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Designing a room around a patterned carpet

By Kate Watson-Smyth

As a nation we have become much bolder with our use of colour in recent years. No longer are magnolia walls and oatmeal carpets the norm. We have embraced all the colours of the rainbow when it comes to paint.

But we are still, it seems, hesitant when it comes to pattern. Particularly on the floor. Yes, wallpaper is having a moment, but that very often means the rugs and carpets will be plain. Patterned carpet suffers from a terrible reputation that is sadly undeserved. Brash colours, huge patterns (that are too large scale for many of our homes) and an association with cheap ferries, rowdy pubs and bad hotels have all done their associative damage over the years.

Now don’t panic that I’m advocating a return to the swirling patterns of the 1970s pub because I’m absolutely not, but I am suggesting that you look again at patterned carpets as the modern, 21st century versions are often technically brilliant, beautifully coloured and, as we have discussed before on these pages, will bring you all the advantages of wool, namely soft underfoot, temperature regulating, naturally fire-retardant and environmentally friendly as well.

Here are five ways to think about decorating from the bottom up to bring in some fabulous pattern to your floors. After all, why should the walls have all the fun?

  1. First of all, a patterned carpet doesn’t have to have 15 different colours in it. Consider the Capello Shell by Alternative Flooring that has only two – pale pink, or blue, and off white. Or the Strawberry Meadow which comes in two shades of blue. These pale colours are perfect for bedrooms and will, in addition, provide noise insulation for the floor below which, if you live in a first floor flat where the lease terms prohibit bare floorboards, is worth considering.
  2. But you don’t have to stick to two colours only. If you have fallen in love with a truly multi-coloured design then consider using it as a rug rather than a fitted carpet. For some reason, this is less terrifying and easier to live with than a carpet that goes from wall to wall. Buy a large piece of patterned carpet, have the edges professionally whipped (hemmed) and use that instead of a rug. Go as large as you dare – about a foot from the edges will cover any noise issues for the floors below.
  3. Not only is this much cheaper than buying a patterned rug – the cost of which can run into many hundreds of pounds – it’s a good way to cover up an unattractive floor in a rental property.
  4. Once you have pattern on the floor, it can be hard to work out how to incorporate pattern elsewhere in the room. It’s perfectly doable but there are a few guidelines you need to think about.

    Firstly, you can mix large flowers and small flowers as long as the colours are tonally friendly. A black and white stripe will always sit well with a floral and a geometric pattern so you can add some of that as well.

    Adding patterned cushions is another way to build up pattern. Follow the guidelines above – tonal colours, throw in some plain as well and make sure you mix up the shapes – round, rectangle and square so that the addition of multiple patterns doesn’t feel like too much of a shock.
  5. Patterned floors are much more practical than plain as they hide the dirt, the dust and the dog hairs. So now all you have to do is find a design you like. 

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Designing a room around a patterned carpet Kate Watson-Smyth,
Kate's sitting room, featuring a Brintons Carpets rug (Timorous Beasties range) Kate's sitting room, featuring a Brintons Carpets rug (Timorous Beasties range)