Under Toe

In the last few months I have been ordering lots of carpets and noticed my clients asking a number of questions. So I thought I would share some tidbits on how to shop and size for rugs.

Before you start, consider the following:

1. What room is the carpet going in?
2. What will be the traffic in that room? Stair (heavily used), entry rug (wet & dirty shoes), dining room (chairs and food), home office (rolly chair), playroom (soft to the touch for kids to play on, but low enough pile they can run a toy truck on), bedroom (sensitive feet).
3. What will the room be used for? Think dining room chairs and narrow chair leg pulling on a looped carpet, or U shaped leg not sitting flat on a high and low cut pile.
4. If you wear shoes in your house consider medium toned rugs, that are tweeded or multi-colored to hide dirt.
5. Do you have children? Are they messy or clean, do they eat food outside of the kitchen?
6. Do you have a pet? Think cats clawing or dogs scratching for a lost bone.
7. Are there any allergies to wool, latex, etc?
8. How much do you want to spend? Ask the salesperson what you can get for how much you want to spend. Don’t waste your time looking at a custom hand- tufted carpet when you can only afford a machine made rug.

If you can assess all of these factors before looking at rugs, you will come armed with the knowledge of what you need and what will be best for you.

Now let’s dive into what looks best where:

1. Wall to wall: These look best in bedrooms, playrooms and cozy home offices. I always include the closets as well. If you have wood floors, they look best with a wood/stone saddle at the doors, otherwise the installers will bind the edge of the carpet from unraveling. Always have rugs die into baseboards vs floating a baseboard. If you have a high pile carpet (like a shag) make sure you have the doors cut down before the rug installation, and factor in 40oz lining which is 1/2”high. Factor in the direction and width of machine made carpets. Most machine made carpets are 13’2", however some are 14’ or 15’ widths. You want to avoid seaming carpet when and if possible which can often mean railroading the carpet. Never seam a carpet in the middle of the room if that is the area you will most walk on. Try moving to back of the room under the bed running the length of the room. Be mindful to ask which carpets will seam well and which carpets will not.

2. Area Rugs: These look best in living rooms, dining rooms, entries, family rooms, etc (basically all first floor entertaining rooms). This is where you need to be most mindful of furniture placement, door openings and traffic flow. If you are custom sizing a rug vs. store bought pre-sized carpet then you want to aim for 8-18” margins pending on the size of your room. Try to have the carpet extend at least three quarters of the door opening or cased opening, otherwise you will forever be tripping on the corner edge of the rug. You may need to use double sided rug tape to secure it down. Throughout a home, I like to have a various mix of weaves from handwoven to hand knotted, playing with different piles, patterns and more. Make sure they all look well together as you transition from room to room. Be mindful of the following: material and traffic use. For instance, in a dining room, try to make sure the rug is wide enough so that when a chair pulls out it is fully on the carpet. In a living room or family room, the larger the rug, the larger and more cozy the room will feel. Aim to have all of the furniture sit on the rug vs half off of the rug if possible. If you have solid based furniture it will not sit well half on a carpet. If the fireplace hearthstone protrudes in the room, you may want to shape the rug around the hearth for optimal seating. Be mindful of exterior & interior doors swings with the pile height and finally pay attention not to cover any HVAC floor grills which are usually on the perimeter of a room.

3. Hall runners: Pending on the width of your hallway, create equal margins on the sides and ends of 3-5” and be mindful of thick carpets and tripping on them. A thin carpet pad underneath is most necessary to keep from slipping!

4. Stair runners: These look best installed using the waterfall method, assuming there is no shoe molding. A tight looped low pile carpet will wear better than a thick long cut pile. Keep consistent equal margins when possible at roughly 3-5” pending on the width of your stair (that is from wall to inner stair edge of balustrade). You may need to notch around the newel posts to give it some breathing room. If your stair curves then an all over non-directional pattern would be well suited vs a stripe. If you are considering a linear carpet with a stripe on a stair, be aware what will happen to the pattern when the stair turns at the landing.

Materials & other factors:

1. Wool: A natural material that can be easily spot cleaned by hand, durable and affordable. Wool is available in most countries which is why it is being used both in hand-woven and machine made rugs.

2. Nu- Silk & Nylon: Nu-Silk is a synthetic nylon that mimics soft and shiny quality of silk. It looks well in wall to wall bedroom application. Not advisable on stair. Requires professional cleaning by water extraction. Many machine-made nylon woven carpets are not soft to the touch and are used in commercial grade projects.

3. Silk: A natural fiber made from silk worms with fine threads and soft to the touch. Silk is one of the more expensive natural materials that requires professional cleaning for best results. It feels amazing on bare feet. Sensitive to water. Has a gorgeous shimmer and will read lighter on one side vs the other because of the direction of the weave as it catches the sun.

4. Tensil & Viscose: Viscose is a synthetic product that mimics silk but cannot be cleaned easily. Tensil is the 2nd generation treated viscose that can be professionally cleaned.

5. Cotton/ Linen: Both natural fibers that attract dirt and can show water stains. Some cotton carpets are made with wool or aloe to add softness and durability. The natural strie of hemp can also help in hiding everyday ware. When woven in a hand-cut pile, these materials are stiffer than when looped.

6. Sisal: A natural fiber that should not be used in wet areas with high humidity causing the fibers to expand. Sisal is rough to the touch. The addition of jute lends softens it. Color and weave should be considered when using sisal. 

7. Price Point is affected by two things: how the carpet is made and what the carpet is made of. Carpets vary from machine made, to hand-tufted, to hand- knotted, to hand woven and more. And in each of those categories the material content (jute, sisal, wool, nylon, viscose, poly, silk, etc) of the carpet drives the price. Machine made carpets generally are the least expensive. Then you go into semi-custom hand-tufted carpets. A few mills are making a machine made versions of hand-tufted carpets, but you are limited in colors and patterns. Hand-tufted carpets usually take 4 weeks to make a sample and 4-5 months to produce. Hand-tufted carpets have a tight weave and often a combination of knot and cut pile, which wears well on stairs. Hand-knotted carpet on the other hand take 6 weeks to make a sample and 6 months to produce. So be mindful when selecting carpets you love and their lead-times. When custom designing or coloring a rug it can often take a few tries before you get it right.

8. Pile height: Thicker and shinier carpets show more foot prints. Avoid thick cut piles on stair for many reasons. Thinner piles, while sometimes less cozy often wear better in high traffic areas for cleaning & durability reason. 

9. Removal: If you are replacing an existing carpet, confirm with your installer that they will remove and dispose of the old carpet.