By Ken Ryan While carpet isn’t ready to replace hardwood flooring for its aspirational appeal or supplant LVT as the fastest growing segment, the soft surface category is writing its own headlines lately with bold patterns and creative designs – tapping carpet trends and fueling a resurgence.
The fact residential carpet grew by 13% in the 2020 fourth quarter, according to industry estimates, is no fluke. Carpet is making inroads as a fashion statement, and consumers are willing to step out of their comfort zones to invest in color and patterns, carpet executives say.
“Bold, statement-making colors and patterns are being used throughout the home to add a unique touch to the design aesthetic,” said Lisa Lux, director of product development, Anderson Tuftex Soft Surface. “With so much hard surface going on in the flooring landscape, soft surface patterns add visual interest and endless versatility in design.”
In some ways, carpet’s metamorphosis as a design element in the home has hard surfaces to thank. The trend is especially evident with abstract patterns, products that have an overall random visual. “The abstract patterns can be designed with a natural, organic look like tree bark or flowing water, or they can be very textural, like a cross hatch,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division, The Dixie Group. “Color variation and luster play can accentuate the pattern visuals in this category. Combining the various yarn options and the wide range of tufting and weaving technologies, the options for abstract patterns are almost endless. If you can imagine it, it can be created. These types of products are beautiful companions to wood, natural stone and other hard surface products.”
Among the popular carpet trends for 2021 are bolder geometric shapes and organic designs, which are said to instantly add character to a room. “Medium- to small-scale geometric patterns are timeless elements that are always in style and endure for years,” Lux explained. “The desire to connect with nature and the biophilic movement in interiors seems to be driving the trend to Brittany Stanley, senior design manager, soft surface, Mohawk, said she sees homeowners buying carpet on a room-by-room basis—as opposed to the entire home.
To that end, they are more daring with regard to color and designs. “What we are seeing are bigger, bolder patterns,” she observed. “Consumers are choosing accent colors. When I started doing this almost eight years ago, less than 2% of sales were in accent sales; now it is closer to 10%. People are taking more risks and expressing themselves through their flooring. What people don’t realize is you can make more of a statement with carpet than with hard surface.”
As consumers search for ways to feel secure from the world outside during the pandemic, experts say cocooning shapes, happy colors and playful designs have emerged. “The pandemic has altered the way we see color and what colors we want to surround ourselves with,” said Pamela Rainey, vice president of residential product design, Shaw Industries. “Bright colors and color-blocked painted areas create a strong visual impact that is mood enhancing and invigorating. There is a tendency to crave warm tones in challenging times because we want the room to give us comfort and warmth. Carpet has risen in popularity with a lot of homeowners because of the coziness that it provides as well as the on-trend patterns and colors that can be achieved.”
Suppliers push the limits
Carpet mills are stepping outside the box in 2021 with a slew of patterns/designs. Case in point is Anderson Tuftex’s Sheer Purrfections, a stylized depiction of traditional folded-paper art in a layered geometric pattern. A subtle diamond motif is intricately overlaid atop a mosaic tile design. Mimicking the shaded recesses and crisp lines that give folded paper forms depth and definition, the fibers in this Stainmaster PetProtect design make use of different cut and loop effects to lend a modern edge to a reflection of a centuries-old practice.
With patterned carpet, the floor has become the fifth wall of the home. As such, consumers “can really express their style and decorating taste in a unique way that complements the furniture, window treatments and other surfaces in their home,” TDG’s Nuckols explained.
Two key pattern introductions for 2021 are Fabrica BRUSHstrokes and Masland TAPdance. These tufted products are part of the TECHnique collection and can be featured as a wall-to-wall carpet or a custom-sized area rug, he added.
The DW Select collection houses the majority of Engineered Floors’ trend-focused patterns, loops and textures. Its two “stepping out of the box” patterns are Mojave and Westminster. Mojave is a large-scale wave pattern that fits the current trend toward geometric patterns but highlights the movement toward more organic structure and flow as opposed to engineered patterns. “Mojave provides the calming effect of nature that all of us yearn for as we continue to live in place during the lasting effects of the pandemic,” said Joe Young, soft surface category manager. “Offering neutrals to aqua and inky blues, this color line offers a calm, contemporary look. Traditional tree bark patterns have always been a staple in the big middle of the market and this linear wave pattern, when coupled with the natural striations made possible by our proprietary TwistX technology, gives a new meaning to the linear pattern category.”
Meanwhile, Westminster is a ribbed loop pattern that offers the feel of natural elements including jute, sisal and other natural fibers. A softer color palette provides a clean and airy feel.
At Mohawk, popular patterns and designs for 2021 include Regal Appeal (EverStrand), Luxurious Statement (Karastan) and Majestic Vision (Karastan). Regal Appeal is a medium-scale, interlocking medallion pattern that aims to take Mohawk EverStrand to another level by bringing fashion to its soft appeal display. Luxurious Statement is a large-scale damask pattern. “What makes this pattern unique are the colorations,” Stanley said. “With the implementation of the ColorMax dye process you range from subtle tone-on-tone color, higher-contrast tone-on-tone and then you have a wide variety of two unique color combinations that might fit more into the rug category.”
Majestic Vision is a layered octagon pattern with a heathered effect in the background, featuring very distinct colors.
Shaw Floors’ soft surface portfolio includes premium and value carpets designed in a variety of colors and patterns. “Our 2021 design theme—Craft: A Story of Home—allowed us to explore patterns and textures that are inviting and comforting, visually as well as functionally,” Rainey said.
Alluring Canvas, for example, is inspired by the vastness of textures found in crafting textiles with 15 different colors.
Two popular patterns for Southwind are Serene Retreat and Cross Weave, both within the Classic Traditions collection. In Serene Retreat, Southwind has taken the textural tree bark look, which normally runs lengthwise in carpet, and made it a width-wise pattern that changes the whole concept to make it new and modern. With Cross Weave, blocks of pattern using solid and tweed yarns are overlaid to create texture and color variations for style and interest on the floor. Cross Weave is available in five color combinations for any design style.
A new style within Stanton’s Crescent collection is called Boston Bay. This wool look-alike is a 100% solution-dyed, UV-stabilized polysilk, which can be used indoors and outdoors. It comes in six colors. Jazabella, a machine-made mélange stripe inspired by a handmade flatwoven construction, and Pixel are new introductions. Pixel offers a range of colors including accents of rust and blue. Affinity Cherrish, slated for mid-April, features an intricate mixing of color, featuring jewel tones. The space-dye effect of the loop allows multiple color tones throughout to achieve dimension and depth.