Carpets: Relic or design newbie?

by Ofentse Sefolo
Carpets: Relic or design newbie?

Despite the myriad floor coverings that make their way into the market segment, carpet still plays an important role in today’s flooring industry. FLOORS in Africa magazine reached out to key industry experts to ask them about the changing role of carpets, the latest trends in the industry, and the top tips that they would give specifiers who are looking to specify carpets for their next project.

Carpets definitely have a place in applications where acoustics and the impact on others in the working environment need to be considered. Companies have moved towards open plan areas, which can be challenge for staff to work productively. According to Olivia Munchin, Nouwens Carpets’ National Sales Manager, choosing the right carpet for a commercial office involves many of the same steps as selecting new home carpeting. Olivia explains, “First off, you need to decide on the colour and style of carpet that will go best with the existing office décor and furnishing. These days, most commercial organisations opt for carpet tiles because they have better longevity and are easier to replace when it comes to high foot traffic areas. People are not short of choice and the latest international trends we’ve seen in the commercial and work space revolve around utilising shades of grey as the base colour with bright pops of bold colour to create various patterns and eye-catching aesthetics that reflect the brand or personality of the specific person, office or company.”

Marcus Nouwens from Monn says that carpeting is still, and will always be, necessary in certain applications.

“Carpet’s ability to contribute to colour, design, softness and depth gives it an edge over other flooring alternatives. One of its most overlooked advantages, however, is its ability to absorb noise. This really becomes evident when you consider floor coverings installed in hotel lobbies, offices, retail environments, reception areas, restaurant, and bedrooms,” explains Marcus.

Carpeting plays an important role in commercial soft floor covering in that it has some unique characteristics when compared to hard floor coverings, says Dave Keefer from KBAC Flooring.

“Carpets offer underfoot comfort, which adds a sense of softness and calmness to an office environment. The acoustic properties of carpets continue to make them an important installation, especially in offices with open plan layouts. Carpet tiles also contribute to better indoor air quality by trapping dust and other allergens until they are safely eliminated through vacuuming,” says Dave.

“The diverse nature of carpets allows clients to source exactly what they want – and within their budgets. The environmental challenges builders face today should have them looking towards carpeting to increase the amount of ‘green’ content in their projects. Many woven carpets have a very high natural fibre content, with wool being the largest component,” says Simon Whittaker from Crossley SA.

Changing environments
Other unique characteristics that continue to make carpets relevant in commercial installations include design flexibility, accessibility and practicality.

Nickey Pringle from FloorworX points out that the design flexibility that carpets offer will continue to make the product relevant for years to come.

“Carpets offer great flexibility in aesthetic design, with colours, tones, textures and styles that can be infinitely combined and adapted to create a dynamic workspace. In addition, carpet tiles offer further flexibility because of their modular format, which provides ease of installation, design and storage capability,” says Nickey.

Edward Colle from Belgotex says that the world we live in today is very different from 10 years ago. This has led the expectations and demands of the market to change.

“It may sound rudimentary, but unless we are fully appreciative of the demands of our changing environment, there is a big chance that we will continue to offer the wrong product. Many businesses across a variety of sectors, such as banking for example, are selling the wrong product just for the sake of doing business. While carpet remains an important solution for commercial office space due to its superior offering, I believe that we still have lots of innovating to do to meet the demands of today’s market. This is one of the reasons why leading carpet manufacturers continue to reassess the raw materials in their products to find ways to reduce the strain on the earth’s precious resources, or to find ways that their products can add more value to the health and wellbeing of building occupants,” explains Edward.

Molly Persadh from Van Dyck Flooring comments: “Carpets are still very popular in the commercial sector. The design possibilities have grown extensively and now clients are often looking for bespoke designs, and of course, shorter lead times.”

Simon from Crossley SA agrees. “Lead times are constantly being pressured. It has led us to vastly increase our production capacity over the last three years in response.”

What are some of the latest trends in carpeting?

Human centric design
Flooring impacts both the look and feel of a space, which is why a holistic, human-centric approach is important. Designing spaces with humans in mind is a huge focus in the market at the moment. – Dave Keefer, KBAC Flooring.

Designers are continuing to explore new avenues in terms of carpet design for commercial office carpet tiles. This has led to the industry considering new levels of design complexity. This year, we have also seen an uptake in more textured and cloudy, concrete type look, where greys are still a dominating colour. Neutral colour palettes are still seen as the “safe” choice in commercial applications, with more radical colours being specified for once-off projects. – Marcus Nouwens, Monn.

“South Africa is still fairly conservative in its approach to customisation. We see our overseas markets as being a lot more daring in their approach. Our designers love pushing boundaries and maybe some of our local clients could ask for an off-the-wall concept, as an additional option, when we do new concepts.” – Simon Whittaker, Crossley SA.

Lively and trendy shades
Designers often strive for the perfect balance between “unique” and “timeless”, but there are also designers that opt for lively trendy shades. Some of these colours are yellow, orange, teal and electric blue. The green characteristics or sustainability of flooring materials, has also become an important factor to contend with. – Nickey Pringle, FloorworX.

