As Americans continue to invest in their homes and remodel at feverish paces, replacing flooring remains one of the most popular projects - and one that can dramatically improve the look of a room.

Whether it's carpet, ceramic tile, hardwood, laminate, resilient or stone, homeowners tend to always be on the lookout for what's new and unique.

Earlier this year manufacturers showed off their latest offerings, which will eventually be offered through retailers, at the World Floor Covering Association's annual tradeshow.

Some of the new flooring products that homeowners will likely be seeing in stores later this year include:

  • Magnetic leather floor and wall tiles, offered in 14 colors and 15 stock sizes. Manufacturers of the product say leather can absorb sound, is naturally fire-retardant, has a subtle aroma and is warm to the touch.
  • Reverse embossed patterned flooring in seven color schemes.
  • Stone plank flooring, available in various widths and lengths, suitable for stone patterns in entryways, borders around other flooring, and on outside decks.
  • Laminate style peel-n-stick decorative borders for laminate flooring.
  • An iridescent 3/4-inch glass mosaic tile.

When it comes to flooring trends in the kitchen, Theresa Bass-Rivero, a kitchen designer at Trimline Design Center in Miami, says natural materials are popular.

"Most people select either marble or porcelain in large 24 inch-by-24-inch tiles that they can lay close together and make the grout lines disappear," she said. "They're choosing these materials for the Mediterranean, earthy kind of feel that you can get with soft-toned, tumbled marbles like travertine and saturnia."

Bass-Rivero said porcelain tiles are widespread now, too. It's more refined than ceramic and comes matte or polished. And, it has color all the way through, so a chip won't be as noticeable.

"Typically, you want to have a little bit of contrast between the different design elements in the kitchen," she said. "They should all be complementary, though. A Mediterranean kitchen might appear to be tone on tone on tone but it will still have some subtle changes."

What's hot in hardwoods? Joe Grady, author of Ceramic & Stone Close-Up and a floor covering expert, says on the National Floor Trends web site that recent demand for handcrafted distressed floors has been huge.

"The current trend in hardwood reflects the looks found in Europe," Grady said. "Our customers want to create that same time-worn look - one that showcases the character and longevity of the wood."

Many produce today's distressed wood flooring as an art.

"The current distressed wood floor production philosophy is to perform the hand scraping as an art more than just a texture." Said Grady. "The undulations that follow the grain pattern of the natural wood separate the artists from the amateurs."

And on the carpet front, frieze, a mix of thick and thin yarns available in a range of colors and tweed-like mixes, is becoming increasingly popular.

"That's probably the hottest ticket right now," Perry Housman, who works in sales for Nashville Carpet Center, told The Tennesseean in a March 12 article. "It's proven itself over and over ... it's kind of the new berber."

In general, carpet patterns are smaller in scale and more subtle.

"There does seem to be a trend in textural patterned carpets," says Housman, noting that tone-on-tone looks are created when carpets combine cut (think sheared) and loop (think of a yarn looped) sections."

Neutrals are warming up and homeowners are becoming more daring with color.

"Much more color is out there in carpet, and it's being used," said Jamila Wilson, Specifications Designer with Courtney Ford Design in San Diego. "We're departing from traditional neutrals. Consumers are getting more daring. Slowly but surely they're becoming comfortable with color in their carpeting. There's the popularity of Tuscany styles, old-world styles, and more modern looks - all these require stronger color."

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