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Floorings, in a quite different light: The Domotex in Hanover offers a cornucopia of innovations like the mats “Jimmy Noodle” by Real/Beaulieu International Group. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Floors to fit
by Martina Metzner
1/20/2015

Flooring can simply do so many more things that what we customarily get to see and feel most days. And anyone who traveled to Hanover last week, to the Domotex, the world’s largest trade fair for all kinds of flooring, was able to see this for themselves, in detail. A total of 1,323 exhibitors from 63 different countries were on the ground and during the first few days there was already a real crush as hordes of international visitors flocked to the fair.

One trade-fair highlight: the special Innovations@Domotex show that was curated by Stylepark. It brings that extra bit of dynamism to the fair, presenting a total of selected 70 novelties in three special zones, thus offering visitors an idea of just what exciting developments the sector has come up with. With his exhibition design for Innovations@Domotex Berlin-based architect André Schmidt did real justice to the different flooring worlds: He opted for large displays that resembled carpet rolls to showcase the textile and elastic flooring novelties in Hall 6; hard edges and sharp points then spotlight parquet and laminate floors in Hall 9; and in Hall 17 soft waves and threads garnished modern handmade carpets, reminiscent of weaving looms. At the same time, the great exhibition design also functions as a forum for talks and discussions, with experts debating the future of home living and building. The highlights of the fair were doubtless the lecture by British designer Ross Lovegrove and the guided tour round the fair with two design stars, Italy’s Roberto Palomba and Germany’s Stefan Diez. Palomba and Lovegrove, who both attended the Domotex for the first time, were visibly impressed, Lovegrove falling in love with Hossein Rezvani’s carpets and Roberto Palomba simply pleasurably stunned at seeing Jan Kath’s kilims.

Puzzling carpets

A visit to the Domotex soon lets precisely the topic of carpets appear in a quite different light. Clear-lined architecture and minimalist interiors could be the opportunity for textile floorings, as they are so very beneficial to the ambient atmosphere, for example as noise absorbers. The latter is a key factor influencing the working mood in open-plan offices in particular. But carpet flooring still has a tough time of it with sales dwindling in recent years. But why? There are any number of alternatives to anthracite or steel-blue fiber bond flooring for office premises, thanks, among other things, to new weaving types, exciting color combinations and carpet tiles that toy with geometric patterns and have little in common with those good old practical squares.

Take Fletco as a prime example of the range of design possibilities available. For the last two years the Danish company has worked with British product designer Sebastian Wrong and has developed an extensive collection consisting of five types of tile – and to great success. The hook: Fletco cuts the carpet tiles using a laser rather than punching them out. It may be more expensive, but it is far more precise a method, and gone are the days of those ugly fraying edges. Digitally printing carpet flooring is another highly innovative method which Fletco uses for its “Art Weave” collection that was chosen for Innovations@Domotex.

At Vorwerk “freeform tiles” have been part of the product line for a good seven years now. Following the collaboration with architect Hadi Teherani, Vorwerk has now given Werner Aisslinger a carte blanche and he simply started puzzling over things. The result: a collection that features four new Aisslinger freeform tiles. Moreover, the Berlin-based designer has invented a new carpet runner called “Elementary Shapes” – the runners are one meter wide and composed of six different basic geometric shapes and different colors. It was a good opportunity for Aisslinger, who quipped that he was so happy to not be designing yet another chair.

Greenways

“Scalino” by Tisca Tiara could bring a little more zest to carpets for the contract world: The Swiss have managed to combine different types of weave in a single surface. Meaning that patterns can be customized, which any architect will be glad to hear. And Tisca Tiara has responded with great sense to future resource bottlenecks constraining the customary polyester and polyamide yarns by creating flooring made of corn yarn. The collection is aptly called “Maize” as in amazing, is as abrasion-proof and easy to keep clean as its rivals, and it’s especially soft into the bargain.

The industry is prioritizing sustainability. Although there are great differences in how the term is understood. Companies such as Belgium’s Unilin (with brands such as “Pergo” and “Quick-Step”) have opened a new production plant in their home country to eliminate the lengthy cargo route from the Far East. Others such as the International Vinyl Company (likewise from Belgium) use wind-power to operate their production facilities. And then there are others who rely on recycled materials for their flooring. Such as Edel Tapijt from the Netherlands, who presented her “Majestic” floor covering in Hanover – made 100 percent from recycled materials.

In recent years, vinyl design floors have been a very popular and cost-effective alternative to parquet or laminate wooden floors, but hit the headlines because they are made of PVC and therefore include softeners. That is exactly what is special about the “Neo by Classen” flooring from Classen Holzkontor, which is wholly made of a novel bio-composite, which in turn is 50 percent polymer-clad wooden fibers and therefore requires no PVC and softeners.

