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Patricia Urquiola has revisited the good old herringbone parquet: “Biscuit Collection” for Margaritelli Italia. Photo © Tyler Loco
Flooring stories
by Uta Abendroth
1/19/2016

“Innovation is the key driver in our world,” comments Piero Lissoni. The organizers of the world’s leading trade fair for carpets and flooring could not have put it better than the Italian architect and designer, this year’s Special Guest at the Domotex in Hanover. With its novelties concept, the “Innovations@Domotex”, the leading fair for flooring, has for the last three years sought to show what carpets, wood flooring and design laminates can achieve and how they enrich both interior designs and the architecture. Chiared by Stefan Diez, each year a jury selects the most exciting innovations at the DOMOTEX. “The products aren’t always completely mature in visual terms,” the designer says, “but they’re definitely full of good ideas and interesting innovations. Floorings are increasingly grabbing people’s attention. And we as designers likewise discern their potential.” This year a total of 1,441 exhibitors from 59 different countries are presenting products in the Hanover trade-fair halls – from January 16-19. Despite the flash winter weather with heavy snow on the very first day of the fair, the Chairman of the Deutsche Messe Board, Dr. Jochen Köckler, was definitely happy with the initial figures: “We’ve started well, with more visitors flocking to the first day of the Domotex than last year.”

From the saw mill

Wood is one of the very oldest materials for floorings there are. While makers of laminates and designer parquets are working to create the perfect imitation of a wooden surface, the original material is experiencing a comeback. Solid wood floors have to possess a certain thickness and a good substructure if they are not to react to ambient humidity, expand or contract. Wood floorings also have to look natural and original. Which is why today the emphasis is on oiling not sealing them, as this preserves the material’s haptic qualities and makes it easier to repair damage. Precisely surfaces with floor boards with grooves, knot holes and irregularities and a country home look that seems to have just come from the saw mill are very much the rage.

Which is probably why Austrian makers Mafi proclaim: “Nature is the best designer”: from among 13 types of Central European wood they create flooring with brushed or sanded surfaces. The focus is on oiled boards with their natural color, or with a white or grey wash. “Domino Larch Vulcano” is a solid board made of end-grain blocks that give the floor immense stability. Thanks to the wood’s thermal treatment, almost every block has its own particular color, which makes for a lively surface and a vast array of possible combinations. Mafi natural wood floors are suitable for under-floor heating systems, with the boards laid using so-called “white glue” that has a vinegar base and is ecologically harmless. The floorings are only made on demand.

Patricia Urquiola has revisited the good old herringbone parquet. The Spaniard’s “Biscuit Collection” for Margaritelli Italia has a very feminine touch. The individual pieces of parquet are slender and rounded at the ends, which spells very lively visuals once laid. In addition, the surface is very slightly convex, complicated to make but pleasant to the touch.

Soft Wave

Another wood specialist: Kährs, founded in 1857 and busy adjusting its floorings to current design and color trends – to this end it collaborates with outside designers. At present, the Swedish firm is focusing on the color white. The growing demand, above all in Central Europe, has spawned two collections: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and “A Soft Wave”. After the wood has been brushed, white oil is spread across its open pores; the wood’s texture remains and you have bright boards with a rural feel. One of the Alvar Aalto designs has an even better story: About 25 years ago, the Finn designed a flooring for which birch veneer was stood vertically and then cut. As a result, the otherwise soft wood became duly resilient. Kährs also shows that companies are increasingly opting for other woods alongside classic oak: its “Domani Collection Druma” features visible tears and marks from planes, the tone verges on the grey and attests to an almost ancient sense of beauty.

Another material that has at long last shaken off its dusty image is cork. And it is now available processed in a new way, dyed and in part printed, giving rise to new, contemporary appearances. For the “Wicanders Artcomfort Reclaimed” collection by Portugal’s Amorim wood and stone decors are printed direct onto the cork using a high-grade procedure. One of the great advantages of cork: it’s a noise dampener, a “quiet” material. Moreover, it has prime thermal properties, and rooms with cork floors thus feel pleasantly warm and in fact the room temperature can actually be lowered in some cases by 2°C. This may not be decisive in a private home, but can definitely save costs in a hotel, for example. Another interesting product by the world market leader for cork flooring is its “Authentica” series in its “Vinylcomfort” collection. By reducing the vinyl coat, dispensing with a PVC backing and using a transparent foil that is a 0.55 mm wafer, the middle cork layer has become much ticker.

