Given its surface area, the floor, and most importantly its covering, is a major influence on the room’s scheme, so choose it with as much care as you would the wallpaper, curtains or upholstery fabric. The colours in the design can be a rich source of inspiration, its overall palette setting the tone for the atmosphere or period you want to evoke. Alternatively, pick out individual hues from the pattern and repeat them in accessories to create points of interest in a room furnished in neutral shades.
In a large, open-plan living room, rugs can help to map the layout by providing a focus for each zone and a visual anchor for the furniture. In the dining area, choose a rug that’s large enough to hold the table and chairs, even when people get up to leave. If the floor beneath is stone or wood, this will protect it from scratching and muffle sound. A rug is the natural centrepiece for a seating group, adding colour and potentially pattern and texture, too. The furniture should be placed fully or partially on the rug to create a comfortable zone for relaxing.
When laid on the floor, rugs are usually partially hidden by furniture, but hang them on the wall and their design can be seen in its entirety. There are various ways to hang rugs but, to avoid damage, Sara Tatum, Director at The Rug & Carpet Studio, expert dealers and restorers, recommends stitching a tube of linen fabric to the back of the rug and slotting a slim rod through it, then hanging the rod from hooks on the wall. ‘It is important to support the rug evenly. Attach the tube across the width of the rug, close to one fringed edge, so the stronger warp threads take the weight, and the ‘stroke’ of the pile lies downwards.’
A rug is the ideal canvas for works of art and some makers have collaborated with well-known names in the creative world to produce new and exciting designs for the floor. The artists’ ‘day jobs’ vary from painting to fashion, furniture, interiors and other fields of design, but unhampered by the usual conventions, they bring a fresh eye to the business of producing rugs and the results are often full of colour and originality.
Make a statement
Choosing carpet in a bold colour is a brave move, but one that can pay off by giving a room a strong identity. Use it as part of a well-considered design, building your room scheme around it and ensuring that the floorcoverings in neighbouring spaces are compatible.
Made in North Africa for around one thousand years, traditional Berber rugs, with their graphic patterns and shaggy pile, have become fashion items. Authentic Moroccan rugs might carry a four-figure price tag, but more affordable versions are available on the high street.
Power of pattern
Not just the ideal partner for retro furniture, patterned carpet has practical advantages, too. It hides fluff and bits that would be all too visible on plain floors and is slow to show wear, making it a good option for hallways, stairs and other well-used spaces.
Oriental carpets have had a place in our homes for generations, and cosy, hard-wearing broadloom carpets continue that tradition. Currently, there’s less demand for highly patterned carpets, but designs that employ individual motifs spaced more widely provide a complementary background for vintage furniture, while giving the room a more relaxed, less busy feel. Designs that have a slightly uneven colour replicate the distressed look of vegetable-dyed antique carpets, and those in earthy tones of ochre, terracotta and red create a luxurious feeling of warmth.
An undyed wool carpet is a good starting point for any sophisticated room scheme. Made from natural wool, it comes in a range of neutral tones depending on the breed of sheep that supplied the fleece and can vary from white to grey, biscuit and brown. Undyed wool requires fewer chemicals in manufacture but the result need not have a rustic feel, unless that is the style you want to create. Examples with neat woven patterns, two-tone geometric designs and contrasting textures provided by rayon silk – a plant-based fibre – mean you can combine natural values with a luxury look.
If the rug you have your heart set on is too small for the space, why not try combining it with others to fill the area you want to cover? The result will be a rich and satisfying patchwork of design with a soft, sumptuous feel underfoot. Apply the same rules that you would when, say, mixing cushions on a sofa. Go for variations of related patterns in a range of colours for an exotic, boho effect or, if your style is more restrained, opt for just one or two different patterns, adding striped and plain rugs in toning colours to give the arrangement a calm and airy look. Lay the rugs using anti-creep underlay to help them stay flat.
Why is wool such a great material?
Graham Clark, Head of Marketing at British Wool, says, ‘It’s very hardwearing and naturally fire-resistant. A resilient fibre, it keeps its shape for longer than carpets made from other materials and is resistant to spills, which means it’s easy to care for. It’s also hypoallergenic, acting as a natural air filter.’
Does wool vary in quality?
‘Wool from different countries offers different features and benefits. In our opinion, British wool is the ideal fibre for making carpets and rugs because it’s so hardwearing. British Wool operates a licensee scheme, which helps consumers identify products with a genuinely high content of British wool. Simply look for the crook mark [above].’
Are wools from different breeds better suited to different flooring?
‘Breeding history and climate have an effect on the attributes of wool. For example, British mountain sheep often live in exposed environments, so their wool has adapted to protect them. This means different types of wool are suited to different flooring applications. In heavy footfall areas, such as halls and stairs where a hardwearing flooring is needed, British mountain wool is ideal. If a softer feel is required, in a bedroom for example, a cross-bred wool is perfect.’
Why is wool often mixed with other fibres in carpets?
Natalie Littlehales, Consumer Marketing Manager at Brintons Carpets, says, ‘Brintons has a strong commitment to the use of British wool in carpet, but in the 1950s pioneered the development of the 80 per cent wool, 20 per cent nylon blend of fibres that we use today. The addition of nylon makes wool carpet more resistant to abrasion, while preserving its softness and insulating properties.’