The European flooring market is set for a boom time in the immediate post-pandemic years, thanks to both positive economic indicators and a raft of innovations coming to market from all industry sectors. Equally strong signals from the construction industry also help. The rising population, signals of prosperity and the desire for interiors that match their changing lifestyles, look set to trigger further growth. All this on the back of a previous year which began with a growing level of consumer satisfaction with traditional looks and materials and a desire to upgrade and renew after long periods of social change. Homeowners were constantly seeking flooring materials that had been given special treatment to make them unique in design and texture; from fumed wood, blanched flooring, textured tiles or wood-effect ones.

European governments are increasingly spending on the sector and formulating supportive policies to accelerate growth, according to most European Construction Industry Federation estimates. Soft coverings - popular for their dust-binding, heat and insulation properties and the ability to reduce noise reflections - are predicted to account for more than 45 per cent of the share by 2026; whether in the form of a roll or flexible tile. Safety coverings, demand for ever-more aesthetic appearance options and easy installation procedures are likely to increase sales even further.

The sort of substantial investments going into manufacturing, in the form of factories, offices and warehouses, all of which demand the sort of flooring able to endure high foot traffic and heavy machinery, will support strong growth within the industrial segment. On a regional level, Germany will account for over 20 per cent share in European market by the end of 2026.

In 2019, one year before the pandemic, house-building reached the highest level in two decades. Some estimates suggest demand is still exceeding supply and it will generate a need for substantial construction in the coming years, something that has prompted pledges of additional funding from the German government. The versatility of laminate means it remains one of the most frequently laid floor coverings in Europe. But alternatives such as wood, natural stone and bamboo are becoming increasingly popular as flooring trends continue to mirror a more natural approach in interiors.

Vinyl is also tipped to be popular; soft underfoot, warmer to the touch than tiles and available is assorted levels of gloss, which means greater choice in terms of looks. Some tiles can even be grouted for an even more realistic appearance. They also withstand water, don’t easily dent, stain or fade - and they’re easy to install. Concrete floors - highly durable, sustainable and inexpensive - offer a viable contrast, especially when attention is paid to the surface finish. Their ability to work well with both rugged industrial design and modern minimalism, not to mention the on-trend Bauhausinspired designs, have maintained its popularity.

In short, its reputation for being cold, damp, and best left to warehouses and garages, disappeared with the advancement of nuanced applications, upgraded materials, and adventurous designs. Rustic stone tiles continue to offer an alternative to classic white tiles in kitchens and bathrooms. Terracotta tiles – whether they are the original Italian or Belgian reproduction variety – will endure way after Instagram has stopped promoting them the way it does. Increasingly popular is the use of distressed concrete, particularly as an alternative to distressed wood, although both go through similar artificial processes to minimize the highly polished look and produce an enhanced ‘worn’ patina. Its look is flexible enough to be integrated into most types of decor but it’ll be popular in industrial and contemporary styles.

"You can expect to see engineered hardwood floors still going strong in 2021 and beyond," says designer Linda Hayslett of LH Designs. "The options have grown for not only quality but also for types of finishes, colours, and materials; it’s here to stay."

Designer Breegan Jane agrees, noting that smarter materials open up even more options. "New technology and engineering in wood flooring make it a very feasible option in bathrooms or kitchens, where the moisture components are also being considered in the design layout," she says. Fumed wood – produced stainfree and enhanced by being placed into an ammonia-filled chamber which causes a reaction has occasionally been seen as being a little experimental, mainly because the finished colour cannot be predicted.

But, generally, the results are rich dark tones which enhance the natural grain, unlike liquid ammonia which can damage the fibre and weaken its structure. Many retailers say the colour result here is at odds with the light, white oak of European woods, although they do predict a compromise going forward with a trend towards mid-tones. But for the shock factor, there’s little more dramatic than graphic tiles, an “experimental” trend which has been gaining a lot of momentum recently.

Author: Richard Burton/ Worldshow Media