The Style Below

Rug trends come and go, but soft, luxurious texture underfoot is a mainstay. A rug can really tie a room together, define a space or stand on its own as a design element. The Oriental-style rug enjoyed a long run as a symbol of sophistication and wealth. In the 1970s, shag carpeting was a cool statement before Berber stood out as a refined and elegant choice a few decades later. This evolution means that now there is a style of area rug to go with any décor and custom carpeting can be cut to any size and treated like a rug, offering a modern take on the wall-to-wall look.

Natural Nap
“Wool carpet adds value,” said Robert Gill, owner of The Carpetman of Southampton, “And it’s the ultimate statement of style, success and comfort.” Gill said that wool is warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer and naturally stain-resistant. It needs less cleaning than nylon and is a biodegradable, renewable resource. “The wonderful thing about wool,” he said, “is that it is all natural. When my children are playing on it, that’s all that matters.”

Gill raved about the excellent quality of woven wool carpeting—machine and handmade—coming out of China, Tibet and India. His clients can choose the color, pattern and any extras, like adding silk or banana viscose fiber to the wool. A hand-woven carpet runs between $40 to $70 per square foot and can take about six months for delivery. And custom is really more than just color: Gill has ordered one piece runners that go down one hallway, take a turn to the next, and then go down the staircase.

Another natural-fiber choice is cotton, which is lightweight and low profile. Smaller versions in bold colors are an inexpensive, fun option to liven up a kitchen or bathroom. Cotton blended with wool is a softer and more durable combination than straight cotton. Both wool and cotton are softer than sisal, a plant fiber, and off er much more in the way of color and design.

Man-Made Matting
Synthetic carpeting wears better than natural fibers in high-traffic areas and is a good choice for outdoor use. Because the materials, like polyester, viscose and rayon are used exclusively with machines, costs tend to be low. Polyester/wool blends are becoming more popular because of the more natural look that can be produced, creating a softer feel than synthetic alone. But static is a problem with synthetic carpeting and rugs because it attracts dirt. The manufacturing process can also give off emissions that can be a problem for those with allergies or chemical sensitivities.

A fine rug can be a major investment and John Khalil, a dealer and the owner of The John Khalil Collection in Huntington, knows how to make one last. “First, always have the best quality, thick carpet padding underneath,” he said. A pad not only feels better underfoot, it makes the rug last longer. A 100 percent, felt wool version about 1/4-inch thick is best and it should be about an inch smaller than the rug. Add glides under the feet of heavy pieces of furniture for additional protection. Rotate rugs once a year to promote even wear and to help the color fade uniformly in sun filled rooms. Khalil also suggested cleaning a rug every five years by taking it to an expert in wool and wool/silk blend who will use the appropriate cleaning products. It’s a good idea to clean the pad as often as the rug and most high-end dealers handle both. At home, vacuuming correctly can add to longevity. “Use the setting just above bare floor so it doesn’t pull too much in the rug,” Khalil said.

Fashion Statement
Although most homeowners prefer to show off hardwood floors, Rockville Centre-based designer Lisa Loesch of Harloe Interiors said her clients do like wall-to-wall in the bedroom for comfort. Gill also sees homeowners ordering it for kids’ rooms and finds Axminster to be particularly durable because the weaving process includes yarn inserted into the backing and it has more tufts per square inch than other carpets.

Like a wall-to-wall pattern but don’t necessarily want the entire floor covered? Loesch keeps at least two to three inches of wood flooring exposed on each side, and will order broadloom cut to size and customized with a finished edge—a good solution for a hard-to-fit space. “The biggest mistake people make,” she said, “is getting a carpet or rug too small for the room. It looks like a postage stamp.”


Gray is now the most popular color and a good mill will predict the next big thing based on the fashion industry. Gill imports high-quality wool rugs in just about any design and color, starting at around $1,500. Along with gray, his clients are ordering a lot of blue and aqua.

Most designers choose the floor covering first, then determine the size after the furniture is in place. A rug with a unique design can be a focal point and used to define a particular area of a large room, like under a couch and coffee table. The color of carpeting is typically neutral, which gives the room an uncluttered look. Lighter colors can make a room look more spacious, while darker ones will make it feel cozier.

Pattern Behavior
Designers treat rugs like another decorative fabric when a room is designed from scratch. But swapping one out of an existing design while keeping the elements cohesive requires some careful attention to the room’s other details. Wendy Fried of G. Fried Carpet & Design Center in Westbury said a traditional pattern or tone-on-tone, as opposed to a geometric design, is best for a formal room. “I believe it is always important to coordinate a color within the rug to the fabric of the furniture,” she said. “A floral pattern or any carpet should pull the room together as a complete picture.” Nudge a traditional room towards transitional with a floral, linear or angular pattern, as long as it isn’t too bold. “Try a sisal rug with a leather or cotton border.” But for a room that already has a modern décor, Fried suggested keeping the look updated and clean with color and texture. “Use colors like ice blue and silver, or bone and gray in a geometric pattern. And consider a rug with an interesting texture, instead of bringing in too many colors.”

Fried said that while most people feel a large pattern will make a small space feel tighter, the opposite is true. “It creates the illusion of the room looking much wider than it actually is,” she said. “It’s nice to mix patterns too, as long as the scale of the patterns are not all the same and the colors coordinate.”

Khalil pointed out that demographic and culture has something to do with a customer’s choice. “People who have grown up with beautiful Persian rugs are purchasing them for their own homes,” he said. “Those who haven’t prefer modern or transitional rugs which fit easily into the décor of their first homes.” The new style Indian rugs, with a more transitional look, are gaining in popularity as well. They have no borders, center medallions or traditional motifs associated with an earlier era, which makes them easy to custom cut. And there is now a choice of neutrals in addition to the bold and bright colors that are uniquely Indian.

Go Bold
Floor covering trends change and designers are seeing clients going for a cleaner, simpler look in neutral colors. “People want updated patterns and geometrics,” Loesch said. Mark Hannoun, owner of Hannoun Rugs of Morocco, finds ivory with dark brown and gray is in right now, following the current colors trend. “The Beni Ouarain and Azilal styles have become even more popular as people are returning to mid-century American furniture,” he said.

Hannoun frequently travels to Morocco to select rugs and works closely with weavers from various tribes, selling the wares online. “The natural colors in these rugs are luxurious themselves and share that feeling when they are in a room.” The dyes are organic, and made from things like juniper, pomegranate, cinnamon and certain mineral deposits in the mountains.

For a truly exotic look, animal skin or faux animal skin rugs are another alternative. Port Washington-based Safavieh makes a super-soft faux sheepskin in wool. Ecofo offers a variety of rugs and “pelts” like tiger, leopard and zebra (no animals are harmed in the process).

annette rose-shapiro

annette rose-shapiro

Annette Rose-Shapiro writes about decor, interior design, art and architecture. She is currently working on a short documentary about the creative process.