Global Inspiration, At-Home Comfort

Oct2018 ProdFocus feature image-webAn atmospheric mix of pale gray and indigo blues makes this Generations design from KAS Rugs.

What’s the trend in rugs? In a word, groovy.

What product can be a riot of color yet timelessly elegant? Cuddly and cozy yet coolly modern? An exciting work of art or a serene background? Area rugs, of course. Today’s rugs are captivating millennial shoppers as quick fixes for old floors and as investment pieces for new homes – and retailers are showcasing rugs to make the shopping experience easier.

Retailers know how a rug looks and feels is important, but so is price point. Rugmakers agree that, thanks to recent innovations, machine-woven products deliver excellent design and texture at attractive prices. High-end, handmade wool rugs will always have their market, but with technology, machine-made rugs look so great, they’re more competitive than ever.

“Visually interesting textures and a soft ‘hand’ are rug trends with staying power,” says Wendy Reiss, VP of Sales and National Accounts at KAS Rugs. “We’re still seeing good sales in shags, but the next generation of designs features soft shags in patterns of two or more colors. These have been very popular and have worked well in vignettes in furniture stores.”

Reiss says popular rugs include multi-textures that combine shrink polyester with viscose or other materials.  “Abstract, landscape, distressed and soft contemporary patterns have been very popular,” she says, adding that higher-end rugs are also doing well in adventurous, designer-oriented textures.

“Unusual and eclectic constructions have been very successful,” says Reiss. “Flat weaves with unique textures, hand-knotted patterns, chunky fringe, and naturals with texture have all been great. The most popular tufted rugs have gone beyond traditional to feature more texture for interest.”

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Braided rugs combine timeless texture with updated colors such as the modern pastels in this Blue Opal rug from Capel’s Synergy collection. Shake things up and display with modern and global furnishings to show millennials how urbane a traditional look can be.

Capel Rugs believes texture is still in the forefront of consumers’ minds. Cindy Green, a member of the Capel product development team and of the trend forecaster Color Marketing Group, says that “Consumers are drawn to rugs with the cozy feel and look of a chunky cable sweater. It’s comfortable but also subtly interesting.” For an update on popular shag, Capel’s Felicity is an alluringly soft rug in a solid neutral, but with the look of texture, achieved with different types of polyester thread; some glossy, some matte. Capel also does well with one of the world’s oldest texture techniques: braiding. The look offers rustic country charm but in fresh colors, including pretty tints.

Sophisticated pastels that took an earlier fall-winter apparel season by storm are now in home furnishings. Capel’s Synergy line combines neutrals with a subtle pastel, Green says, “to create a subtle color wash that adds interest but doesn’t overpower the space.”

Green says consumers appreciate flat-woven rugs with hand-carved texture. Capel’s Gallery line features hand-carved motifs like Greek key or herringbone. These design motifs are elegantly classic, but because they’re geometrics, also feel cool and urban. These looks define timeless chic – they’ll go with any room style, forever. That’s especially important, Green says, because “area rugs need to be trend-forward but they’re investments like fine furniture, not short-term, impulse-purchase items.”

Strong texture and subtle color are trend leaders, but that’s not the whole color story. Reiss says that, “as we head into fall and the holidays, we find that customers are looking for traditional patterns, open and updated, in colors of spice, golds and teals with naturals.”

Green sees color inspirations from the 1960s and 70s appearing with new vigor: “Rich rusts, terra-cotta, and greens – lots of different greens! – reflect our current awareness that being in natural environments and around nature’s hues and images confer real health benefits. And of course, nature-inspired palettes go beautifully with organic, handcraft-inspired textures.”

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Rich neutrals and dramatic textures bring the global/bohemian look home, as in this chunky-fringed flatweave from Kas Rug’s Porter collection. Display with rustic, handcraft-inspired accessories and furniture with a touch of metal for urban flair.

Global, bohemian and artisan inspirations from that time period also appear in deep, saturated colors, Green says. “Deep purples and indigo blues, a dramatic green that’s almost black, and deep magenta or berry hues are very strong on the cool, blue-based side. (On the warm yellow side, we see rust, mustard and terra-cotta.) Mixed with lighter, neutral tints in today’s rugs, deep tones are versatile and easy to use.

“There’s still a market for traditional styles and patterns, from opulent Oriental-style to homey braided looks,” Green says. Historically, these rugs have always mixed colors beautifully, but today’s looks have added interest with updated colors from bright blues to berry, as in Banaz, one of Capel’s machine-made introductions in April. The technique of distressing also enhances a rug’s historic, romantic look.

