HomeSpotlightIndian home décor 2018 - in retrospect

Indian home décor 2018 – in retrospect

Indian home décor sector is passing through a transitionary phase, aided by the technology, increasing disposable income and dominance of younger population in decision making. Despite the recent setbacks, mostly due to government interventions through various legislative changes, Indian home décor sector is poised to touch Rs 1.5 trillion market in next four years.

Suppliers in home improvement industry usually have huge dealer network and it has been the case for almost all the products – tiles, plywood, roofing sheets, paints, adhesives, etc. Since last few years there has been a trend where manufacturers of one product venturing into another home improvement product. For example, HSIL has added pipes and fittings in its existing product portfolio of tiles and sanitaryware. Similarly, Welspun India, a leading home textile player in the country has entered into decorative flooring.

The trend of player tapping adjacent categories to have the maximum share of the wallet continued in 2018 with Kajaria Ceramics announcing its plans to venture into plywood market. Currently, Kajaria Ply has three distributors in Mumbai, one in Navi Mumbai, and 31 plywood dealers in the west zone.  Similarly, Century Ply, a leading plyboard manufacturer has announced its plans to enter door manufacturing in collaboration with a Chinese company.

ET AceTech 2018, a fair for architecture, building materials, designs and innovation, took place in Mumbai in the second week of November and just a look at the exhibitors’ profile revealed much more than what they produce and sell. It gave clear picture of the state of affairs in our home décor industry and also recent emerging trend in the sector.

There was general consensus that participation was low this time as compared to last year which also indicated the general condition of the market. However, some attributed low turnout due to delayed Diwali this year and the gap between the festival and the exhibition was hardly one week. Though this may be one of the reasons but cannot be the sole reason.

The main reason being the real estate sector is on slow track and that has affected the home décor business too. The only saving grace for the sector is the reasonably good demand from renovation segment.

It is not just the size but also the composition of the participants which has seen substantial if not drastic change as compared to earlier years. In the past, ET AceTech, the home décor industry’s flagship exhibition that provides a platform to manufacturers to showcase new products, designs & technology and a networking platform for various users, was dominated by participation of traditional segments like tiles, plywood, faucets, pipes, laminates, etc. However, this year their presence was muted to say the least. On the other hand, new-age advanced products like lightings, differentiated floorings, decorative stuffs etc., were in focus hogging the limelight of the visitors. This is major deviation from the earlier events which clearly indicates the changing pattern of the consumer preference in the country.

This clearly indicates that consumer behaviour is changing and home buyers are no longer interested in just four walls and a roof.

Tiles, Ceramics, etc – cup of woes overflowing

Year 2018 was bad from the point of view of manufacturers while the user industry enjoyed the fruits of lower price of tiles and ceramics. Capacity addition in tiles sector which had started last year, continued in the first half of this year too. With as many as 50 new units going on stream in Morbi cluster in Gujarat in a matter of few months, price of tiles (especially GVT) were moving in only one direction, that is southwards. To make the matters worse, natural gas price (which moves in tandem with crude oil price) started moving up. Natural gas price was revised upwards twice, once in April and again in November, to bring it at par with international price.

However, as the year progressed things started falling into place for the industry – fresh capacity addition has abated; some of the units have downed their shutter due to uneconomical price and globally crude oil and natural gas price has started retreating. Some of the ceramic players like Kajaria and Somany hiked the prices of their products in October to accommodate increasing cost.

For exporters, year 2018 was a good year but the same may not be told about 2019. According to available information, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is likely to impose anti-dumping duty of 15% for six months on Indian tiles by 5th Jan’19. The ceramic exports from Morbi cluster alone was to the tune of Rs 8000 crore in 2017-18 and Gulf countries accounted for around 35% of the exports. The antidumping duty by GCC will impact exports of Indian tiles to Gulf, part of which may be diverted to domestic market, putting supply glut in the market.

Thus, recovery in Indian tiles industry may have to wait for few more quarters more and pricing pressure for the manufacturers may increase in the coming weeks.

