Embracing the comfort and style of area rugs

Tips on choosing a material and buying the right size

Ripping out your dated carpet and replacing it with gleaming hardwoods — or sleek laminate — seemed like the perfect solution for many homeowners. But Greg McLean, co-owner of McLeans Flooring in Stellarton, says there’s something most people never considered at the time.
“They always come back — not right away, but within a few months — and say they miss the warmth of their carpet,” says McLean.
That’s why area rug sales have hit an all-time high, although they’ve been around for centuries. (They were first created as protection from the elements.) Area rugs have the power to make a room feel larger while also adding coziness — not to mention cushy comfort and warmth underfoot.
McLean says 5’x8′ and 6’x9′ rugs tend to be the most popular, but there’s been a growing interest in the oversized 7’x10′, 8’x11′ and 9’x12′ rugs. It’s usually hard to envision how an area rug will fit into your room, so he suggests using painter’s tape to experiment.
“It isn’t going to ruin your floor, so you can play around with different sizes and see what works,” says McLean.
He says some people want a rug large enough to go under their sofa and serve as an “island” that grounds an entire seating area, while others are fine with something that isn’t much larger than their coffee table.
Once you’ve come up with your ideal area rug length and width, there’s no guarantee it’s going to be a standard size — but McLean says that’s not a problem.
“We actually make more rugs than we sell off the racks,” says McLean. “Our customers can choose from all of our carpet samples and have the flexibility to have them made into a custom rug.”
He says this typically isn’t much more expensive than buying a ready-made area rug, since the biggest cost is the carpet itself. Often his customers score great deals by purchasing a carpet remnant and paying to have the edges trimmed and bound.

So will it be neutral berber, black and white stripes, or an explosion of earth tones in geometric shapes? McLean says more homeowners are opting for neutral walls these days, which frees them up to buy colourful patterned rugs and throw pillows. Oriental-style rugs are having a huge moment, and somehow manage to blend with many types of decor despite combining plenty of tones and designs.
Choosing the colour and pattern might feel like the most important decision as you stand in the store, examining rug after rug. But McLean says you really need to consider where the rug will be, who’s going to be on it, and what type of use it will see.
Cotton rugs are perfect for kitchens because they’re easy to throw in the washing machine when they get dirty. Chenille rugs are luxuriously silky underfoot, but should be limited to formal living rooms where they won’t get a lot of foot traffic.
Families with babies and toddlers might opt for the durable, easy-to-clean polypropylene indoor/outdoor rugs. If you have a cat at home, McLean says to steer clear of any rugs with loops that can be clawed and tugged — opt for cut-top construction instead.
If you’re envisioning a classic Persian-style wool rug stretching across your living room floor, that doesn’t mean you’ll actually end up with wool. McLean says some customers want to invest in a wool rug because they’re durable and last for decades, but cautions it can be a little harder to clean.
Many synthetic rugs — made from nylon, polyester and acrylic yarn — are designed to mimic the look of wool while resisting stains and fading.

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Heather Laura Clarke
Heather Laura Clarke is an award-winning journalist and columnist living in Truro, and in this issue she’s stretching out on area rugs. Never far from a sewing machine, paint brush, or mitre saw, she shares stories about living, working and parenting creatively on her blog, HeathersHandmadeLife.com.