Tile Industry 2013: Primed for Recovery, Part 1
 
January 2nd, 2013

By Jeffrey Steele

The tile industry has been through a lot the past five years.  Just about anything that could go wrong did, from a mortgage meltdown to a horrific lending environment, from high jobless rates to depressed consumer confidence, from a decline in remodeling work to even bigger plunges in new home starts. But tile manufacturers, distributors and dealers that survived the tough times are now well positioned to benefit from the improving economic climate heralded by many observers.

According to Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants Inc.‘s Donato Pompo, citing findings from Catalina Research, ceramic tile is leading the floor covering sales recovery, as tile  manufacturers leverage the rebound in existing home sales and housing starts.

In the third quarter of 2012, U.S. ceramic tile sales are estimated to have grown by 9% in dollars and 9.2% in square feet.  This increase reflects an 11% increase in U.S. housing demand during 2012, led by a 28% increase in housing starts in the third quarter. Concomitantly, private non-residential construction spending rose by about 19%.

Thanks largely to improving designs in wood-look planks, glass, and stone looks, ceramic tile sales have outpaced those of overall floor coverings.  Ceramic tile is also more price competitive.  In the third quarter of 2012, overall average floor covering selling prices increased by an estimated 2.9%, while average ceramic tile manufacturer selling prices were level with the previous year.  The result is that ceramic tile accounted for 13.1% of total U.S. floor coverings manufacturer dollar sales and 12.9% of total square foot sales, up from 11.4% and 10.6%respectively in 2009.

“Ceramic tile is expected to continue to gain share in the U.S. floor coverings market in 2013, since builder purchases and commercial sales are leading the recovery,” Catalina Research states.  “Ceramic tile manufacturers and marketers will benefit from these trends, since this sector is more reliant on the builder and commercial markets than other floor coverings industry leaders.”

(Note: Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, Inc. is releasing the new updated Catalina Report on Ceramic Tile in December.  It is available from the organization’s website at www.CTaSC.com.)

Hopeful harbingers

New home construction posted strong numbers for the entirety of 2012, says Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

What’s more, it appears that 2013 will be a strong year for housing on a percentage basis.  Baker says 1 million housing starts could be registered in 2013.  Still, based on such factors as household formation, the potential is for 1.6 or 1.7 million new housing stars a year.  “So even with the strength of the housing in 2013, we’re still a few years away,” he says, suggesting it may be 2015 or 2016 before housing comes all the way back.

Baker predicts that based on the “good but not great” 2012 mid-single-digit growth, 2013 could see high-single-digit or low-double-digit growth in remodeling.  Commercial growth, which generally lags residential growth, will not be as robust.  “We’ve seen some softness in the commercial market over the fall,” he says.  “We foresee some growth in commercial, but not matching residential.  It will stay in the mid single digits.”

Tile should benefit from growth in all these areas, but Baker cautions that it is often viewed as an upper-end product.  “Now, with the crash we saw in house prices, we’re going to see a little less on the upper end of the market,” he adds.  “Most new homes built will pay a bit more attention to affordability.

“Design-build contractors are reporting they are not seeing the big projects they saw a few years ago.  Consumers are not doing the real major kitchen and bath remodels they did some years back.  They’re looking at [kitchen and bath remodeling] on a product-by-product basis, not a gut remodel basis.”

Overall, Baker says tile distributors should be guardedly optimistic.

“They should see a better year in 2013,” he predicts.  “But they need to track consumer needs a little better than they have in the past.”

Challenges and opportunities

For distributors, manufacturers and installers, the challenge is to manage their likely growth, even if it is slow growth, Pompo says. “Not having enough qualified employees can be worse than having too many, particularly if the quality of services, products or work suffers.”

Problems cost money, time and reputations.  The challenge is when to start hiring, and making sure time, money and effort is expended in training employees to be more effective.  The fastest way to increase sales, production and profit is through training employees so they will be more competent, productive and motivated, he asserts.  Today’s customers buy from providers they feel are the most knowledgeable, provide the most pertinent information, and demonstrate the greatest reliability.

“The opportunity today is the many online training resources such as CTDA Online that can provide instant 24-7 access to training to educate and help make salespeople more effective at their jobs, and to educate tile installers [in] the industry standards that will help them avoid costly failures,” he says.

Pompo stresses that a good, informative website is a necessity these days.  Well-designed websites that contain considerable information can generate significant numbers of leads and sales.  Today’s buyers are going to the Internet first to pre-qualify companies they want to visit, purchase from or call for a quote.  ”If the website isn’t informative or doesn’t show a wide variety of products, and if it isn’t easy to use, they will be gone in a flash,” he says.

“Remember that the website is a representation of your company, and you will be judged accordingly.  The Internet is a great tool for generating business, so the opportunity and challenge is for distributors, manufacturers and installers to utilize the Internet and make it the primary tool to generate business.”

