Coverings 2007 took place at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, IL, from April 17 to 20, and it drew nearly 17,000 attendees.

Registered attendance jumped to nearly 37,000 for the four-day Coverings 2007 tile and stone exposition and conference, which was held at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, IL, from April 17 to 20, representing an increase of 8% over last year. The sharpest spike in attendance numbers was among architects and designers, which was up a dramatic 87%, according to show management. With almost half (49%) of all guests acknowledging they were first-time Coverings attendees, plus a shift in regional patterns that pulled in more show goers than ever before from the East North Central, Mountain and Pacific West states, Coverings exceeded its goals to expand to new audiences whose interests are in tile and stone, according to show management.
“Coverings attendance has been steadily on the rise over the past four years, growing 30.3% in this period,” reported Tamara Christian, CEO of National Trade Productions (NTP), which manages the show. “Tile and stone are emerging as fashion statements in design. And, though housing has slowed, home improvement hasn’t, and consumers are clamoring for the types of style and individuality that these materials can create. The demand is there.”
Additionally, other of Coverings’ attendance figures confirm this, as well.
• Retailer attendance was up 17%.
• Contractor attendance was up 22%.
• Stone distributor attendance was up nearly 8%.
• Attendance was up 48% from the East North Central region; up 28% from the Pacific West; 22% from the Mountain states.
The success of Coverings 2007 was the outcome of strategic planning that began even before the 2006 show had wrapped up, according to NTP. The support and sponsorship from all of the key professional associations was almost immediately engaged from the outset, and they actively promoted the show to their members. Some groups even staged board meetings onsite at Coverings as a value-added benefit to their members.

Although many of the large-scale exhibits were ceramic tile producers, one of the major stone companies took home the grand prize for the “Best in Show” booth awards. Antolini Luigi & C. of Italy showcased its stone materials and offered a sense of mystery with its “box in basic black.”

The exhibition

The show occupied 500,000 net square feet at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center, occupying the South and North Halls. The exhibit halls featured more than 1,200 exhibitors, showcasing the newest and most innovative tile and stone products from around the world. In addition to tile and stone products, exhibitors offered a range of stoneworking machinery and accessories, stone care and maintenance products, stone handling equipment, digital templating systems and more. In addition to individual companies, many countries were represented in national pavilions of stone products. Past national pavilions have included Italy, Brazil, Spain, Turkey, China and Israel, among others. Although many of the large-scale exhibits were ceramic tile producers, one of the major stone companies took home the grand prize for the “Best in Show” booth award. Antolini Luigi & C. of Italy showcased its stone materials and offered a sense of mystery with its “box in basic black.” Black walls framed slabs of semi-precious and rare stones, and stone “eggs” were set in a continuous niche around the booth’s exterior perimeter.

Large-scale stoneworking equipment could be found in operation on the show floor.


