Playthings Staff -- Furniture Today, August 21, 2012
HIGH POINT - As the outdoor room emerges as competitive space for the kitchen, dining room, living room and den, it follows that indoor décor concepts make their way outdoors as well. We've seen built-in kitchen cabinetry and shelving and tray tables, lighting including freestanding lamps and torchieres, accessories and heating and cooling units to make spaces palatable temperature-wise. But the true anchor of the exterior space is the outdoor rug that keeps the outdoor room from going adrift in the great outdoors. But do shoppers get it? They're beginning to, according to Casual Living Exclusive Consumer Research. Twenty-two percent of outdoor room owners surveyed already utilize one. And the outdoor rug is on the Top 10 wish list of outdoor products.
Getting used to the idea of textiles that can withstand the elements is not just an end consumer conundrum though. Just how receptive are dealers to the concept of floor coverings that go outside? "They love the idea of an outdoor rug. They know it is a growing category and most of them want to be able to offer the complete package including rugs, pillows and poufs," said Seth King, vice president of sales and marketing for Surya.
As founder of The Rug Market America and producer of more than 150 individual styles of outdoor rugs, Michael Shabtai agreed. "Our dealers see the category of outdoor rugs as a hot trend right now," Shabtai said. "For the summer 2012 shows, we have introduced a large number of designs in the Resort or Outdoor collections - although our dealers also look to these rugs as terrific for indoor applications as well."
Poppy Scroll from The Rug Market America is one of more than 150 styles of outdoor rugs the company produces.
With both dealers and end consumers understanding the use of rugs in both indoor and outdoor applications, what is the principle area of use?
Reid Roney, vice president of sales, The HammockSource/Sawgrass Mills, said its rugs tend to be used mostly on decks, covered porches and patios, and beside both indoor and outdoor pools, often as part of a larger outdoor room motif, but that they are finding more and more that consumers are taking its outdoor rugs back indoors. "We're finding consumers using them particularly for placement in high-traffic areas and eating areas, since our highly designed rugs are not only made for heavy wear, but are also exceptionally stain-resistant and easy to clean," he said.
Evolution takes time, to be sure, but outdoor rugs have made great strides from heavy-duty plastic applications or bring-insiders of not so long ago, to today's indoor rival looks and textures. "By comparison, outdoor rugs of even a few years ago were simple in design (solids) and construction (sisal) - or rough plastic based yarns," Shabtai said. "Today, the category is exploding with not only interior-worthy designs and colorations, but also in the area of performance - colorfast and easy clean properties - while also providing a soft hand."
"They are so easy to clean, so if you have children and they spill ketchup and mustard on the rug you can literally take it outside and hose it off," said King, whose company is showcasing nine collections to date with even more to come at the fall markets.
Outdoor rugs did not at first live up to their own name; they were initially more akin to indoor rugs that people took outside. Those first "outdoor rugs" were not explicitly designed for use in outdoor settings nor to handle the rigorous challenges presented by prolonged weather and sun exposure, said Roney, whose company produces 43 distinct rug designs, most coming in several color palettes, bringing that number up to 80 unique styles. "Sawgrass Mills by Hatteras Outdoors was actually the first company to introduce an outdoor rug containing no organic material whatsoever. Many brands of outdoor rugs contain sisal or hemp, and have jute in the backing - making them an eventual welcome mat, no pun intended, for mold and mildew, particularly in hot, wet climates."
Hook construction is a trend in outdoor across the board in today's market and the use of UV-coated polyester yarns creates a very soft hand - but construction is not the entire style story when it comes to up to-date outdoor rugs.
"Our company is known for contemporary designs and loads of color. We continue to see a trend in outdoor, as well as indoor, toward adding that splash of color with accessories and the floor covering is the perfect canvas for this colorful expression. Of course, an ongoing trend is heightened durability and performance for the rugs," said Shabtai, who manufactures in China in order to keep costs down.
Surya also has been introducing lots of patterns with bright colors, King said. "These look great with the current outdoor upholstery fabric," he said. "Our Rain collection has been our best-selling outdoor line for a couple years. We recently introduced our new Storm collection, which is an evolution of Rain showing more details, brighter colors and great hi low textures for depth and we expect this to be our best seller next year."
Roney's feel for outdoor rug directions is a bit more conservative. "What we've been seeing recently is a move back toward solid neutral colors, as well as toward classic designs with a pop of color to create a bigger impact in an outdoor-living area," he said.
"There's also a continuing trend in the industry toward improvements in outdoor durability. In our own case, we're further improving our backing to be even more resistant to holding mold and mildew that might grow on organic material coming in contact with our rugs."
Sawgrass Mills also produces in China but its rugs are hand hooked in the traditional Eastern manner. "Sawgrass Mills was actually developed with the hand - the softness and feel of the product - expressly in mind. We give it the ‘barefoot test' here. The rug has to be comfortable and soft as well as highly durable and richly designed," said Roney. "At trade shows, that softness is actually what sells our rugs, when people touch them, expecting them to feel as rough and scratchy as many other outdoor synthetics can be."
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