 


FLORIM INTRODUCES “ECOWOOD”
 
December 28th, 2012

Florim USA has introduced Ecowood, a glazed porcelain tile produced using High Definition Graphic, to the North American marketplace. Ecowood is a rustic tile range replicating the inherent beauty of natural hardwood. Offered in five unique colors: Noce, Wenge, Rovere, Avorio, and Multi-Color, two size formats are available: 6”x24” pressed and 6”x36” rectified. Complementary Ecowood trim pieces 6”x12” cove-base, and 1”x6” corner pieces are included, as well.  The 6”x36” rectified format is a brand new size produced by Florim USA. Made in the USA, Ecowood has a Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (DCOF) rating of > 0.42; making it an ideal choice for nearly any application (residential/commercial; indoor/outdoor). Additionally, all Ecowood materials contain 40% recycled content. Projects which include Ecowood are eligible for LEED points. Florim USA will soon be introducing a 18″x36″ size format, providing the unique opportunity to cut and rectify longer size formats such as the new Ecowood 6″x36″ tile. www.florimusa.com

 


Redi Trench™
 
December 28th, 2012

Tile Redi®, manufacturer and marketer of pre-formed, one-piece shower pans and related accessories, now offers Redi Trench™…  the only linear drain system completely integrated into a leak-proof, mold-free shower pan. Designers have the choice of selecting either tile-in-grate or non-tile-able versions. Redi Trench offers an exciting marriage of design and function for the commercial construction sector, in particular for the hospitality industry; following ots introduction at the recent Kitchen & Bath Show it won the prestigious “Best of the Bath award.”  Redi Trench™ features offer endless design flexibility as  it can be used with any size Redi Base (30″–72”), plank pitched, molded-in trench. The Redi Trench™ is  plank pitched with a  molded-in trench that will accept any tile size. Additionally, it can be put in any trench location or any drain location with the option of specifying a tile-able or grate top. www.tileredi.com


Marketing Your Blog: Search Engine Optimization is Essential to Success
 
December 6th, 2012

By Kathleen Furore

Last July, Conestoga Tile, www.conestogatile.com,  launched a blog with one goal in mind: to educate its audience about all things tile. The challenge for this Hanover, Pa.-headquartered wholesale distributor was to engage homeowners, tile dealers, contractors, architects and designers alike—a diverse mix of consumers, all of them potential Conestoga clients.

“Because we have a wide audience, many of our blogs are on topics that everyone would be interested in and can benefit from. For example recent posts have been about understanding shade variation in tile, care and maintenance of tile and stone, effects of lighting on floors and walls and curbless showers. We try to post two blogs per week or eight each month,” Steve Vogel, the company’s executive vice president, explains. “Other blogs we post are supplier highlights and new product introductions. Recently, we started a blog series introducing people to the design consultants that work in our showroom. We will highlight one design consultant every month for the next year.”

To get the blog going, the company ran a few weeks of blog entries before announcing it to the tile world. “We wanted to have some content so visitors could get a good feel for what our blog was going to be on their first visit. Then we announced the blog through an email blast to our customers as well as through our monthly newsletter,” Vogel recalls. “The first month we had 63 visitors. Since then we have had a total of 700 different visitors, and many of them have returned each week to read more blogs.”

Vogel credits Facebook and Twitter promotions and the “From the Blog” feature in Conestoga’s monthly newsletter with the blog’s steady growth. “The writing is done is such a way that search engine words and phrases are used,” he adds. “The blog’s sole purpose is to create Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and drive people to our website. We review Google Analytics and see that people are finding us through Google searches and then moving on to our website. That’s what we want.”

Avoiding the Pitfalls

Vogel and the bloggers at Conestoga Tile have taken the necessary steps toward blog success. Many small business, however, don’t market their blogs in ways that beckon new visitors.

“It’s easy to build a blog, but hard to build a successful blog with significant traffic,” says Randy Fishkin, CEO of SEOMoz (www.seomoz.org), a Seattle-based developer of SEO software. “Blogging rarely takes off after the first few posts. It’s months, sometimes years of effort and dozens to hundreds of posts before the ROI from a blog can be seen. Because it’s such an intense effort with a long payoff, most businesses don’t invest or don’t invest properly, which means the few who do it well and get it right earn massively outsized rewards.”

Inadequate investment of time and resources is just one mistake newbie bloggers make, adds Susan Gunelius, President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. (www.keysplashcreative.com), and author of “Blogging All-in-One for Dummies” and other books about marketing, blogging, and social media.

“Once the blog has been launched, the biggest mistakes small businesses make are publishing content that is too self-promotional, not bothering to update the blog, and operating in a silo,” Gunelius says. “If you build it, they won’t come—you need to build relationships with your target audience on the sites where they already spend time before they’ll trust you enough to come to your blog.”

