Despite myriad flooring options, many people still yearn for carpet because it is soft and homely. However, they fear that it is the boring option. No so!

Wall-to-wall carpet had been written off by many in the design world, as a product just too dull to mention. Yet while a good old cut pile carpet in a neutral colour may not set the pulse racing, there are plenty of carpets that have come onto the market over the past few years that most definitely will: It’s a case of knowing what to look for.

London interior designer Paul Warren says while he prefers wood or stone for downstairs or living areas, and tiles for bathrooms (“never, never put carpet in a bathroom”, he exhorts homeowners) he advises clients to choose a carpet for stairs and landings, and for bedrooms. That’s because carpet has obvious advantages.

It is soft underfoot
It retains heat
It absorbs sound
Should someone have a fall, their injuries won’t be as severe as falling on stone or wood
It won’t chip or crack. or move
If it is of reasonable quality, it will not become threadbare for many years

Texture

Paul advises clients to look for a textured carpet rather than the bog-standard cut-pile, because it looks more interesting and stylish. “Carpet designs have come on hugely. There are some very exciting products on the market, including gorgeous silk/linen shag piles by Belgian company Limited Edition, or linen rib carpets by Wool Classics, and the more affordable manufacturers such as Brinton’s and Bosanquet Ives have some very interesting, attractive textures. This is a good time to be buying carpet, just look beyond the local department store, because often it is small, local carpet shops that stock more unusual designs.”

Striped Runners For Stairs

For stairs, hallways and landings, Paul recommends using striped runners, because they give an entrance character, but do use a striped runner all the way up, i.e do not chop and change, with some stripes on the first bit of staircase, then some wood on the landing, and a plain bit of carpet on the second bit of staircase.

“A striped runner works as a spine; it runs through the centre of a house, and pulls it all together,” says Paul. He recommends striped runners from the UK’s Roger Oates, whose name is synonymous with the genre. Christine Van Der Hurd, a renowned carpet designer who divides her time between London and New York, also has some interesting striped carpets that can be used as runners or as wall-to-wall carpet.

Manufacturers Mix Fibres For Exciting New Products

Remember shag pile carpet back in the ’70s and its less than salubrious connotations? Well, today’s shag-piles are carpets to aspire to, especially those by Limited Edition. They come in different combinations of fibres and colours, such as wool/linen or wool/silk. These attention-grabbing carpets look wonderful because they are not a uniform colour; rather lots of different coloured threads are hand-tufted into them, to achieve a slightly mottled effect.

Special carpets such as these are expensive, but this is where living in a small flat can be an advantage, because small rooms require less carpet. Therefore a product that might be unaffordable for a house with a large sitting room, is affordable for a sitting room that measures 12 ft by 10ft. and using a carpet like a linen shag pile can make a small apartment look really special.

Paul Warren says if carpeting a large area; it is safer to use a neutral shade, and add colour by putting rugs down on it. However, carpets come in so many wonderful shades, and people can make a design statement by choosing, say, a tangerine or a lime green wall-to-wall carpet. “If it is a colour you love, and won’t tire of, then by all means be bold.”

Antron: A Nylon Carpet Fibre That Feels Like Silk

Not long ago, the words “nylon carpet” spelled one thing: electro-static; but now a new nylon carpet fibre has been developed, called Antron, which is soft and silky, and sparks definitely do not fly. The colour palette available is very subtle, with soft lilacs and baby blues; shades it is hard to find in wool carpet or the more popular 80/20 carpets (80 % wool, 20% nylon). In the UK, Brocklehurst Carpets in London has a fine selection of nylon carpets, which retail at a reasonable £30 per square metre.

‘One of my clients chose an Antron carpet for their bedroom because they could not find such a soft shade of lilac anywhere else. I was a bit iffy at first, but I’m very impressed with it because it looks and feels like silk,” says Paul Warren. The carpet is also more hard-wearing than wool, says Brocklehurst Carpets.

Natural Flooring

Natural flooring means products made from natural materials such as coir, sisal, acaba, seagrass, and bamboo. They are a natural, textured and unobtrusive flooring option, with green credentials. Seagrass is made from a Chinese marine plant ,while sisal is a grass that grows in Africa and South America. It can be woven coarsely for a more ethnic look, or tightly to give a more sophisticated finish.

These products are not particularly cheap, nor are they particularly soft to walk on. However, they do give an appealing rustic look, and are available in a large number of patterns and colours: They also work well in combination with soft wool rugs.

They have their disadvantages: They are hard to clean once stained, and some products can become slippery, so are not suitable for staircases or children’s bedrooms. However, they have a strong following among people who are left cold by anything synthetic.

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