16070 Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:23pm
Rug buyers headed to the Las Vegas Market can expect to see soothing color palettes and casual, subdued transitional designs as rug vendors seek to fill the demand for product that fits the collective mood and tastes of consumers.
People may be growing weary of constant talk of the economy, but rug makers and vendors can’t deny the strong impact it is having—not only on the dollars and cents end of their businesses but on the artistic side, as well.
This year will certainly not be the one during which vendors take big risks in color and design. The latest introductions so far are reflecting manufacturers’ and rug designers’ understanding that what retailers need is product that will sell in a terrible economic climate when consumers are likely to make what they consider to be safe, practical and economically savvy purchases.
Transitional designs in soft earth colors seem to be the order of the day, while traditional designs are still popular but continue to emerge in more current color palettes. More contemporary pieces are also available for those who seek them, but vendors are careful not to saturate the market with too-many envelope-pushing designs that they believe the American buying public is not quite ready for at this time.
“If you come out with something that is really out there right now, it would almost be a slap in the face to the consumer; it’s as if you have no sensitivity to what’s going on,” said Marlys Giordano, director of marketing and product development.
Giordano reported a surge in softer designs and predicts rather little in the way of in-your-face contemporary pieces. Transitional and very casual rugs in muted colors and mild contemporary rugs are what’s in demand, she explained.
“Contemporary has softened,” Giordano said. “There is a certain opulence that comes with contemporary design, and in this economy, people are leaning toward more homey fare.”
Elise Demboski, an industry consultant who works with the Wools of New Zealand brand and companies such as Karastan and 828 International, agreed that companies are likely to remain relatively cautious these days when it comes to design and color, postponing any urges to wow consumers with wild design.
“For a while, the market was dominated by bold contemporaries,” she said. “Though they added a lot of excitement to the floor and applauded individuality, turnover was slow and inventory quickly became overloaded when the economy tightened. Today, retailers are looking for smart styling that can reach a broad range of tastes.”
It’s a sentiment being repeated—and acted upon—over and over by those in the business.
“In terms of design, the magic word is transitional,” said Kim Barta, brand manager for Shaw Living. “Contemporary continues to grow, but transitionals bridge traditional to the contemporary and represent the largest group of customers.
“Transitional florals, casual florals, scrolls, damasks, paisleys: These are all images that can be tiled together in a patchwork arrangement to draw in the largest audience from contemporary, to rustic, country, to the traditional customer.”
Julie Rosenblum, Nourison’s brand manager, concurs there will be a stronger showing of transitional rugs this year, particularly since it’s all meant to complement today’s home furnishings.
“The overscale furniture has changed to cleaner, tighter lines in recent years, and in turn, rugs with the same type of feeling will continue to be important to home decor,” she said.
The very term transitional, used liberally in the rug industry, was originally coined in the furniture industry to give a name to designs that were defying clear-cut categorizations, such as traditional or contemporary, pointed out Kaleen Executive Vice President Joe Barkley. Transitional design today continues to live up to its reputation for being not quite here and not quite there, but something in between. Still, the roots of transitional design are ever more evident in many of the latest rugs to hit the market.
“We’re seeing transitional designs that lean toward traditional designs,” he said. “They may not have as many motifs as a traditional design—they are a little more open but still have the elements of traditional design.”
A mix of old and new is becoming its own aesthetic as designers and consumers alike throw outdated conventions. Just as today’s consumers dare to wear white after Labor Day, they liberally combine traditional and contemporary home furnishings in one space—no need to commit to just one. Transitional designs, as its name suggests, fit comfortably with both.
“Transitional doesn’t have to be bland or boring,” said Donnette Miller, vice president of marketing for Miresco. “Consumers are more comfortable than ever with mixing styles that combine the pieces they love to create their own personal style for their home.”
Demboski added that the best bet for retailers right now may often be single patterns that can swing easily from traditional to contemporary with a simple change of accessories.
Easy-to-live-with color is also dominating the market, she explained. “Eco-shades,” reflecting consumers’ environmental interests, are popular now, along with accents of blue, green, purple and coral muted or grayed to meld effortlessly with existing decors.
Color trends are naturally in synch with the direction in which design has been headed and is now firmly planted—soothing, warm, easy-to-decorate around.
“When the economy becomes challenging we see what more earth colors—mosses, grays, terra cottas,” Barkley added, “and I think that’s what customers are looking for.”