An overview of industry insights into the soft flooring industry in 2015.

In 2015, FLOORS in Africa spoke with various prominent industry leaders to find out the latest information with regards to carpets and carpet tiles. We identified some of the key trends in 2015, and we are curious to see if these trends will set the tone for what can be expected in 2016.

VARYING COLOURS, SHAPES, PATTERNS & SIZES

In 2015, new trends were all about varying shapes and custom designs as far as carpet tiles were concerned. The aim was to offer a diverse choice of colour, structure and pattern, providing several creative possibilities that can transform the mood of an interior environment while defining a particular space.

Using the same geometric principles that have made modular carpet so adaptable and kept it inherently flexible, the goal was to come together to create limitless flooring layouts by offering rectangular carpet tiles.

The colours and textures of carpet tiles can be mixed and matched for a specific effect to suit current or proposed décor. Spaces are being delineated or demarcated through the creative use of pattern and colour, different materials or textures and different tile sizes or lay directions to produce striking décor effects on the floor.

Accent colours in contemporary shades were being used creatively either to differentiate zones or departments, or brighten up large expanses. Colours morphed from beige-brown bases towards the very versatile greys with highlight colours in bright pops of yellow, red, turquoise, green or blue and purple. Monochromatic schemes with plenty of contrast or tonal shading were also gaining popularity. Colours have to be cross-compatible, so that multiple colours can be combined into a single floor space.

The demand for colourful, animated and even personalised designs was a key trend in 2015 as green living became even more popular.

CARPET MANUFACTURING

In 2015 there was a definite trend towards softer tufted carpets as opposed to hard needlepunch ranges, combinations with other floor types such as mixing carpet tiles with LVT or artificial turf, and pops of accent colour to differentiate areas.

Modern tufting machines allow for precise colour placement in both modular and broadloom ranges, resulting in a finer, more attractive finish. The colour is specifically placed instead of hidden, allowing for more intricate patterns or design. This new tufting technology gives customer’s unlimited design potential in a softer finish, offering better pattern and colour definition.

Modern tufting technology also enables us to pattern in repeats that are suitable for modular manufacturing purposes. That translates into more design flexibility in modular carpeting with better colour and pattern definition.

Fresh decorating colours and surprising blends of textures are now the new modern interior trends that are transforming traditional dull spaces into colourful and versatile creations.

FOR THE SPECIFIER

In spite of exciting new textile floorcoverings that enter the market on a regular basis, the very basic principles for specifying a carpet/tile still apply today and will do for years to come. The selection of fibre type, texture, construction as well as colour and pattern needs to take into consideration the nature of traffic and the soiling that the finished floor will be subjected to. Equally important is professional installation and the implementation of an effective cleaning and maintenance routine.

It is highly recommended that specifiers make use of reputable manufacturers when considering soft floorcoverings for demanding end use in commercial installations. It is also equally important that specifiers not only consider the technical requirements of each installation, but also ensure that specified products have been recently tested and conform to applicable standards in terms of location grading, stability and VOC compliance.

2015 INSTALLATION TECHNIQUES

Carpet tiles are appreciated for the various directions they can be laid (monolithic, tessellated, ashlar, brick-lay or random) which can create different patterned effects. In 2015 carpet tiles of various sizes were being used to produce the fashionable herringbone or ‘chevron’ designs. Multi-directional installation using various tile sizes or combinations was also an innovative and unique development. Different pile heights or combinations of cut pile alternating with loop pile create patterns and textures were being used to add both texture and ‘rhythm’ to an interior by delineating it and creating smooth transitions between one area and the next.

In 2014 the international plank trend in carpet was being monitored with interest – read the follow-up article to see how this has progressed.

Irregular and non-traditional carpet tile modules also started to gain favour. This prompted companies to embrace innovative technologies to serve the demand for slender dimensioned, plank-like carpet tile modules. Slender modules allow designers to explore a number of new laying methods, such as fine-herringbone and basket-weave patterns, while bringing a definitive new dimension to current laying styles.

