Are We E-volving into Digitized Flat-World Consumers?
Did you know that the world is not flat? (Tell me something I didn’t know, right?) Well actually it’s way more than just round... Ancient greek philosophers like Aristotle, Eratosthenese and Pythagoras theorized that the world was a sphere and then centuries later explorers like Galileo and Magellan went out and proved them right. Navigating by the constellations above the horizon or seeing the round shadow of the earth during a lunar eclipse was ample proof that the earth was indeed not flat. “How does this tie into our modern day world of design?” you might ask. The world we live in today is round and yet many designers, consumers and hosts of companies who provide products for them treat the world as if it’s one dimensional. Look around you and consider all of the decisions you’re making based on a flat digital image. Our very tastes and behaviors are evolving towards what looks good on our Instagram accounts.
What looks good online doesn’t always look good in real life
As a professional interior designer who started my career 30 years ago, just before the internet became a thing, I have ALWAYS been drawn to textures that begged to be touched, memorable experiences that were intended be shared and artfully-layered interiors that beckoned me to sit for a while. Truly GREAT DESIGN, in my humble opinion, is steeped in art, science, architecture, culture and even a little bit of psychology. If done right, a well-designed space should invite the eye to come in, look around to find a focal point, experiencing the room in not only 3-D but by engaging the five senses.
Luxury Hardwood Flooring with “Good Sense”
With all of these thoughts in mind, take a little “Design Journey’ of your own through our newest collection of hardwood flooring, designed by an interior designer (yours truly), intended to be experienced by all five senses, and made to be a cut above everything else you’ll find in any big box store. Our hardwood flooring, like a luxury-performance vehicle, is not only beautiful, it demonstrates artisanal excellence that’s hand-crafted in the USA by an American hardwood flooring icon like my husband Don Finkell and his expert team who are passionate about what they do.
I am beyond thrilled to bring you luxurious hardwood flooring that, although is GORGEOUS, it performs well under a variety of conditions…whether it’s for a city dweller who sometimes spills a little coffee, or a dog-lover like me whose pooch splashes a little water or the busy family dashing out for a run or to tennis practice…bottom line, Emily Morrow Home is proof that beautiful design and great performance can be one and the same.
To borrow a fast food phrase, this season you can really “have it your way.” Do you want to use deeper, darker hues, or enjoy the ethereal effects of a layered off-white interior? Both are possible if you can’t decide.
Let’s say you’ve been eye-balling everything that pops up on social media feeds featuring navy blue or charcoal grey, but are afraid of being tied to that depth of hue. Do you think you might not want to live in so much darkness? Perhaps you’re imagining yourself coming into your home with the dreamy, creamy coolness and luxurious layers of off-whites and soft tans? That too is possible. In fact, you can do it all; it’s just a matter of balance – balance and a little smart strategy. The market certainly is offering endless options to consumers and providing tools making it easier to imagine via Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.
Just yesterday, I opened my Instagram feed to see several posts from paint companies, design firms, and furniture companies featuring headlines like “dark walls are amazing, especially when paired with a pop of brushed gold and a lot of natural light.” Usually, when anything is trending upward, people can get stuck in a wait-and-see mode until they start to see the various ways it can be done and they find one that seems familiar and doable for their own home.
Don’t Be Afraid of the DARK
When designing any category of flooring for upcoming trends, it goes without saying that we know quite well what colors homeowners are going to be drawn to and what they’ll be choosing for the new colors as they plan their updates. For me, it’s always fun to find a few surprises, and believe me, there are quite a few right now. One of the biggest surprises is that grey is still right in the mix. Seriously, since 2007 I’ve been pontificating about grey and eventually dealers started seeing the “value” of the color (if you’ll pardon the pun)…consumers were asking for it, and the dealers responded by buying pallets and rolls of grey flooring to fill consumers’ demand for something new, grey.
Whether it’s the Color Marketing Group (CMG), Pantone, Elle Décor, or House Beautiful, fashion and interior designers, design editors, and homeowners are still loving grey. It is making gradual changes and is finding new ways of entering spaces, either by undertones of other colors or by partnering with vibrant hues or extremely light neutrals. But no doubt about it, grey is still strong. Personal expression is going to be driving the trends – while they seem to be going in every different direction, the personalized element is the common thread.
My home is a petri dish
My own home has always been the best petri dish for anything going on in design, and I’ll admit that my paint colors have been grey since 2006 or 2007, starting with my Revere Pewter at both my former and my current homes. From our current home’s front door, which is “Bear Creek”, to our living room and keeping room, which are “Wrought Iron” and “Chelsea Grey”. What I love about grey is what the rest of the world loves about grey: it is so easy and looks smart. Whether your metallic finishes are oil-rubbed bronze, nickel, or the newest brushed gold, grey simply works. I know we will reach a day when we are ready to pitch it all out for something that is inconceivable today. I do remember when grey felt old and tired and we were drawn to warm colors like Hepplewhite Ivory and Adams Gold, circa the 1990s.
I think the best way to encapsulate our new color trends discussion is to start at the end of 2018, where we began to see and feel “Inhale” and “Release” from CMG, a creamy white associated with deep meditative cleansing breaths to minimize stress as well as open up smaller spaces, visually expanding them. Who wouldn’t love that? White isn’t the only option for a small space.