In the past, the caliber of conferences and seminar sessions orchestrated by Coverings has scored high with all segments of the industry, and this year’s lineup was no different, with several of the headliners addressing standing-room-only audiences. The keynote address delivered by Bernard M. Markstein, III, director of forecasting and assistant staff vice president, National Association of Home Builders, sounded cautionary about the housing slowdown, but held out a small bit of optimism for the tile industry because of the flurry of home improvement in the kitchen and bath sectors.
Furthermore, acclaimed architect Richard Meier took the audience through a tour of his various landmark projects. And, trends forecaster Maxine Lauer packed them in, as she shed light on what is driving some of the styles that were visible on the aisles and what may be coming in 2008 and beyond.
Additionally, there were a number of savvy regional distributors, including Miles Distributing of South Bend, IN, and United Flooring Distributors of Rockville, IL, who not only encouraged their clients to make the trek, but organized bus caravans to get them there and make it a full-day experience. These two groups swelled the attendance figures alone by almost 1,000.
Mayor Richard M. Daley personally presided over the opening day ceremony, along with the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau and other local agencies pulling out all the stops to make sure attendees felt welcome and their business appreciated. In fact, Coverings business most definitely was appreciated, representing approximately $46 million in revenues for the City of Chicago.
“We’ve been coming to Coverings for the past 10 years,” said Tom Evans, owner of Zebra Tile, a retailer based in York, PA. “Most of the distributors we work with have booths at this show, so we see them and pick out our new selections for the year. For me, attending Coverings changed my business. Coming here keeps you in touch with the industry. If you stay home, that’s all the knowledge you’re ever going to get.”
Michelle Engleman and Erin Blakely of 21st Century Tile are interior design partners and wholesale distributors in Butler, WI. This was their first Coverings, and they both agreed they would now consider going to Orlando. They attended a LEED conference session, which they found a success. “Learning about LEED and then finding an exhibitor who sells tiles that met all the criteria was very exciting,” said Engleman. “Coming here, we learned what’s new, what’s out there and what we’re missing from our showroom.”
Many echoed the feelings of Bert Thomas, owner of Straightline Floor Coverings, Fishers, IN, also a freshman attendee. Even though his contractor business is only three hours away from Chicago, he was so impressed with what he saw at the show, he’s already considering going to Orlando next year. “Now that we’ve been here once, we would definitely think about going to Orlando,” he said.
Next year, Coverings is set to take place from April 29 to May 2, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.

Keith E. Hinshaw, a stone contractor who this month attended Coverings for the fourth consecutive year, won a new 2007 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle at the event.

Chicago stone contractor
wins Harley

Keith E. Hinshaw, a stone contractor who recently attended Coverings for the fourth consecutive year, said he “felt like he won the lottery” when he was randomly selected to receive this year’s grand prize giveaway at the four-day tile and stone expo: a brand-new, 2007 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle, valued at $17,000. The raffle was sponsored by the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and, the world’s largest B2B marketplace for global trade, both of who were exhibitors at this year’s show. The NTCA is also a Coverings sponsor.
“I was so surprised. I’ve never won anything in my life!” said Hinshaw, owner of Insignia Stone in Lenox Hills, IL. “I’m a motorcycle enthusiast and I already own two Harleys -this new bike is a great addition to my collection. I can’t wait to take a ride on it!”
Hinshaw was excited to attend Coverings again this year, and was especially happy to see it return to Chicago after a 15-year absence. “I was thrilled that the show was right in my own backyard this time around,” he said. “Coverings is a terrific show unlike any other. The networking opportunities that Coverings offers can’t be beat - from the show floor to the free educational sessions to the after-hours events. Attending the show is indispensable to my business. This year in particular, I gained many contacts that will benefit my company tremendously. I’m looking forward to attending again next year in Orlando.”
According to Coverings show management, the motorcycle drawing attracted approximately 10,000 entries.

continues to foster charitable efforts

For the fourth consecutive year, Coverings exhibitors have teamed with Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH), donating tons of excess tile, stone, adhesives and other valuable materials that will benefit Habitat for Humanity projects. In fact, three trailer trucks were loaded with approximately 50 pallets of goods by volunteers from Freeman, the service contractor for Coverings, and headed out from McCormick Place Convention Center destined both for actual installation projects in Chicago, as well as for sale in the Northern Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore where it will generate revenue directly funding Habitat. This represents the first time the Chicago-area affiliate is the beneficiary because Coverings has been held in Orlando for the past three years since the initiative was undertaken.
“The response and involvement of so many of the 1,200 Coverings exhibitors to Tile Partners for Humanity is exceedingly generous,” said Tamara Christian, CEO of National Trade Productions, which manages and produces the annual expo and conference. “We’ve heard from our exhibitors that this is a program they heartily endorse because they feel they can say thank you to the Coverings host community in a most unique and meaningful way. Typically, exhibitors bring much more merchandise to the show as a precaution in case of damage during shipping, lost deliveries, display revisions or just to be sure they have plenty of options on hand. While it may start out as ‘excess,’ it doesn’t go to waste, thanks to the true partnership forged by TPFH and the companies who exhibit.”
“Coverings exhibitors are amazing partners to us, and we are extremely grateful for all they contribute,” said Ally Fertitta, executive director of TPFH. “This year we received whole floors, plus significant amounts of granite and marble. The community of Chicago is the richer for having Coverings return for many reasons, and this generous contribution to Habitat for Humanity definitely is one of them.”
Fertitta estimates that in the four years Coverings has teamed with TPFH, materials valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars have been contributed and scores of families now have a permanent well-constructed home and roof over their heads.

