Commercial Area Rug Report: Soft surface producers help designers see commercial rugs in a whole new light - Dec 2019

By Beth Miller

As the commercial market has increasingly transitioned toward the use of hard surface flooring, interior architects have turned to area rugs as a way to soften the look of a space and manage acoustics. As such, today’s designers and area rug manufacturers are not only putting a great deal of thought into the practical benefits of area rugs but also considering the impact that area rug design, size and construction have on the space and those using it. Floor Focus reached out to a handful of area rug manufacturers to determine how they are innovating rug design to provide products that offer both solutions and elevated style.

SHAW CONTRACT
Reesie Duncan, vice president of global design

As hard surfaces take more share within commercial interior spaces, clients are realizing there is a need for acoustic solutions and a desire to create more warmth and comfort in their spaces. A rug offers a soft flooring solution that lends an air of intimacy and acoustic protection to workspaces, public spaces and a wide variety of environments, while at the same time creating an inspiring, vibrant sense of place. As we see rugs become an important part of the layering of materials in the workplace sector, subtle patterns and textures are key. Rounded, softer elements in a variety of options and sizes are desired. Layering soft surfaces with hard surfaces is a great way to add acoustical abatement. Carpet is proven to absorb sound in a room and reduce impact sounds. By adding rugs to the landscape, designers can create a sonic environment that muffles noise and encourages positive emotional and physical responses in a space.

Currently we sell rugs on a custom basis made from standard and custom broadloom and carpet tile. These are cut or fabricated together and bound. We will be adding a collection in January 2020 of 30 patterns that will come standard in 6’x9’, 8’x10’, 12’x15’ and 11’x11’ round rug sizes, which will simplify the specification process. Installation is as simple as rolling out the rug. No accessories are needed because each of our rugs is designed and manufactured with attached no-skid backing.

By using advanced broadloom technology, we’re able to realize our designers’ patterns at a grand scale, through tufting and printing, ensuring that each rug adds depth and dimension to spaces both expansive and compact in the hospitality, workplace, retail and multifamily segments. From this broadloom, rugs are cut on demand, meaning that no two rugs are the same; it’s how we’re able to supply these rugs quickly. Our designers create patterns to accommodate these arbitrary and efficient offset cuts. In each rug, the repetition of shapes, colors and lines maintain and extend a playful rhythm, no matter where they end.

The goal of the running line rugs platform is to introduce a clear and simple program for selling competitively priced, ready-to-ship rugs. By making commercially durable rugs more readily available and easier to specify, we can continue to round out Shaw Contract as a single point of contact flooring provider. The intention is that this new platform will start with this initial collection and will be added over time. We will launch our new rug program on our ShawContract.com website in 2020, where our rugs will be available directly to the consumer and sold through our sales account managers.

TARKETT NORTH AMERICA
Christian Kuswita, director of product management, soft surface

When customers choose to use ceramic tiles or hardwood or LVT, they still want to add warmth to the rom, and area rugs provide that solution. Our customers predominantly turn to our woven construction as the area rug of choice. Through our online program, we offer several woven and tufted broadloom styles and colors along with a choice of 21 serging colors using our Dynex 100% solution-dyed nylons. We make the specifying and buying process simple, and the product ships within 15 business days.

Since the online program has a limited selection, we also provide area rug programs through our Imaginations division (to all commercial sectors). There, customers can order rugs in different shapes and sizes from almost all of our running-line styles. We also have rug offerings in our hospitality division. All of the running styles in our hospitality offering can be made into area rugs. Our rug business has picked up, especially through these two divisions. We believe the corporate and hospitality segments are the majority of our rug business. These are also the segments that are growing the fastest.

Customers typically work with our sales team to generate the specifications for the rugs. The only exception is if the rug is created through our online configurator tool. The online configurator creates specifications that our customers can utilize.

Texture and volume lead the way in preferences. Unlike broadloom or carpet tile that cover larger areas of the floor plane, area rug use is more localized, allowing for a wide variety of patterns to suit individual tastes in scale, color and intensity.

The area of concern for most specifiers is the integrity of the edge finish. The edge-point is the most susceptible to foot traffic wear and tear and can easily fail if fabrication techniques and materials do not meet full commercial-wear testing standards. Tarkett uses its commercial Dynex SD yarn in the serging process to ensure that the area rug edge finish is as durable as the face yarns. Far too often, residential-quality rugs are specified for contract spaces, leading to failure. If constructed to high-quality commercial wear testing standards, area rugs can perform well in commercial interiors, as usage tends to be in lounging/collaboration islands or lobbies, not traditional high foot-traffic areas.