Then we turned the calendar page and leapt right into 2019 and discovered a new grey, City Grey, an internationally acclaimed dark neutral that is very dark, 70 percent black. Darker shades can play up the size and make it feel cozier. Dark colors blend and blur lines and corners much the same way they do in fashion and flatter practically everything that surrounds it. While we may have felt the “ahhhh” of the “Inhale and Release” in December, that was just to get us through the end of the year and ease us into the urban vibe and faster pace of 2019 with City Grey.
What’s new about this grey, you may ask? This has a little sheen to its finish, unlike the matte and muted greys. We are finding these greys influencing our other colors in the trends list. For example, our deep green certainly is deepened by black, and greyed pastels are tinted by lightening it with the addition of white.
According to CMG Contributors Judith van Vliet, Sandy Sampson, Mark Woodman, and Maryanne Cole, “Urban and urbane, City Grey is the look of color modernity. Originally emanating from CMG’s Asia Pacific 2017 color forecasts for 2019, its appeal is international, and its applications seemingly endless.
“Strong, decisive, and influential, City Grey is appealing as a neutral color that is anything but neutral. Its depth defines its bold stance, its contemporary attitude, and its decisive industrial edge. It connotes the foundation of the urban landscape, the hushed night as it falls over a city, and the fortitude of a cityscape.
“For interior, it casts a like attitude. Simple enough to coordinate with other aesthetics, City Grey is capable of standing on its own. As an accessory piece it takes on new substance; as a background, it demands to be seen; and in furnishings, flooring, textiles, and more, it creates an interior environment that comforts with its depth.”
The Dark Side
Overall, when you turn the pages of shelter magazines in the coming months, you’ll see deep, dark, not gloomy, but certainly dramatically dark receding walls, and mid-value darkish flooring accented with large-scale patterns in various pops of color in accessories. The deep greens we are seeing are akin to the hunter and pine greens of the late 1980s, as are the inky navy blues. The combination of the navy blue, hunter green, and a swath of black make Black Watch Plaid, which has made its presence known across various categories from runway fashion to interiors. Ralph Lauren elevates this trend well with the Black Watch Plaids from RL Home and RL Mens and Womenswear, as does Barbour for men, women, the home, and pets.
What does our industry do with this type of information? For starters, this information is applicable to your graphics, your logo, your brand imaging, and even your room scenes. And don’t forget that your retail and digital presence should reflect that you not only know the design trends but also know how to pair them with flooring. Your team should also be well-versed in the design and color trends so that they too can reflect your company well.
Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of EF Floors & Design LLC in Dalton, Georgia, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By, Emily Morrow Finkell Published in NWFA Wood Flooring Magazine FEBRUARY 1, 2019
I’ve been in the interior design profession for what feels like a lifetime (nearly 30 years) and in the floor covering industry for more than 15 years. After all that time, it still always takes me by surprise when someone I consider to be experienced asks a question about where they can install hardwood flooring or the type of flooring they should use in specific projects. Recently while traveling, our guide said something that was both profound and witty: “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”
What I strive to do for my customers, friends, and the greater design community is to identify what they need to know, pinpoint what they don’t, and help them fully understand. One of the ways I do this is through a presentation I frequently present at designer events titled NWFA: Designing with Wood Floors. The CEU-eligible presentation analyzes the use of wood flooring as an element of design so that design professionals can become more familiar with wood floors to properly specify the product that will perform best in their clients’ projects. Being able to understand the advantages and maintenance of hardwood floors is part of growing in understanding hardwood flooring.
Furthermore, it dives in deeper in helping designers understand both the history and progression of the different types and species of wood floors so that they can specify hardwood floors in the best ways. Finally, the course helps explain how cut affects both the appearance and performance of wood floors. This is where I take off my industry hat and put on my designer hat and compare hardwood in the same light as diamonds, where the cut, clarity, and color change the look and value of the materials with which you are working. Hardwood floors are an organic material that naturally responds to its environment and can change over time. It’s important that designers have realistic expectations in regards to its performance and can explain that to their clients.
The Royals loved herringbone flooring
Historically hardwood floors were only enjoyed by royals and upper-class individuals because it required intense labor by expert craftsmen who would work on one floor for years. This is why many of the castles you might visit on a trip throughout Europe will still have the original hardwood floors intact. During our trip to Normandy, France, every interior we walked through, both modern and historical, had intricate herringbone and parquetry designed hardwood flooring. This is due to both the ease and accessibility of the smaller size of the wood used by the craftsman as well as the fact that these herringbone and parquet designs were, and still are, incredibly long-wearing if maintained properly.
Currently, we have a very diversified market where we can install on a wood subfloor or concrete slab, opening up more and more homeowners to the possibility of having hardwood floors in their homes. Today’s preferences are for domestic species like white oak, maple, and hickory with waterborne finishes due to increasing EPA VOC regulations. It has reached the point now where it’s expected that the products will be GreenGuard certified, and don’t be surprised for the specifier to ask about the safety of the product.
