By David Gill
It’s a whole new synergy.
Several area-rug vendors have expanded their product offerings to include decorative pillows. The most recent of these is Safavieh, which brought decorative pillows to last month’s High Point Market for the first time. Others on this list are Surya, which debuted its first decorative-pillow line in 2010; Nourison, which introduced its pillows in January 2010; and Liora Manné, the designer brand that unveiled its first pillows in March 2010.
Some vendors are designing their pillows as coordinates with their rugs. “Our design philosophy for decorative pillows is to develop interesting accent pillows and colorful solids that coordinate with our rugs,” said Al Mortensen, vice president of merchandising and product development for Surya.
This makes sense to some vendors, who view both decorative pillows and area rugs as accent pieces.
Joyce Lowe, acting marketing director for Nourison, said, “Many concepts for the pillows that we carry started with the plan to coordinate decorative pillows with some of our best-selling area-rug collections.” At times, a decorative pillow may be the source of the design for a new rug as well. “There will be times that we may translate decorative-pillow elements into magnificent rugs,” Lowe said. “Our design philosophy is to create decorative pillows that complement our area rugs and to also produce products that stand alone. The majority of our (pillow) offerings are stand-alone.”
For other vendors, designing a decorative pillow is a separate matter from designing a rug. “Pillows are an accent product that can be a lot more exciting (than a rug),” said Arash Yaraghi, principal with Safavieh. “They are a small piece that doesn’t take over the room. Rugs are much larger and need to be more muted in design.”
This does not necessarily mean that Safavieh never borrows a rug design for a pillow. “If you look at our contemporary rug line, we have a lot of those designs incorporated in pillows,” Yaraghi said.
The Liora Manné brand didn’t enter the pillow category with coordination with its rugs in mind. “With pillows, you can be playful in design,” said Liora Manné, designer for the brand that bears her name. “Rugs are a different sensibility. They need to be designed for the long haul so they need a more conservative approach.” That being said, Manné’s pillows and rugs “do work together,” she said.
Offering rugs and pillows works well in another sense for these vendors. “Our involvement with furniture channels has increased and the surge of interest in pillows continues to grow,” Lowe said.
The synergy with furniture was also a part of Safavieh’s decision to enter the pillow category. “We feel it’s an easy product to bring to market along with the furniture and rug line,” Yaraghi said. “I look at our products as a whole home-furnishings category. All of the pieces are linked together, from furniture to lighting to rugs to pillows.”
Having pillows in the line has helped boost sales of rugs as well. “The reason for us to do accent pillows is to add to our rug sales,” Mortensen said. “We coordinate colors and designs that make it easy for our customers to create the entire accessory look.”
Pillows also open vendors up to potential new channels of distribution. “We started with our current customer mix, with customers not in the rug business that might be interested in pillows,” Yaraghi said. “One area in which we don’t sell is the gift industry, but I think this channel is one that has great potential for us. We don’t show at gift shows yet, but it’s something we’re considering.”
They can also lead to extensions into other categories. “I’ve been asked to expand my line into decorative throws,” Manné said. “These need to be designed to blend more into the room than pillows, but I can still work in a variety of colors, designs and textures.”
The design possibilities decorative pillows provide are the ultimate key to their appeal with consumers, and are a crucial reason why it makes good business sense for rug vendors to enter the category. “Currently, I have about 60 different patterns in decorative pillows in some four or five color combinations,” Manné said. “Decorative pillows can be splashy and more playful, and can work in so many furniture styles.”
Pillows are “design-driven and have to do with color,” Yaraghi said. “I think accent pieces are slightly ahead of flooring in terms of style and color. This makes us involved in what design trends come up in the next couple of years in rugs as well.”