Shaw's Calabria

The housing market has been sizzling hot for much of the last decade, and some interesting residential design developments have just recently begun to reveal themselves. The design pendulum historically swings quickly when a new trend takes hold as everyone rushes to be part of it. But then, ever so slowly, it begins to swing back to create a more balanced use of design elements. In flooring, hard surface options took hold and inspired many homeowners to rip up every square yard of broadloom carpet and replace it with wood, tile, stone and even laminate.

The reasons range from easy of care to the need for clean tailored looks and eye appeal. While the appeal of hard surface floors remains, homeowners now seem to be looking for more balance between hard and soft surfaces within their homes. Softness underfoot, safety, warmth, and the desire for less cavernous acoustics are some of the reasons for the pendulum's swing back toward the center.

Another reason is technology. Science is fundamentally changing the fiber systems that are the building blocks for today's broadloom carpets. Most notably, stain resistant engineering has evolved dramatically. 3M, for instance, has developed custom chemistries suited for each unique fiber system. The consumer, of course, is the chief benefactor. Even the toughest stains like red wine and chocolate ice cream-the ones that previously could be expected to last as long as the carpet itself-are now being eradicated like milk off a cat's whisker. Add to that the wonderful mix of new, luxurious soft-handed yarn systems, and you have a hybrid carpet worthy of extreme popularity.

A case in point is Anso nylon's family of brands including Anso Caress nylon, a soft-handed yarn system that has quickly generated high demand. The secret is the denier of each fiber. They have been reduced to hair-like filaments that are tightly packed into the yarn bundle to produce a velvety, luxurious hand. Using this fiber system in cut-pile or cut/uncut graphic styles results in carpets that boost designer looks and offer extreme comfort to the touch and underfoot.

Another Anso Nylon breakthrough is the CrossBond Fiber Technology. The reason some carpeting looks old before its time is usually the tufts. In high traffic areas they often lose their twist and begin to show AN unsightly tip bloom. The company's R & D team developed CrossBond technology using powerful additive that bonds carpet fibers together to make them stronger. The tufts, in turn, become more resistant to untwisting and tip bloom and the carpet looks newer longer and offers enhanced built-in durability. It is also a unique swelling point because the CrossBond fiber technology is found only in Anso Caress and Anso CrushResister nylon staple carpets, and only from Shaw.

Invista's Tactesse fiber has also earned kudos from consumers as an ultimate luxury fiber system. The mills have married these new fibers to creative constructions and the end result is an array of enticing carpets that can become the focal point of any room. Soft to the touch, these carpets have extreme tactile appeal in the consumer market. In short: they look good and they fell good.

It appears that product designers and stylists continue to draw from nature for pattern design ideas, and the results are fascinating. Royalty Carpet Mills, based in Southern California, introduced an inspired collection of nature-oriented motifs earlier this year. Level/cut/loop graphics in this collection of products include Brentwood II, Chalet, Garden View and Veranda. Each refreshing pattern evokes the feel of a nature-walk, complemented by a palette of 36 colors capturing pure botanical and herb-like colors. The aesthetics of these carpets are timeless, and the performance is exceptional- built on a 10th gauge tufting machine for a tight, dense, "I can take it" construction. Stainmaster Tackesse is the fiber of choice, so expect a soft, inviting hand as well.

In the same vein, Shaw introduced "Calabria" in fall of 2005 (featuring the Anso Caress fiber system). With a contemporary feel to this unique carpet, shapes within shapes (circles encased in squares) create a remarkable graphic for home interiors. It is easy to visualize crop circles carved into a golden field of wheat when looking at "Calabria," and perhaps this was Shaw's inspiration when they conceived this edgy, memorable carpet design.

Textures also abound in the extensive array of residential carpets on available today. Manufacturers have gotten the message that the consumer wants choices, and there is no shortage of that in the world of broadloom. Freizes, saxonies, cable constructions, cut and loop pile and berber constructions are now all available for residential use, not to mention an abundance of high-style graphics. The end result is that consumers have access to everything they could possibly desire on the softer side.

Unique and compelling patterns are adding to the design options available in today's carpets. Pictured here is Royalty Carpet Mills Garden View. Although the carpet has a distinct aesthetic appeal it is also made with a dense construction that is designed to stand up to heavy traffic.
Soil and stain resistant fibers add to the appeal of carpet. With proper care and professional cleanings (following manufacturers' recommendations), even high-use carpets can be revitalized and returned to their original beauty. Branded fiber manufacturers have wisely established consumer hotlines to provide after-sale support. This is a valuable benefit in that consumers feel connected to a viable source that can advise them on stain removal as well as overall cleaning recommendations. Retailers would do well to discuss this benefit with shoppers considering branded fiber carpets. It establishes a comfort level and reassures the consumer that their purchase is backed not just by the company that made the carpet but the people who produced the fiber as well.

But the story does notend there. Extended color palettes and low minimum thresholds for custom colors are also adding to the buzz surrounding carpet. Clearly, the American consumer is becoming more comfortable with bold color choices and the mills are responding by incorporating fresh color combinations into their styling. For example, "Alamitos Bay" by Karastan blends multi-color accent yarns into the body of the carpet for an amazingly fresh color approach. Made with the Stainmaster Xtralife/Tactesse yarn system, "Alamitos Bay" portrays casual elegance with its soft-to-the-touch cable construction. A color dubbed "Wheatland" is a warm-toned, neutral spiced up with berber colorations of blue, coral and soft green accent yarns. Reminiscent of a plush garden that soothes the eye with soft yet vibrant colors, it's visually enticing but not overbearing. That is exactly what the consumer is looking for.

Whether the look is formal, casual, monochromatic or color-committed, carpet is the blank canvas upon which interior designs can be gracefully fashioned. No wonder today's consumers are giving carpet a second look. Perhaps more so than any other floor covering, carpet can set the mood for an entire room through an emphasis on texture, color, and softness-all of which contribute to the unique character of a room.

Rest assured this does not portend tough times for other types of flooring. Rather than diminishing the appeal of hard surface options, the bold strides seen on the carpet side make it more likely that the two types of flooring will share center stage. It is the perfect way to achieve that hard-to-soft design balance that homeowners are looking for.