The shift in the marketplace has gone from primarily solid and partially engineered to the reverse due to the versatility and dimensional stability of engineered hardwood floors. There are plusses and minuses of each, but the plusses are now stacked more strongly behind engineered. Most people want a certain look at a certain price, and engineered hardwood floors allow manufacturers to take a particular cut of hardwood that might come at a premium and make that the featured surface layer of their products. Both solid and engineered floors can be sanded and refinished, but solid offers the opportunity for more numerous times than engineered. The sandability of engineered hardwood floors depends on the thickness of the top veneer layer. Additionally, engineered can be installed above, on, or below grade. Because of its cross-ply construction, engineered floors are more dimensionally stable, allowing for installation on wood or concrete subfloors, which includes basements.
What are the NEWEST Colors and HOTTEST Finishes?
Beyond solid and engineered, the options shift to finishing, which includes site finished, where the finish is applied on the jobsite. The other option is factory finished, where the finish is applied at the manufacturing facility. The manufacturing environment for factory-finished products also allows for enhancements like UV lights on the finish line, as well as adding aluminum oxide for scratch-resistant surfaces. Another aspect of finishes is that the color possibilities are truly endless; there is something for everyone. The 2019 Essential Trends: Color and Style Forecast for hardwood floors was recently released in the October 2018 issue of Hardwood Floors and further details my thoughts on the colors to watch this year. Grays are still strong, taupes are on strong hence the Emily Morrow Home 2019 Color of the Year being named “Tusker Taupe” as well as gesso-plaster white effects as well as the other end of the spectrum with the luxurious deep black of “Total Eclipse” and dark chocolate “William & Mary” (pictured below).
Luxury hardwood is like diamonds
As in diamonds, the cut of hardwood dictates its appearance. In the 1800s, quartersawn was typically used due to both the fashion and function of the times. Today, many hardwood floors are made from plainsawn cut wood because it is a more efficient cut with less waste. In the design world, I frequently get requests for rift and quartered partially for its look as well as for its cache. Rift and quartered is more efficient today with minimal waste but has a longer production time, which does add to the expense of the product. See the graphics below for additional details on how the different types of cuts affect the appearance of the wood.
There’s Nothing Like the Real Thing
The performance of hardwood floors always comes as a surprise to non-industry persons. Hardwood is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs or loses moisture based on the surrounding environment, swelling when it gains moisture and shrinking when it loses moisture. Hardwood is a natural material and should be desired more for its natural imperfections than for its perfections. If cared for properly and in areas that aren’t exposed to moisture, hardwood flooring can be a lifetime investment that adds not only beauty but also value to your home. It is the only flooring category that is known for adding to the value of the home rather than adding to the cost, and that’s because it’s the real thing, not a copy of a wood look.
Caution: Having Hardwood floors Can Make you LOVE your Home More
The bottom line and the sweetest part of this flooring material is that its advantages and benefits far outweigh any negatives. It adds stability and overall value to the structure, provides excellent insulation, and is durable, long-lasting, hypoallergenic, beautiful, sustainable, and timeless, creating a sense of pride and enjoyment for a life well lived.
Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of EF Floors & Design LLC in Dalton, Georgia, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Here at Emily Morrow Home, we’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on our beautiful new hardwood products and our theme this year is “Design Journey.” If you find yourself in Las Vegas this coming week, please plan to come visit us in Booth #925 at Surfaces 2019! You won’t be disappointed in our gorgeous new products, unmatched craftsmanship and designer-inspired color palette.
Also, we’re very proud to announce that Emily Morrow Home is nominated for three Floor Covering Weekly Dealers’ Choice Awards. Visit ourCampaign Page for more information on how to post to our selfie “Snap and Give” campaign. For every selfie submitted Emily Morrow Home will be making a $3 donation to the Floor Covering Industry Foundation.
To find out more about what FCIF is doing for those in the flooring industry click here. Please #VoteEmily!
Emily Morrow Finkell knows floors. Finkell, a former interior decorator, is the founder and CEO of Emily Morrow Home. Her company is one of the leading purveyors of American hardwood flooring, and has a pulse on flooring trends around the world. With 30 years of experience, it’s no wonder she’s considered the authority when it comes to luxurious yet affordable hardwood floor design. NAFCD caught up with Finkell ahead of Domotex USA where she will be hosting a design panel and lunch during the show’s inaugural breakout sessions from 11:30 am to 1 pm on March 1.
NAFCD: What do you think is going to be a hot trend in flooring for 2019?
EMILY MORROW FINKELL: Thus far it’s looking like a beautiful year for Emily Morrow Home hardwood. It’s a definite advantage to be “geeked out” as a trend forecaster. One of the hottest 2019 trends is the “Maximalist” trend which I forecasted as a coming trend in an article for Floor Covering Weekly back in 2017, and also in a blog post following High Point Fall Market. Today, maximalism fuels the consumers’ desire for “more is more,” and fortunately we have products which are styled perfectly for this trend. How does this manifest itself in hardwood and interiors, you might ask? To boil it down to the most simple terms, we will see longer and wider planks, as well as more variety in how we are installing hardwood planks, such as herringbone or chevron. For us, we are addressing this hunger for “more” in our 2019 Winter Market EMH introductions: “Great Migration” and “Tusker” for example boasts a 9 inch wide format which coordinates effortlessly with our herringbone, all in a sliced face white oak.
NAFCD: What is one formerly popular trend you’ve seen go to the wayside, and why do you think that happened?