Tiles industry is expected to grow 4-5% during the year. However, bathware segment (sanitaryware and faucets) is expected to maintain double digit growth and many tiles manufacturers are giving more emphasis to this segment due to its growth prospects. Growing younger population and disposable income and also improving standard of living make this segment a sunrise one.

Slim tiles are now becoming the trend especially in high end constructions. Slim tiles are thin and lightweight yet incredibly strong.  Special manufacturing process of these tiles make them tougher, longer lasting and much more resistant to water and frost than ordinary tiles. Manufacturers like Kajaria and Somany have already introduced several types of slim tiles and now are planning to give bigger marketing push for these products.

It’s not just the thickness but size too matters! Trend is towards ultra large from earlier large tiles. Leading manufacturers are going for ultra large slabs in GVT and larger sizes in ceramics wall & floor tiles.

For example, Kajaria has launched new-size 1000×1000-mm PVT and 1×2 metres in GVT slabs (The Ultima collection). Somany Ceramics has launched GVT slabs with sizes 1200x2400mm, 800x1600mm, 800x2400mm and 1200x1200mm. Varmora Granito, Morbi-based manufacturer, has recently launched large slabs in GVT with sizes 1200x1200mm, 1200x2400mm, 800x1600mm and 900x1800mm in six series. Another Morbi-based manufacturer, Lioli Ceramics launched, at ET Acethech, for the first time in India – biggest ever slab (3200x1600mm).Qutone Ceramics too has ultra large slabs under its IMarble series.

In recent years, many companies from Morbi have started manufacturing large sized tiles. In India there are 12-15 plants making large slab tiles competing all over the world. However, the market for these products is not very big and that’s the reason why large organised players like Kajaria and Somany are waiting for the market to grow. Although these innovative products enjoy higher margins, since demand is limited, even new players find it difficult to breakeven and at times these companies, in order to scale up their utilisation, get into contract manufacturing for large organised players. Thus, in such niche categories, Kajaria and Somany prefer to outsource and plan to set up their own plants only once the market attains decent size.

Trend is fast changing in bathware segment too thanks mainly to intense competition and evolution of e-commerce. New and innovative products are being introduced by the manufacturers to attract new customers and also to meet expectation of the demanding customers. Somany has launched 2×1 premium wall tiles with third fire technology with 16 SKUs.

Kajaria also launched new designs in old sizes like 600x1200mm full-body vitrified tiles, Terrazzo, 800x1600mm double charged vitrified tiles, 800x800mm GVT and 600x600mm GVT in different finishes.

Another strategy adopted by the leading tiles manufacturers like Kajaria, Somany and Asian Granito is to focus on introducing large-sized tiles in all categories as they command higher prices per sqm because of better look and shine. Further, small time players do not have the manufacturing capability to produce large sized tiles due to which there is not much crowd in this segment.

Plywood, laminates, MDF – problems galore all around

It was a year of turbulence for plywood industry which also includes MDF and laminates. Demand slowdown, raw material price escalation and deteriorating pricing freedom due to increased competition – all happened at the same time. Demand slowdown forced the plywood players in the organised segment to explore new market. Many manufacturers like Century Ply focused on tier -2 tier -3 cities and introduced brands (like Sainik 710) suited to such areas, mainly in middle and lower segment. Fortunately for them price differential between organised and unorganised segment narrowed down substantially, post introduction of GST and subsequent reduction of GST rates.

According to market experts, branded plywood prices are likely to gradually inch higher with demand expected to remain firm in medium to long term led by market share gains.  In case of laminates, branded players like Greenlam, Merino and Century Ply have taken price increases in October. With the recent sharp fall in crude prices, it is unlikely that the producers will resort to another round of price hikes in near future. However, MDF price war is expected to continue. While the prices of late are stable, the pricing-led issue could emerge again if any of the top-3 players decides to further cut prices to become more competitive.

