This month, we interviewed Mike Benjamin, co-owner of Kermans Flooring, and design consultant Lori Nash to learn about trends in the flooring industry. Kermans is one of McKenzie Collection’s longest-standing suppliers, providing tile, wood, laminate and carpet products for McKenzie homes since our company began.
When Mike Benjamin’s grandfather opened an Oriental rug shop on the Circle in downtown Indianapolis in 1921, he couldn’t possibly have envisioned the multifaceted supplier that Kermans Flooring would one day become.
Over the years, all three of Robert Benjamin’s sons went into the family business, and six cousins followed. The company moved to Castleton in the ‘80s, adding carpet to its rug offerings. But it was in 1991, when Mike Benjamin met John McKenzie, that the path for Kermans’ future growth was set.
“John was really the one who got us into the new home business,” says Benjamin. “He was looking for a new flooring supplier when Trinity (Homes) began and he gave us a chance to do some of his work. I really appreciate John…without him, we might have gone a different way.”
Instead, Kermans has gone on to become one of the top 80 flooring contractors in the United States in sales volume, according to Benjamin, who co-owns the business with his cousin, Dave Amsler. The company now supplies the flooring — tile, wood, laminate, vinyl and carpet — for 60 percent of the new homes built in Indianapolis, as well as fabricating Corian for shower walls and floors. In 2010, the company opened a satellite operation in Nashville, Tennessee that focuses exclusively on builder work.
While Oriental rugs have fallen out of popularity, Kermans still offers some machine-made rugs to satisfy customers who want that look at a less expensive price. “Everyone these days wants something disposable, something that they can change after a few years,” he explains. “Someday the old rugs will be valuable, like paintings, but there isn’t much demand for new ones these days.”
An eye to the future
Staying on top of the trends is what has made Kermans a success. In the last 10 years, the wide array of new products on the market has dramatically affected flooring choices. Gone are the days of a simple bone-colored ceramic shower floor in 4” tiles. Or 2- 1/4” hardwood planks. Today’s consumers are looking for wider wood planks in dark colors, glass tile accents in showers, larger floor tiles and improved products for wood and vinyl floors.
One of the biggest evolutions, according to design consultant Lori Nash—who has been with Kermans for the last 14 years—has been a move toward more hard surfaces, with hardwood floors, ceramic tile, vinyl planks and vinyl tiles surging in popularity. “Customers feel that hard surfaces are easier to clean and don’t need to be replaced like carpet,” Nash explains. “In other markets, homes have had all hard surfaces for years. Indiana is a little behind but we’re getting there now.”
Nash says trends in hardwood floors are toward wider planks (6-8” are the norm now) with distressed or matte finishes. Customers are also favoring darker floor colors, especially gray and black. Engineered floors from Armstrong, real wood flooring composed of multiple layers of engineered hardwood, are gaining in popularity as well. “They offer a great look and provide more stability with humidity changes since they expand and contract in different ways than solid wood,” says Nash.
For those who want to carry the wood look into such areas as laundry or workout rooms, ceramic tile and vinyl planks now come in wood patterns, complete with grooves and knotholes. “The ceramic wood tiles aren’t as warm as hardwood but people are intrigued by the look,” says Nash. As a lower cost alternative, she says vinyl planks offer an improvement over laminate, eliminating the clicking noise that happens when someone walks across a laminate floor.
Better products, lower costs
Vinyl has also become a lower-cost alternative to ceramic tile. Vinyl tiles are a popular new trend, costing about a third of the price of ceramic tile and offering a similar look. “Vinyl has come a long way in the last five years,” says Nash. “Vinyl tiles are made of a hard vinyl that can be grouted so they look like ceramic but they are warmer, waterproof and sound absorbent. They are made to “float” on the floor, so they don’t need to be glued down, which makes installation much simpler and less expensive. Some people even install them themselves.”
Nash says tiles with a linen look are popular, as are larger tiles, especially the 12”x 24” size. “The larger the tile, the better,” she says. “No one is installing tiles smaller than 12” in new homes, though subway tiles remain a popular choice for showers. We are also seeing a lot of patterns, such as diagonal installations and pinwheels in shower floors.”
Glass tile is another popular way to add interest to a shower wall or floor, says Nash. “You can dress up your shower without putting a lot of money into it,” she says.” Designs can range from a small band on the wall or floor to more intricate looks.
And what about carpet, the historic mainstay of Kerman’s business? “People still want carpet in their bedrooms and they want custom area rugs that will show off a border of wood in their family rooms, “says Nash. “There are two different looks that are popular in carpet—either a low-pile, looped, very clean style or a super soft, plush feel that is favored by families with kids and pets.” Nash says Karastan offers a SmartStrand carpet that is highly stain resistant, even to red wine and bleach, which has been very popular.
The bottom line in the flooring industry today is that there are a lot of great options available that offer updated looks in a wide price range. “The building industry has picked up in the last five years and consumer demand for more stylish products has increased as well,” explains Nash. “Everyone wants their home to be unique and people are spending more and more time selecting products for their homes to make that happen.”