MILLIKEN
Sherry Dreger, vice president of creative strategy

The increase in hard surface use has allowed us to create another division of product offering. We see everyone going to a solution-based story, as it is important to be able to service the client and stay ahead of the curve. If a designer wants to create area rugs, they can lay them in the LVT, and the installation is completely transitionless. We are also seeing the creation of an area rug within a field of carpet to create a specific area. Syncing up the sizing of our hard surface and our carpet products has really opened up our creativity. So our story is growing.

The one thing our technology allows us to do is to create what we call an in-register area rug, which enables a pattern to transition across a space as large as is needed. Even though it may be chopped up into carpet tile, the pattern continues. That’s something you can’t do on tufted technology because you only have a certain amount of width.

We’ve launched a collection called Edge Lit that utilizes the in-register innovation so that the tiles can be dropped into LVT or another carpet product. That has been hugely successful. We have another rug collection, called Color Thesis, coming in January that looks like a watercolor painting. Color Thesis and Edge Lit are hybrid products in that they have a hospitality feel though they’re being launched through our contract line, but both sides of the business have access to these products.

Within Milliken Floorcovering, we have a couple of initiatives. We have a global contract group; a residential division; a hospitality division; and what we call our protective floor division, which is entryway systems, logo mats and LVT. Our residential line is a smaller, more curated offering and is an important part of the business. We dig in heavily in the contract and hospitality markets.

For specification of the in-register rugs, we have an in-house technical design team that assists with those types of modules or floor plans or layout of a pattern that may be, for instance, 16’, and the customer wants to make it 30’. This team works with the designers one-on-one, taking the complication out of the specification process. Hospitality designers work a little bit longer on their creations because they do a lot of customization. Contract designers need the products a little quicker; they may not have as long a time period. We are trying to think through all of these things without limiting their creativity, and when they are using the in-register area rugs, the color flexibility is infinite.

The floor is not only the largest visual plane in a building or area, it is also the largest surface. Any time you can engage those acoustical benefits on a large area like that, especially in hotels (now that we have LVT in guest rooms)-room-to-room, floor-to-floor-sound absorption is huge. Our products come standard on cushion; there is an antifatigue component and an acoustic value there. We offer a program where a customer can design a bed-surround that is inset in the LVT, so that when the consumer steps out of the bed, they’re stepping on a soft, cushioned surface. Again, more sound absorption and a little bit of warmth are added to the space.

INTERFACE
Anna Webb, vice president of marketing

Because hard and soft surface flooring provides varied benefits for an individual space, we continue to see LVT and carpet tiles specified together to create a cohesive space supporting the needs of the end-user while also meeting design and functionality needs. Our carpet tile and LVT are dimensionally compatible and require no transition strips, so we have seen a trend toward seamless rug insets. This allows for [achieving the appearance] of a rug without the stacking of multiple flooring materials and lowers fall or trip risks associated with free-floating area rugs in commercial environments. And with our TacTiles glueless installation system, Interface carpet tiles can float freely on any hard surface, creating dimensional stability without glue.

Additionally, end users are finding polished concrete attractive and on-trend but find that concrete products present acoustical challenges. Area rugs provide sound benefits when installed over polished concrete. While designers frequently use Interface commercial carpet tiles in this capacity, our Flor consumer carpet tile brand expands the modular rug options for commercial spaces, creating an elevated look for designers working to bring a high-end, residential feel to a space. Through the selection of both flooring types, spaces can respond to the growing hard surface trend while also adding softness and designating spaces with the use of carpet, especially as an inset rug. For example, we continue to see our clients specify area rugs as a means of responding to the resimercial design trend taking over the workplace.

Virtually all major commercial segments-corporate, healthcare, education, retail and hospitality-utilize area rugs. Rugs are used to designate place and space in each setting. In a corporate setting, an inset rug may be used to accentuate a communal area or signify a meeting space for collaboration and communication among employees. The flooring selection for these spaces can reinforce the intent for the space-a calm workstation zone or vibrant collaboration area, for instance. Similarly, the hospitality sector uses rugs to indicate spaces and usage to guests. Most notably, as hard surface flooring has become common in guest rooms, there is a desire for durable rugs under beds to maintain a comfortable and warm feeling. In K-12, carpet tiles can be utilized to support classroom activities, signifying a space for reading or flexible seating on the floor. With dynamic flooring, educators and students have more freedom with learning techniques.