EMF: Truthfully, we are seeing the fading away of “reactive” looks which were pretty hot the last two years, but anytime I see something come onto the scene that is “trendy” instead of a lasting “trend,” I will let others follow that until it fizzles out, which is usually pretty quick. What I do think people liked about the “reactive” looks was the movement of color. What people did not like about it was the way the color never stayed the same, hence the name “reactive.” It’s funny how the one thing that can draw people in can also be the very thing they tire of quickly. I do think some manufacturers have produced looks that mimic “reactives” however again I think to the less trained eye, they’ll tend to stay away from the look.
NAFCD: What’s one trend you’d like to see make a comeback?
EMF: My FAVORITE trend that has actually made a come back is the use of warm metallics, like aged bronze and gold finishes in lighting and kitchen and bath hardware. In one swift move, changing from brushed nickel to gold hardware can make an immediate update to an otherwise stale space. There’s a nice tie-in to hardwood flooring as a result of the warming of metallics which we have conveniently addressed in our 2019 Emily Morrow Home introductions. “Lewis & Clark” is one of our newest styles which is our nod to the warming of the palette. It’s a golden tan white oak with a sweeping sophistication making it easy to warm up an interior that might be starting to feel too cool with an all gray and brushed steel palette.
NAFCD: Do you find trends vary from region, or are they typically pretty similar across major marketplaces?
EMF: Over the course of my career at Shaw as Director of Color, Style and Design, one of the things I enjoyed most was keeping up with how colors that were selling tended to move and shift both nationally and globally. Our team had created a map of the USA which showed the top selling colors and styles from top to bottom and updated it quarterly. Prior to the 2007 down turn in the economy, I would see more regional shifts in the colors and styles. Then the recession happened and everything stopped moving and basically shifted into the super safe “gray beige” world. Since the rebound and our “Trump-bump” we are beginning to see signs of more movement again geographically. One other aspect that has changed is I’ve observed a more rapid adoption of global trends here in the USA from abroad.
In 2017 another mega trend I reported on in some publications was the Hygge trend which in essence is all about “comfort” based on Scandinavian design influences. Imagine seeing a tidy basket of small kindling next to a sleek, contemporary fireplace, an oversized woolen throw and a cup of hot tea steaming next to the felted wool sofa or chair. The sense of comfort and simplicity of the materials is my briefest explanation of “Hygge,” and you’ll always find hardwood in a Hygge inspired room. What’s more nurturing that hardwood finishes and I am thrilled that eight of our 12 new introduction are “natural grade,” where we have sorted out the heavier character and knots, leaving a “clean” wood grain visual.
NAFCD: From a flooring perspective, are trends dictated by taste or by the accessibility of materials?
EMF: For sure yes on both taste and accessibility. Our tastes are improved as our horizons are broadened. The more of the world we see, the more options we realize that there are to have. With this in mind, once you’ve seen the floors of your dreams, you can then bring that dream to reality, as long as it’s attainably priced for your budget. We are seeing looks in various price points that enable consumers attainable luxury hardwood flooring when historically it might have been too labor intensive to install. We have already watched the shift in the marketplace from more solid hardwood floors to more engineered hardwood floors.
Of course there’s always going to be an exception to this rule in areas like the Northeast where we still see more solid hardwood floors due to how homes are constructed, homes with crawl spaces versus slab construction. With the shift towards engineered, we are enjoying a wider variety of wood species as well as more options of how we are finishing the products. With engineered hardwood manufacturers can use a thinner wear layer for the veneer making better use of “premium” materials and using the less premium (still hardwood) for the platform. Hopefully everyone is working with US made products so they’re not surprised with a paper thin wear layer that will immediately be punctured with someone’s Christian Loubitain high heels.
NAFCD: How do things like tariffs and/or the global economy affect trends?
EMF: where do I begin…I think this is question that is impacting us all. For me, I am fortunate that we are sourcing and manufacturing our products here in the USA and are not fearing for what is around the corner. I am thankful for this and don’t wish that worry on anyone.
NAFCD: Anything else you’d like to add?
EMF: I am so grateful that we’re going to be hosting Domotex USA in my home state of Georgia where we all enjoy immense pride in our floor covering industry. With friends all over the world, I am so thrilled that they’re coming to us so that we can shower them with our gracious Southern hospitality!
Storyboards are essential to the design process and help Emily Morrow Finkell transform inspirations into products.
They heard it before they saw it. For several days, Emily Morrow Finkell, CEO of Emily Morrow Home, waited to witness the “Masai Mara,” a migration of nearly two million wildebeest across Africa in search of greener plains and savannas. On the second to last day of her trip to Kenya this past August, while perched atop a safari jeep with husband Don Finkell, CEO of American OEM, cameras and scopes zoomed in, Morrow Finkell saw movement across a nearby river. They felt the wildebeest hooves echo like a rumble of thunder as they took off in a blur of color — a moment that would later serve as the chief source of inspiration behind Emily Morrow Home’s 2019 hardwood collection. For a short video clip of this experience, click this link “Emily Morrow Home’s Design Journey“.
“You can see the dust, the wildebeest, the zebras and other smaller animals all getting caught up in the herd as they’re migrating. They’re giving birth, they’re dying, there’s this whole circle of life story that was the biggest key for my products,” recalled Morrow Finkell. “Our products are natural and when you bring them into your home, you’re living on them, you’re experiencing important chapters of life with them. And they’ll last, they’ll be there for it all.”
