Marine flooring and fabric trends

Published On: July 1, 2024Categories: Features
A Costa Marine fabric design on a Viking ship. Fabricator Donna Costa says there’s a trend these days toward gray fabrics, both light and dark. Photo: Costa Marine Canvas and Enclosures

Most people that have a boat have fabulous homes and have worked with designers,” says John Kelly, interior designer and president of WBC Design in West Berlin, N.J. “So, they want the same look and comfort in their boats that they have in their homes.” 

And why not? Staying on top of the latest trends helps not just designers, but fabricators and flooring suppliers to ensure that their customers get exactly what they want. 

Fabricator Donna Costa, co-owner of Costa Marine Canvas and Enclosures in Egg Harbor City, N.J., says these days grays are quite a popular color scheme. “There was a time where decorators were picking lots of neutral colors,” she says. “A lot of beiges and creams over the last few years, but now a lot seems to be in the gray category—light grays and dark grays.”

She adds, however, that when it comes to the larger boats designed for Viking Yachts (based in New Gretna, N.J.), whom Costa Marine works with, designers and decorators are involved in picking colors and fabrics. “Except for the exteriors,” Costa says, “where we tend to recommend products to them.”

This photo shows wood and Ultraleather from Ultrafabrics® on one of Costa Marine’s designs. Donna Costa, co-owner, says that sometimes customers want real leather and sometimes they want Ultraleather. “The choice really depends on where the cushion is going to be and where it’s going to be used.” Photo: Costa Marine Canvas and Enclosures

 Kelly is one such designer who works with Viking Yachts. He says neutrals are always on trend and just make sense, particularly when it comes to stock or demo boats. “I do usually tend to use neutrals,” he states. “It’s more appealing to the public.” He clarifies that usually means neutral backgrounds with a main pattern with color “and pops of color throughout the boat. I do see from a lot of the fabric reps that traditional design with fabrics is coming back.”  

This doesn’t mean he’s afraid of color. On the contrary, he says, “I do like color. I like a lot of color.” Except pink. No Barbie-inspired boats for him. “I think being a production boat interior designer, I steer away from pink. [It’s] not a good color.” 

A Costa Marine design continuing the gray theme with Ultraleather and accents. According to co-owner Donna Costa, “Sometimes you have the customer that actually wants the best material, which makes it easy then to steer them in the right direction.” Photo: Costa Marine Canvas and Enclosures

Flooring has something for everyone

When it comes to flooring manufacturers, “All the products we manufacture are driven by trends as directed by the boat builder,” says Holly Harrison, vice president of marketing at Corinthian Textile Solutions, headquartered in Portland, Ore., which provides flooring for both boat builders and the aftermarket. “Over time we introduce new types of flooring, but we hang on to traditional products as well. The idea is to offer a range of colors and styles…something for everyone.” 

Timothy Zwartz, general manager of SeaDek® non-skid marine products in Rockledge, Fla., which specializes in peel-and-stick flooring, says in addition to seeing growth in the use of its signature flooring, “we have been able to develop a patented process to integrate lighting into our product, opening up a whole new array of design possibilities. We see integrated lighting and other technology as a major trend going into 2024 and beyond.”

Photo: SeaDek

Both Harrison and Zwartz believe in working closely with their OEM partners to keep abreast of trends. When it comes to refurbishing a boat, “owners make selections by what they have seen in new builds,” says Harrison, “and are driven by the OEM design schemes.”

For SeaDek, Zwartz says the company’s design team with its decades of experience “is constantly innovating our products to match the creativity and design of our OEMs,” aided by the company’s extensive R&D team and its in-house lab. “Our new product ideas come from all over the place,” he says, “from end user customers, employee ideas or OEM collaboration.”

For replacement flooring, Harrison says Corinthian always works with boat owners to clarify exactly what they’re looking for. “Flooring,” she notes, “is not an intuitive purchase, so most boat owners need a little bit of guidance about what material will work best for them.” 