A corking rediscovery

Another alternative to parquet, laminate wood and imitation wood designer floorings is – cork. Yes, cork! With dwindling interest in cork flooring, Granorte, a family-owned business in Portugal founded back in 1972, has gone down a new path, and now prints the flooring digitally. Meaning if you want it looks like wood! The advantage: The material is truly natural, and is a great sound absorber and insulator, as cork has any number of sealed air pockets. Granorte also supplies cork wall paneling and accessories.

If one thing is clear at the fair, then it is that the demand for wood looks still prevails. And that it’s a natural look people are after, with large knotholes and grains, bright pines and wide formats that resemble boards. Although you may find yourself rubbing your eyes in disbelief at what pretends to be wood and yet is not wood. The benefits of such products: the price and that they can be laid quickly as floating floors thanks to click fasteners. Added to which, the new laminate floorings are even waterproof. Unilin shows how: with its “Quick-Step”, which boasts a new seam that is likewise laminated and which the company says keeps the floor waterproof even in the butting seams. So you can now look forward to using faux-wood floors in your kitchen and bathroom too!

Walking on the moon with Jan Kath

While Halls 4-9 center on the world of products bought by the meter, products that have to square up to factors such as profitability, stability (and an added shot of design for good measure), in Halls 14-17 a completely different world of flooring awaits you: They are home to the floor as the bearer of good taste; there is many a modern variant on display alongside the traditional handmade carpets from the Orient and Far East.

And the “Who’s Who” of the industry is present: Jan Kath, Rug Star by Jürgen Dahlmanns, Mischioff, Zollanavari, Makalu and Hossein Rezvani, to mention but a few. And so are small, ambitious labels such as Floor to Heaven and Reuber Henning. All of them aspire to offer contemporary versions of the carpet and to skillfully present their efforts. This year, Jan Kath is cameoing a carpet series called “Billboard”, inspired by ad billboards along the interstates in Bangkok – and a carpet called “Moon” from his “Spacecrafted” collection, which boasts an image of the lunar surface. While there was a time when a traditional Persian carpet allowed you to think you were walking through the Garden of Eden, buy a Jan Kath and walk on the moon. Jürgen Dahlmanns, the sector’s enfant terrible, is championing photorealism: He has had a carpet knotted that resembles Albrecht Dürer’s engraving “Melencolia I”.

Kilim comeback

Especially impressive: the relief-like textures the designers are now giving their textile artworks. You can see and feel this, for example, at the booth of Austrian carpet creator Beate von Harten, who leaves long silk yarn strands hanging in her carpet, or at Amadi Carpets from Los Angeles, who have their carpets made in Afghanistan and leave entire areas unknotted or only woven. Alongside the handmade artworks it is above all the kilims, those flat-woven nomad carpets with their simple, geometric patterns, that are enjoying a comeback. For example, those dreamed up by Lila Valadan, a designer who is a native of Iran and whose creations (they come out on the Naziri label) picked up not one but two of the coveted “Carpet Design Awards”, the most important prize for handmade carpets.

In the domain of the carpet artists, tradition often gets combined with the modern world. The articles stand out for their amazing sense of beauty, their strong cultural and crafts links, and their sheer diversity. Needless to say, these artistic floorings can hardly be compared to the mass-made wares. But we can certainly learn one thing from them: Study things carefully, see how they feel underfoot, and remain inquisitive when it comes to the visuals, content and origins of floorings. Let the novelties floor you.

Fascinated by the modern handcrafted carpets: Ross Lovegrove and Roberto Palomba.
Photo © Adam Drobiec
Fletco uses for its “Art Weave” flooring collection digital printing carpet and laser cutting.
Photo © Adam Drobiec
Stefan Diez heads the jury of the Innovations@Domotex and visits the fair for the third time.
Photo © Adam Drobiec
Werner Aisslinger has puzzled the “Elementary Shapes” for Vorwerk. Photo © David von Becker
Different types of weave and finishing in a single surface: “Scalino” by Tisca Tiara.
Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Alternative to parquet, laminate or design floors: “Neo by Classen” flooring from Classen Holzkontor, made of a novel bio-composite. Photo © Adam Drobiec
Another alternative is cork, digital printed it looks like wood – for example “Vita” by Granorte. Photo © Adam Drobiec
Bright wood, large knotholes and grains – that is the trend! Photo © Adam Drobiec
Now for kitchen and bathroom too: the new laminate floorings “Quick-Step” by Unilin (on the right side) is also waterproof in the joints. Photo © Adam Drobiec
All about parquet and laminate: the Innovations@Domotex Area in Halle 9. Photo © Adam Drobiec
Lila Valadan, designer and owner of Naziri, has been awarded with the “Carpet Design Award”, category “Best Modern Deisgn Superior” for its kilim “Waves of color”. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Photorealism: Rug Star Jürgen Dahlmann has had a carpet knotted that resembles Albrecht Dürer’s engraving “Melencolia I”. Photo © Adam Drobiec
Jan Kath is cameoing “Billboard”, inspired by ad billboards along the interstates in Bangkok.
Photo © Adam Drobiec
The team behind Reuber Henning: Birgit Krah, Franziska und Thorsten Reuber.
Photo © Adam Drobiec

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