In 2015 flooring experts predicted that the industry could expect different shapes coming together to create limitless flooring layouts by offering rectangular carpet tiles and other shapes. Carpet tiles were also enjoying increasing market share when compared to other floorcoverings mainly because they offer great versatility and practicality in virtually any contrast application. They are also easy to install as they are small and manageable.

A TAKE ON 2016

Industry experts offer a fresh perspective on the above, identifying what has changed, what elements in the world of carpeting are becoming increasingly popular, and what the flooring sector can expect in the coming year.

VARYING COLOURS, SHAPES, PATTERNS AND SIZES

1.    What are the new trends regarding shapes and sizes in 2016?
Tufted carpet “plank” tiles are definitely a new trend in carpeted floor design, as are size combinations where different sizes such as 1m x 50m with 50 x 50 are being mixed together. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

Whereas colour has always been a major factor in a successful product range, new trends are all about varying shapes, sizes and custom designs as far as carpet tiles are concerned. The aim is to offer a diverse choice of colour, structure, pattern, shapes and sizes, offering several creative possibilities and plenty of mix and match options that can transform the mood of an interior environment while defining a particular space. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

The hexagon tile is also proving to be popular. This tile allows the architect to create different patterns as the tile can be used in a variety of installation designs. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

2.    What are the developments regarding rectangular tiles?
Long, rectangular and wider dimensions provide more pattern flexibility to create designs such as herringbone and chevron. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

The trend is to combine rectangular shapes with the more traditional square tiles and use different colours and styles to create a very interesting floor finish. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

The plank has become the new shape that the architects are using for installations, with some manufacturers having to provide off the shelf ranges. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

We foresee a great assortment of textures and colours in rectangular modules being brought forward by various manufacturers during the course of 2016. From a product design perspective, the rectangular shape allows manufacturers to showcase effects, textures and colourations which cannot otherwise be translated on conventional square tile modules with the same effect. Nicholas Nouwens, Engineer at MONN.

3.    What are the developments in colours and patterns?
Soft, dirty pastel shades such as salmon pink, dusty blues, and shades of grey are being incorporated into traditional colour schemes, with a move towards the vintage or aged look, similar to faded Persians or “tie-dyed” designs.

Patterns are less geometric or definitive graphics with indistinct, more subtle organic designs coming to the fore. For example, uniform pin-stripe linear designs have morphed into more broken, off-set “co-ordinates” in complementary shades. Smudges, abstract designs and “doodles” are also popular, while natural, organic textures and patterns that mimic earthy materials such as wood and marble are also making an appearance. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

Clients are looking for carpet tiles with brighter and stronger colours that are available in different patterns and pile constructions (loop-piles, cut-piles and tip-sheared). It’s all about providing different colour options in different constructions in smaller production batches and the ability to offer tailor-made or custom-made designs in different colours for those customers who have more unique tastes and preferences. Organic designs that can be laid multi-directional are also gaining popularity more recently. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

Colours for commercial installations are still predominately charcoal, black and grey tones. Patterns can vary from linear to creative patterns and motives. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

4.    Are colourful, animated and personalised designs still a key trend?
Loud, garish designs are more prevalent in certain hospitality installations, but colour placement with accent colours and subtle designs tend to dominate in commercial applications. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

The demand for colourful, animated and even personalised designs is most definitely on the increase. For example, the choice of colour can reflect any corporate identity, while style, texture and pattern can be used to create a range of moods. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

Made to order designs in varying colours are very popular in commercial installations. These designs are used to accentuate corporate image and to provide an environment that is on trend in terms of design and image. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

Colourful and animated designs, manufactured to the personalised requirements of the customer, will always be popular in certain markets, such as the hospitality industry. Recently, designers have started making increased use of colour, calling for diverse and custom-matched colourways to be used in their unique floor space. Nicholas Nouwens, Engineer at MONN.