During the year, several new products were introduced by the leading producers. Greenpanel Industries launched Club grade HDF (water resistant equivalent to marine ply), pre-laminated MDF and veneered laminates. It also launched its wood flooring product under brand Greenpanel. Century Ply introduced Century Bond brand and positioned it in between premium Club and mid-segment Sainik brand. Stylam Industries launched new designs under textured and hi-gloss laminates in 0.8mm and 1mm thicknesses. It also strongly promoted its Granex brand of acrylic solid surface product and expects it to achieve Rs2bn in revenues over the next 2-3 years.

Decorative paints – end the year with optimism

In general, decorative paint manufacturers were happy in 2018 for more than one reason. GST Council in its July meeting had revised downwards GST for Paints, Wall Putty and varnishes from 28% to 18%. According to leading players reduction in GST rate will help to narrow down the price differential of the products manufactured by the organised and unorganised producers. In paint industry, unorganised manufacturers control as much as 35% of the market. According to some paint manufacturers, government’s move in July to reduce GST should hasten the process of shifting of market share from unorganised to organised segment.

With crude oil price moving downwards in last couple of months, paint manufacturers got another relief in the form of softening raw material prices which are mostly crude oil derivatives.

Change in GST rate had its impact on the sales pattern of the organised players like Asian Paints and Berger Paints. Due to some shift from the unorganised market to organized, sale of distempers and putty has started rising for the organised players. Paint manufacturers expect that distemper mix is likely to be strong in the coming months as well. Further, Emulsions too saw much higher growth post GST reduction, a trend which the paint manufacturers expect to continue in the coming months too.

Furniture – E-commerce is dictating the trend

In home furniture, wood is the material that still holds sway over other materials and this trend continued in 2018. People have started showing interest in rubber wood furniture. This is especially so in Southern India due to its proximity to rubber plantation. Further, availability of rubber wood too has increased and this trend is likely to remain upwards as the rubber plantations started in late 80s and early 90s have outlived their useful life and now can be used for furniture making. The southern state of Kerala produces 95 percent of the total supply of rubberwood in India. Also, rubber wood is considered green material as it is obtained from plantations. Light coloured rubber wood furniture is also liked for its colour which is a hit among the younger generation. Also, it is comparatively cheaper than other regular wooden material used for furniture.

Another material increasingly talked about is the coffee wood which is mainly used for decorative purpose. Coffee tables are becoming popular because of its dark colour and natural design. Its popularity also has got to do with the promotion of Coorg and Madikeri as popular tourist destinations by the Karnataka government, as these areas are known for coffee plantations. However, greatest hindrance about the growth of coffee wood as furniture material is the difficulty in its procurement. After the flood in Coorg this year, it has become even more scarcer.

Advent of e-commerce has given rise to use of materials like mango wood which have relatively lesser life in furniture. In fact, most of the enquiries for mango wood furniture has come from customers on e-commerce sites.

Again, MDF as a furniture material is gaining acceptance but very slowly. Acceptance is found more in Southern India than elsewhere.

Furniture made in China is finding favour even today among lower level hotels and restaurants as Chinese manufacturers are able to send the entire furniture requirements including accessories, curtains, etc on a turn key basis at much attractive rates. Furniture from Turkey hasn’t made much headway during 2018. Egyptian and European furniture concentrate mainly at the high end of the market.

In case of office furniture, office design and concept decided the furniture. 2018 trend showed that office design mainly concentrated on flexibility and functionality. Unlike in the past now people are little more inclined towards soft furniture at offices. But that cannot be called the trend of 2018. But employee comfort along with productivity are given equal importance in office designs. Also, minimalism is gaining strength in office designs. Decluttering is another aspect which is given more prominence in office designs. All these aspects have had a bearing on furniture demand and trend.


As the average size of the house is still small, wardrobes with wide doors have not become a trend yet. But wardrobes with wide doors with sliding fitting is becoming  more frequent than in the past. According to experts, non-metro cities may find it convenient to have larger wardrobes as the average size of the house is larger in those cities.

But wardrobes are becoming designer’s centre of attraction who are providing innovative designs. Instead of plain doors we now see perforated leather covers, wooden doors with ziricote and metal tinted glass doors make to suit the surrounding and enhance the interiors of the room. Still this has begun to make its appearance in dressing room though is still faraway from becoming a trend.