Trafiic-building Tips

Understanding Search Engine Optimization and doing all you can to make your blog’s content SEO-friendly is essential to marketing any small business blog.

“SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!” Fishkin explains. “Search engines are unique in that they provided targeted traffic—people looking for what you offer. Search engines are the roadways that make this happen. They are a massive opportunity for traffic, yet many bloggers ignore them, mostly because they don’t understand exactly how to tap into them.”

With that in mind, Fishkin and Gunelius offer the following marketing tips that can help boost traffic to your blog:

*Use Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to Share Posts & Find Connections. Register a personal account and a brand account at Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Use photos and compelling descriptions to make each profile as useful and credible as possible. Research shows profiles with more information have a significant correlation with more successful accounts. Connect with users with whom you share a personal or professional relationship, and start following industry luminaries, influencers and connectors. Services like FollowerWonk and FindPeopleonPlus can also help, Fishkin says.

*Install Analytics and Pay Attention to Results. Fishkin recommends installing the free Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics), which lets bloggers see where visits originate, which sources drive quality traffic and what others might be saying when they link over.

*Add Graphics, Photos and Illustrations (with link-back licensing). Uploading and hosting images, or using a service like Flickr to embed your images with licensing requirements on that site, creates another traffic source via Image Search. Letting others use the images legally in a way that benefits you is also a plus. Fishkin suggests posting a notice under your blog’s images saying re-using them is fine as long as the user links back to your post.

*Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts. A big part of showing up in search engines is targeting the terms and phrases prospective visitors are typing into a search engine. Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool can help. Enter words or phrases related to your product or service, and you’ll see related keywords.

*Guest Blog (and Accept the Guest Posts of Others). Guest blogging can spread your brand to people who have never seen your work. It also can be useful in earning early links and references back to your site, which will drive direct traffic and help your search engine rankings.

*Post Frequently. The more great content you publish, the more chances exist for people to find, talk about, and share your content. As Gunelius notes, “Google gives some preference to ‘fresh’ content, so a frequently updated site that’s not breaking any Google rules and is building incoming links to demonstrate its authority should rank higher in search results than a stagnant site.”
*Write Posts That Are Long Enough to Rank in Keyword Searches. While the best blog posts are relatively short, don’t make them too short to be ranked in search results. Gunelius says a good rule of thumb is to write posts that are at least 300 words, which gives you the opportunity to use your primary keyword twice without seeming like you’re keyword stuffing.
*Use Keywords in Blog Post Titles and Body. Whenever possible, include your target keyword or keyword phrase in the title of your blog post. Also try to use keywords in the body of your post as early as possible, particularly in the first paragraph.

*Write a Good Meta Description with Keywords. Search engines use meta descriptions to describe the web pages that appear in their results. A meta description should include your keywords as well as details about the content on the page the link will take visitors to. When search engine results list your blog post, prospective visitors will see the meta description, so it should be compelling enough to convince people to click the link that leads to the post.

*Link Internally and Externally. Try to link keyword phrases to your other relevant blog posts and pages. Make sure you don’t add too many links or your post could be flagged as spam. The accepted link to text ratio estimated by search engine optimization experts is one link for every 125 words, Gunelius notes. Linking to external blogs and websites later in your post is another way to show your blog is connected with high-quality websites.

For more tips about marketing your blog to boost traffic, visit www.seomoz.org/blog/21-tactics-to-increase-blog-traffic-2012 and weblogs.aboaut.com/od/marketinablog/u/GrowABlog.htm.


Tile Industry 2013: Primed for Recovery
 
November 29th, 2012

By Jeffrey Steele

Like many industries, tile has been through a lot the past five years. Just about anything that could go wrong did, from a mortgage meltdown to a horrific lending environment, from high jobless rates to depressed consumer confidence, from a decline in remodeling work to even bigger plunges in new home starts.

But those tile manufacturers, distributors and dealers that survived the tough times are now well positioned to benefit from the improving economic climate heralded by many observers. For many, it cannot come soon enough.

According to Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants Inc.‘s Donato Pompo, citing findings from Catalina Research, the primary source for ceramic tile industry data, ceramic tile is leading the floor covering sales recovery, as tile manufacturers leverage the rebound in existing home sales and housing starts.

In the third quarter of 2012, U..S. ceramic tile sales are estimated to have grown by nine percent in dollars and 9.2 percent in square feet. This increase reflects an 11 percent increase in U.S. housing demand during 2012, led by a 28 percent increase in housing starts in the third quarter. Concomitantly, private non-residential construction spending rose by about 19 percent.

Sales of ceramic tile have outpaced overall floor covering sales, due to manufacturers improving designs in wood-type planks, glass tile and stone looks.