We provide flooring recommendations for our clients after determining the needs and goals for a given space. With these client expectations in mind, we focus on developing the optimum flooring system, specifying materials based on the vision and requirements of the space. To support clients’ sustainability goals or aim to reduce the emissions impact of their project or spaces, we offer the Carbon Neutral Floors program standard to every customer at no extra cost. Through this program, we initiate a new conversation and opportunity for our customers to directly address global warming with a flooring specification decision.

BENTLEY MILLS
Richard French, vice president of global sales and marketing

We still proudly make a lot of commercial broadloom, and that has always lent itself to customization of broadloom into different sizes and shapes and designs for the corporate, retail and education sectors. Making standard sizes and putting them on the shelf is not the way the market is going. It is all design-to-fit/cut-to-fit. Everything is custom-made to a specific size for the designer. The designer works with their local rep to pick a pattern, pick a size, pick a color for binding or serging, and pick a backing (slip, non-slip, over a pad, etc.). Then we make it happen. It’s a pretty easy process. The online experience has its place, but it’s almost disposable in terms of relationship. I do believe it’s still a tactile experience.

People use different colors in rugs than they use in broadloom. They take more risk. You might see brighter colors.

Stained concrete and LVT use is growing everywhere, and as that happens, rugs are usually not too far behind. Often, we get a lot of what we call day-two rug sales. On day one, there is no soft surface used in a space, then, due to noise and lack of warmth, [the firm] buys a rug six months in.

Broadloom continues to be a big part of our business; therefore, custom rugs are a big part of our business. We are still the company to go to for beautiful broadloom, which can become a beautiful rug.

MASLAND CONTRACT
Don Dolan, executive vice president, Masland Contract, and
J.D. Lineberger, executive vice president, Masland Rugs

About 35 years ago, we started with inlay where we were cutting up broadloom and putting it back together and carving the details in there. Five years ago, we began offering solution dyed, and we invested in some technology where we could robotically tuft that same look and develop an even better product. Ten years ago, we started the Rugs 4.0 Wool online program that offers designers the ability to retool an existing product or create their own design. It’s kind of like artwork for the floor.

Many manufacturers have carpet tile, broadloom and LVT, but fewer have commercial rugs. It has been a differentiating factor for us, and it has gotten us into places where we probably could not have gone with carpet tile. Designers look to us for more intricate, more involved designs, different sizes and more colors. Currently we offer: Floorscapes-cut and bound broadloom with 950 edge-finish options; Woolridge Handloomed Rugs-wool and wool blends; Elevate Wool Rugs-wool and wool blends; Custom Elevate-100% wool; Masland 4.0 Solution-Dyed; Masland 4.0 Wool; Masland Inlay broadloom-based logo type rugs; and Studio Rugs made from hand-knotted wool in four standard sizes.

There’s no question that the expanded area devoted to hard surface has increased the opportunity and need for rugs in many different segments. LVT and other hard surface flooring products are beautiful, but they are loud. The latest move in hospitality is to put hard surface in the guest rooms, so that kind of begs for rugs. We are now doing wool rugs in guest rooms. Wool is real and will wear forever. We’ve never had a wool rug returned, because wool outperforms [the other types].

Our top three segments are hospitality, store planning and corporate. For the specification process, we start with basic questions to help us determine which way to go, whether it’s a nylon rug or wool. What is the design intent? Application? Quantity? Timeframe? Budget? The nylon and wool prices are pretty close on the upper end. Designers might say, “I have to have something down on the floor in four weeks.” Well, now we know we have to go to one of our standard rugs. If they have four months or six months, then we can move in a different direction. We scale everything to an 8’x10’, thinking that is what will suit most, but the largest rug we’ve created was a 40’x100’.

Rugs hold up well as long as they are constructed with the commercial market in mind. Like any textile product, if the rugs are not engineered for performance, then they will be a disappointment. Some of the residential looks (dhurries-thin flat-woven rug used in Southeast Asia, and kilims-flat tapestry-woven runs produced in Iran, the Balkans and Central Asia) are not going to perform in a commercial environment. ADA compliance is a must for any commercial rug offering.

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