Kitchen – Islands gaining popularity

Open shelves were more popular especially with homes located at higher floors where problem of dust gathering is not much. Open shelves are preferred by the homeowners and designers as they provide more flexibility and space to decorate with accessories. For closed shelves decorative handles with patterns and dark colours were in vogue.

Since Indian homemakers spend more time in kitchen than their counterparts elsewhere, kitchen need to be spacious. So, space saving designs by placing accessories like microwave ovens, mixers, etc intelligently and innovatively have always was always demanding proposition and year 2018 was no exception.  Further, kitchen islands are gaining popularity over the years as they are multifunctional.

There were increased enquiries about Quartz for kitchen though it has not yet come anywhere near to be called a trend. Black granites and Cuddapah stones still rule the kitchen platforms.

Two-toned kitchen cabinets have started making their presence felt in 2018. Momentum may further gather strength in 2019 and may become trend. Usually homemakers went for darker colours at the bottom with lighter colours at the top. This makes the kitchen look bigger.

LEDs are everywhere and even in kitchens LEDs have become a norm. Interestingly kitchen illumination is gaining prominence thanks to availability of options at reasonable costs.

Dark colours were trend in the kitchen though there was no preference for a particular colour. Many designers suggested neutral colour for kitchens.

Lighting – led by LED trend

Lightings were taken seriously only during festivals and occasion of celebrations. But times are changing – with the availability of new age lightings and concepts now every day is a festival and an occasion to celebrate. In fact, lighting segment is one of the most happening segments with many new introductions in the market.

LED strip lighting was trending and it has almost become a common thing – be it living room or bedroom or wash room or kitchen – in the houses now. It is used in many variations – hallway indirect lighting, kitchen wall units lighting, bedroom false ceiling lighting, backsplash lighting, etc. It is used in residences, offices and commercial places alike. During the year, OPPLE Lighting, a leading global developer and manufacturer of LED lighting technologies, introduced LED Utility 2 HV strip lights. The product is specially designed to consume low energy and is ideal for fixture manufacturers embracing the latest technology in the concealed lighting segment.

LED lighting has invaded the commercial spaces like restaurants also. As completely dimmable LED lights are available it makes extremely easy for restaurants to set the mood for a night at the restaurant and the lighting can then be turned up for employee meetings, which makes it extremely easy to give restaurant multiple purposes. LED lights are used for  ambient light, accent lighting, as well as for featured décor.

Commercial lighting designs underwent intelligent innovation by focusing on energy efficiency and sustainable solutions. LED for office lighting is not only cost effective, but is also stimulating a huge increase in the installation of intelligent lighting controls such as occupancy sensors, photo sensors and wireless networks that link them.

Another big trend in commercial interiors is the inclusion of more of natural light. The interior design is curated keeping in mind the direct illumination with the help of daylight. More and more businesses nowadays are utilizing large open windows to pull some of the outdoors inside.

With growing awareness about sustainable lightings, more and more commercial projects have started opting for solar powered lightings. Many government buildings in 2018 have switched over to solar powered lightings.

In another interesting development, industrial light fittings have made a big comeback in 2018. The rugged, out-of-the-factory light fittings are finding its place in commercial projects. Industrial fittings are being modified with bright colour enamel finishes, coloured chords and detailing reminiscent of mid-century designs.

Bathrooms – designs getting increased attention

Bathrooms are getting special attention. Special efforts are made to make the bathrooms more organised as they can spare lot of space and also give spacious look to the bathrooms. Bathroom furniture is given equal importance to faucets in many interiors.

Sanitaryware was one of the fastest growing segments. Since most of the Indian bathrooms are small in size demand for smaller sized wash basins exceeded other sizes. Also, wall mounted wash basins were more in demand than rest of the types. Though coloured wash basins were in demand but were not trending. Marble wash basins, stone pedestal wash basins and resin wash basins were found some demand at the higher end.

Toilet and accessories were at the centre stage of the whole nation, thanks to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. However, this program has elicited demand mostly at the lower end of the market. In another interesting development Gujarat state government became the first Indian state to make mandatory use of dual flush system cisterns in public places. Dual use flush saves lot of water and other states too may follow the suit. In general, trend was to move towards smaller cistern and in the coming days this trend may gain further momentum.