CARPET MANUFACTURING

1.    What manufacturing trends will dominate in 2016?
Carpet tiles and patterned tufted tiles will dominate and grow this year. Customised carpeting, where various design elements ranging from the texture or construction to colour combinations or sizes can be manipulated, remain a popular favourite among designers. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

Increased flexibility with regards to colours, designs and pattern. Customers like to have a wide selection of products available to them and the option of custom-designed and multi-directional styles and colours in smaller quantities if and when required. Environmentally friendly manufacturing and the use of recycled and recyclable materials remain very important too. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

A trend will be towards specifying local product as the declining exchange rate makes imported products increasingly expensive. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

A very interesting trend which has started abroad is the use of printed tufted substrates in carpet tile products.  This manufacturing method moves carpet tile design away from the traditional, mostly linear patterns which have been available. Resulting products can feature a vast selection of colours brought together in practically any design, be it non-linear, organic or patchwork-like patterning, while maintaining a relatively simple pile construction. Nicholas Nouwens, Engineer at MONN.

2.    Are decorative colours and blends of textures still trending?
Colours are softer, more pastel – less luminous or bright – with less contrast, and tones of the same shade that fade into each other are fashionable at the moment. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

Colourful carpet tiles with different textures and styles such as patterned looped and textured looped are in this year. This is because people have different tastes and preferences; and so different textures and decorative colour variation offers customers freedom to match the décor. Carpet tiles are now being heavily mixed and matched with carpet planks to create innovative layouts. Designers are looking for unique carpet tile patterns, textures, shapes and designs to mix and match with colourful carpet planks. This trend has encouraged carpet manufactures to provide different designs that make a statement on the floor. Laminate and luxury vinyl tiles (LVTs) are also starting to be used together with carpet tiles, especially in passage ways, for both conventional and functionality reasons. This further enhances the practicality and design of the space. It’s all about playing around with different colours, layouts, textures and designs that transform a space. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

A popular choice among specifiers is still different textures, which are created through high low loop, cut loop pile and tip sheared technology. This creates product with varying textures which may or may not include yarns of various colours, adding interest and depth which will enhance the overall design of the space. Olivia Munchin, National Manager, at Nouwens Carpets.

A developing trend showcased by manufacturers in Europe looks at combining a number of different carpet tile products within a single installation while making use of only a single colourway. This allows a number of textures to be combined to not only create a dynamic floor space, but also satisfy the practical performance needs of the installation. Highly trafficked areas can be fitted with low, dense products and quiet areas within the floor space can make greater use of texture while sharing the same basic colour tone. Nicholas Nouwens, Engineer at MONN.

FOR THE SPECIFIER

1.    What principles are key when specifying carpets/tiles?
Performance, colour, ease of maintenance and GreenTag certification for maximum green building points are key. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

It is highly recommended that specifiers and clients make use of reputable manufacturers (with the relevant quality, BEE and green accreditations) when considering soft floorcoverings for demanding end use in commercial installations. This will ensure that any installation is backed up with a sound knowledge base and technical know-how, expertise and solid product guarantees & warranties. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

Colour is a very important consideration when choosing a carpet. The style of the area and the various decorative elements that are already in place, as well as the atmosphere you want to achieve are all important considerations. Style and texture is also very important. Many styles and textures are available to a potential carpet purchaser, but more often than not, a blind decision is made simply based on appearance and aesthetic appeal. Price and sustainability features are also often critical deciding factors. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

When specifying carpeting, whether modular carpet tiles or broadloom, it is vital that the product be backed by sound aftersales service and tested, certified performance credentials. Specifiers frequently place increased pressure on manufacturers to provide lower, competitive price points and often overlook the added value provided by experienced manufacturers who will vouch for the long-term performance of their product. Nicholas Nouwens, Engineer at MONN.

