15494 Fri, 10/24/2008 - 3:18pm
By Jennifer Alexis
The influence of nature, from earthy colors to botanical patterns and designs, is everywhere in the market this season.
Rug manufacturers agree that nature is among the most enduring themes in rug design and most concur that these designs are in high demand like never before. They are reporting strong sales of products featuring designs that draw inspiration from the natural world with earth tones and images of leaves, flowers, vines, blades of grass and bamboo shoots.
“It’s probably the most enticing pattern reference going on right now,” said Elizabeth Miller, senior vice president of design for Karastan, about nature-inspired design. “It’s just a lovely way to feel you are capturing the outdoors in your living room.”
Customers’ increased awareness of environmental issues and their growing consciousness of all things natural seems to be playing a role in driving sales. The sheer beauty of the designs, however, is an equally motivating factor for customers who are attracted to these products. People clearly want to bring the splendor of the great outdoors inside their homes.
One example Miller cited is Karastan’s Plum Blossom, which she describes as a beautiful, serene pattern that takes inspiration from leaves and vines. Plum Blossom, she said, has been a big success. With three colors to choose from—robin’s egg blue, maize and mocha—customers are most drawn to the blue, she added.
Color is a key element in this trend. Consumers have been increasingly drawn to color palettes that are easy on the eyes—and the spirit.
Wendy Reiss, key account manager for Kas Rugs, said she’s seeing far more browns, sage greens and other earth colors in designs these days, and many lines are using muted colors, in general.
“Reds aren’t as bright, but are rusty,” she said. “Blues are reminiscent of sea and sky. Colors are a little more downscale.”
Some said the growing consumer preference for soft colors is reflective of a shared anxiety among consumers stirred by a weakened economy.
“The key words here are soothing and calming,” said Steve Mazarakis, chief executive officer of Hellenic Rug Imports. He also noted a trend toward soft browns and beiges with tones of green or surf blue.
“Everybody’s in panic mode,” Mazarakis said. “Consumers want to warm up their homes because they’re feeling nervous.”
Manufacturers are producing a wealth of designs with blended, soft colors and without contrast that meet this demand for warmth and the calming effects of subdued color.
“We saw this trend in the 1970s,” he said, asserting that the country faced similar challenges and woes during that era. “As soon as things got better, pastels became a trend.”
Even should history repeat itself and the demand for brighter color or even pastels spikes when the economy turns for the better, the nature motif is likely to always have a place in the market.
The reason for the theme’s longevity in rug design, though, may also be attributed largely to its versatility.
“Nature-inspired designs translate well in all settings—contemporary, eclectic, traditional or transitional—which makes them all the more accessible and popular,” said Steve Sorrow, vice president of design and development for Feizy Rugs. “They work well into most decors, and the ease of decorating around them is key for many of our customers.”
Meanwhile, a growing number of today’s nature designs can be found in the popular transitional or casual category.
“Many of these patterns offer a unique look in fashion-forward colors without being over the top,” said Kim Reynolds, vice president of marketing for Oriental Weavers USA Inc. “They’re a terrific way to make a statement while offering easy-to-live-with colors and style.”
For some consumers, mere designs depicting nature may not cut it. Many want a more tactile experience of nature and seek rugs that feature all-natural materials and earthy textures.
A new collection from Couristan, Organique, illustrates this trend clearly with its all-natural construction made from 100-percent hand-spun, semi-dyed jute in earth tones. Kelly Watson, director of sourcing and product development for the company’s area rug division, said the product meets the demand for rugs that go beyond incorporating nature in their design to giving the consumer the added experience of having an eco-friendly rug that allows them to “touch” nature.