Ceramic tile is also more price competitive. In the third quarter of 2012, overall average floor covering selling prices increased by an estimated 2.9 percent, while average ceramic tile manufacturer selling prices were level with the previous year. The result is that ceramic tile accounted for 13.1 percent of total U.S. floor coverings manufacturer dollar sales and 12.9 percent of total square foot sales, up from 11.4 percent and 10.6 percent respectively in 2009.

“Ceramic tile is expected to continue to gain share in the U.S. floor coverings market in 2013, since builder purchases and commercial sales are leading the recovery,” Catalina Research states. “Ceramic tile manufacturers and marketers will benefit from these trends, since this sector is more reliant on the builder and commercial markets than other floor coverings industry leaders.”

(Note: Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, Inc. is releasing the new updated Catalina Report on Ceramic Tile in December. It is available from the organization’s website at www.CTaSC.com.)


Hopeful harbingers

If one judges the coming year on the basis of the increases in new home construction, things could start really looking up for the tile industry.

It’s clear that new construction posted strong numbers for the entirety of 2012, says Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

What’s more, it appears that 2013 will be a strong year for housing on a percentage basis. Baker says 1 million housing starts could be registered in 2013. Still, based on such factors as household formation, the potential is for 1.6 or 1.7 million new housing stars a year. “So even with the strength of the housing in 2013, we’re still a few years away,” he says, suggesting it may be 2015 or 2016 before housing comes all the way back.

As for remodeling, Baker predicts that based on the “good but not great” 2012 mid-single-digit growth, 2013 could see high-single-digit or low-double-digit growth in remodeling. Commercial growth, which generally lags residential growth, will not be as robust, he believes. “We’ve seen some softness in the commercial market over the fall,” he says. “We foresee some growth in commercial, but not matching residential. It will stay in the mid single digits.”

Tile should benefit from growth in all these areas, but Baker cautions that it is often viewed as an upper-end product. “Now, with the crash we saw in house prices, we’re going to see a little less on the upper end of the market,” he adds. “Most new homes built will pay a bit more attention to affordability.

“Design-build contractors are reporting they are not seeing the big projects they saw a few years ago. Consumers are not doing the real major kitchen and bath remodels they did some years back. They’re looking at [kitchen and bath remodeling] on a product-by-product basis, not a gut remodel basis.”

Overall, Baker says tile distributors should be guardedly optimistic.

“They should see a better year in 2013,” he predicts. “But they need to track consumer needs a little better than they have in the past.”

Challenges and opportunities

For distributors, manufacturers and installers, the challenge in the year ahead is to manage their likely growth, even if it is slow growth, Pompo says.

“Not having enough qualified employees can be worse than having too many, particularly if the quality of services, products or work suffers,” he adds.

Problems can not only cost money, but productive time and reputations, he adds. The challenge is when to start hiring, and making sure time, money and effort is expended in training employees to be more effective. The fastest way to increase sales, production and profit is through training employees so they will be more competent, productive and motivated, he asserts. Today’s customers buy from providers they feel are the most knowledgeable, provide the most pertinent information, and demonstrate the greatest reliability.

“The opportunity today is the many online training resources such as CTDA Online that can provide instant 24-7 access to training to educate and help make salespeople more effective at their jobs, and to educate tile installers [in] the industry standards that will help them avoid costly failures,” he says.

Pompo stresses that a good, informative website is a necessity these days. Websites that are well designed and contain considerable information can generate significant numbers of leads and sales. Today’s buyers are going to the Internet first to pre-qualify companies they want to visit, purchase from or call for a quote. ”If the website isn’t informative or doesn’t show a wide variety of products, and if it isn’t easy to use, they will be gone in a flash,” he says.

“Remember that the website is a representation of your company, and you will be judged accordingly. The Internet is a great tool for generating business, so the opportunity and challenge is for distributors, manufacturers and installers to utilize the Internet and make it the primary tool to generate business.”

A technology crossroads

Also predicting growth for the tile industry is Mitch Dancik, chairman of the board of Cary, N.C.-based Dancik International, a 27-year-old, 44-employee software firm specializing in ceramic tile, flooring and natural stone products.

Dancik feels pent-up demand and money sitting on sidelines should profit ceramic manufacturers, distributors and dealers. Accustomed to lackluster recent years, they could see significant growth. “In general, through exposure to my clients, I believe an upward trend is going to start,” he says.

But in order to ensure the rising tide lifts their own boats, tile companies must grasp they are at a technology crossroads. “For the last five years, people have been delaying any technology investments,” Dancik says. “They have not been replacing their computer systems, and just been doing little things to augment their systems. There is going to be a real demographic change in their customers, so whether you’re selling to consumers, to contractors, dealers or distributors, all of those players are going through a technological change, and their expectations of their suppliers are going to be different.”

