Artful Floors

by Pamela Hughes

Often people ask us, “Just how do we start a design?  What are the first things we do?”  Well, there is a lot that we do prior to starting, such as research, lots of listening, etc., but when we actually start to design, we often start with the rugs.

Usually a color palette is “built up” from the selection of rugs.  As we designers like to say, “It is easier to find a fabric to go with a rug, than a rug to go with a fabric.”  So often we start by defining the color palette with the rugs.  Rugs can be many styles and colors.  In today’s contemporary styling that is so popular now, there are many resources that are producing gorgeous modern-styled rugs in fabulous abstract designs.  These designs are often done with muted, soft colors or, depending on your design intent, can be brightly colored.  They can be custom designed and colored, and made to the exact size your room requires.  Usually they are made of wool (wool simply absorbs color better than other materials, not to mention being phenomenally durable and stain-resistant), and can be ordered to a thickness or specific “yarn count.”  These contemporary rugs can look as beautiful on a floor as an abstract painting looks on the wall, and are often used as a floor covering without much furniture on them.  They definitely “anchor” the design of a room and can be a major focal point.

Alternately, there are incredible antique rugs available in traditional designs, or new rugs that look antique.  One of our favorite sources for new rugs is a company that produces rugs the exact way they were made over 200 years ago.  They weave rugs in the same villages in Turkey where they have been weaving them for centuries, while using the same pure vegetable dyes and wool from sheep that have grazed naturally on the same hillsides.  In fact, the people making the rugs are descendents of those who perfected the craft so long ago.  They have the same method of “finishing” the rugs, creating glossy or matte yarns, muted or bright colors, for an old look or newer look.  They can make the rugs look more antique by dulling the colors, and cutting the nap of the rugs to create worn-like areas.  The patterns are traditional (though they are starting a new line with more contemporary, simple designs) and the colors original to the design.  It is fascinating to see these rugs made on the old looms in charming, quaint villages.  The product is superb; often dealers have to inspect the rugs very carefully to determine if they are new or antique.  We have used their rugs in grand hotels and private residences with remarkable success, and love the richness and sense of quality that they immediately bring to every room. 

Antique rugs can also be used in the same ways, but one is more dependent upon the existing rug in color and pattern when beginning a room design.  Whether you buy a “new” antique or have one that’s been in the family for generations, we love the gently worn patina and slight wearing that old rugs give.  It speaks of quality and stability, at the very base of the home.  And antiques are often so dappled with a myriad of colors it is usually easy to find something in them to go with a color scheme that is being developed.

So now that we have choices as to design, how do we use rugs to maximize their impact on the interior you are creating?  Many ways, and there are a few rules.  First of all, rugs can be a terrific foundation for a seating arrangement.  The rules are to generally keep the furniture on the rugs, avoiding the “one leg on, and one leg off” situation.  When designing new rugs or shopping for them, we generally size the rugs prior to buying.  It is best to not have the rug too big for the room - we always like to see some of the wood or stone floors at the edges of the room.  It frames the rug and allows the floors below to show some of their glory.  But we also see rugs too small for a room.  A little oriental parked under a coffee table would really be much better suited to an entryway, foyer or small room.  And always try to bring some of the colors of the rug up off the floor - use the russets or blues in upholstery fabrics or accent pillows.  Similarly, art can have a sympathetic and amplifying affect of having the same hues as in the rug, which works to the benefit of both.

So with that, unroll that ancient rug in the attic, head out to an auction, or go find a lovely new rug and shake up one of your rooms.  It will give you lasting pleasure and interest.


Hughes Design Associates