Shown is Couristan Floral. All of the rug’s colors use 2011 color forecasts.

So many times, the offer your reps make to show you their new carpet styles elicits a yawn and a put-off. Well, it’s time to make room on your calendar to have them come on in-because they really do have something to show you.

I was appalled to hear someone say recently that carpet might go the way of avocado green appliances from the ‘70s-used to love it, but has outlived its time. That couldn’t be more wrong! As a designer focused on marketing trend research, I see that carpet is experiencing a resurgence of popularity.

Hard surface is awesome, but the livability factor brings the customer back to reality.  It’s hard, it’s often cold, it bounces sound, and it isn’t particularly inviting to sit on. Enter (or should I say re-enter) carpet. The new styles offer aesthetics and solutions to each of those negatives, offering softness, good sound abatement and an inviting feel. Read on to see the galaxy of options carpet has to offer.

Beaulieu– One of the center points of the Beaulieu booth at Surfaces was the Bliss/Flirtation display. Beaulieu is noted for value products with flair, and that is captured in Flirtation.

Bliss by Beaulieu’s Flirtation collection offers an array of stylish colorways and is protected using Silver Release technology.

The styles feature a low-profile pile height built for durability. But beyond addressing performance, they offer some unique styling and a more-than-adequate color line. Soft greens and blues, earthy copper and gold, and a generous selection of neutrals are offered in four different patterns. This collection lends itself to mix-and-match opportunities. A linen-look weave projects an understated linear style. The strongest pattern in the collection is an organic inspired open-circle motif. Two more color-coordinating styles round out the series.

As an added bonus, Beaulieu reports Bliss uses silver, copper and/or zinc ion technology branded Silver Release. These various ions are embedded into each carpet fiber to effectively inhibit the growth of odor and stain causing bacteria and can reduce mold and mildew. This helps keep the carpet cleaner and fresher for the life of the carpet.

No doubt, pricing on these products is sharp, and the style factor is high. Good work from Beaulieu.

Couristanarea rugs feature some funky new styles deserving attention. To say that this company is not afraid of color is an understatement. Vibrant hues in super-plush constructions net area rugs that are suitable as fine art for the floor. This company is forward thinking when it comes to color. All of the colors featured in their contemporary rugs are 2011 projected colors by Color Marketing Group International. They’ve done their homework. Contemporary styles excel, but so do their more classic rugs that fit the traditional mode. All of it is eye-candy for your customer.

There was an interesting trend I observed at Surfaces. Many mills are focusing on high-tech, multi-level tufting techniques. Patterns are interesting because they are dimensional and almost look as if they are carved into the plush surface. Couristan put this into practice with a stunning leaf-design rug. There is an over-tuft outline to each leaf in a (surprise!) contrasting metallic yarn. The result is luminous. Their floral designs are also fresh and innovative, using a multi-level construction that invites you to touch and feel.

Natural Carpet Co.’s products include abaca, raffia and sea grass floor coverings.

Masland Carpets– I was first introduced to Masland’s new luxury wool collection last fall, while it was still in R & D. As a designer, I got to preview what was coming and offer an opinion. I wasn’t alone in my consensus that these new introductions would be winners. I was allowed to borrow those experimental products and displayed them at a designer gathering at Leonard’s Services, hosted in Anaheim, Calif. Twenty-six ASID designers got to view the samples up close and personal. I listened carefully to their reactions and comments as they saw this line for the first time. Comments included:  “Unexpected color line,” “beautiful hand,” and “great patterns.” I couldn’t agree more.  

The pastel offerings are gutsy and unique, and although these romantic styles could easily get tagged as Master Bedroom carpet, the designers saw beyond that. If integrated into a design with finesse and a professional hand, they can set the stage for an entire home. It will be interesting to follow this collection.

Mohawk Carpets– You may recall that Mohawk purchased the Wear-Dated fiber brand at the end of last year. That’s an important bit of information, because the acquisition was the springboard for Mohawk to take Wear-Dated fiber – and carpet styling – to the next level. Mohawk utilized the new DuraSoft carpet fiber to build products that feature an ultra-soft, velvety hand. Super-fine fibers are the reason DuraSoft carpets have that luxurious feel. Add to that a unique luster that provides richness without the shiny effect associated with some other synthetic fibers. Styles feature geometric and nature-inspired patterns. Check out Mohawk’s Timeless Design style, to see first-hand how DuraSoft translates to pure luxury.  

One other standout style in the Mohawk line features their SmartStrand bcf polyester fiber. That style is Willow Spirit and this one makes a statement. Its name captures the essence of the pattern: a flowing, vine-and-leaf sculpted look. Willow Spirit earns an adjective reserved for exceptional carpets: sophisticated. The 24-color line reflects a timeless palette that will be in style today, tomorrow and for many years down the road.  

The Natural Carpet Company– Being on the lookout for what’s fiery hot is always my intent. The Natural Carpet Company stopped me in my tracks with their incredible styles. Abaca, raffia and sea grass floor coverings are their specialty. Norman Marks, company president, shared a noteworthy application of one of their products. Imagine a dyed-red natural raffia floor covering-bright, striking, and one of those “where in the world would you ever use it” products?  

Roger Thomas, designer of Steve Wynn’s Encore Hotel in Las Vegas, decided this was the perfect surface material for the entire length of the wall behind the Encore’s registration counter. I went to see it personally and it was the perfect application.  Adorned with huge 3-D glass-blown butterflies, the floor covering proved its versatility and added drama to this hospitality setting.  

In real life, it isn’t practical for many customers to choose a large-repeat pattern for their homes (might be out of scale for the room, and requires ordering overages). If, in fact, a customer is seeking a natural, sustainable material in a smaller-scaled woven pattern, you now have a source. That’s the fit The Natural Carpet Company offers.  

Nourisoncontinues to impress the masses year after year. They are definitely tuned in to the needs of your high-end customers. Nourison works hard to create memorable styles that can transition from contemporary to traditional designs with ease. Their patterns are very architectural in nature and play with varying pile heights to give them a three-dimensional look. One of the design trends for 2010 and 2011 will be carpets and area rugs that employ “trompe l’oeil” techniques (French for “fool the eye”).

Shaw-Tuftex– Sometimes a great product comes to your attention while working with specific customers or design clients. That was the case with Tuftex’ Life’s Been Good and My Love. As breathtaking as many of the patterned carpets are, let’s face it, most of our customers are just looking for a well-built, plush carpet that can stand the test of time-and do it in style. These two products definitely fit that description.

Hefty face weights make them gluttons for punishment that can be shown off in high-traffic areas. The color line (in true Tuftex fashion) is West Coast oriented. Look for interesting complex neutrals, softer sage greens, and enticing warm tones. When it comes to color, this mill realizes that your job is to coordinate both hard and soft surfaces. This is cutting-edge thinking because it means the mill is willing to do their homework to make retailers’ lives easier.  

Successful mills can no longer live in an ivory tower and develop autonomous color lines. They have to have a broader view, with an eye on simplifying the process of coordinating hard and soft floor coverings. Tuftex has responded to those needs by researching hard surface trends and colorations and bringing to market what they call “Color Logic”. Now that strategy goes beyond any marketing hype-it’s real, it’s useful and it’s reflected in their product line.

There you have a brief tour of what carpet manufacturers have put forth as their very best. Is their best good enough? Only you, and your customers, can answer that question.