For years, software companies like Dancik’s have been hearing ceramic and stone distributors tell them, “You don’t know how technologically behind my customers are.” That, Dancik says, provided an excuse for them to go on sending paper invoices and operating in the traditional ways.

But as the years progress, contractors and dealers are being replaced by their daughters and sons, and very soon, a contractor will walk up to a distributor and expect more technology than the distributor can offer, Dancik asserts.

They will expect, for instance, to be able to place their orders from their mobile devices. They will expect to be able to track their orders from their devices, and also expect that all services short of fetching donuts will be handled over their iPhones as opposed to over the traditional counter.

“It’s not that the contractor is becoming a computer genius, it’s that the contractor is more interested in technology,” he says. “That contractor will be getting used to using an iPhone and iPad to access everything, and therefore will be expecting to access a distributor’s business that way too.

“To put it differently, a contractor will expect every buying experience to be like Amazon.com.”

Dancik acknowledges he is seeing distributors using iPads and other tablets, instead of bulkier laptops, and finding them being used in showroom and outside sales. “However, we’re not seeing that all the applications being used have been optimized for those tablets,” he adds. “At Dancik, we are involved heavily in optimizing all of our software for tablets and mobile devices.”

Many distributors, but not enough, have websites that display their marketing material. Some distributors already allow order entry and order tracking from their websites. And some distributors have started to allow mobile devices to access that information. “But the future is when all types of devices can access all of this information in a consistent manner,” Dancik says.

All tile distributors and manufacturers should be aware that there is a standard emerging for mobile access to information, and this standard is being developed by the Floor Covering B2B Organizations (www.fcb2b.org). In 2012, a universal stock check, or inventory, application was developed and demonstrated by J.J. Haynes & Company, Jaeckle Wholesale, Shaw Industries, Dancik International and Qfloors. What does that mean for tile distributors?

“What it means is that contractors and retailers will be able to access inventory and pricing information from all of their suppliers, using the same methods,” Dancik says. “In other words, they don’t have to download a separate app for every company. Future applications already scheduled for development include universal order application.”

The bottom line regarding the tech crossroads at which the industry has arrived is that there is both good news and sobering news for tile companies.

“The good news is the tile industry will make leaps forward in technology,” Dancik says. “But the sobering news is this is just to get us competitive with industries already using this technology.”

View from front lines

Tile manufacturers and distributors range from very optimistic to slightly upbeat bout the near future. At Lexington, Ky.’s Florida Tile, a manufacturer and distributor of mid- to high-end porcelain tile, director of quality assurance and technical service Dan Marvin reports the company has put two excellent years of growth in the books since 2010, averaging about 20 percent growth a year.

“We attribute that to a pickup in home building, and to enthusiasm for our products following a product revamp,” he reports. “In 2010, we introduced wood-look tiles that have really taken off in the market. [In 2013], it looks like home building is coming back, through not back to its best levels. A lot depends on the fiscal cliff and a number of economic factors that are still uncertain. We’ve been going through a budgeting process, and anticipate substantial growth.”

Not so optimistic, but not pessimistic, is Robert Henry Sr., chief executive officer of Robert F. Henry Tile Company of Montgomery, Ala. The 70-year-old company handles everything from inexpensive tile for rental buildings to highly decorative, $25-a-square-foot tile, and serves remodelers, home builders, commercial builders, tile installers and retail buyers.

Henry himself has been in the business for more than 60 years.

Residential construction has not been going gangbusters in his area, but substantial military, school and medical construction has taken place. “We work hard to develop that kind of business, starting with the architects,” Henry says. “The remodeling area has helped us a lot. Those projects involve upgrading the house, and people want higher quality, distinctive materials. Instead of plastic laminate backsplash, they want glass and decorative tile to make things more distinctive. In a number of cases, people waited to see what would happen, and nothing wonderful happened. So they said, ‘Let’s fix up our house.’”

Henry worries about what he believes will be rising costs of operating businesses, noting, “the medical care requirements for employees, those are real headwinds, and I believe they’ll discourage some new investment in buildings.”

Still, hope springs eternal, especially for one who’s seen many ups and downs since the early 1950s. Henry speaks for many when he says things seem to have stabilized. “With the sudden and swift decline in business, we had to lower our breakeven point, but we kept our marketing program and salespeople,” he says. “We feel things are slightly better, and we’re guardedly optimistic.” ###

SOURCES:

Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program
Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
617-495-8879

Mitch Dancik, chairman of the board
Dancik International, Cary, N.C.
919-379-3753

Robert Henry Sr., chief executive officer
Robert F. Henry Tile Co., Montgomery, AL
334-269-2518, ext. 357

Dan Marvin, director of quality assurance and technical service
Florida Tile, Lexington, KY
502-839-2044

Donato Pompo,
Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, Inc., Jamul, CA
619-669-2967