Dalton, GA: The Emily Morrow Home collection for 2019 is twelve-SKU range of cooler browns and warmer grays, drawn from scenes Emily Morrow Finkell, CEO, observed of lion fur, zebra manes and the hides of rhinos, elephants and, of course, wildebeests. But her recent visit to Kenya isn’t the only story — a mixture of other memories and travels also appear in the upcoming collection.
For example, Paddock, a gray brown with subtle shading, ushers in sights from the Kentucky Derby. And, similar to that, Justify is a warm brown that mimics the Triple Crown-winning racehorse it’s titled after.
“The one thing I can’t not be is personal. Even when we have had designers and architects help with the inspiration, providing so much input into the products, colors or finishes, we work together on the naming process,” Morrow Finkell told FCW during a visit to Dalton. “There’s a reason behind why we do it. I think everyone likes to have a connection to a name. It makes it more memorable and we can immediately call to mind with our imagination the reasoning of the names.”
Each SKU is different, whether it comes down to an oil-rubbed look, a super dry low gloss, an ultra-micro bevel or a white plaster imitation. Yet despite the variability, there’s still some flexibility with the possibility of further customization.
“We find ourselves collaborating with a number of groups, such as for luxury high-rises, when there are times a project calls for something more unique or special to best fit that space,” said Morrow Finkell. “Everything is semi-customizable and we’re going to take that to the next level. That’s not to say that people won’t find exactly what they want with our original creations, but if our customers feel they need to make something more custom, we do have that design flexibility.”
One aspect that is the same across the collection is the addition of MorCore, which will give the floors an enhanced 3.55 mm wearlayer. The thicker platform, Morrow Finkell mentioned, is in response to designers asking for a little bit more when it came to the wearlayer, which is previously 2.5 mm thick. Both, however, also come with a “Donatella the Truffle Dog” scratch resistance.
For Morrow Finkell, the collection now has even more to love. With a greater durability, an increased width and length, and a higher impact resistance, Emily Morrow Home wood flooring can be used for both residential and commercial undertakings. In fact, the new white oak option in taupe, which features a smooth surface and is seven inches wide, is currently being installed with Apex Wood Floors for a commercial project to elevate a luxury appliance showroom in Chicago.
“Because our products are so incredibly well-made and constructed — all the way down to the wearlayer, warranty and finishes — they can go across all categories with no issues or hesitations at all,” explained Morrow Finkell.
Morrow Finkell also suspects there will be a few winners in the new collection of twelve, but she’s excited to see the market’s real response. For her, it’s about creating something fresh, but not something so new that people can’t embrace it and put it in their own homes.
Currently, advance previews of the collection are being shared with select customers across the U.S., but is set to be fully unveiled at the Carpet One winter convention in early January with Emily Morrow Home as a vendor to CCA Global Partners, then at TISE later that month and Domotex USA in February. The collection announcements will also include EMH’s 2019 Color of the Year.
Emily shares the Essential Trends in 2019…Color and Style Forecast with NWFA Magazine October 1st, 2018 issue. Read below for the entirety…
While it’s still 2018, those of us in product design and the development world are already living and working well into the 2019 calendar year. What, you may ask, does next year have in store for design trends, especially those that will impact our hardwood flooring choices? Here, I will share some very important and exciting insights that might just surprise you.
As someone who has not only professionally forecasted design trends and applied them into successfully selling collections, but has also practiced interior design for 30-plus years, I absolutely love this time of year when we start seeing product design shifts.
In my past life as Shaw’s Director of Color Style and Design for soft and hard surfaces, my scope had to be much broader. I had to focus on the aspects that all fit together so that the carpet colors and the hard surface colors would not only be trend forward, but also be salable. These colors had to have broad application across the United States, and that part has not changed one bit. It is that deep and wide background that enables me to successfully forecast well into the coming year with significant accuracy, knowing what’s essential for flooring collections that will be selling. Now that I’ve explained the groundwork, let’s dive into what we will see in 2019!
Many people ask me whether I think gray is staying or going away. My answer is based on the responses I have gotten when working with specifiers and designers, and looking at what finishes are going into projects a year from now. Gray is still with us, and still a very viable and necessary part of a product mix, perhaps even more so in hard-surface finishes like hardwood flooring. You also might see very colorful trend alerts from professional organizations like the Color Marketing Group, where pastel pinks, bright yellow golds, and blues are trending upward. There should be footnotes on these trend reports that spell out in fine print that these are accents and relate to broader product categories like apparel, interior accessories, cosmetics, and even automotive colors. That being said, these accents are like the colorful necktie on a stylish navy blue suit. The foundational color palette is what matters for us in the hard surface floor covering world.
Over the years, when speaking at design events and presenting trends, I have referred to the foundational color palette as “commitment colors,” indicating the big pieces of furniture, built-in cabinets, or other types of large surfaces that are not easily installed, replaced, or moved. This means that specifiers and end-users acknowledge that this surface color will be there for an average of five to seven years before it’s replaced. This space, this very myopic color palette, has been my primary focus recently.