A 15- x 13-foot waterjet-cut mural depicting the Chicago skyline was unveiled at McCormick Place during the first day of Coverings 2007.

Mural of Chicago skyline set with Laticrete products

Harri Aalto, co-owner and creative director of Creative Edge Master Shop, an Iowa-based waterjet design and fabrication facility, was approached before Coverings 2007 to create a stone mural depicting the impressive skyline of Chicago. Once a go-ahead from the Chicago Convention and Tourism Board was given, a plan was set for the 15- x 13-foot waterjet-cut piece to be mounted on a wall within McCormick Place and unveiled during the exhibition.
Aalto’s waterjet-cut creation, which is now located near the juncture of the South Building and McCormick Square, consists of about 1,600 pieces - made from a variety of marble, granite, porcelain, Italian glass and solid metals. Aalto used pieces of granite to portray the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Building - two monumental, jet-black buildings in Chicago’s skyline. Additionally, luxurious gold tiles from Steuler-Fliesen, a German manufacturer of ceramic tile, strategically highlight certain areas of the mural and brighten the windows of selected buildings.
Because of the size and weight of the mural, much consideration was given to the type of installation products that would be used. In the end, Aalto went with a selection of products from Laticrete International in Bethany, CT.
“I was very concerned about the installation process,” said Aalto. “With the amount of people passing the mural, which was to be made up of quite a bit of stone and other materials, including metal, glass and actual gold tiles, I had to be confident that the products we would be using to affix the mural’s heavy pieces to the wall were [of high standards].”
Aalto explained that he has worked for years with various Laticrete products, and he has always been pleased not only with the overall performance of the materials, but also with how well they work together as a system. “I did not know, however, if there was an adhesive strong enough to hold up the large, different-sized panels of stone that made up our 1,500-pound piece of artwork,” he said.
According to the artist, he was advised that Laticrete® 255 MultiMax™, a lightweight thinset mortar reinforced with Kevlar®, would be best suited for the delicate placement of the large stone panels. “So, we decided to use it,” he said. “We quickly found out that it held this intricate mural to the wall with such strength, that I had no worries whatsoever about the various pieces shifting and ultimately changing the design.”
In the past, when Aalto would create a large stone mural for vertical surfaces, he had to drill holes and use structural pins to hold the creation in place, he explained. “Now, the process is significantly faster than the ‘hook-and-anchor’ mechanical method,” he said. “We were very pleased with the outcome.”
“The mural combines a certain amount of realism and imaginative interpretations,” continued Aalto. “It captures the look and feeling of Chicago, the ‘stone’ city. People will be able to recognize at least 20 buildings that are made out of granite and marble, just like the original structure of the buildings depicted.”
Because tight grout joints were essential to capture the minute details of the mural, and different colors were needed to keep the flowing design concept intact, Aalto used Laticrete® SpectraLOCK™ PRO Grout with the SpectraLOCK Dazzle component to complete the installation. SpectraLOCK is an epoxy grout with optimal color uniformity and stain resistance, and with the SpectraLOCK Dazzle component, 40 different colors were available to choose from, allowing Creative Edge to add a shimmering, metallic component to the mural.
“I’ve worked with these materials in the past and like them because they combine dependable performance along with nice aesthetics,” said Aalto.
The unveiling of the stone mural depicting the skyline of Chicago was one of the major events of Coverings 2007. Members of the local, national and international press were on hand to get the first glimpse of Aalto’s masterpiece, which took place in the afternoon during the first day of the expo. Even the mayor of Chicago, His Honor Richard M. Daly, came by to see this unique addition to Chicago’s showplace.