Taking place from April 18 to 21 at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL, Coverings 2016, the largest global tile and stone exhibition in North America, featured companies and attendees from all around the world, including more than 1,100 global exhibitors from 40 countries. This is the first time the exhibition returned to Chicago since 2009, and overall, there was a positive vibe throughout the four-day event.

“The atmosphere at Coverings 2016 is extremely optimistic as the show makes its awaited return to the Chicago market,” said Alena Capra, Coverings Industry Ambassador, on the first day of the show. “Attendees from all segments of the tile and stone industry are finding great inspiration, not only from the incredible array of innovative products and wide range of informative sessions, but also from the historically strong architectural roots of Chicago.”

The 443,000-square-foot exhibition space included a range of new innovations for attendees to view, including everything from new stone introductions to the release of new fabrication equipment. For fabricators in search of new machinery, many companies introduced their latest technological advances, such as the Master 38, 5-axis, CNC machine from Intermac. With a smaller footprint, a lower table bed and with 56 tool change positions, it’s the machine manufacturer’s newest version in the Master Series CNC work centers. Additionally, Park Industries featured its Saber 5-Axis CNC saw that allows cut curves with contour cutting, core faucets with the core tool and incremental routing for sink cutting.

Coverings 2016 also showcased several attractions that drew a crowd. The Installation Design Showcase, a popular feature that highlights the work of four talented designers each year, held its seventh iteration at McCormick Place. Sponsored by The Home Depot, the Installation Design Showcase encompassed live-action demonstrations and installations by master installers, who ultimately created full-scale vignettes incorporating materials from industry-leading tile and stone manufacturers. This year’s vignettes — a retail boutique, spa lobby, clubhouse bar and lounge, and boutique hotel lobby — were completed by Alena Capra Designs and Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile Co.; Healing Environments and Trostrud Mosaic & Tile; FGM Architects and Welch Tile and Marble; and Architecture is Fun and Grazzini Brothers, respectively.

“The Installation Design Showcase is a unique collaborative process that encapsulates the full scope of a tile project from design and specification to installation — all executed in a compressed timeline,” said John Cox of Cox Stone & Tile, who served as Installation Design Showcase technical advisor. “The close collaboration between the design and installation professionals reiterates how integral the two professions are to ensuring the continued success of the tile and stone industry.”

New this year, Coverings partnered with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and Chicago Mosaic School to develop unique programs that investigate the use of tile as a medium for creative design. The workshops were a success, as they were buzzing with attendees. These classes and workshops — created as additional interactive educational events — were offered by rigorously trained art professionals who teach process, materials, techniques and skills in contemporary and classical mosaic arts.

“Partnerships with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Mosaic School not only allow Coverings to support the dynamic creative landscape in Chicago, but also provide opportunities for Coverings attendees to think about tile and stone materials in unexpected ways,” said Karin Fendrich, Coverings show director. “These programs challenge both future and current tile and stone industry professionals to truly understand just what these materials are capable of producing for design projects and how their qualities are best utilized from a technical standpoint.”

Coverings also once again held the Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards. The Grand Prize Winner in Stone for the 2016 edition went to The Farley Residence, designed by Carson Guest Inc., and installed by Marmi Natural Stone. The winner of the Commercial Stone Design was St. Wenceslaus Church, designed by Creative Edge Master Shop. Winner of the Commercial Stone Installation category was the Indianapolis Temple, installed by KEPCO+. The St. Johns Master bath and living room with fireplace and columns, designed by S & R Development, Inc., was the winner of the Residential Stone Design category. For Residential Stone Installation the winner was the Green Lake Residential Bathroom, installed by Ribaudo Tile and Marble. Finally for International Stone Design, the Wiggly House designed by ifdesign was the winner.

Another awards ceremony returning this year was the Coverings Rock Stars, a celebratory program created last year to recognize the show’s emerging leaders. This year 10 new individuals were honored for their achievements towards the continued betterment of the tile and stone industry. The 2016 recipients included Sean Cilona of Florida Tile, Andrea Contri of Confidustria Ceramica, Cameron DeMille of Easy Stone Care, Bradford Denny of Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Bill Griese of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Julian Hernandez of JR Design and Contractor, Jason Holman of The Source Stone, Joseph Procida of Procida Tile, Paul Reiss of Artaic and Kate Sterling of Akdo.

“Coverings is honored to welcome the second class of influential young industry leaders into its Rock Stars program,” said Fendrich. “The future and continued success of the tile and stone industry is dependent on the many talents represented by this diverse group of professionals, and we look forward to the innovative ideas and leadership they will continue to share in the years ahead.”

In addition to all the show attractions and awards programs, Coverings 2016 also offered an extensive educational element, featuring more than 70 specialized training and education seminars. Always drawing a large crowd was the Fabricator Forum, which consisted of a panel of three fabricators and a moderator from various areas of the U.S. The Forum allows fabricators in the stone industry to discuss issues facing them today and to seek the advice of industry leaders, as well as others of their peers who may be experiencing the same challenges. Also featured was the State of the Stone Industry, moderated by Jim Hieb of the Marble Institute of America featuring several major projects that have been undertaken in the stone industry, including matters dealing with government regulation, competing product challenges and forecasting market growth.

Next year, Coverings will return to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. As of press time, dates were not yet announced.