Just as with furniture, furnishings are subject to fashion. That includes floor coverings and, according to Ross Urwin, Lane Crawford's creative director, home and lifestyle, 'definite trends are happening in the rug world'.
Many artists and designers are seeing rugs as a form of expression, creating brightly coloured designs featuring vivid, abstract prints and florals. Urwin cites the recently launched Florence Broadhurst range by Signature Prints, and The Rug Company stable of designers, including Barber Osgerby, Diane von Furstenberg, Kim Parker, Lulu Guinness, Marni, Paul Smith, Tom Dixon and Vivienne Westwood.
While the traditional craft of hand-weaving wool and silk remains unchanged, hand-cutting of shapes and designs into wool is becoming more popular. 'There are also companies such as the French-based design house Arzu Firuz, which has produced a range of rugs made from vinyl,' says Urwin. 'These are interpretations of oriental artefacts using modern materials, and are also easy to clean.'
Fun, bright rugs from Furnism have an interesting 3D effect. Norwegian artist and painter Mona Eckhoff Sormo created the designs as abstracts of nature from her home country. They are made of New Zealand wool in a large rug factory on the mainland. Furnism's Soren Broste says the company studied the process used to produce hand-tufted rugs and challenged the manufacturer to recreate it in an innovative way. 'Patterns cut into the rugs at different heights add an interesting 3D effect, which gives a more sensuous and lively design,' Broste says.
The animal hide trend endures, especially in minimalist black-and-white interiors. Forget associating cowhides with 'the rustic cowboy ranch look', says Mark Dowding of Hidestyle on Hollywood Road. 'From a minimalist plain white rug to a modern zebra print or metallic splash, their shape and texture will add an interesting visual element to any room.'
Cowhide rugs continue to grow in popularity and have become a staple in interior design rather than a trend, he adds. 'Look in any interior design magazine today and you will see cowhide rugs.'
Hidestyle imports from Brazil, a country reputed to produce the finest quality cowhide rugs. Brazil also has the widest variety of natural patterns owing to the interbreeding of European and South American cattle breeds. Along with the traditional black-and-white 'cow' pattern, colour choices include speckled salt and pepper types and exotic brindles with a rich caramel background, highlighted with a natural black tiger stripe effect. Every rug has an individual pattern and a natural organic shape.
For a more modern look, the cowhides can be dyed in a range of vibrant colours or silk screened with animal patterns such as zebra, jaguar, giraffe and tiger. Another interesting treatment is seen in metallic splash rugs, which have added highlights in gold, silver, copper and bronze.
A new laser technique can be used to cut patterns such as paisley or even create a filigree effect. These rugs, hand stitched from panels of cowhide, can be created in any size and many designs, from a simple square to complex patterns using curved panels and geometrics.
If fur's your thing, Faux, in Ap Lei Chau, sells New Zealand possum fur as well as Mongolian goat skin rugs and patchwork rugs made of calfskin, among other products.
Your new rug purchase can also contribute to global sustainability. TREE sells rugs produced under a project established by the Thai royal family to help alleviate rural poverty among hill tribe minorities in Thailand's Golden Triangle. Under the umbrella of the Mae Fah Luang foundation, villagers in Chiang Rai swapped growing opium poppies for a new livelihood making handicrafts. The rugs they produce are made from cotton using traditional skills and natural dyes. Their designs are inspired by nature, and come in a choice of six patterns and colours in muted shades of grey, beige, turquoise and green.
Small communities in Nepal benefit from Faux's Eco Chic series of rugs made by hand from organic yarns. Faux's Martin Lehec says the rugs' organic credentials begin with the sourcing of wool from highland sheep and yaks. After washing with cold water, the wool is spun into yarn, and blended with fibres from plants such as soya beans, banana, hemp, nettle and bamboo - all processed naturally.
The yarn is used undyed. Natural shades such as black, grey and cream feature in the design, and the rug is hand knotted. The rug is washed with cold water using soap nuts, a natural detergent that does not alter its colour or affect the material, and is left to dry in the sun.
'All the materials used are sustainable,' says Lehec. 'The process employs rural people, respecting their ancestral traditions of weaving and enabling them to provide for their communities.'
A shopper might be floored by the choice of rugs on the market, but in case you still can't decide, some suppliers also offer a bespoke service.