The catalysts driving the foundational color palette currently are not just color-related, but also visuals and textures that are nature-derived and can be best described as aspirational luxury. Make note: This overview is what many would call the high-altitude view. You can expect to see marbles, granites, and limestones that are above and beyond your ordinary colors or names like Baltic Brown. The look is slightly more unique; the names and veining are a little on the exotic side. In general terms, these are names that most homeowners are not acquainted with, like Pietra Grigio or Nero Marquina. Aged travertines, Bianca Dolomite whites, gray-veined Carrara, and gray-gold veined Calacatta marbles, gray and black soapstones, and even gray poured-concrete slabs. Overall, this naturally derived color palette is generally cool; you will also see emerging warmth from luxurious onyx, Emperador Dark Marble and wood species like walnut.
2019 Color Forecast: Nature’s Neutrals
Black Eclipse: feeling more dark charcoal than a straight-out ebony black, Eclipse is just as the name implies, a shadowy black that works best in premium-quality hardwood where the grain is straighter, certainly no application on a rotary cut hardwood. Again like a shadow or an eclipse, there is no reflective quality to the darkness, simply matte darkness, velvety, if anything, in its appearance.
Emperador Dark Brown: Emperador Dark Marble is a rich brown marble that can change from slab to slab depending on how much and where the white veins run. Rich browns are on the horizon in hardwood flooring in the form of rich matte chocolate browns, especially in the walnut species. Walnut, in the right color family of brown, is and always will be timeless and salable. Walnut, although not as hard as other hardwoods, is making a strong showing in both commercial and residential interiors. Overall, one of walnut’s best attributes is that it can be mixed in with a variety of design styles and with a variety of other surfaces.
Bermuda Stone Gray: gray is enjoying a very long and successful life span. Since its first showing in 2007, gray continues to reign strong in every consumer goods category as a go-to neutral, backdrop blank-canvas type color, which bridges easily with other colors and also serves well in a wide range of design styles from mid-century modern to rustic farmhouse. Gray continues to become more and more refined as it evolves. Currently, grays have segued into that look and feel that is silvery, patinaed, and aged, yet smooth in texture.
French Limestone: The chicest hardwood color is in the same family as reclaimed French limestone. A quarried look and feel is the target texture. Not quite scraped, not quite wire-brushed, not quite chiseled, this actual color creates its warmth through the just right off-white with zero yellow, zero pink, just warm like the stone you’d see in an old château in France.
Sea Salt White: Speaking from recent experience of admiring the Bermuda sands on a recent trip, Sea Salt off-whites are akin to a mist with hints of color only from reflections of the surf and sand. Looking to find off-whites, you can certainly find the similar influences from my mega trend of plaster-gesso whites from 2017 and 2018. In keeping with gesso and plaster, Sea Salt is matte, and more importantly is not flat, nor opaque.
I look forward to the year ahead and hope that the Nature’s Neutralspalette explanations I’ve shared help clarify and define in your mind what is going to be the essence of 2019 design for wood.
Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of EF Floors & Design LLC in Dalton, Georgia, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published in NWFA Magazine August 1, 2017, Grown in Seconds: What Does it Mean for Hardwood Flooring? Emily Morrow Finkell
After nearly 30 years as an interior designer, one of my favorite things to do is mentor and see new design students and new graduates “get their wings” and begin working in the real world. One way I’ve been able to work with those coming into the design field has been at the university level where I have served as a judge for senior design projects. On a recent project, one of the project prerequisites was that the students specify finishes and materials that were either recycled, rapidly renewable, or reclaimed.
In the competition, all but one student included flooring that was either bamboo or reclaimed material. Those students all received words of praise from the panel of judges and the professor. I withheld any negative remarks until I was completely surprised to hear one student be reprimanded, nearly ridiculed, by the professor for specifying hardwood flooring that was made in the U.S. for her project.
I was happy to offer the student encouragement and supporting data that she, in fact, had chosen well with her flooring. I also recommended that she and the others should visit the NWFA.org and woodfloors.org websites to find more information on the subject. This occasion occurred on the heels of having given multiple CEU-eligible presentations on “Sustainable Floorcovering,” so fortunately, I had the most recent data memorized. Specifically, the fact that U.S. forests are regrowing faster than they are being harvested. To which the professor retorted that these trees are probably not the same quality as those that had been taken already and that we should leave the forests alone.
Although I’ve told this particular story several times, it bears retelling as it is indicative of the misguided and misinformed, although well-intentioned, professionals who believe using bamboo (or another wood-lookalike substitute) over hardwood floors is better for the environment.
Let us take this as a cue that we all have a responsibility to share useful information whenever and however possible. With that in mind, I wanted to share information I recently learned at the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association’s (HPVA) annual meeting in Vancouver.
The presentation was given by Mike Snow from The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and was titled “Grown in Seconds.” The simple message is this: it only takes seconds for the hardwood used in a project to grow back in the U.S. AHEC’s website, growninseconds.org, features straightforward and compelling data as well as graphics to support their message.
