How to choose the ideal carpet for your home

Maggie Stevenson explains how to make your carpets cosy, comfortable and colourful

An image of a sofa and a small table
A chair on a carpet with a geometric pattern
Neat repeating geometric patterns reminiscent of the 1970s, such as Alternative Flooring’s ‘Quirky B’ range, work well with retro furniture

From the ground up…

‘When choosing a look for their interiors, many people focus on fabrics and furniture and forget about the floor,’ says Jeremy Wilson of Ulster Carpets.

‘But a good-quality carpet in the right colour and pattern can add depth and personality to the home and make a real style statement.’

If you prefer plain carpet but can’t find the colour you want, John Lewis and Brockway Carpets, among others, offer colour-matching services to produce wool carpet to match your preferred shade.

A room with a double bed and a nightstand
Jacaranda’s Seville carpet is luxurious enough for bedrooms but is a ‘heavy contract’ floor covering so stands up to the rigours of use in busiser rooms

Pile ’em high

To get the most from your carpet choose the right one for the job.


Carpets are labelled to indicate their suitability: heavy domestic-grade carpets have durable, resilient pile ideal for busy areas like stairways and living rooms; medium domestic-grade carpets are suitable for rooms that receive lighter wear, such as bedrooms.

‘Twist and velvet pile carpets are both hard-wearing,’ says Rupert Anton of The Carpet Foundation.

‘Loop pile is durable too although animal claws can snag in its weave. Plush Saxony-style carpet feels luxurious in the bedroom but is less suited to living areas.’


Material concerns

How a carpet looks, feels and performs depends on the fibre it’s made from. Wool is the classic choice of natural fibre and polypropylene is one of the most-popular synthetic materials – both can be used alone or mixed with other materials.

‘Wool is warm, hard-wearing and has the resilience to recover easily from the pressure of furniture or heavy foot traffic,’ points out David McCormack of Cormar Carpets. ‘Polypropylene is durable, stain-resistant, easy to clean and colourfast, as well as being an affordable choice.’

A staircase
Draw visitors’ eyes up your staircase with this Roger Oates Isis Leaf runner

Stepping up

Stair runners can be made from cut pile, loop or flatweave carpet and are a smart alternative to fitted carpet.

They come in standard widths between 59cm and 70cm or can be made to order to leave at least 5cm of floor visible at either side.

‘Where there’s fitted carpet on the landing, it should go over the nosing of the top step to cover the upper edge of the runner,’ advises Crucial Trading’s Emma Hopkins.

‘Generally, where the stairs connect wooden floors, the runner should start at the base of the bottom step and end under the nosing of the top step.’


Budget for the basics

Underlay and professional fitting will extend the life of your carpet so don’t be tempted to skimp on them. ‘A decent underlay is about £8.50 per square metre,’ explains Ian Powers, Assistant Buyer of Floor Coverings at John Lewis.

‘Heavy paper to line the floor is around 50p per square metre and, in the London area, grippers and fitting will add a further £18.90 per square metre.’

You can cut costs further by clearing the room of furniture and disposing of old carpet before the fitters arrive.

An image of a sofa and a small table
Professional fitting cuts the carpet – in this case one of Ulster Carpets’ Bohemian Collection – flush against walls, reducing wastage and overall costs

Perfectly plain

Plain carpet in a neutral tone is an elegant, go-with-anything background for a room but in larger spaces it can seem bland. One way to add interest is with texture; from ribbed effects, loop and velvet stripes as well as textures that emulate Aran knitting patterns.

‘Even quite striking patterns look more subtle when they’re presented in a single colour,’ says Anjana Sethia of Flock Living.


Go with the flow

Using the same carpet throughout the house gives a feeling of continuity and helps small homes feel more spacious but complementary carpet designs can deliver a similar effect while linking rooms more creatively.

‘You can create a visual flow through adjoining living spaces by choosing carpets with a common background or accent colour,’ says Jeremy Wilson of Ulster Carpets.

‘Provided the colour palette is the same, using tonal stripes, patterns and plains alongside one another gives individual spaces their own personality without creating a busy look.’

An image of five differently patterned carpets


Design trend

Plain-coloured and striped carpets are perennial favourites but the latest designs offer a new take on patterned floors.

As well as plaids in new colourways and quirky retro designs in gentle pastels, look out for romantic, large-scale motifs from Timorous Beasties, neat geometrics by Ashley Hicks and craft-inspired patterns.

‘Bold designs feature heavily in home decor,’ says Rob Mpayah of Brintons, ‘and pattern and colour create a bold fashion statement.’


Antique rugs

‘Kilims are usually the cheapest to buy,’ says Matt Roe of London House Rugs, ‘but prices rise steeply for fine Indian Agra and silk Persian carpets.’

‘The more colours there are in a rug, the more it will cost,’ points out Rachel Simpson of The Rug Studio. ‘In a decorative room, the scale and execution of a carpet’s design are as important as its colours.’

An image of an antique rug
Head to Nomad Ideas for traditional kilims. This Russian one is around 65 years old

When buying an antique carpet it pays to do your homework, so ask the advice of a reputable, expert dealer. ‘Look for the best quality and condition,’ says Sara Barber of the Persian Carpet Studio.

‘A good rug isn’t dependent on the number of knots per square inch. Some of the most collectable antique rugs are tribal and woven on thick wool foundations.’


Aftercare is important to ensure your rug has a long life. ‘If you must vacuum your rug, work across it, not down the length to avoid catching the tassels,’ advises Rachel Simpson. ‘Never use a carpet cleaning machine on a rug and have any accidental spillages and stains dealt with professionally.’