One of the notable inventions during the year was the Soft Air by Roca which eliminates the need for Cistern as the technology provides for an air injection system that propels water from the tank towards the upper part of the bowl, achieving a highly effective and silent flush.

Designer bathroom mirrors are ‘in thing’ now. Till recently, Chinese made mirrors were flooding the market. There were quality issues about Indian mirrors and their durability was suspect. Now Turkish bathroom mirrors are also likened by Indian interior designers due to their superior quality and better designs.


Stainless steel towel racks with chrome finish (both foldable and non-foldable) were in popular  demand. Slim square stainless steel shower overhead shower without shower arm was in demand but the most popular was traditional bell shaped single flow overhead shower.

Health faucets, both single and double flow with chrome finish was flavour of the day in 2018. Both traditional taps and pillar taps were in demand. However, sensor taps have not yet made much impact in residential sector.

Exhaust fans made of plastic with minimal operational sound of 35 W in either black or white colour was in demand.

Mattress – year of multiple choices

Never in the history of our mattress industry we have seen so many options as we see today. Days of simple foam mattress are over now the customers want more. Year 2018 was a year of options for mattress buyers as many new products were introduced in the market. For example, Kurl-on, the largest manufacturer of mattress and second largest foam maker in the country, introduced ‘STR8 Technology’ for its mattresses. According to the company it is a first of its kind innovation that provides the right balance of firmness and softness in mattresses enabling appropriate muscle relaxation and growth.

On the other hand, Duroflex, another leading mattress brand in the country is highlighting its Heat Absorption Technology (HAT). According to the company, its HAT uses Outlast PCM (Phase Change Materials) which is normally used by NASA to help astronauts adopt to the extreme temperature variations in the space. HAT works by absorbing excess heat from the body and then keeps it regulated at an optimum throughout the night.

Sheela Foam Ltd, makers of Sleepwell mattresses has been majorly concentrating on premium and high-end mattress market all these years. However, the company has started making amends to its strategy and introduced economy model mattress Starlite and mid-level mattress Feather Foam in July 2017 and February 2018, respectively.

Peps introduced, Double Decker, 16-inch thick sleep system which is made of Talalay and according to the company, its outstanding breathability forces body heat into the mattress, through the microstructure and out, so one will always feel cool in summer and warm in winter.

So, in 2018 trend was clearly towards foam mattress which not only provided softness but also some additional qualities like temperature control and ease to handle and clean. Memory mattress and spring mattress too elicited customer demand.

Flooring – changing with the time

Tiles still rule the floors despite the availability of variety of other options. Among the tiles, it is the vitrified tiles which are popular among the middle class families. During the year, price of tiles were falling and new entrants were introducing new designs which forced the buyers not to look for any other flooring options.  People with shoestring budget naturally opted for tiles option for their flooring.

As far as colour options are concerned light to neutral coloured tiles are still preferred in Indian homes. Though Indians like coloured clothes, the same principle they are hesitant to extend it to their home floors. However, spacious homes sometimes make an exception where children rooms are floored with colourful tiles.

Terrazzo tiles were once written off as a flooring option but surprisingly have made a come back in 2018. Though there is no explicit reason for this come back it reminds us of some of the Bollywood heroes who made their come back late in their career after long gap. In Terrazzo, scattered designs were more popular than the rest.

Statement floors have not yet made trend but have made a beginning and this type of flooring where one can see the design which were hitherto restricted to walls and ceilings  has all the ingredient to become a trend in future. But statement floors are here to stay and they are going to stay for long. Perhaps prolonged dullness in real estate market may also give boost to different types of flooring including statement flooring as the realtors will look at all available ways and means to attract homebuyers.

Matte tiles were not in trend nor have they gone out of style either. As it portrays style and class some premium residences have this flooring on their living and dining rooms. Also, some of the new buildings completed by the builders have also gone for Matte floors, just to give a different look.

