Karastan’s Valerie Smith hand-seams rugs together to create over-sized rugs at the company’s showroom.

Shifting consumer attitudes about the home and a desire to recapture an “older, more traditional appeal” has spurred Karastan to move beyond soft surface and into hardwood flooring.

Beginning in June, the company plans a limited rollout of a new upscale Wood Essentials collection. Included will be four solid wood offerings in the Natural Expressions line as well as four varieties of engineered product sold under the Classic Elements label. The company said all of the product will be produced in its North Carolina manufacturing facility and sold by its established network of retailers.

The decision by Karastan to reach beyond a core product area that has served the company well for nearly 80 years seemed to surprise many of the 500 guests who gathered for the company’s recent dealer meeting in Colorado Springs. Karastan officials said the move was driven by the shifting priorities of American consumers and a renewed focus on the home. They assured that Karastan’s long track record in the industry will give the new products immediate credibility.

Company president Thomas Lape explained that the move into hardwood was indeed consistent with the company’s image. “Karastan has been in existence since 1928, and so we wanted a product that would restore some of our company’s older, more traditional appeal,” explained Lape. “Our wood product line is an example of that. It is hand-crafted, hand-scraped and has an old world, antique feel to it.”

Although mindful that the Dalton, Ga.–based company is entering a highly competitive segment that has long been dominated by a handful of well-established players, Lape noted that Karastan’s solid reputation will be a major factor. “Karastan is well-known, which will help in establishing the wood product’s credibility.” He added that the new products are intended to help retailers complement their current hardwood assortment.

David L. Hardy, fashion group senior v.p., stands with Karastan’s first wood products, Wood Essentials.

The Natural Expressions line features three parquet patterns: Bordeaux, Fontaine Bleu and French Herringbone, fashioned into 2’ squares with a low luster wax finish. It is expected to retail at about $50 per sq ft. The parquet can be inlaid with Regency, a 5” plank that is expected to retail at $20 per sq ft. Classic Elements consists of 5” planks with hand-rubbed stains, dyes and glazes. It has a low luster, urethane finish and is expected to retail at around $12 to $18 per sq. ft.

Retailers on hand for the meeting seemed supportive of the move into hardwood. One attendee pointed out that many prominent companies have gained strength when they moved into new territory. “Home Depot was once a lumberyard. So it makes sense for a company like Karastan to move beyond the area of rugs.” said Sy Mahfuz of Persian Rug Galleries in Nashua, N.H., a one-store operation that has sold the Karastan brand for four generations.

The company’s ambitious move into hardwood flooring was not the only new product news at the two-day meeting. New rug entries included worsted New Zealand wool offerings inspired by the Peshawar genre, Shapura and Sierra Mar. Shapura includes three patterns, Athena, Tiana and Tiana Ivory while Sierra Mar is available in six patterns: Ventana-Ivory, Sedona-Limestone, Sedona-Henna, Sedona –Ivory/Henna, Capri-Maize and Capri-Robin’s Egg.

Other rug offerings touted at the meeting included Original Karastan in Empress Kirman Black, Ashara in Agra Border, Persian Renaissance in Taupe Tabriz, Samarkand in Captiva and English Manor in Warwick and Regent’s Park. Karastan’s senior vp of style and design, Elizabeth Miller, noted that the new rugs are designed to reflect the consumer’s desire for simplicity in their home furnishings. “A lot of today’s younger, hipper consumers consider themselves traditional, and so we’ve gravitated toward a more casual, hand-made look in constructing Shapura and Sierra Mar.”