Think of them as unframed artwork from the floor. From silk to sisal, area rugs do more than protect hardwood floors and offer extra cushion for bare feet—they’re another way to add color, texture and style to your living space. Whether your tastes lean to Mondrian or Monet, there’s a pattern, material and size right for your room.
Here’s how to choose your next masterpiece.
Think of them as unframed artwork from the floor. From silk to sisal, area rugs do more than protect hardwood floors and offer extra cushion for bare feet—they’re another way to add color, texture and style to your living space. Whether your tastes lean to Mondrian or Monet, there’s a pattern, material and size right for your room. Here’s how to choose your next masterpiece.
AT THE FLOOR FRONT
Today's trendy rugs are looking less traditional and more contemporary. “Our most popular rugs right now are what I call ‘soft/modern,’ ” says Chris Chapin, co-owner and director of design and product development for Company C in Concord, New Hampshire. “These are designs that are modern and clean and can work with both traditional and contemporary furnishings.”
Popular rug designs are veering toward bold lines and geometric shapes, and away from the more traditional floral patterns, according to Gerald Pomeroy, a Boston interior designer. “I’m seeing less and less florals and much more linear looks, as well as more geometrics as people move forward and are looking for a more updated look in their homes,” he says.
The new Salon Collection by Linda Garriott, a Medford rug designer, reflects the preference for edgier patterns. “In this collection, I’ve taken tendrils or vines and laid them out in a funky Victorian way,” says Garriott. “What ends up making sense ends up making it into the rug’s design.”
One trend that has been a mainstay of the industry is the use of high-quality, all-natural materials such as worsted wool, cotton and wool-silk combinations. “Natural fibers such as wool, sisal or sea grass are very important,” says Pomeroy. “I’m also seeing a lot more ¬combination-silk accents—this is a wonderful element because they give a rug a bit of shimmer.”
Using vibrant and varied colors to set the mood of a room is another strong trend. “I’m seeing a lot of color again,” says Pomeroy. “Everything from linear stripes in beige, gold and taupes to new combinations of reds, oranges and pinks, as well as the entire green family.”
Rug makers agree that people are looking for splashier palettes. “We just finished a collection, and the general theme was night and day,” says designer Angela Adams of Portland, Maine. “One-half of the collection is dark, comforting colors; the other half is bright, yellow, goldfish and rainbow colors.”
At Company C, Chapin says blues, such as aqua and teal, as well as gold tones, are a hit with customers right now. “We offered our more contemporary Sonoma Rose rug in gold, as well as our more traditional Medici rug, and they’ve both been quite popular.”
LAYING IT DOWN
Choosing a rug is most often one of the last decisions interior designers make when decorating a room. “There is so much complexity in designing a room, I prefer to choose a rug last,” says Boston-based interior designer Frank Roop. “I’m dealing with so many materials and swatches to put together a sophisticated room and color scheme. To design a room around a rug would be almost impossible.”
Once color and fabric schemes are solidified, it’s much easier to figure out what kind of rug you want in the room. “If the rest of the room is done in subtle fabrics, a large-scale, geometric-print rug can have a great impact,” says Pomeroy.
Never leave home without your paint chips and swatch bible? Adams and Garriott custom-design rugs for clients. “I just had an appointment with a client who wanted me to do a custom project,” says Garriott. “All she told me was that she wanted a tulip. I came up with two design concepts—more representations of a tulip than a realistic tulip—and the client will pick which design she likes best.”
Practical matters, such as how a room is used and what size rug will work in it, are also important to think of when making your selection. “If it’s going to be a room with a lot of activity, you have to choose a rug that is forgiving,” Pomeroy says. “An all-wool rug is much more forgiving than, say, a sisal or sea grass one.”
From living rooms and dining rooms to bedrooms and kitchens, area rugs are being used everywhere and anywhere. “I’ve even had people use our rugs on the walls, as an acoustical absorber,” says Adams.
To determine the right size for an area rug, Garriott suggests using newspaper. “When someone doesn’t know what size rug they want, one tip I give people is to take newspaper and drop it on the floor,” she says. “When it looks like the right size, tape it and measure it—this will give you a clear sense of what the space will look like with something on the floor.”
“So often I see people try to save money by getting a smaller rug, and it’s such a waste,” Adams says. “If you can, before you purchase it, borrow the rug to try it out in the space and make sure it’s going to work.”
WATCH YOUR STEP
Just as wall-to-wall carpet and hardwood floors come with their own set of maintenance instructions, area rugs require TLC. Wayne Southworth, co-owner of MWI Fiber-Shield in the Boston Design Center in Boston, offers this four-step rug regimen:
1. Vacuum it: “Regular vacuuming is very important,” says Southworth. “It removes insoluble soil, sand and quartz—materials that will scratch your fibers and cause permanent abrasion.” Consistent vacuuming will decrease this kind of abrasion and help prevent the rug from wearing out and getting dull.
2. Rotate it once a year: Rotating rugs is particularly important in high-traffic areas and in spots that get direct sunlight from certain angles. “By turning the rug on an annual basis, you don’t have one section that’s getting worn down or losing color quickly,” Southworth says.
3. Clean it once a year at least: Southworth recommends getting rugs professionally cleaned annually. “This is something that should be done at least once a year, and even more often for high-traffic area rugs,” he says.
4. Blot stains, then call in a pro: When dealing with food or beverage stains, Southworth says the most important thing a homeowner can do is blot the spot with a dry towel. “I’ve seen too many home¬owners try to spot-clean on their own, and they end up causing permanent damage,” he says. “The best thing to do when you have a fresh stain is to blot it and try to remove through a dry method—a vacuum to lift up, or a spoon to scoop up, some of the stain. Then call a trusted carpet-care professional to remove it completely.”— J.H.