White Collection from Surfaces
 
November 20th, 2012

Miami-based Surfaces, Inc., one of America’s premier producers and suppliers of glass tile, has announced an incredibly unique glass wall tile series, the White Collection. With the refreshing look of an arctic glacier and the cleanliness of a fresh snowy landscape, the White Collection offers all of theses sensations in the whitest wall tile currently available in the market. “The White Collection was not only created to be beautiful, but to evoke a feeling of crisp, clean, coolness. It feels like you are surrounded by glaciers,” said Albert Clairmonte, President of Surfaces. The collection is available in four varieties: 12” x 12” sheets containing 36, 2”x2” chips, 12”x13” sheets of 1”x2” chips, 13”x12” sheets of varied sized chips, .5”x10” liners tiles, and 4”x10” tiles. To add to the aesthetic variation, the line is offered in multiple “icy” colors, including white brick and polar diamond.

www.surfaces.net


Florida Tile Introduces Natura HDP
 
November 20th, 2012

Originally from the Italian word natura, which means “natural”, Florida Tile’s Natura is exactly that. A modern interpretation of one of the most natural building blocks of civilization, wood. Organic in its wood grain, but thoroughly contemporary in its colorful design palate, Natura is the perfect marriage. This evolution of a wood has brought a true commercial vehicle that will perform technically and aesthetically in any environment. Available in 7 distinct colors, the NaturaHDP is created in a 6×24 plank with a slightly distressed wood grain surface. The graphic and texture are based on a traditional Oak plank, but the style has been refined to meet the demand of current interior design needs. Complimented by a 24” bullnose, the line boasts a color body with 40% recycled content and third party certification. The surface is compliant with the new ANSI DCOF Acutest requirements for surfaces (commercial or residential) expected to be walked upon when wet and the product has been tested for indoor air quality and water absorption.

www.floridatile.com


New Color from Marazzi
 
November 20th, 2012

Marazzi has introduced CITTA, a new line with an expansive color spectrum that ranges from the quietest of neutrals to very vibrant primaries, setting the stage for all-out personalized interior walls. The streamlined narrow rectangle shape immediately attracts attention as a wallscape material that is outside the norm. Architect and design professionals will relish this exciting new format that is such a welcome deviation from smaller, mundane wall tile sizes and shapes. The array of 14 colors contained in CITTA’s matte palette integrates smoothly with other elements in the Marazzi Architectural program, facilitating high levels of design flexibility. All feature accompanying bull nose trim, plus 12 are also available in three-dimensional decorative inserts that can either stand-alone or integrate with field tile to generate eye-catching patterns. Vertical or horizontal layouts – or a mixture of the two – are equally inventive. Single color expanses or the creative mixture of multiple colors offer infinitely intriguing possibilities. CITTA casts walls in a whole new light (or dark), seamlessly merging design statements from one plane to the next.

www.marazziarchitectural.com


Welcome Generations X and Y
 
November 14th, 2012

I’m just returning from Palm Springs and this year’s Total Solutions Plus. Initially, we were all a bit skeptical at the prospect of combining TCNA’s, CTDA’s, and NTCA’s fall events into a single event. But after three years of phenomenally successful events, I think it’s safe to conclude that it was a great idea. If you didn’t attend, I would strongly encourage you to get signed up for next year. And if you did attend, consider bringing additional members of your team next time. With the rich educational content, the event provides an excellent opportunity to train members of your sales team on topics ranging from thin tile to greenbuilding to a wide variety of installation demonstrations.

Attendees will also recall that I made a call for involving the next generation. When Connie Podesta, our keynote speaker, had everyone 35 and under raise their hands, I counted no more than a couple of dozen people in a room of 400. This is a problem. The long term health of our businesses and our industry will hinge on whether we make a smooth transition of leadership from the baby boomers to Generations X and Y. If we don’t bring the rising stars in our organizations to industry events like Total Solutions Plus and Coverings, how can we expect them to make the connections and get the education they need to lead our organizations in the future? Forward thinking businesses like Century Tile in Illinois and D&B Tile in Florida have consistently brought younger members of their leadership teams to industry events. Exposing the next generation to distributors, dealers, installers and manufacturers from around the country broadens their business perspective and provides them with peers to call upon when confronting challenges. Our young leaders also have the energy and passion to carry what they learn back to our organizations. Each year upon returning from TSP, we hold a series of trainings with our staff to convey the key information we learned. Who better to lead these trainings than your rising stars? Of course, we also want to make sure that we hold onto these young talents. By investing in their careers and continuing education, you communicate how much you value them.

