To cater to all individuals within the industry, Coverings, the largest global tile and stone exhibition in North America, changes its location each year. Usually, show organizers alternate the show’s venue — from sunny locations on the West Coast to others alike along the East Coast. However, for this year’s edition, organizers decided to veer from the norm and move up the East Coast to Chicago, IL, for the first time since 2009.

Held from April 18 to 21 at McCormick Place, located a couple of miles from downtown Chicago, the 27th edition of Coverings saw record-breaking numbers of attendance, with more than 1,100 exhibitors from over 40 countries. “The atmosphere at Coverings 2016 is extremely optimistic as the show makes its awaited return to the Chicago market,” said Alena Capra, Coverings Industry Ambassador, on the second day of the show. “Attendees from all segments of the tile and stone industry are finding great inspiration not only from the incredible array of innovative products and wide range of informative sessions, but also from the historically strong architectural roots of Chicago.”

Popular show features

Some annual features that were crowded with attendees throughout the four-day event included the Live Installation Demonstration stage, which featured about a dozen demonstrations from different manufacturers, organizations and associations each day; the Social Media Lounge, which held interactive sessions and a newly developed “Software Showcase;” as well as live certifications and demonstrations held by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF).

The Installation Design Showcase, a popular feature that highlights the work of four talented designers each year, held its seventh iteration at McCormick Place. Sponsored by The Home Depot, the Installation Design Showcase encompassed live-action demonstrations and installations by master installers, who ultimately created full-scale vignettes incorporating materials from industry-leading tile and stone manufacturers. This year’s vignettes — a retail boutique, spa lobby, clubhouse bar and lounge, and boutique hotel lobby — were completed by Alena Capra Designs and Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile Co.; Healing Environments and Trostrud Mosaic & Tile; FGM Architects and Welch Tile and Marble; and Architecture is Fun and Grazzini Brothers, respectively.

“The Installation Design Showcase is a unique collaborative process that encapsulates the full scope of a tile project from design and specification to installation — all executed in a compressed timeline,” said John Cox of Cox Stone & Tile, who served as Installation Design Showcase technical advisor. “The close collaboration between the design and installation professionals reiterates how integral the two professions are to ensuring the continued success of the tile and stone industry.”

New additions

In addition to the reputable events at Coverings, the new Chicago Mosaic School Workshops were swarming with attendees. These classes and workshops — created as additional interactive, educational events — were offered by rigorously trained art professionals who teach process, materials, and the techniques and skills in contemporary and classical mosaic arts.

Last year, when it was decided to combine the Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards with an “Opening Night Celebration,” the overall response surpassed all expectations. Thus, the event was continued this year, where 15 outstanding projects demonstrating spectacular craftsmanship and creativity in the use of tile and stone materials were honored, along with 10 newly appointed “Rock Stars.”

The Coverings Rock Stars, a celebratory program created last year to recognize the show’s emerging leaders, honored 10 new individuals for their achievements towards the continued betterment of the tile and stone industry. The 2016 recipients included Sean Cilona of Florida Tile, Andrea Contri of Confidustria Ceramica, Cameron DeMille of Easy Stone Care, Bradford Denny of Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Bill Griese of the TCNA, Julian Hernandez of JR Design and Contractor, Jason Holman of The Source Stone, Joseph Procida of Procida Tile, Paul Reiss of Artaic and Kate Sterling of Akdo.

“Coverings is honored to welcome the second class of influential young industry leaders into its Rock Stars program,” said Karin Fendrich, Coverings show director. “The future and continued success of the tile and stone industry is dependent on the many talents represented by this diverse group of professionals, and we look forward to the innovative ideas and leadership they will continue to share in the years ahead.”

Location is everything

Although Chicago is one of the main attractions in the Midwest, it’s a very busy city. For businessmen and women alike, this prevented some problems, especially when planning to attend the largest tile and stone exhibition in North America. When talking with some manufacturers at this year’s show, TILE learned that this year’s location was a big draw for many companies, but a deterrent for many others.

“Needless to say, Coverings is the largest and the most successful show in our industry, and it is a great opportunity to get together with industry professionals in a very effective way,” said Devrim Tas, general manager of Ege Seramik Foreign Trade Co. “It is a great environment where we get a valuable feedback from our existing and prospecting customers, but unfortunately, Chicago shows have always been slower than any other Coverings locations. From an exhibitor standpoint, paying very high bills for not so efficient labor is the most critical issue.

“We know as a fact that there are some manufacturers who prefer not to attend the show when it is organized in Chicago,” Tas went on to explain. “In spite of all these factors, we had the chance to meet our core partners during the show, so we are always excited to reserve our space for the next year’s show in Orlando.”

Other manufacturers piggybacked Tas’ comments, adding how the first day of the show was slower than usual, with not as many attendees. Some commented that it may have been a result of the show beginning on a Monday opposed to a Tuesday when it usually begins. However, as the days progressed, the show floor eventually filled up and different areas and booths began to amass larger crowds — proving benefical for all exhibitors who attended.

All in all, over the four-day exhibiton, new standards and policies were introduced, new individuals were recognized for their unparalleled efforts in the industry, and new trends emerged while others continued to grow. “The tile industry is evolving and introducing new material, and the place to see it all is Coverings,” said Capra. “Attracting thousands of architects, designers, builders, remodelers, distributors, retailers, installers, contractors and fabricators, this is truly a must-see show.”