By Claire Ferris-Lay
Sustainability and eco-responsibility are the top priorities for the carpet industry.
Hospitality projects in the Middle East have long been ambassadors of the use of carpet but up until now the residential sector has continued to rely other on other forms of flooring. This is all set to change as interior designers are discovering the benefits of using carpets. Ranging from bold, patterned designs for corporate branding through to muted colours to create the illusion of space, the popularity of carpets is growing.
V. Bhushan, managing director, Standard Carpets agrees that although other forms of flooring have been popular in the past, carpets are becoming just as widespread: "In the last few years alternative flooring in the form of ceramics and wood have partially dented carpet usage, however this is a passing phase and carpets will continue to rule due to advantages in flexibility and appearance."
Colours and style
Current popular carpet styles include reworked designs from the 1950s through to the 1970s in striking designs. Sukhmal Jain, partner of Flora Exports, India, says: "Contemporary floral patterns are currently dominating as are Damasks and botanical patterns. Popular carpets include busy patterns, basic geometric concepts and abstract forms to create dynamic effects."
John Bain, global commercial design director of Brintons describes other trends: "Carpets are currently following a strong Eastern trend as well as a love affair with Damask. In my opinion the Damask theme has become oversaturated but the design is being reworked to include large scale classic designs overlaid with circular or bar code designs to create an unusual and dramatic new slant." Shag pile carpet is also currently having a revival. Mehmet Mustafa of Merinos says: "Consumers in the Middle East are not always keen on European carpet designs and qualities, however shaggy carpets seem to be a global trend."
Colours are taking inspiration from current fashions says Amanda Doyle, development manager of InterfaceFLOR, Dubai: "Colour trends, from interior design to fashion, often take their cues from the environment. Colours remain bright and clean but are treated to look sophisticated. The key is to use muted tones with a dash of accent to bring unexpected interest." But while other parts of the world have embraced the rainbow colours of carpet now available, the Middle East has been slow to catch up and traditional reds, with their roots firmly in the culture remain widespread.
Zaid M Al Abdallat, sales and marketing director of the Mada Carpet Company, a subsidiary of Al Rajhi Investment Group, says: "Beige and dark red are still dominant this year and are more favourable in the Middle East. The conservative nature of the Middle East is still the most effective factor in the slow change to modern designs and strong colours. The change is coming but not as fast as you might think."
Quality of materials is continuing to develop with many experts agreeing higher quality carpets in natural wool and eco-friendly materials will be popular in the future. Bain, Brintons, says: "I see the trend to quality materials allied to high quality designed goods growing. Maybe this will evolve through new technologies allowing more creativity. Carpets will also be seen as centre pieces for public areas within very contemporary interior spaces - not necessarily on the floor - maybe as a back drop to a reception area." Laurent Messara of Messara Trading agrees: "Often a recommended carpet is replaced by the contractor for a cheaper version but as the market matures we should see an end to this, which will result in better quality products."
Jain, Flora Exports, describes the colours and designs that might be reflected in commercial interiors and carpets in the near future: "Long pile carpets (shag carpets) will continue to be popular. As far as colour is concerned, beige will remain king with softer more neutral shades. Stronger, warm colours will come back on the floor as a response to basic tonal colour schemes, such as burgundy, blue, green with dark brown, chocolate and deep purple which will contrast with red, black and white."
The eco route
According to the Carpet & Rug Institute, 70% of all carpet replaced each year is replaced for reasons other than general wear and tear. With heavy traffic flow in the commercial industry; the desire to refurbish and the increasing pressure on landfill sites, the demand for recyclable carpet is now as important as ever and carpet companies are keen to pick up on this trend. While international manufacturers boast of their eco-friendly carpets, the smaller companies are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up.
Geert Vanden Bossche, marketing director of Balta, says: "If recycling is going to be cost effective it depends on the future development of the raw material. As long as new materials are cheaper than recycled materials, there is no incentive to use them." Bhushan, Standard Carpets, agrees that producing cost effective carpet remains an issue: "We are fully aware of the matter and are evaluating installation of equipment to recycle carpet waste, however technology in this regard is not competitively available yet."