The CTDA Board is transitioning to new leadership as well at the end of the year. Frank Donahue, of Best Tile, will be taking over the presidency. He brings a passion for our industry and our association that we will all benefit from. Frank’s agenda for the next couple of years centers on increasing active membership by engaging current members in our committees—the primary vehicle for action in our association—and by recruiting new members. While many industry associations are struggling to find their footing right now, the CTDA is experiencing a renaissance. Sound finances, great events, expanding membership, and dynamic leadership all ensure that the CTDA is a must for distributors.


One on One with Lynle Ellis of Lynle Ellis Design
 
November 12th, 2012

“With the recession, people still want their dream space, but now there’s a dollar value attached to it.”
by Jeffrey Steele

When Lynle Ellis was just a girl growing up in Connecticut, she already had the makings of a future interior designer. She was big on drawing layouts, and already had a very distinct idea of what she liked — and didn’t like.

“I started doing floor plans on my own at age 12,” she recalls.

“I looked at House and Garden magazine, and would do little pencil sketches of room layouts. I was big on sunken living rooms, and tower rooms.

“I couldn’t stand the Bermuda green tile I had in my bathroom. I knew from an early age I didn’t want to date a space.”

Years later, her many satisfied clients are delighted Ellis got an early start doing what she loved. She has been an interior designer since 1991, and has had her own design firm, San Diego-based Lynle Ellis Designs, since 1999, when she passed her NCIDQ (National Certification of Interior Design Qualification) exam and became a professional member of ASID.

Had she not become an interior designer, Ellis might have made a great philosopher, psychologist or commentator on human nature and the economy.

She is a shrewdly observant, honest and colorful interpreter of design trends, developments in tile, relationships between designers and their suppliers, and the psychology of consumer spending on home design.

As the housing industry, and by extension tile, continue long recoveries from the Great Recession, TileDealer reached out to Ellis for a candid examination of her interior design philosophies and how tile figures in the creation of beautiful and functional interior spaces.

She doesn’t disappoint, offering an entertaining and insightful dialogue on design trends for 2013, how the Green Movement impacts design, her biggest challenges as a designer, what she does and doesn’t want from tile vendors, and what’s ahead for tile, design and her own business.

TileDealer: Can you describe your design philosophy?

My design philosophy is pretty easy, and goes with my new tagline, “Inspiring interiors that enhance your well being.” Interior design is about creating a space that enhances who you are as a person.

To me, design is not just about designing a pretty space; it’s about creating a space that works for you and your family, so you have more joy and basic organization in your life. There’s a lot of function in my design.

My first question is how my client wants to feel when she re-enters her space. Some people need creativity and inspiration when they return home, others need peace and relaxation, or honestly anything in between.

That’ s what my design gives them, so they function well and get what they need to decompress from their outside world, be inspired, and be ready and refreshed for the next day. The space feels like who you are as a person.

TD: What do you see as the design trends for 2013, upscale or not?

I work all over San Diego County, and do one hour consultations all the way up to full home, remodel or reconstruction design. I see all economic levels, apartments to multimillion dollar homes, and everything in between. Design should be accessible. It’s not just for those who think, “Well, I can afford it.”

I see all walks of life. Here’s where I’m going, trend-wise, and how I design in general. Basically I mix different elements, contemporary with traditional, and balance masculine and feminine in a space. And that’s what the design trends are: it’s masculine-feminine, traditional-contemporary.

Even if I’m designing a traditional home, I will still incorporate a touch of whimsy, something unexpected, which might come in the form of super-modern tile on your fireplace, or a very contemporary lighting fixture. And then I always, always mix textures. That’s super important, and it’s not a trend. You always must have something coarse with something smooth, and something shiny with something dull. It’s the yin-yang of design and what makes a space unique.

A home can look too decorated, too perfect, and that’s where you have to mix it up, bringing a feminine touch into a mostly masculine home or vice versa.

You have to have that something unexpected.

TD: How does the green movement fit into your projects?

What I find with my clients is they will only take it up to a certain level. They’re not willing to sacrifice what they love for green design. They want green design to be something I think about, but it doesn’t have to be law.

There’s one thing I always do green, and that’s paint. I always do low-VOC paints, and luckily the paint companies have listened and now most of their standard paints are low VOC. What I’m doing right now is a project in the planning stages, where the client wanted green countertops. But on their own, they hadn’t found anything they liked. I introduced them to the recycled bottle countertops, and really cool stuff. It’s Vetrazo. It will create a beautiful countertop that color-wise I can pull the rest of the colors from. You have recycled blue, green and amber bottles, and that allows me to pull my color scheme for the cabinetry and the backsplash tile, making it a cohesive whole.

And that’s a big thing for me.

TD: What’s the biggest obstacle you face as a designer?

How honest do you want me to be? (LAUGHS) Truthfully, budget is the bottom line. With the recession, people still want their dream space, but now there’s a dollar value attached to it.

And that makes for a lot of compromising in the space within the design, and a lot of people are not happy with that.

