Laminates and Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) flooring might be on trend in the residential sector at present but extensive technological developments and green issues are set to keep carpets at the forefront of future flooring trends according to Dr Mehran Zarrebini, head of Van Dyck Carpets, one of South Africa’s leading carpet manufacturers.
“There’ll always be a place for carpets,” he says, pointing to on-going investment and technological advances that provide greater flexibility for Van Dyck Carpets to produce a bigger range of both textures and colours.”
Although he admits that the traditional split of “carpets in the bedrooms and tiles in the living room” is changing with the entrance of laminates, LVTs and even decorative concrete flooring, he believes that the future of flooring in South Africa will include carpets. At present, the market for carpets in the corporate and hospitality sectors continues to grow for good reason.
The most obvious is temperature. Carpets remain popular in colder climates such as those in Europe and the United Kingdom as they tend to lock in warmth. Increasing insulation reduces utility bills, which is a major advantage in South Africa where electricity costs will continue to climb for years to come, says Zarrebini.
Then there’s comfort and anti-fatigue properties. Traditionally, businesses use softer floor coverings in areas where people stand a great deal. Especially in winter months, it is both more comfortable and warmer to sit on a carpeted surface as opposed to a tiled one, for example.
When it comes to safety, Zarrebini explains that carpets can reduce slips and falls and can, to a larger extent than alternative forms of flooring, cushion landings. This is important in areas where people are most like to take a tumble such as the homes of the elderly and rooms such as bedrooms and playrooms where small children are most likely to fall. Zarrebini says recent research shows that babies playing in softer areas reach development goals more quickly than those playing on cold, hard surfaces.
On the design side, he says that carpets are more likely to begin to make a comeback now that a greater variety of textures, colours and designs are available.
He says that colour choice in South Africa in particular is largely influenced by the demographics of the area. In Durban, for example, where there is a large Asian cultural influence, there are always brighter colours whereas in the Western Cape, the most popular colours are usually neutrals with beiges and greys. In the Free State, consumers tend towards earthy colours and patterns are popular as it helps to hide soil and dirt. In Gauteng, sales reflect a mixture but beiges and greys have also been most popular in the past couple of years.
On the corporate side, he says that where dark grey and charcoal colours are favoured, these are often offset by coloured accents and patterns. He says that corporate colours can be used to both brighten up and ‘brand’ flooring in receptions and boardrooms for instance.
This has opened the way for floor tiles – something that has not been widely used in South Africa until now.
Zarrebini says that Van Dyck Carpets, which is part of PFE International has traditionally sold DIY floor tiles and rugs to chain stores as a cost effective alternative to wall-to-wall carpets for lower income households. However, the use of floor tiles by corporates is growing as they can mix and match and even add colour accents or colours that match their branding. There is also the added convenience of being able to take up and replace individual tiles.
Taken through into the residential space, Zarrebini says that different mixes of bright floor tiles are great for children’s bedrooms and play areas with the same benefit of being able to replace individual tiles.
When it comes to carpeting for the corporate sector, he says that Van Dyck Carpets is now focusing on manufacturing smaller batches of bespoke products which allows greater design flexibility and the ability to manufacture branded carpeting. This has been well received by architects and interior designers.
The next development in carpet patterning will be the use of biomimetic – patterns that emulate nature and are modular and non-directional (like leaves under trees). This means carpet tiles can be replaced without having to source tiles from specific batches or colour or pattern match. This will result in greater efficiencies and less waste from both manufacturer and user.
In general, carpets are becoming more and more environmentally friendly. Zarrebini says new developments in yarn and fibres with increased use of recycled content are a perfect match for increasingly stringent green building regulations.
“To take advantage of the green way of thinking, there is a lot of emphasis on using high portions of recycled content and content from sustainable sources such as polymers that are naturally sourced rather than the products of the petrochemical industry,” he explains.
At this point, South Africa is a little behind with the majority of recycled yarns still being imported. Van Dyck imports a nylon product from Europe with a high portion of recycled content and also recycles offcuts and waste during manufacture. For example, when making needle punch carpets, they recycle and reblend fibre from sections of carpets that are cut off during manufacture.
Zarrebini believes that more and more carpets will make their way back into residential spaces once a number of “myths” about carpeting are dispelled.
Chief amongst these is that carpets are hard to clean. “If there is proper maintenance, then cleaning is not an issue. This means vacuuming regularly and removing stains as soon as there are food spills or marks from shoes. You should do bi-annual deep cleans using a water / solvent extraction process. Once a year, you should do a professional clean,” he says.
Carpets, which are traditionally used in high rise buildings to prevent noise moving between offices and flats and between floors, have good acoustic properties making them ideal for homes populated by noisy teenagers, music rooms and entertainment areas.
Zarrebini also adds that carpets have had a lot of bad press when it comes to being labelled a source of allergies and a trap for dust and dust mites. He points out that recent research has over turned this, revealing that carpets could actually play a positive role when it comes to relieving allergies as they trap dust and particles which can then be more easily removed. Other flooring surfaces leave them circulating in the air for allergy sufferers to breathe in. An added benefit with Van Dyck Carpets is that they are finished with SILVERPLUS, a long-lasting protection system with a base of silver ions that penetrates deeply and provides a protective coating that lasts the lifetime of your carpet. Once installed in your home, the humidity of the room causes the silver ions to be released very slowly to fight naturally against bacteria, dust mites and unpleasant odours and protecting your family and pets.
In the not too distant future, Zarrebini believes major inroads will be made into creating carpets that repel dirt and are self-cleaning as well as carpets that can remove volatile organic compounds such as those from glue and paints that are often smelt in newly built developments. In the meanwhile, carpets remain a great option for good old home comfort.