Rugs with a contemporary vibe, obvious tribal designs and grasses giving a strong nod to nature are proving their popularity at a wide range of price points, local rug dealers say.

Changes in the rug trade

“China is slowly getting out of producing hand-knotted rugs, because it’s a long process. They have become very tech-oriented and some rugs called hand-knotted really are gun-tufted.”John Kammeyer, Rug Masters“Several different types of shags are gaining attention. Some that feel silky, thick and plush, and the chunkier ones (New Zealand felted wool.) There is also one made of recycled plastic bottles.”Sandy Abernethy, Rug Decor“I am buying very, very few traditional Oriental-style rugs, such as rugs with a central medallion, that would be Persian-looking. While there is some trade in antique Persian rugs, I probably would never buy another one.”Rob Leahy, Fine Rugs of Charleston

While some still prefer rugs with formal, traditional designs, they are not what is speaking to most people these days. And many are being drawn to brighter colors.

The rug market is hot, say rug sellers at Fine Rugs of Charleston, Rug Decor and Rug Masters. It’s important that amid the excitement being generated, consumers become educated about what they are buying. It’s the only way to get the quality associated with the amount of money they spend, whether high-end or moderately priced.

“Contemporary designs are gaining strength like I’ve never seen before,” says Rob Leahy, owner of Fine Rugs of Charleston. In the past, a tight economy would have prompted buyers toreturn to traditional designs, he says. However, during the most recent economic downturn, homeowners’ preferences for contemporary rugs designed in Afghanistan, India and Nepal grew stronger.

Frequently, those homeowners want the contemporary designs with even more exciting colors than have been preferred in the recent past, Leahy says.

It’s part of the trend toward home furnishings that help residences function better as refuges from a busy world. Furnishing homes with entertaining others in mind no longer is the goal of most homeowners, he says.

“People decorating with rugs in all price points are choosing what makes them feel good from the perspectives of color, comfort and style,” says Leahy.

The Ikats, traditionally made by a variety of cultures, complement contemporary furnishings and have become very popular.

“I sold rugs over the past five years in every shade of beige possible. While grays and beiges are still important, red and blue are coming back. The red is more like a bright burgundy, not your grandmother’s burgundy. The navy is bright, not royal blue, but bright.

“I am buying very, very few traditional Oriental-style rugs, such as rugs with a central medallion that would be Persian-looking,” Leahy says.

At Rug Masters, owner John Kammeyer also sees a return to traditional colors such as red and blue. Some people are still buying the muted colors, such as those associated with the Oushak rugs from Turkey, but the trend is shifting.

As people become more aware of the impact their purchasing has on the environment, several products have emerged or been improved, he says.

There now is bamboo, an easily renewable resource, that looks like a silk rug. Rugs can be found in which white, sometimes with muted designs in other colors, is the dominant color. Others can be found with black as the main color.

“Charleston is really a melting pot of people, we are getting them from everywhere, not just the Northeast,” Kammeyer says. “What we have had to do is diversify our inventory to meet all of their tastes and needs. They are gravitating toward more of the darker, richer colors and tribal looks from India, Afghanistan and China. India has really emerged as a huge rug provider.”

Buyers have to become more educated about rugs, he says.

Some rugmakers are duplicating traditional patterns, Kammeyer says. Only serious students of the rug trade, who know the weaves and some other characteristics associated with specific areas, can be certain about the origins.

When Sandy Abernethy opened her rug store in 2004, ornate designs with a bit of fringe were very popular, but things have changed, she says.

People who once bought such rugs, more often than not, are changing to more contemporary designs, and they don’t want to spend time cleaning and straightening fringe.

“They are looking for more of a fun rug that is going to add some spice to their lives,” says Abernethy, owner of Rug Decor, West Ashley. They are looking for shags, flat weaves, and ones made with grasses, she says.

The shags, which started making a strong comeback a few years ago, don’t get matted down when walked on like ones from the 1960s and ’70s, Abernethy says. Homeowners who buy them don’t need a rake to keep them looking great, she says.

Several different types of shags are gaining attention, Abernethy says. They are made of different materials and have fibers with a range of thicknesses and lengths.

In addition to the highly textured shags, wool flat weaves, featuring a range of colors and geometric designs, also are very popular, Abernethy says. As with many rugs, the range of colors is wide, but oranges, grays and whites are the most popular.

For those wanting rugs made of vegetation, a range of seagrass and sisal rugs are popular, she says. Bamboo is still a strong seller, especially for placing under chairs in a home office. Jute alone is not preferred because it deteriorates easily. Today the fiber is often combined with wool blends when used in rugs.

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.