptional use of tile materials. The stone Grand Prize was awarded to BAR Architects and Carnevale & Lohr for their work on The Film Archive and Preservation Center in Santa Clarita, CA. In the tile category, PROCON Consulting Architects, Inc., JPRA Architects and GSI Global Stone were awarded the Grand Prize for the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort in Honolulu, HI. Both winners received $2,000 and a one-night hotel stay in Orlando during Coverings.

Another new award program created this year, which was also part of the “Opening Night Celebration,” was the “Coverings Rock Stars,” which honored the best and brightest young talent in the tile and stone industry. According to the creators, the program underscores Coverings’ mission to support the growth and success of the industry by recognizing top-notch talent and fostering networking and educational opportunities. The inaugural 10 Rock Stars for 2015 included Phillip Belloff of VIP Stone & Tile; Adriano Clebes Caetano of Adraino Marble Productions & Installations; Ryan Fasan of P.A.T.T.I./Bellavita Tile; Matthew Karlin of Nemo Tile Co.; Fernando Lozano Assad of TCNA; Jairo Martinez of Crowe Custom Countertops, Inc.; Jill Muggleston of Walker Zanger; Eric Tetreault of EJT Contracting; Mathew Weiner of Westside Tile & Stone, Inc.; and Carrie Zahradnik of ITZEN Architects, Inc. In order to be a Rock Star, you must be 35 or younger and currently employed as an architect, designer, distributor, retailer, contractor/installer, fabricator, specifier or manufacturer; you can either be self-nominated or nominated by another individual within the industry.

Also new to this year’s lineup were “Appreciation Days” — specifically created to facilitate enhanced learning and networking opportunities for attendees. The Coverings Appreciation Days — “Builder & Remodeler Day,” “Architect & Designer Day,” “Contractor Days” and “Fabricator Day” — featured tailored guided tours of the show floor, lunch, focused education sessions and more. Most of the subjects of these days were present at one of the most popular features at the show — the Live Installation Demonstration Stage — which attracted dozens of attendees each day, and featured a range of free “how-to” demonstrations from well-known manufacturers on the latest products and how to properly use them. Sponsored by the TCNA and NTCA, this area offered attendees an up-close look at how top contracting professionals handle a variety of challenging tile installations.

Growing trends

Most importantly, Coverings 2015 showcased what’s currently trending in today’s market, which was apparent when walking through each of the manufacturers’ and distributors’ booths. The top trends have been growing in popularity over the last year, and it seems that they’re just starting to gain momentum in the U.S. market, according to all of the representatives that TILE spoke with at the show. Some of the best sellers, when it came to porcelain and ceramic tile, included the highly veined and textured wood- and stone-looks, which still remain the two most popular types of tile. Whether in a matte or polished finish, with a distressed or soft feel, these two looks are now available in countless patterns and colors, allowing homeowners an unlimited palette of designs to choose from.

One example of the wood-look aesthetic, which has been in high demand lately, can be seen in Mediterranea’s new Hammock Collection. The new product line embraces a more rustic, softer feel compared to the company’s Dream Collection, which has a more abstract and minimalist look. Available in four colors and one standard size, the new collection draws inspiration from the gentle tones of the beach, hence its name, and is produced in the company’s StonePeak factory in the U.S., according to Don Mariutto, Vice President of Marketing for Mediterranea. “The distressed, worn wood look is definitely still a popular trend we’re seeing, as well as the stone looks,” he said. “The Boardwalk Collection has been a sensation for us, although we launched it three years ago, so we’ve been working on some new things.” Because of the amount of success Mediterranea has had with its Boardwalk Collection, which incorporates more of the detail and texture in the wood than that of the Hammock series, Mariutto explained that they added some new wood- and stone-look lines this year, as well as some new sizes, such as 8 x 48 inches, to offer more of a variety for its customers.

A host of other companies — particularly in the Italian pavilion — introduced new collections that incorporated a range of wood looks, including Ascot’s Afterwalk Collection, which has a softer, more industrialized and brushed look; ABK Group’s Dolphin Collection, which is a highly veined and textured look that incorporates little bursts of colors throughout; Marazzi’s Preservation Collection, a unique collection that portrays the look of refined wood; Vitromex’s Navio Collection, an innovative collection inspired by liquors that incorporates a printed vintage deco; and Mirage’s Noon Collection, which embraces a textured, recycled wood-look, reverting “back to that natural look and feel of wood,” according to the company’s Area Manager, Josh Genovesi.

Another popular trend that was seen in almost every booth along the way was the stone-look, but more so in regard to marbles. While in the past, the stone-look aesthetic catered to a range of natural stone varieties, now tile manufacturers have started to narrow down their selection of offerings and have been focusing on one of the most desired options. And although there are a wide variety of marbles from countries all over the world and from all over the color spectrum, it seems that the most popular white varieties, such as Calacatta and Statuario, are becoming some of the most common options seen from manufacturers nowadays. Some new collections offering these looks include Interceramic’s Structura Collection, which has a striped, textured marble look, incorporating whites and blacks throughout; StonePeak’s Plane Collection, which incorporates 5- x 10-foot polished slabs and have a bookmatched Calacatta look; and Colorker’s Mythos Collection, which embraces a highly veined marble look with two different shades, and is produced using a technology that brings out the shine in the tile known as “granilla.”

Concrete was one of the newer trends that emerged on the show floor this year, particularly with a more worn industrialized look. Although it’s typically darker in color, TILE observed this look in a variety of colors, including lighter ones to portray more neutral looks in both ceramic and porcelain tiles. Tying into this trend was also a cement look, which incorporated a lot of different textures and patterns and was seen repeatedly throughout the show floor. A collection that really interpreted this look was Cemento from M S International, Inc. (MSI) — available in two sizes and a variety of colors. This collection also incorporates the trending hexagon shape to keep up with the current demands of the market, according to Emily Holle, creative director at MSI.

“At Coverings 2015, MSI launched its best ever new product introduction, and it was extremely well received by attending customers,” she said. “On the porcelain tile side, our customers feasted on the new styles, which were on trend, and ready for purchasing. Amongst those were cotto looks, stamped concrete looks, new wood planks including random width planks, and vein-cut travertine looks with multiple sizes. The visiting customers were not only impressed with the new looks, but the outstanding values.

“We remained busy throughout the show, found opportunity with many new customers and increased position with existing accounts,” Holle went on to say. “Our philosophy of bringing cutting edge, on trend products to the marketplace and making them ‘more affordable and more accessible’ was on display and appreciated by customers visiting us.”

Some other collections that embraced this look included Ragno’s Belle Harbor Collection, which has a mixed patterning of concrete looks and natural stone looks, and is available in three sizes and four colors; Crossville, Inc.’s Gotham Collection, which has a concrete look with a textured sheen, and is available in six different colors and four sizes; and Fondovalle’s new Portland 3.0 Collection, which embraces a very contemporary, neutral cement-inspired look and is offered in four colors and three sizes.

When it came to really fresh trends, hexagons proved to be quite popular, as well as metallic colors. Moreover, mosaics remained popular as well, but many collections now incorporate more metallic colors, sheens and decorative looks to keep up with the trendy aesthetics that today’s market demands. Tile manufacturers are also offering customization, allowing customers to choose interlocking patterns to create one cohesive design, textured 3D tiles and modular tiles. Today, the design possibilities in the tile industry are seemingly endless and offer something for every type of personality.

The next edition of Coverings is slated for April 18 to 21, 2016 in Chicago.