INSTALLATION TECHNIQUES

1.    What installation techniques will dominate 2016?
Mixing of different sizes and colour highlights within an installation, and herringbone designs. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

Carpet tiles can be colour, size and texture mixed and matched for a specific effect to suit current or proposed décor. Apart from their convenience, carpet tiles are also appreciated for their design versatility and the various directions of being able to lay them (monolithic, tessellated, ashlar, brick-lay or random), which can create different patterned effects. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

The use of colour and varying tile sizes will gain momentum. The use of drop-in tiles in varying colours is also a technique that remains popular. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

2.    Are irregular and non-traditional carpet tile modules gaining momentum?
Carpet tile offerings have improved tremendously over the years and are no longer plain and boring. Gone are the days where carpet tiles were available in a standard 50x50cm size only. Carpet tiles are now available in various sizes and shapes (50x50cm, 60x60cm, 100x100cm, 25x100cm and 50x100cm) and can be installed in various ways creating interesting and unique flooring layouts. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

Yes as the only way a product that has been in available for long period of time can evolve is by innovative colours and new design shapes that provide a new look. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

Rectangular carpet tiles have steadily gained favour in the local market, and are now offered by most local carpet manufacturers. Although many other irregular module shapes are available, it is important to consider the practicality of irregular modules, and how well these shapes will lend themselves to the requirements of an installation. Nicholas Nouwens, Engineer at MONN.

3.    Will different shapes of carpet tiles still be installed in 2016 to a greater degree?
This depends on the project, but more adventurous designers and corporates are always looking for something exciting and new. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

Definitely, this is a trend that is going to dominate even more in 2016. More and more new, unique shapes of carpet tiles will stand out on the floor and that is what designers and architects are looking for. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

They will be used; however the traditional shapes will still remain popular. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

4.    Are slender, plank-like carpet tile modules still trending?
They are only beginning to gain momentum now but I doubt they will replace the standard dimensions completely. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

Plank-like carpet tiles are easy to install and can offer exciting design flexibility on the floor. Many flooring companies are interested in having them available in different colours and textures, and they have been used successfully in various commercial spaces. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

They have gained popularity, but the traditional shapes are still being sold as a popular floor covering. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

The adoption of plank-like tiles has been steady, but is definitely still in its infancy.  As designers come to realise the design appeal and potential provided by plank tiles, we expect to see an increased demand for these products in the near future. In short, the local plank trend is more popular among manufacturers than we initially expected. Nicholas Nouwens, Engineer at MONN.

5.    Are carpet tiles still enjoying increased market share against other floorcoverings?
Modular carpet tiles, yes, due to their ever-changing innovations, ease of installation and ability to be combined with other flooring types such as vinyl or ceramics. Greg Barry, National Sales Manager at Belgotex Floors.

Carpet tiles are still enjoying increasing market share when compared to other floorcoverings mainly because they offer great versatility and practicality in virtually any contract application. Carpet tiles are also very easy to install and replace as they are small and manageable. Bernd De Smedt, Sales & Marketing Director at Van Dyck.

Yes, carpet tiles are still popular as an affordable option to create a vibrant commercial environment. Carpets aren’t just easy on the eye; they’re durable, hardwearing and practical. When it comes to installation, nothing beats the ease of carpeted tiles for customers who are in need of a flooring solution. Olivia Munchin, National Manager at Nouwens Carpets.

This is largely dependent on the application and end use of the product. In the commercial sector, the practicality provided by modular soft floor coverings remains unsurpassed. Nicholas Nouwens, Engineer at MONN.

Looking back at 2015, it becomes clear that trends ease their way into the industry, and while some gain more momentum than others, they all influence and inspire new designs and ideas, which in turn affect the rise of newer trends. Although we can look forward to a lot of new developments in the world of carpeting this year, it’s even more exciting to observe and reflect on the above mentioned trends and how they are interpreted by the end user, namely the end users.

Acknowledgement and thanks go to Greg Barry from Belgotex Floors, Olivia Munchin from Nouwens Carpets, Nicholas Nouwens from Nouwens Custom Weave and Bernd de Smedt from Van Dyck Carpets for the information contained in this article.