To draw attention to new offerings and help shoppers visualize a rug’s impact in a space, Green says, Capel’s retailers typically showcase new rug collections with accessories in room vignettes. “The globally collected look, as if you were a seasoned world traveler, is still going strong, and a rug and accessories in a vignette tell the story vividly.”

Merchandising rugs can be a challenge because of the very different ways consumers approach their choices. Says Green, “A rug can be a room’s focal point — consumers see a color scheme in a rug and want to build a room around it. That can be good news for a store that sells furniture! Rugs also give people the confidence to use unexpected hues together if they see them in the rug.

“Some consumers have paintings and other artworks they are already building their room scheme around, and the rug is the last piece to ground the look. In that case, a subdued color or perhaps a key color subdued with a neutral may be preferred. Whatever the goal, the more visual cues and help you can provide, as in a room setting or even a small vignette, the better.”

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Minimalist urban design gets a subtle spark of interest thanks to handwoven texture in the witty “Circuit” rug, part of the Gallery collection at Capel Rugs. Display with furniture and accessories that combine sleek materials with self-patterns that convey texture.

Reiss says many KAS Rugs dealers who sell home furnishings use the ‘one to show, one to go’ process. “The retailer displays the rug as an integral part of a room setting, and if a customer wants to buy that rug, there’s one in the back all ready to go,” Reiss says. “Or at our dealer’s request, we can drop-ship directly to the customer with no additional processing fee, so if the customer wants that room setting rug, it can simply be ordered and shipped directly to the customer.” Retailers can place orders directly to KAS through its “Shopzio” secure ordering site.

Rack displays are still the norm, Reiss says. “If you have the room to show rugs 5×8 or larger on racks, it’s a wonderful option.” KAS retailers can obtain the rack at no cost except freight if the retailer fills the rack with 40 rugs (reaching a certain volume). Says Reiss, “we also have a turn-key display program with one-tier and three-tier racks and hundreds of display samples to choose from to fill these racks. Cost ($500 for one tier and $1000 for three tiers) includes the rack, rug samples, the catalog and freight. There is also a rebate option, where a store can earn its initial investment back over time.”

Some retailers choose to create “theme” racks, says Reiss, “for instance, to showcase just indoor/outdoor selections. This approach lets stores make a minimum investment and give customers another curated shopping experience that’s fun and easy.”

Indoor/outdoor is a great segment to show separately, Green agrees. “Easy care counts for today’s busy families,” she says. “Multi-hued mid-tone rugs, even elegant Orientals, can disguise everyday mishaps with kids, pets and projects, but if your heart is set on a pale monotone rug, an indoor/outdoor version can make that practical.” Green adds that Capel’s Creative Concepts indoor-outdoor line, made in Dalton, Georgia, “features textured braiding, beautiful mitered edges, and custom colors and borders with such a handsome look people use them indoors.”

To accommodate retailers who are creating “design centers” within their stores, KAS offers rug swatches for sale individually. “That lets dealers creatively showcase the swatches any way they choose; on hangers or in mini-vignettes to tell a style and color story (See sidebar on page 21, “8 Tips For Rewarding Rug Displays”). To help drive traffic, KAS offers certain collections exclusively to brick-and-mortar stores; as Reiss says, “it’s a good option to help retailers differentiate themselves from online businesses.”

8 Tips for Rewarding Rug Displays

  • Make sure your lighting is excellent – when it comes to rugs, color is a big deal.
  • Organize some samples by color first, then by other features.
  • Make sure prices are (subtly) visible in vignettes.
  • Display posters with illustrations that help consumers decide which rug size is best for their room setting.
  • If you show rugs in the back of the store, say so on signage near your entrance.
  • Show some rugs in small sizes, casually rolled in baskets or bins near vignettes throughout the store, to show alternative rugs that could work with the furniture on display.
  • Display small rugs to show colors and textures accurately, with photos of room-sized versions nearby to help customers visualize the effect.
  • Use rugs in the latest colors plus a few pillows and a vase or lamp in similar hues to quickly update any furniture group.

About the Author

Mary Wynn Ryan
Mary Wynn Ryan is an award-winning journalist and author of seven books in interior design, including Urban Style, Garden Style and others. She can be reached at wynnryan@rcn.com.