For Swedish company Bolon, vinyl flooring is not just something that you stand on, it’s something that should stand out. “We see ourselves not as a flooring company but as a design company that produces flooring,” says Chief Creative Officer Annica Eklund. “Our flooring is very strong and durable, but it also has a unique textile look. Unlike other vinyl flooring, ours can give a three-dimensional appearance when the light hits it.”
Established by Nils-Erik Eklund in 1949 and based in Ulricehamn, near Gothenburg, Bolon is a family business that championed sustainability long before it became fashionable to do so. In fact, Nils-Erik created the firm as a way of using up leftover fabrics from a textile company, thereby inventing the “rag rug”. He named the company Bolon by combining the Swedish word for cotton, “bomull”, with the word “nylon”. “Today we make our thread ourselves and we have an environmental station where we can cut and grind waste material to reuse in flooring,” says Annica.
On Nils-Erik’s premature death, his son Lars – who invented the awning mat – took over and, since 2003, his granddaughters Marie and Annica have run the business. “Being an entrepreneur is in the DNA,” says Annica, who has recently swapped roles with her sister.
With their background in fashion they have transformed Bolon from a traditional flooring brand into one that is international and innovative. Bolon flooring can now be found in the offices, shops and showrooms of some of the world’s most forward-thinking companies, including Apple and Google, as well as those of fashion giants Armani, Chanel and Adidas. Its designs also decorate the floors of Hilton and Four Seasons Hotels. “When we found out that Giorgio Armani was using our flooring in his public and private spaces, that was such an endorsement,” says Annica. “We felt that if we could attract him, we could attract anyone.”
Bolon’s creative and entrepreneurial achievements have won it a plethora of awards, including the Reddot Design Award in 2008, 2011 and 2014, and the Mixology North Awards Product of the Year 2016. Annica says that, personally, she is most proud of the “Bolon by You” collection, which allows purchasers – architects and interior designers – to put their own identity into their chosen flooring, by selecting from 500 different options of patterns, colours and materials.
Everything is produced in Sweden, including Bolon’s own underlay. The company has invested millions in making itself sustainable, creating a dedicated recycling plant. Around 95 per cent of its products are now exported via exclusive distributors in different markets.
For its 70th anniversary this year, Bolon is creating a special tribute collection. Past collaborations with French architect Jean Nouvel and Italian fashion giant Missoni have produced unique, branded collections. “In 2019 we will be launching another collection with Missoni,” says Annica. “It will be colourful and vibrant with a strong Missoni identity.”
As for the longer-term future, Annica admits that she always has too many plans and is highly ambitious: “We want to expand beyond flooring into creating fabrics for furniture to dress walls and whole rooms. We want to produce beautiful things to make a more beautiful world. For Marie and me, the essential thing we bring to Bolon is passion. If you don’t have passion and inject it into your business life, it’s very hard to find motivation and inspiration. We love what we do.”