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All about rugs

By Kate Watson-Smyth

While carpet is common (and practical) in bedrooms and on stairs, it has been fashionable for some years to opt for rugs downstairs. But rugs can be complicated – not least because of all decisions that need to be made. You have to choose the colour, the shape, the pattern. And then you have to work out if you can afford one in the right size and what to do if the budget won’t stretch that far.

So, in this post, I thought I would lay out a few guidelines to help you through that process. First of all, you need to consider what material you want your rug to be made from and, given that we are all about British wool here, it’s worth knowing why wool is a good idea. Firstly, it can be produced in a variety of finishes from chunky boucles (about to be huge in upholstery trends this season) to velvety finishes that are soft underfoot.

I have written earlier about the pros of British wool but it bears repeating that wool is a good choice for hallways as it’s easy to clean – let any mud dry and you can simply vacuum it off. It also bounces back, which makes it good for high traffic areas with lots of feet coming and going. And it’s naturally resilient – think of the sheep out there in all British weathers. It’s also the sustainable choice of course.

Next you need to think about the size of your rug and this one is really quite simple. You need to buy the biggest rug you can afford for the space. I am always hesitant to talk about rules when it comes to interior design but there are one or two that I adhere to because, quite simply, they are right. That is; you must either have all the furniture, or at the very least the front legs on the rug. This pulls the space together and helps to zone it. You must never, I repeat never, just have a small rug with a coffee table underneath it and the rest of the furniture floating round the edges of the room. It looks disjointed and doesn’t imply a cosy welcoming space. In extremis make sure that at least the front legs of the sofa are on the rug and you can, if you must, float the other chairs off to the sides.

But what to do if the money won’t stretch to something that size? There are two options. One you can buy a piece of carpet and have the edges hemmed – perhaps in a contrasting colour. This is much cheaper than buying a rug and these days there are lots of patterned carpets around that might feel a little too much if fitted wall to wall, but work brilliantly in rug form. See both Alternative Flooring and Brintons for good examples.

Secondly, if you already have a small rug that you love you can start layering them. This works well with vintage rugs and, if you are really stuck, anything in black and white stripes works well with florals and geometric patterns. Just make sure the colours work together tonally.

Size decided, the last point is about choosing the colour (and pattern if you want one). One theory is that a room should be divided roughly 60, 30. 10. So you would have the largest area in one colour - probably the walls – the second coming to about 30 per cent and the final 10 is the accessories. In practice you might want to match rugs and sofa to make up 30 percent. Or you can keep the sofa the same colour as the walls (which will make the room look bigger as it will sort of disappear into it) and go with another colour, and perhaps a pattern, for the rug.

Then it’s about experimenting with colour palettes to see what you like. If you find that tricky, then firstly look in your wardrobe to see what colours you have there and how you put them together when you get dressed. Dressing your house is no different from dressing your body and is possibly even easier as your house doesn’t have fat days, or hangover days or let’s just lie on the sofa in tracksuit bottoms and eat biscuit days.

But if you draw a blank in your wardrobe, talk a walk down your local high street and see what colours the window dressers have put together. For most of us though, it’s about working with what we have so you can choose one colour from the cushions, or the wallpaper, that you love and go with that. As long as it’s a colour you love and it’s as big as you can afford you won’t go wrong.

Feeling inspired? You can create your own custom British wool rug with Alternative Flooring’s Make Me A Rug service.

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All about rugs Kate Watson-Smyth,
Kate's cat, Enid, appreciating the comfort and warmth of a British Wool rug Kate's cat, Enid, appreciating the comfort and warmth of a British Wool rug