This rug, from Sphinx by Oriental Weavers' Andy Warhol Collection, incorporates bright, bold colors and distinct patterns.

Terracotta from Nourison's Gallery Metro Collection represents the vivid color sense currently seen in the contemporary marketplace.
This summer's Atlanta International Area Rug Market, Scheduled for July 11-14 at AmericasMart Atlanta, will showcase small manufacturers' and prominent mills' latest area rug designs, from traditional rectangles to specialty squares, octagons and rounds. Fueled by consumer demand and a growing awareness of style in the marketplace, one of the growing trends in area rugs design is the move from traditional rug looks to contemporary and transitional patterns.

"Right now, in the market overall, contemporary and transitional styles are relatively more important than they were two or three years ago," says Ed Vairo, director of marketing for Nourison. "These changes account for only 20 percent of the market overall, but this is 20 percent compared to 17 or 18 percent a couple of years ago. In an incremental way, it is a significant movement."

Sphinx by Oriental Weavers offers a range of specialty shapes, including rounds.
Vairo feels that the shift toward contemporary and transitional styles stems from consumers becoming increasingly comfortable with bright, vivid colorations.

"Within contemporary rugs, we're seeing a wide range of colors being offered," Vairo explains. "These are strong colors, bold reds and brilliant blues -- whereas in traditional designs, we're seeing a movement toward softer, more diffused colors. So what's going on in transitional and contemporary rugs stands in marked contrast to what's going on in traditional rugs."

Vairo says that the shift in consumer mood is a hard thing to quantify.

"People don't say ‘I'm getting red because I want a bright, happy color' or ‘I'm buying red because I'm feeling bright and happy.' Consumer mood is not something you can reduce to a statistic," he says.

Capel's St. Tropez collection offers a variety of rugs featuring bold, brilliant hues, including this style called Agra.
"However," he adds, "consumers for area rugs are becoming more sophisticated. It's no longer sufficient to say a rug is 100 percent wool. You need to say it's 100 percent New Zealand wool, or it's a combination of wool and silk, and talk about the respective knottings that give the rug its dimensionality. Whatever you can do to differentiate the product is going to help."

Lynne Minchello, marketing manager for Colonial Mills Inc. (cmi) says that consumers have become more design savvy and are looking at area rugs as part of a total solution to furnishing their interiors. In recognition of this development, cmi is marketing a full line of home accessories -- including tote bags, hampers, baskets, and floor pillows -- in tandem with their area rug lines.

She feels that indoor/outdoor rugs manufactured of polypropylene are ascending in the marketplace because they are durable and easy to maintain. She also senses an increased demand for different textures.

This selection from Capel's hand-tufted Tempo collection shows a contemporary sense of color and pattern.
"We're finding that people want different yarns and different textures in their rugs," she says. "They want textures and colors that can blend in with any décor."

Vairo thinks that texture is one way that rug manufacturers can differentiate their products. "There is a limit to the variety you can offer in colors, and that limit has been fairly well explored in the current market," he explains. "Texture has become another criterion of differentiation."

According to Jonathan Witt, vice president of marketing for Sphinx by Oriental Weavers, texture has attracted a lot of attention, but he feels it might have been more exciting for the manufacturers than the consumers.

The Nourison 2000 Collection offers specialty shapes in rounds, ovals and octagons.
"As manufacturers, we all went a little texture-crazy, doing as many new things as we could do with textures, when there was not necessarily as much of a demand for it from the consumer," Witt says.

He thinks that consumers are looking for rugs with sharp, distinct colors and contemporary styling. "We're seeing a call for brighter, more concise colors with less shading," Witt says. "Lots of people are looking for bright colors -- the bright oranges, the bright reds.

"There's a big move toward contemporary and transitional looks in the home," he continues. "For many years it was a growing trend, but now I think it's a standard. People are using rugs in their home more than ever before. They want to diversify, not have a traditional pattern in every room of the house."

Forest/Multi, part of Shaw Living's Impressions collection, uses contemporary coloration and design.
Witt says that consumers are diversifying not just by texture and color, but by requesting different shapes in rugs, too. Rugs are rarely just rectangular anymore.

"Rounds, octagons and squares have been big," Witt says. "They're being used in entry foyers, kitchens, around dining room tables -- there's many applications."

Vairo agrees that consumers are buying more and more of these specialty shapes. "Rounds, ovals, octagons, and squares literally give a new dimension to what people can do with area rugs," he says. "They allow people to differentiate their various settings. There can be an oval for the dining room, a square for the living room -- that kind of thing. This is happening in moderately priced machine-made products all the way up to premium-priced handmade products."

Rally, from cmi's Simply Home collection, uses a neutral, earthy palette to augment its contemporary stripe pattern.
Lou Webster, director of product development and design for Capel, says she is seeing a growing interest from the consumer in contemporary designs and sizes -- everything from geometric combinations to organic shapes, curves, circles, and "anything with a retro twist."

"It's a more casual type of look -- not nearly as formal as it has been in previous years," Webster says. "The scales of pattern are getting larger, and people are not so afraid of color.

"We're seeing a lot of spice colors and brighter colors coming into the home palette," she adds. "People are adding more pumpkin and spice shades. Lilac is coming in, and scarlet reds and watermelon colors. Brown is starting to show up with some of the reds."

Allen Robertson, national sales manager for Capel, says that bold colors are a strong presence in the marketplace. "If we went through all our collections right now, I'd say that red would be the best-selling color across the board," he says.

Neil Hegwood, product development manager for Shaw Living, says his company is "doing a few unusual sizes that people are asking for" to tap into the specialty sizes segment.

Boardwalk, from cmi's Simply Home collection, includes a rug utilizing contemporary colors and design.
For example, Shaw Living offers a variety of kitchen-sized rugs, galley rugs and a size based around the needs of the casual dining area. Hegwood is also seeing an increase in customers asking for bright, bold, saturated colors.

"They're looking for organic, transitional, contemporary, and modern styles," he says. "They want bright, saturated colors. That seems to be the way the market is going for us."

Hegwood has his own theory as to why transitional and contemporary rugs are tracking so high in the market -- he believes it's because of the many home-improvement and design shows available on television.

Maple/Brown from Shaw Living's Impressions collection comprises dark, saturated colors and distinct patterns.
"If you watch those things, you'll see, for example, that somebody goes out for the weekend only to have his living room totally redone behind his back," he explains. "You'll notice that what the designers pick to redecorate is never traditional. It's either modern or it's transitional.

"Our customers will watch one of those shows on Thursday night," he adds. "Then they'll get off of work on Friday and think, ‘Okay, this weekend, I want a rug.' Couches can cost thousands of dollars, but you can find a 6-by-9 for around 199 bucks. It immediately brings them up to the forefront of style."

Hegwood finds that coastal themes -- replete with palms and coastal vegetation laid out in modern patterns -- are strong sellers for Shaw Living. As for texture, "the softer the better," he says.

"People want that butter-soft hand feel, and something very dense," Hegwood says. "They want to touch it, look at the texture, look at the luster and the rich, vivid, saturated colors.

"The contemporary trend just five years ago was nothing like it is now," he adds.