Large manufacturers tell a different story. Doyle, InterfaceFLOR, says: "InterfaceFLOR considers itself a leader in the market of sustainability initiatives. More and more of our products are made from recycled materials and a number of our designs incorporate hybrid yarns." Its main goal is to avoid sending products to landfill sites. It has a number of programmes whereby it takes back old products and repurposes them to sell at low cost to charities and start-up companies. It also ‘unzippers' the top cloth from its backing to recycle and reuse it in new products.
Object Carpet is also championing its eco policies, having been a full member of the Association of Environmentally Friendly Carpets (GUT) since 1992 and all of its carpets have passed the strict tests to ensure they are not subjected to harmful substances.
Recycling is also a top priority with Brintons, who has employed its own group environmental policy. Shaw Industries, represented by Al Aqili in the Middle East, also launched its own environmental policy in 2003 which commits it to developing sustainable carpet products that can be continually broken down and reused again - through ‘closed-loop' or ‘cradle to cradle' recycling. Julian Saul, president of Shaw Industries' says: "We believe our environmental policy is the most progressive in American industry. We are committed to being an industry leader in creating eco-effective ways to produce carpet - it is the right thing to do for our business and the environment."
Eco-friendly carpets still retain the high quality of their less environmentally counterparts, ‘Straightforward' is Interface FLOR's most sustainable carpet to date and features 85% recyclable material and focuses on the ‘less is more' concept through the use of only one third of the amount of yarn of the conventional styles. Colbond has recently launched two sustainable designs, the Colback SMR, which uses 100% post-consumer recycled polyester (PET), originated from bottle scrap and Colback UMX, which remains sustainable through the use of virgin raw materials.
With the development of eco-friendly designs, Doyle, InterfaceFLOR predicts that the reliance on renewable sources will increase: "One of the important steps on the journey to sustainability is minimising and ultimately eliminating reliance on non-renewable, petroleum based products and processes. The development of products made from renewable resources is a significant part of the plan. In our exploration of bio-polymers, InterfaceFLOR has chosen to explore the use of bio based polymers made from poly lactic acid (PLA)."
With most commercial projects, a heavy flow of traffic must be anticipated, so interior designers should always allow for the best quality carpet which will always last longer. If budget doesn't permit a high quality carpet, consider using modular flooring which can be replaced as needed. Doyle, InterfaceFLOR, says: "Statistics show that the ‘churn' rate in typical office buildings today can be as high as 48%. Using modular carpet allows for selective replacement or change and lowers the cost of that change due to its easy reconfiguration. Modular carpet also means less waste - approximately 13% of material is wasted during an average installation of traditional carpet but this drops to less than 4% with modular carpet tiles."
Random tiles can also be used in areas of heavy traffic, Dolye says: "Creative random patterning means that every tile is unique and therefore every installation is subtly unique too. Random products are ideal for buildings with awkward shapes." Iris Seiffer, director of Object Carpet Middle East says: "Aesthetics and the performance of the chosen carpet should both be considered. Aesthetics are more important for private regions and areas where there is less traffic while heavy areas of traffic should use random pattern and loops, which hide more stains."
US-based artists, Anthony Aziz and Sam Cucher have recently produced a range of rugs and carpets and see customisation as a carpet trend of the future: "We see an increasing trend towards customisation as clients are keen to create environments that reflect their individuality and taste. This trend is reflected in a greater awareness of the diverse cultures in our globalised economy and we will see the integration of patterns and motifs from different regions into a more eclectic mix. Hannah Hubner, communications manager, Colbond agrees: "There will be a continuation of artistic designs as carpets aim to reflect the high-level image of hotels and official buildings."
Customisation also allows for brand extension in commercial projects. Burmatex recently produced the Derby County ‘ram' logo onto carpet tiles for the UK based football team. Taylor, Burmatex, says: "Exact reproductions of company logos have proven popular in the corporate hospitality sector. Customers booking events at venues such as football clubs are doing so because they are ‘buying in' to the brand name and want to be in a room associated as closely to that brand as possible."
Flooring is one of the most important aspects of a room, in many cases being referred to as the fifth wall so Aziz and Cucher advise being as creative as possible whilst also bearing in mind who will be using the space: "We would advise interior designers to consider that the floor of a project is a dynamic area that can convey a designer's originality and vision and that art for the floor can be just as expressive and soothing as art found on the walls."