For example, the site states the amount of carbon stored, the carbon footprint, and the volume used per species. There are so many reasons to love U.S. hardwood, certainly for its beauty and overall variety in aesthetics, but add to that the knowledge that it comes from forests that are vast and diverse. Most importantly, these forests are “replenished by natural regeneration and harvested selectively.” Their research has clearly established that U.S. hardwood is a low carbon material and “as they grow, trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere, storing carbon while growing, when harvested, and after being manufactured into products.” The group’s collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service Inventory and Analysis program enables them to know the rate that American timber grows, as well as how quickly it’s replaced by species in states and counties all across the U.S.
Having grown up in a family that comes from a long line of builders going back three generations, I’ve always been keenly aware of the sweet smell of freshly cut wood and newly bulldozed earth that go back to my earliest memories of checking on all the job sites with my dad before or after school. Going even deeper for a moment into sensory memories, the kinesthetic experience gets even better for me as an interior designer as wood cabinets, hardwood floors, walls, or ceilings are being installed. The scent of wood is exceptional and unlike anything else, certainly better to breathe in than the smell of synthetic materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC). For reasons that are sensory, kinesthetic, cerebral, and emotional, I am certain we will continue to see hardwood flooring and hardwood materials as a whole continue to remain a major player in the interiors industry.
Sometimes it is difficult to explain logically why one material is preferred over another, especially when there may be less-expensive and more easily obtained materials at every corner big box store to compete with. Logical, rational thinking can also sometimes dovetail nicely with very important factors when putting together a design project, and in the case of hardwood grown in seconds, it’s easy to justify why we love wood. Wood is naturally beautiful, and unlike the wood-look substitutes, its authenticity is immediately apparent to four of the five senses: touch, sight, smell, and sound.
Whether it be an architect, a design professional, a builder, or a homeowner who wants to be set apart from the pack, choosing quality materials that last and look not just good enough, but superior to the alternatives, makes hardwood a winner every time.
Let’s take our opportunities with students, interns, co-ops, newly hired sales people, or even our friends and family to share this incredibly important information about our forests and hardwood as a whole. Imagine seeing a forest replenishing itself even more quickly than the gorgeous hardwood floor going into your project.
Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of EF Floors & Design, LLC in Dalton, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and NWFA design contributor.
As we look forward to 2018 trends, the themes of personalization and storytelling still remain prevalent as consumers work to weed through all of the static and noise on social media—to find people and brands that allow them to authentically connect. When we look at the positioning and language that major brands use in their marketing materials, it’s difficult to feel like a real person is behind the scenes. I’m oftentimes left wondering, “Does this brand really care about me, my family and my needs?”
Because of the barrage of information, promises and claims in the digital realm, in particular, consumers are wondering who they can really trust. Research from Mashable.comshows us that Millennials are 50% more likely to trust user-generated content, because the stories are told by actual people with real lives. Trust is built with transparency and authenticity- the reassurance that this brand has invested in the time to really get me.
After thirteen years as the director of color, style and design for Shaw Floors carpet and hard surface, I had time to really reflect on what the consumer wanted in her home. Countless designer summits, conversations with industry colleagues and deep dives into industry data shaped my perspective. And two years ago when the time felt right to begin my own endeavor, Emily Morrow HOME, I knew that a personalized story had to be the heartbeat. Never having pursued anything half-heartedly, I knew this endeavor was especially important. This step was the beginning to a saga which involved all that I cherish…faith, family, design, travel and connecting these seemingly disparate parts into beautiful products for the home.
My life is a quilt that’s pieced from a beautiful combination of my commitment to family, a rich Dalton-based heritage, a lifetime in the design industry, a love of travel, an appreciation for culture—and the list goes on and on. The components that make up my perspective and my story are unique… every board and plank from the Emily Morrow HOME collection represents my viewpoint. The marketing materials are designed to communicate my personal experiences with vibrant visuals and rich story-based content, engaging the senses and evoking emotions that connect on a very human level. My products are made for and by the discerning luxury female consumer, and my story sets the brand apart from the brushed metal logo to the dramatic photography. When the story is your life and your love, it doesn’t get more authentic than that, and the consumer instantly connects.
As we all look forward to a fruitful and successful 2018, I beg the question, “What is your story?” When in the market for flooring, she is faced with so much noise. With so many brands and retailers fighting for her attention, ask yourself how you set your business apart to build trust by telling your own unique story in the marketplace. Decide how your unique life experiences magnify themselves into brand attributes that build affinity for your brand versus the competitor. Once you’ve written this story, brainstorm how to communicate it through your website, social media, video and in your community.
Another piece of my quilt is that I’m a breast cancer survivor. Supporting the cause through the Kiker Morrow Finkell Breast Cancer Foundation has become cornerstone to my business philosophy and goals. Not only is it an important cause, but it gives me a platform to tell my story- while connecting with others. In 2018, just be your authentic self—because today’s seasoned and savvy consumer expects it.
For NWFA Magazine: July 31, 2018: Look around you right now where you are sitting or standing and see if you can spot a “cloth shopping bag”, a collection of used aluminum cans or a reusable water bottle. Look a little harder, perhaps around your home, and you’re likely to see evidence of “sustainability”…or what someone thinks “sustainability” involves. Not to suggest that today’s newest consumers don’t know or understand “sustainability”, it’s merely to suggest the opposite, that WE don’t understand the “new” definition. It has expanded and evolved since the early days of the “Cradle to Cradle” discussions in the design world as well as our floor covering industry. Today it includes carbon footprint, “farm to table” and even checking hidden labels to see the country of origin where our products are sourced and manufactured.