Inspired by fashion

Interior designers are increasingly focusing not only on wooden floors, but also on carpets, not least the especially soft, semi-natural or wholly natural versions not to mention those with more refined color concepts perfectly aligned to the design world. For example, Giulio Ridolfo, a color expert who has already worked with Vitra, Moroso, Fritz Hansen and Kvadrat, has revised Vorwerk’s existing “Fascination” collection: 85 percent of the 350 colors are now new. “It took us an entire two years,” explains the Italian designer, whose career started in the world of fashion. “We are surrounded by colors and they can actually define an entire epoch. The idea must be to capture the nuances and bring them to bear in carpets for any manner of situations and places.” The Vorwerk Atelier has also devised borders for the right carpets, as the trend (at least in Europe) is away from wall-to-wall carpeting. The borders are made of fabric or leather, boast one, two or three colors, and can be narrow or wide. These ‘frames’ draw on fashion for aesthetic inspiration and are eye-catchers than give the carpet a special character of its own. Moreover, there is also the "Selected Rugs" collection of carpets with borders that really highlight Vorwerk's philosophy of transforming floors into worlds in their own right, deploying them as active design elements in a particular space.

Balsan likewise prioritizes colors and fashionable patterns. The French company has teamed up here among others with “Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts” in Lyon. The students designed the “Dare Your Dreams Talents” collection, drawing on 160 Balsan colors. Rodolphe Ake, the only man on the team, estranged the classic houndstooth pattern and modernized it specially with pink accents.

As regards handmade carpets, the idea has always been to tell stories. Gardens and animals have been represented in handmade carpets, just as have symbolic, historical ornaments. Zollanvari’s lines, for example, include classic and modern designs, combining them in all manner of shapes: coarsely knotted Gabbehs or smoothly woven kilims. At the Domotex, the Zurich-based company with Iranian roots is displaying a modern collection from its “Kundan Pure Silk” line, inspired by skins and hides. The carpets are made in India from silk which absorbs color in a manner unlike that of the other yarns used for the carpet, which gives rise to a shimmering, textured effect. The carpets are hand-knotted in Rajasthan as a reaction to the US embargo on products from Iran, the imminent end to which is something the “ruggies” are really looking forward to as it will strongly change the business.

Story after story

The Rug Star label is renowned for daring designs and strong colors. The inspiration for its new and now almost restrained “Animal Collection”, created by designer and owner Jürgen Dahlmanns: 400-year-old Indian animal drawings. In total the Berlin-based company is fielding 400 new color and design versions: “A carpet creates spaces, defines passages, corridors and relaxation areas, emphasizes intimacy, and without a carpet something is always missing.” Once again, there’s a great story involved: Jürgen Dahlmanns tells how several times each month he visits friends with a carpet under his arm that he then stages in their apartment and photographs. The idea is that over the next two years a veritable documentation will thus arise showing how these textile artworks can round out a room. The book already has a title: “Intimacy Berlin”. And it is not simply a carpet lookbook, but a compendium that tells story after story.

www.domotex.de

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Patricia Urquiola has revisited the good old herringbone parquet: “Biscuit Collection” for Margaritelli Italia. Photo © Tyler Loco
Dont’t miss the hottest novelties – thanks to Innovations@DOMOTEX. Photo © Tyler Loco
Dont’t miss the hottest novelties – thanks to Innovations@DOMOTEX. Photo © Tyler Loco
“Nature is the best designer”: end-grain blocks flooring by Mafi. Photo © Tyler Loco
“Nature is the best designer”: end-grain blocks flooring by Mafi. Photo © Tyler Loco
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” and “A Soft Wave” are the names of the new parquets by Kährs – and set the color white in focus. Photo © Tyler Loco
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” and “A Soft Wave” are the names of the new parquets by Kährs – and set the color white in focus. Photo © Tyler Loco
“Innovation is the key driver in our world,” comments Piero Lissoni, Special Guest of the Innovations@DOMOTEX. Photo © Tyler Loco
“Innovation is the key driver in our world,” comments Piero Lissoni, Special Guest of the Innovations@DOMOTEX. Photo © Tyler Loco
One of the most attracting booths: Unilin. Photo © Tyler Loco
One of the most attracting booths: Unilin. Photo © Tyler Loco