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Sunday, February 22, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Choosing the right rug requires plenty of thought and coordination
By Stacy Downs
But placing the right rug in the right room can be a puzzle: How much of the furniture should be on top? And can a stylish small rug be the right scale for a large space?
Questions about area rugs have become more common as their stature has risen thanks to all the new and old homes with wood and tile floors. But people still want some of the softness carpet has to offer, only not so much of it.
The placement of rugs is particularly important in downtown lofts, which are becoming increasingly popular living spaces. Rugs help define conversation and dining areas within lofts' vast openness, says Benjamin Sundermeier, owner of Space Planning and Design, and High Cotton, a home-furnishings store in Kansas City.
Whether you live in a loft or not, before shopping for a rug, measure the length and width of furniture and rooms. Take those dimensions and a tape measure to stores.
Pam Hoelzel, a textiles expert and sales associate at Smith and Burstert Oriental Rugs in Kansas City, tells customers to leave at least a footlong border between a rug and wall. That way, the rug will lie straight and some of the natural flooring will show.
For a dining room, make sure the rug is big enough to allow at least three feet behind each table setting.
Chair legs shouldn't fall off the rug when people are seated at the table or when the chair is pulled out.
Putting a rug near a fireplace requires special consideration.
To guard the rug from sparks, place it at least six inches from the fireplace and invest in an adequate fireplace screen if you don't already have one.
Sundermeier compares choosing rugs to searching for a good outfit: You want rugs to complement the whole.
He says rooms look best when rugs are generous enough to allow most of the furniture to sit on top.
The appearance of a room can be thrown off if there's a rug in the center with furniture surrounding it like a bull's-eye.
Small rugs typically don't do much for a room on their own, he warns, but they can act as bridges if larger rugs are nearby. But avoid matching rugs because they'll compete for attention. (An exception would be runners on the sides of a bed. Those can be the same.)
Also be aware of rugs with central medallions, Sundermeier advises. They can make a room look odd if the furniture is asymmetrical around it.
Designers say it's OK for rugs to be placed atop low-pile wall-to-wall carpet to add color or tie elements in a room together. But rugs don't typically work well on broad-loom carpet it can make the floor too high to swing a door over, and people can trip over the rug's edge.
"The high-pile carpet can also make the rug bunch and pucker up," Hoelzel says.
But area rugs can be placed in nontraditional rooms and spaces: bathrooms, kitchens and alongside pool tables. It's just a matter of material.
Wool outperforms other fibers because it washes and wears well. Synthetics such as nylon hold up well, but colors such as blue and red fade easily in direct sunlight. Cotton and jute are soft but should be used in areas where there isn't much foot traffic because they wear out easily.
Sundermeier says most people aren't aware that rugs made of natural fibers such as sisal (made of the leaves of agave plants) aren't durable in moist areas. So they shouldn't be used in screen porches or bathrooms.
The latest trend in area rugs is lots of texture, says Elizabeth Miller, senior vice president of design for Karastan in New York City. Shag instantly softens hard floor surfaces and straight-line furniture, she says.
That's why flokati thick wool shag has made a comeback, says Susan Bahl, president of Naturlich Natural Home in Sebastopol, Calif. People want their babies to crawl on the soft, Greek-style rugs in the family room, she says.
Whatever the rug's material, people need to invest in rug pads. They protect floors from scratching and anchor rugs in place. Designers recommend horsehair or special rubber pads.
"It's like a lining on a suit," Sundermeier says. "It makes a rug lie better and look better by giving it more body and a nicer step."
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
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