Next, consider how frequently you’ve seen headlines or heard references made to the millennials generation. It’s known as the next frontier for brands who seek to connect with their spending power. According to recent statistics, millennials spend approximately $200 billion in 2017 and studies have revealed their willingness to spend on “sustainable” brands. According to an op-ed article in Business of Fashion and the State of Fashion report by B of F & McKinsey, “nearly 90 percent believe they will help create more sustainable products by convincing businesses and governments to change existing practices…and would be willing to boycott a fashion brand if it was not sustainable.” What this means in our floor covering industry is not yet known but we should certainly be paying attention. Not only are they our future consumers and homeowners, they are our future work force, employees and business leaders.
Today we have emerging professionalscoming into the work force with multiple degrees, motivated to live differently from their parents who are less motivated by wealthand more motivated by health. Whether they identify as “millennials” or “HENRYs”, (High Earners Not Rich Yet) this generation’s biggest challenge is discerning truth in advertising from fiction. I happen to know many of these HENRYs…in fact I might even be their mom or their friend’s mom. My son Will Morrow is twenty five and epitomizes who and what HENRYs are. He’s working hard, living lean, saving and investing his income and is also very involved in his community, with a deep-seated commitment to ensuring his future in his (and my) hometown of Dalton, Georgia. Just so you know, the future is in wonderful hands and I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future leaders when I spend time with my own young adult children and their friends. They are smart, kind and very savvy. They’ve seen the world, they’ve worked hard to get through college and are now entering the world filled with both knowledge and “heart” and just so you know, they also are wiser than you’d think. They have a broad reach of social connections. At any given hour of the day, they get Snapchats, texts and messages from friends who are thousands of miles away and are living a well-connected life where age and income matter less than their passions, hobbies or interests.
“Those aged 26 are smack dab in the middle of the millennial generation, “the group of 93 million comprises people born roughly between 1980 and 2000,” The Journal writes. By comparison, the baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964 and numbering 78.8 million at their peak, have now declined to 74 million according to the latest census. Millennials, aged 17-37, are vital to every brands’ future, as they are “entering prime spending years as they buy homes and make improvements. Their outlays are growing as more of the generation moves into adulthood.” Their importance will only continue to grow up till about age 50 when their household spending is expected to peak, according to spending wave research conducted by Harry Dent.That means from now until about 2040, millennials will be the key consumer segment driving the U.S. economy.”
So many companies, for example those who produce food, fashion, flooring, have murky marketing campaigns that create an impression of being “sustainably-made”. It’s hard to see through the smoke and mirrors oftentimes and as an industry we do have a responsibility to make sure we are all being honest about what we make and how we make it. We all get that “feel good” warm fuzzy when we do business with companies who have been recognized for responsible stewardship only to find that some of these labels have been misrepresented.
This May my daughter Mary Morrow traveled with a select group of Furman University students who spent three weeks studying “Slow Food Italy” on a small farm in Sora, Italy. Mary explained that we should seek out food that might take longer to grow, but is cultivated without harmful chemicals, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, using the methods of our grandparents rather than mass-producing food is our best bet for quality health as well as the refined enjoyment of flavor and dining experiences. These students not only studied food, nutrition and “farm to table” methods but also visited the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. They examined the seeds, the plants, the animals, and the preparation of each as well as the effects on our health. Thanks to her explanation of what many US fast food companies do to potatoes in order to make “perfect French fries” I can no mindlessly longer enjoy them. As she described her own purpose in “Slow Food Studies” as a Health Sciences major, it occurred to me that the study of slow food is a movement going on around us all and represents a broader shift in how our younger generations are seeing the world and how they view quality living. Take the same concept of mindful eating, and apply it to mindful shopping…for fashion and the home.
Gone are the days when US designers and home owners thought bamboo flooring was a “sustainable” option because it was plentiful and grew quickly…now we know it is imported from China which contributes to its carbon footprint, we know it does not handle scratches or moisture well…and then there’s this to consider:
“Certain bamboo flooring from China potentially contains high levels of toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde-based glues and finishes. As the bamboo must be sliced or shredded initially, it must then be adhered back together to form the planks that make up flooring.Sometimes, the adhesive used can release VOCs into the air over time, which makes the bamboo unhealthy for you and the environment.” – Brittney Smart, Home Edit.
The hardwood flooring industry can so easily be compared to our food industry here in the states. While we enjoy a vast variety of options of super cheap and super fast foods, we are paying a price that cannot be seen right or felt away. We are bringing materials into our homes that might be inexpensive and readily available as a DIY product, but it’s important to ask yourself: “how long will it look good, how long before it “uglies out” and how long will it last?” What if we saved up just a little more money and earmark it for US made hardwood flooring that doesn’t have to be replaced, that will look good for decades, that actually adds to the homes overall value and curb appeal? Why not fall in love with premium hardwood flooring rather than loathing the cheap base grade flooring we feel we must have as first time home owners? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we considered our flooring as much as we do other things in our lives? It would make our homes more valuable in the short and long term, and help to make our indoor air quality better with low to zero VOC hardwood (especially Emily Morrow Home Hardwood) and will last a lifetime, which truly makes it a sustainablematerial.