Simple, clean décor with pops of colour
Mix and match is out. Simple, clean décor with pops of colour and pattern is in! Colour is introduced stylishly to echo the personality of the company’s brand, while patterned carpeting adds interest and a further way to link to corporate colours in terms of design. – Olivia Munchin, Nouwens Carpets.

Revisiting the ‘why’
While we aren’t seeing a finite design trend, we are seeing deeper layers behind the reasons for the development of new carpet collections. Successful new carpet products have a clear unique selling point and they have ideas about the fundamental issue that it can resolve for a client. The aesthetics of a carpet is very dependent on the story that a manufacturer wants to tell a client and the conversation that the manufacturer wants to have in the market. This is an exciting time for manufacturers as it has opened up all kinds of fresh discussions with collaborators in the industry. – Edward Colle, Belgotex.

Trends are moving away from linear lines and geometric patterns, with the new trends being inspired by nature and from biomimicry and biophilic designs and connecting with the earth.

Designs resemble natural texture elements, while colours are very neutral and varying tile sizes continue to gain popularity. Highlighted colour elements are also being used to enhance interior spaces. – Molly Persadh, Van Dyck Flooring.

What top tips would you want to give specifiers who are interested in specifying carpets for a project?
“Believe in quality and a brand you know is sourced from a trusted manufacturer or supplier. This is much more important than price. Flooring is a fundamental aspect of interiors. It has a huge impact on both the look and feel of a space. And, unlike other surfaces, it must withstand the wear and tear of feet and furniture. Work with professional contractors or distributors of flooring and let them guide you to find a solution to meet the client’s scope,” says Dave from KBAC Flooring.

Marcus from Monn agrees with Dave’s sentiment as regards price.
“Over time, the margins in the carpet industry have been reduced in order for local manufacturers to remain competitive. This, along with imports from abroad, means that customers have more options than ever before. However, the price of a carpet tile has also become a direct indication of the value a customer will get from the product. If you simply opt for the cheapest product, you’re not necessarily getting a bargain. You are possibly buying something that is substandard and poorly engineered. Spending a bit more can often lead to a noticeable difference in quality. My top tip is that you always get what you pay for,” says Marcus.

Nickey points out that many specifiers forget to purchase attic stock. “You need to make sure you have identical materials that can be used for future repair work, so remember to purchase attic stock. Ensure that the product and the colour selection is the most suitable for your application and how you want the carpet to reflect the business; and remember to protect your carpet with carpet protectors,” says Nickey.

Edward adds that specifiers shouldn’t shy away from putting pressure on carpet manufacturers. “Be bold and ask carpet manufacturers the tough questions. Carpet manufacturers can only grow and evolve when they become aware of issues that they may not have known existed. Take the time to properly understand your client’s needs and what they want to achieve with a particular space,” says Edward.

As highlighted by Edward, a few examples of tough questions might be:
What impact is your procurement choice having on some of the social injustices seen in RSA?
Are your procurement policies aligned to the NDP?
Are we sourcing from and engaging with stakeholders who are aligned in terms of their vision?
What is your company’s vision and purpose and do your suppliers understand and align to this?

How does customisation continue to change the industry?

Marcus explains why customers are still cautious when it comes to customisation. “Many times, customers prefer to opt for a carpet that is already available within a range. Developing a carpet tile from scratch isn’t an easy job and it is one that requires knowledge of carpet tile specifications from experienced professionals in the industry. When a client specifies a customised product, it is usually just the colour that is customised as opposed to anything that could compromise the integrity of the initial specification. In the hospitality sector, however, customisation is the norm, with clients requesting customised carpets for very large projects,” says Marcus.

Nickey agrees that customisation is more important in certain segments than in others. “Customisation in carpeting continues to play a significant role within the hospitality and casino markets,” says Nickey.

Molly says that everyone is looking to be different, to create their own identity within their spaces. “Specifiers are always looking to satisfy their customers’ needs with a point of difference. Because of this, carpet manufacturers have to be at the forefront with new colours, designs and technology, to gain an advantage,” says Molly.

Dave adds that customers are now behind the driver’s wheel when it comes to determining what they want from their spaces. “Customisation obviously allows for the individual to add their personalised touch to an environment. With advances in manufacturing techniques, there is a definite drive and ability to allow more changes and more versatility within a standard design range,” says Dave.

For Edward, customisation is the new normal in the carpet industry. “‘Flexibility’ is the new ‘scale’,” says Edward.

“I agree with Nickey. Customisation is the norm in the hospitality sector, but I think we can do more. We are ultimately only limited by our imaginations and as a result, we should try to be more creative. Smaller boutique hotels seem to think custom design is not in their budgets so they often don’t even enquire. They are therefore missing out,” concludes Simon.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.belgotex.co.za, www.crossleysa.com, www.floorworx.co.za, www.kbacflooring.co.za, www.monn.co.za, www.nouwens.co.za and www.vandyckfloors.co.za for some of the information contained in this article.

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