They want what they are in love with, but have a budget for only what they like. What I do to balance that is have them tell me what they love the most, and we’ll work the budget around that. I don’t want people to sacrifice for a number figure. I can still give them a beautiful space around that one item they love.

Maybe it’s a chandelier they’re in love with, and I get in that by using a less expensive sofa manufacturer. That way, the focal point of the space is still the chandelier, and every time they walk in it makes them happy.

TD: What do you need from clients to produce a great design?

Open communication. It’s that simple. When I meet with a client initially, I want them to give me pictures from magazines of rooms they love and rooms they hate. That will give me sort of a vision into their brain. It’s really important they truly communicate with me. If I present them something they don’t like, which I seldom do, I want them to say, “Lynle, this is not working for us.”

So I will present them with different options. But I have to know. I would love to read their mind, but I can’t do that, so it’s as simple as that.

The other thing is trust. They need to trust they hired the best interior design for their needs. They need to trust that they did their homework at the beginning, so if they can’t visualize something, they know they can trust me as their interior designer, who can visualize it and know it’s exactly what they want.

TD: What do you expect from a distributor in terms of capabilities, delivery, and more?

What I’m looking for from them is the most current materials that are out there. I want to know what’s new and upcoming and exciting in tile design.

But I still want to keep my old favorites, the staples. I‘m not always going to design on trend. Because if you do, you end up with a dated design in 10 years. So I’m looking for my staples, [like] my beautiful pillow edged, glossy cream-colored tile. Don’t take it away from me! Because then I’m going to mix in your really on-trend copper or stainless steel liner. I’m really into metal now. It’s a lot easier to replace a liner down the road than it is your entire bathroom tile.

I’ll also do a beautiful natural stone floor mixed with some of those big 18-by 25-inch rectangular porcelain tiles on the walls. Again, the natural stone is timeless, and I’ll run that rectangular tile up the wall, and use the natural stone as an accent. So you have that traditional natural stone with the more contemporary rectangular tile.
With regards to delivery, I like to know estimated time of arrival. I’m trying to make a lot of elements work, a lot of pieces to the puzzle come together, and the field tile is the major component. I want to know when I’m getting my field tile, as well as when I’m getting my accent tile, so continual open communication between my vendors, suppliers and me is so important.

Let me know. If something is delayed, please pick up the phone and call me. If it is delayed, my clients and I need to discuss whether we will re-select, and if we don’t, how that delayed timing will affect the construction schedule.

TD: Would you advise distributors to change in the way they handle payment terms, becoming more flexible on terms, for instance?

I’m going to say no. I expect my clients to pay me upfront. That way, I have the cash in hand before I place any orders. I would not then expect my tile vendors to give me net 30, net 90 or net 120. I wouldn’t ask them to do that when I’m not giving my client those terms. You do need terms in retail, because you are attempting to sell merchandise before you pay bills. But this is different.

I’m an interior designer, and I’m not holding tile in a warehouse. I’m buying for a specific project, so I always pay cash up front.

TD: When is stone better than ceramic?

Stone is better than ceramic based on how high-end your project is going to be. There’s still an expectation in the high-end market that stone is going to be stone, and not something that looks like stone. There is still a stigma about porcelain looking like a natural material.

I understand it’s more durable. But in a multimillion home, the client is not going to expect to see 18-by-18-inch porcelain tile that looks like stone. They’re going to expect to see the real thing. In high-end homes, for floor, people still expect natural stone. But if it’s a family with kids, I’d recommend porcelain tile.

If you’re a mom and dad of three children six months to five years, you don’t want to worry about maintaining your floor. They’re going to draw on it, drop things on it, they’re kids. So the parents don’t want to have to worry about it. It’s the same thing in a home occupied by older people. I would recommend a ceramic or a porcelain tile, because I can guarantee the slip co-efficient.

TD: Do you see the tile industry rebounding, or will that take time?

It directly has to do with where our economy goes as a country. If it slips into another recession, it’s not going to rebound.

People are honestly tired of living on a tight budget. So they are doing more design. I have had more work in the past year than I had in the previous two years. I would say it’s mid-range rather than high-end. People are doing more renovations. Basically people were getting tired of being super-super thrifty. They wanted to feel that joy again that comes from doing some home projects once more. But if we slip into recession again, all bets are off.

TD: What’s ahead for you and Lynle Ellis Designs?

I’m a planner actually. I’m in the process of developing my own form of design show, where we may start with something just on YouTube.

I have a unique take on my design philosophy, and I want to share it with as many people as possible, so they see it’s not as hard as they might think to add joy to their home and their lives. ###

SOURCE:

Lynle Hawkins-Struble (identified here as Lynle Ellis to avoid confusion), owner
Lynle Ellis Designs, San Diego
619-497-1081

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