“We shouldn’t just follow trends – we should set them.” This year’s new Ultra Matt floor has made a splash on the market. We caught up with Kährs Design Director Emanuel Lidberg to talk trends and the floor of the future.
“When you open a package of our flooring, it should smell like newly sawn timber, a smell that is not artificial”, says Emanuel Lidberg, Design Director at Kährs. He takes off his shoes and steps purposefully onto a rustic oak floor sample. He runs his hand slowly over the dark, hand-scraped surface, admiring its cracks and veins. It’s obvious he has a close and loving relationship with wood.
“It should be natural. Even if we use colour, fuming effects and other treatments, it is in our ethos to ensure that most of the natural wood character is reflected throughout the design. Starting from the raw material and bringing out its full potential is one of our strengths.”
We’re meeting at Kährs head office, located on the old Ångbåtsbron (Steamboat bridge) in Malmö, Sweden. Late morning sunlight floods the room through large windows overlooking the sea. We’re here to learn more about how the company’s new flooring collections are brought to life. Emanuel Lidberg demonstrates how Ultra Matt flooring retains its subtle nuances without reflections despite the bright sunlight.
Floors finished with Ultra Matt in powdery and natural hues give the feeling of untreated, newly sawn wood. “Other than the reaction to the open, airy and light-centred contemporary architecture, Ultra Matt floors have something emotional to offer as well”, says Emanuel. A feeling of quiet peace, inherent in the design.
When you walk into a room with this flooring, it’s almost as if weight comes off your shoulders.
The Ultra Matt surface treatment is the exciting news from Kährs this year, and is expected to become an industry standard. That’s precisely how Emanuel envisions it – Kährs should establish trends, not just follow them. And that means taking risks and being a bit more daring than the others.
Emanuel’s work as a trend spotter never ends, both at the workplace and beyond. He’s responsible for setting the plan for coming collections: seeing what’s hot right now, what’s just around the corner and what’s going to come in ten years time. Inspiration comes from every direction: new technologies, cultural changes in living situations and lifestyles.
Even if he’s focused on the future, Emanuel is also convinced the products go hand in hand with the history of the company.
“Our factory in Småland is still in Nybro, where the company was founded 160 years ago. Even if in today’s world we follow a complex technical production process, the experience and the care for our products is still ingrained in our original manufacturing facilities”
That’s why he doesn’t devote all design ethos to the interiors trends only but also tries to see sustainable patterns and steer design towards trends that suit both the wood and the company’s business model.
“We take great care of the material. For example, we would love to see the rustic trend continue forever because then we can use more of the tree. But in Scandinavia we’re already seeing a move towards more modern and refined products” says Emanuel.
The Scandinavian market is dominated by light colours with a lot of focus on white and grey tones. The next step will be to incorporate more muted nuances: smoky, rich and hearty hues. Architects have already shown an interest and Kährs product portfolio is ready to meet their demand in 2018. The trend with patterned and single-strip – wide plank flooring – is also set to continue.
But creating a flooring collection isn’t a one-man show, emphasises Emanuel. Teamwork is key and everyone in the company contributes with their own unique competences. Behind most successful products often lie a number of prototypes. And sometimes new ideas arise unexpectedly or due to an unplanned turn of events somewhere in the process, as it is so often with innovation. It’s all about testing, testing and testing, and then, a little more testing.
One of their biggest challenges is to successfully create flooring collections to cater for different markets. With a worldwide presence and showrooms across dynamic locations such as Madrid, Dubai and Shanghai it’s important to have a good grip on local trends. On the worktable, floor samples show how varied these can be: beside a light, Scandinavian Ultra Matt sits a dark high gloss oak sample with shimmering gold highlights, produced for the Russian market.
What can we expect from Kährs in ten years? Emanuel Lidberg believes that the technique of continuous pigment could be incorporated into flooring.
“One imaginable scenario is that, in the future, customers would be able to install floors from us and then adjust or update the colour and nuances simply by pressing a button. Maybe the floor of the future will adapt itself to variations in light to provide a more comfortable atmosphere. That would be fantastic!”
And, of course, Emanuel’s own goal for Kährs is just as ambitious.
“We will be the world’s best wood floor manufacturer. Full stop.”