SeaDek prides itself on its non-skid floor products. It has developed a patented process to integrate lighting into its products. Photo: SeaDek

Sometimes, she says, owners want what they’ve seen on someone else’s boat, “but they also recognize that it is important to choose the flooring based on their boat interior and boating lifestyle.”

Costa says it’s not uncommon for people to want what they’ve seen on other boats, “but then sometimes you run into the problem that the boat they’ve seen it on might be five or six years old and the product is no longer available. And then sometimes you just have the customer that actually wants the best material, which makes it easy then to steer them in the right direction.”

Photo: SeaDek

A plethora of choices

That’s important when there are so many options these days to choose from. “Sometimes they want real leather,” says Costa, “or sometimes they want Ultraleather [from Ultrafabrics®]. It really depends on where the cushion is going to be and where it’s going to be used: on the interior, the exterior or the mezzanine.” 

Kelly is also a fan of Ultraleather. “I think it performs better than real leather,” he says. “It’s a little bit more forgiving and has definitely a wider range of colors, uses and textures.” He’s also seen a trend toward natural-type fabrics. “A lot of organic fabrics and textures,” he says, adding that he loves to use textured, embroidered fabrics. His go-to fabric company is Architex® based in Northbrook, Ill. “They have a wide range of suedes, velvets and wovens that have very high rub counts for durability and a lot of different colors. And a lot of those fabrics can be used for just about anything.” 

A bedroom on a Viking Yacht. “Neutrals are always on trend and just make sense, particularly when it comes to stock or demo boats,” says John Kelly, interior designer and president of WBC Design, who designs for Viking Yachts. Photo: Viking Yachts

That’s also key when trying to determine what trends are going to last and what new trends are coming in. “It’s a delicate balance,” says Zwartz, which is why SeaDek’s design team “is working with OEMs on boat designs that are years away from hitting the market. This ensures our designs are in line with the expert boat builders that we serve and will be around to last.” 

Kelly believes much of what drives design is background materials—“what wood is being used on the boats, what finishes. I would say a lot of it is very customer driven. Most people want something different than the person before them and the person after them is going to get.” He cites the Viking 90 demo boat as an example, which has been out for about a year. “It’s been very well received,” Kelly says. “I think what makes it popular is the different mixes of texture, color and surface materials like countertops, the wood, the detail in tables, detailing in hull liners and then wall coverings really pull it all together.” 

A Viking Yacht kitchen design. Interior Designer John Kelly says background materials drive design: “what wood is
being used on the boats, what finishes.” Photo: Viking Yachts

Balancing style and sustainability

Of course, no matter how exciting new designs may be, at the end of the day, products have to be seaworthy. SeaDek operates its own in-house lab that allows it to “rapidly test new product ideas in real time,” says Zwartz. “We always push the limit with design but understand that we cannot go to market with a product that cannot withstand the harshest environments.” 

“We recommend certain materials that we’ve been using because we’ve been in business now 52 years,” says Costa. “Once we tell people how long we’ve been using products on certain boats with no problems, they’ll kind of steer toward that product.” That doesn’t mean the company isn’t open to trying new products. In fact, it makes a point of trying out materials first on its own premises. “We put them outside in all weathers, especially in the snow,” adds Costa.

An example of Corinthian’s glue-down Aquaweave™ boat flooring. “All the products we manufacture are driven by trends as directed by the boat builder,” says Holly Harrison, vice president of marketing. Photo: Corinthian Textile Solutions

Durability is also a driving factor for Kelly, which he says is a current trend in the fabric industry. “More than anything, when I look at fabrics, depending on where they’re going to be used, I look at the durability, abrasion and finishes to see how they can be cleaned.”

In addition, Kelly says he judges a lot of what might become popular in 2024 and beyond on the new fabrics that are introduced by manufacturers twice a year. “I only choose what I like,” he says. “I’ve been told I have good taste, so hopefully that trickles down to what I choose and what I use. I really don’t believe in trends. I’m not a trendy designer. I believe that if you do something today, it should look just as good 10 years from now.”  

Kelly Hartog is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles, Calif.