Floors made from wood laminate, slate and tile look and feel fabulous during the summer. But with fall here and winter approaching, their clean, bare surfaces seem cold. The obvious solution is to top a hard-surfaced floor with an area rug for flood restoration. A cheerful cotton scatter rug, a sisal mat or a handwoven wool carpet can warm up a room that feels stark and unwelcoming.
Area rugs are also a great way to update aging wall-to-wall carpeting, transforming a space at a fraction of the cost of a replacing the entire carpet.
At East India Carpets in Vancouver, natural dyed wool carpets with an antique finish are the latest rage. Most come from Pakistan and India.
The earthy, organic tones are by far the most popular,” said sales manager Mike Muirhead. “They have a very soft, sophisticated look that people here seem to want.”
The other trend is contemporary designs, again primarily in warm autumn shades. The store’s exclusive Frank Lloyd Wright Collection features the architect’s distinctive geometric designs in a timeless palette of golds, browns, grays and dark blues.
While the colours are more upbeat at IKEA, here too, contemporary carpets are outselling traditional Oriental designs. The new collection for fall includes hand-tufted wool rugs patterned with chunks of bright colours as well as a new version of the 1960s shag carpet – only this time around, the fibres are made from suede leather.
It’s very fun,” said Gina Murphy, manager of the carpet department at IKEA’s Richmond store. “It’s a split natural leather pile, just like a shag. It comes in a natural cream colour.”
The 3-by-5 foot carpet, which retails for $145, is being used in living rooms and family rooms, although the surface is also soft enough for a bedroom.
We don’t sell that many normal rugs,” Murphy said. “It’s the modern ones that are really popular. People are experimenting more. They’re trying something different.”
Retailers say more people are changing their area rugs with the seasons, using tropical sisals and jute during the summer and warmer wools and synthetics in the winter.
More than 90 per cent of the carpeting sold today is synthetic and made to resemble wool. Stain-repellent and colourfast, these carpets are more affordable than wool and easier to care for. Wool, on the other hand, is the classic – durable, static-resistant, comfortable and attractive. Although harder to clean than synthetics, it is still the standard for good-quality carpet.
There’s a lot to learn about buying carpeting, particularly if you are prepared to invest a lot of money. The following tips come from the new Better Homes and Garden’s book Making a Home (Meredith Books, $35.96).
For high-traffic areas, manufacturers recommend buying the best quality carpet you can afford. Check the density, twist and thickness of the yarns. The more closely packed the loops or piles, the longer the carpet will last. The less backing that is visible when the carpet is bent or ruffled, the better. Tightly twisted yarns also wear longer. Rub a single fibre between your fingers in both directions; if the fibre easily untwists or becomes fuzzy, the carpet will wear quickly from traffic and moving furniture across it.
Tufting is the most common construction method. Yarns are pushed up through backing to leave a loop on the surface of the carpet. Loops vary from standard length to flat cuts that resemble velvet pile to loop-and-pile patterns. A second backing is applied to hold the tufts in place. Woven carpets are constructed so that the pile is part of the fabric, and there is no separate backing.
Dyeing and finishing are also important in how your carpet will look and wear. Carpet can be coloured before construction, when fibres are made (solution dyeing), or after the fibres are made into yarns. Most rugs are constructed from dyed yarns. The finishing process gives the carpet its final appearance; it involves vacuuming to remove lint, removing loose carpet fibres, and shearing the tips of the fibres for cut-pile styles.
The broad term Oriental rugs usually refers to an area rug with a very short dense pile, brilliant colours, and detailed pattern. Antique Oriental rugs and high-quality new rugs are hand-knotted. They are investment pieces and should be purchased from reputable dealers.
Rugs made from grasses and other natural materials add texture but not much softness. Sisal, coir and rush are the most common, but other exotic materials are also sold, especially in summer. Reserve these rugs for special uses, such as for summer in your living room or a porch or sunporch. Avoid damp areas (including under floor plants) because these materials tend to hold moisture and grow mildew. Some are rougher and more uncomfortable than others, making them a poor choice for areas where people will sit on the floor or walk barefoot.
Check that the construction is tight and that any stitching is secure. If the rug is bound, it is better to have the binding sewn rather than glued in place. Natural rugs are sometimes dyed or painted with designs. Paint might eventually wear off the surface, leaving the design much fainter than when purchased. Dyed designs will fade more gradually and evenly over time.
Use pads to protect the floor and your rug when placing the rug on carpet, tile, or wood. Pads help hold rugs in place and prevent them from slipping and wadding as they are trod upon; they also protect the floor beneath in case the rug is not colourfast.