Wooden floors can be considered as the trend of 2018. Most people preferred wooden flooring especially in Metro cities because it is easier and less time consuming. Also, it gives a different look, especially if used in living rooms. It also allows you to have different patterns and designs like herringbone or chevron designs to make the looks of the house captivating. Also look-alike wooden tiles are making their presence felt especially for kitchen and bathroom flooring. Increased number of people are setting up their units for wooden flooring and itself speaks about the prospects of this type of flooring. Perhaps we can say wooden flooring has made a strong beginning in 2018 and the trend may become even stronger in the coming years. However, wooden flooring has a disadvantage as it is not suitable for high moisture areas.

Granite and marble tiles (in that order) have remained the choice of premium residences. It is also true that many clients reportedly have graduated themselves from ceramic/GVT to marble tiles. Imported marbles too are favoured by the people. In imported segment there was some shift from China to Turkey though it didn’t turn out to be a strong trend due to political developments in the later part of the year in Turkey.

Bathroom tiles

In case of bathroom tiles, there was a slight change in the preference and people have started liking for larger tiles over smaller ones. One of the explanations given is that larger tiles give more seamless look and also cleaning becomes little easier. However, this trend catching up in future is slightly difficult to say at this juncture as most of the Indian bathrooms are smaller in size which makes the case for smaller tiles. Use of large sized tiles in small bathrooms may result in wastages. Black tiles in bathrooms were also used but sparingly. Same is the case with metallic tiles.

Kitchen floors

Unlike in the past, having a different type of flooring (in respect of design and materials) for kitchen has gone up considerably. Even for kitchen platforms, shift is evident from Cudappah stones to granites and in some cases Quartz. However, tiles are the most preferred material for Kitchens and wood has not been able to make headway into kitchens. And it may not be easy for wood to capture the kitchen floors due to moisture element.

Walls – tiles on walls gaining acceptance

Wall tiles are trying to make their way into home walls. Though started towards the end of the last year, this year it has become little stronger trend is likely to pick up pace in 2019. Even the floor tile manufacturers are diverting part of their capacities to manufacture wall tiles. Ability to manufacture larger sized tiles is also helping their cause. Wall tiles have made a beginning in 2018.


Wallpapering was not a trend but it hasn’t disappeared either thanks to different designs and innovative and advanced materials used. It’s easy to install and can be replaced when you want a change – so wallpaper will remain as one option for decorating walls. Wallpapers inspired from artwork are also finding their place on walls as they resemble abstract paintings or murals. This year we could see geometrics on tiles and wallpapers also. Graphics on wallpapers were also on demand. Floral wall papers as usual steady in their presence. Brick wallpapers and 3-D wallpapers were in demand though cannot termed as trending products.

Wall Paint

One of the commonest and easiest ways to decorate walls is through painting. During the year contrast colours were in vogue. Bright coloured walls with accessories in contrast colours was popular.

Adding texture to the wall to bring 3D effect was seen more often in 2018 than before. Wall mounted pictorial sculpture was also used in living room to enhance the appearance of the house.

Mirror as an item of wall decoration is losing its popularity. One of the reasons stated by the interior designers is the poor quality of mirrors available nowadays. Also, those preferred mirror for wall decoration are going for imported ones. Further, wall mirrors are usually used in small sized houses. Since the average size of the house is increasing, it may no longer remain popular among the designers.

Statement walls were not so popular though the same thing cannot be told about statement ceilings. In fact, statement ceilings were more popular in 2018 and many clients preferred that style instead of going for statement walls.

Decorative wall tiles

Last year we saw many tile manufacturers venturing into wall tile manufacturing. That trend has continued this year too clearly indicating the prevailing trend. This year there was further improvement in trend with demand for decorative wall tiles increasing. Interest towards wall tiles as an item of decoration is slowly but steadily inching up.

We are entering an election year and also a phase of uncertainty. Also, liquidity crunch faced towards the end of 2018 will continue to remain at least during the initial period of 2019. These two factors will dominate the year 2019 which will impact the home decor industry too. To know more about 2019 trends, etc, read our this column tomorrow.

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