Carpet Design Trends
Lately, I have felt that the search for the Holy Grail would be easier than finding a new carpet style. On a recent search for the ubiquitous sisal-like goods, I found a navy sisal that my client loved. Alas, it was real sisal and would not be practical for the kitchen location where it was needed.
With a different client on a different day, I found a great-looking patterned carpet. It was an unusual design made up of overlapping circles — the kind of pattern seen in old quilts. The client loved the carpet but, once again, it was wrong for the room.
Fast forward: the client still loves the unique patterned carpet and now wants it for a different location. I hum a happy tune as I go to my dealer’s showroom and make a beeline for the prize. But the carpet sample is gone. I get a sick feeling as the dealer reports he couldn’t get delivery of the goods from the mill, and the product is no longer available.
As mill stylists know, coming up with those elusive styles that sell is probably the carpet industry’s biggest challenge. Figuring out what products are selling is easy; the mill can track sales. But, the bigger question is why some new introductions — ones that everyone was excited about — are not moving as well as expected. Are they the wrong color? Too much pattern? Or do they look just like a product that sells for $2 less? What is today’s customer looking for?
Products populating the carpet marketplaceThe market is still saturated with berber-type styles. I get complaints from clients who say their wall-to-wall berbers are not holding up as they expected. A low, loop-style carpet seems like the ultimate in practicality, right? Yes, except that many are made with inexpensive fiber — and not much of it. Then there is the coloration. Off-white is not exactly the most forgiving color. The next time around, the disappointed consumer will be looking for something better.
Enter sisal — or rather the sisal look-alikes, because true sisal will not hold up as well as a synthetic or wool fiber does. Many of the sisal styles are too flat for the residential customer. Products that have pronounced ridges or a grid pattern are more likely to find their way into the home.
Carpets that replicate the look of textiles are a welcome addition. Rarely would one use a plain, flat textile. The fabric must have some dimension, texture and underlying pattern. It has to have movement. The same kind of interesting mix looks great on the floor.
Patterns can take their inspiration from any number of sources. Natural motifs are always in fashion. Technology brings us not only the methods to create these unique products but a source of inspiration as well. Eye-popping patterns have been produced by greatly magnifying ordinary elements under specialized microscopes. The “Cocktail Collection” of men’s ties is an example of patterns that emulate the look of various drinks as seen under a microscope.
What the consumers want, from a designer's perspectiveWhen I am looking for carpet with a client, we start with the high-end goods. That is where the most unique products and colors are generally found. Once we find something distinctive, we can always look for a less expensive version. But by starting where the action is, I can get the customer excited to see what has been happening in the carpet industry since they last shopped for broadloom five or 10 years ago.
Most of my clients have been shopping for other home furnishings, and are very aware of colors and styles in fabric, wall coverings, bed linens, and such. They get Pottery Barn and Ballard Design catalogs in the mail. They watch HGTV (Home & Garden Television). They look for unique finds on the Internet. And they do research in stores and on the Internet. Today’s consumers are very savvy, and they expect to have numerous options. They want high-style products tailor-made for them.
I do see some voids in the market. Recently, I was looking for carpet for an installation and wanted something in black. I found quite a few black carpets, but they were all combined with a camel color. Not that black-and-tan isn’t a great look, but my color scheme used black with clean, citrus hues. The tan in the carpet looked dead against coral and spring green.
Now granted, black carpet is not an everyday request but I have frequently encountered a two-colored carpet that has one of the two colors wrong (for my particular job). One solution to the dilemma is to create carpets with two shades of the same color. Instead of the often-seen combo of green and tan, offer two shades of the same green. For the residential market, it is much easier for the consumer to work with a monochromatic combination. And even with commercial carpets, the wider the color spectrum gets within a single carpet, the narrower the audience may be.
There are a couple of recurring problems with color choices. So many of the products repeat the same colorway for different lines. (I realize it’s based on manufacturing economics.) But if none of the colors work in one line, the next style is going to fail for the same reason. Another pet peeve is too many beige-to-off-white colors. I’m supposed to pick between “concrete” and “plaster,” and the difference looks like a variation in dye lot of the same color.
The best looking color lines today offer a variety in all colors, not just in the beige to brown range. There needs to be a “neutralized” version of every hue. It is also refreshing to see some rich, saturated colors — without the loud, garish tones of some of the more dated products. When I see that “Barney the Dinosaur” purple, I wonder what the manufacturer was thinking when it chose that color for its product. Give me eggplant or aubergine or lavender — anything but that loud, fuzzy purple.
Current technology allows us to easily access information about other interior furnishings. There is no reason why our carpet color lines cannot keep pace with partner industries. The smart carpet mills know that today’s market has not changed much from the previous decade. It is still all about color.