Home & Design: Design Professionals

Lay It Out

By Heather Senison - November 19, 2019

Designers dish on the science behind choosing area rugs

While we settle back into the colder months, many of us are looking around our homes wondering how to make them a little warmer and cozier. One common method is by laying down area rugs, which offer warmth without the commitment of wall-to-wall carpeting. But finding the right rug can be more complicated than running over to Home Goods and picking out a cute one. You’ll need to choose the right material, style and size. Standard measurements include 5×7, 8×10 and 9×12, but custom-made, though more expensive, is more common than ever.
However, that’s not to say that there’s only one way to go about it. Different people have different preferences, after all.
“There are different schools of thought,” on area rugs, says Andrew Bowen, director of staging for ASH NYC, a design firm that recently expanded to the Hamptons. He prefers, in most cases, to make sure that each piece of furniture is either fully on or fully off the top. “We generally don’t love the look of a lounge chair half on or half off,” Bowen explains. “We recommend a little more intention behind it.” If a rug is too small for your nightstands to reach, for example, place them two inches back from its edge, he advises.

A rug doesn’t have to completely fill a room, designer Kristen Farrell agrees. Instead, try to find one that fits 12 to 18 inches from the wall. Regarding the type for each space, “lifestyle first, aesthetic second,” is Farrell’s motto. For your entryways and other high-traffic areas, or if you’re planning to have dogs, kids or renters, wool is a safe option, as are synthetic materials like polypropylene. These are stain guard-friendly and easy to clean, Farrell explains. Another durable choice is Chilewich, a rug company known for its lines of indoor/outdoor, high-performance products that are great for mudrooms, porches and even kitchens, she adds. Delicate fabrics like silk, viscose and tencel, meanwhile, are beautiful, but better kept safely tucked away in no-shoe zones, like bedrooms.
When asked about other trends, Milly Wright at The Rug Company, a high-end designer and vendor, said repeating geometric shapes are fading out, and natural and expressive patterns coming in. There will always be a place for neutrals, but people are moving away from colder grays in favor of warm, soulful tones, Wright adds. “Color is coming back, and with it a new optimism in interiors with maximalism and experimentation, as well as joyfulness and escapism, which we see with our ‘Festival’ or ‘Climbing Leopard’ rugs.”
Bowen has noticed more clients bring valuable, handmade rugs they bought as investment pieces back from travels to places like Turkey and Morocco. “It’s like a new type of souvenir,” he says. “You can roll it up and put it in your suitcase.”
When in doubt, Wright suggests trusting your own eye. Area rugs are portable, so make choices that you’d move with you to future homes. Keep an eye out for anything that looks timeless, too: “Tastes can change, but good design shouldn’t date.”

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