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Take to the floor!
I suppose the first and fundamental question is to cover or not to cover, and if to cover, then with what? As in so many areas of interior design there is no one definitive answer.
Generally speaking some locations such as hallways will benefit from the practicality of a wood floor, whereas it’s always nice to feel the soft texture of a carpet on your bare feet when getting up in the morning – especially if it’s a deep velvet pile you can bury your toes in. But even in these cases nothing is set in stone – or wood lol (which by the way my offspring inform me means laugh out loud, not lots of love as I first thought. Imagine the trouble I could have got into). If you have a porch you will be able to live comfortably with a carpeted hall, although do exercise a little gumption in your choice of colour. Many years ago in my first house I was rash enough to have an off white carpet in the hall and up the stairs. Everybody told me I was mad, but I insisted that white wasn’t really such an impractical colour, and anyway it would be the height of style. Well of course it was, and it looked spectacular – for minutes!!
The world of domestic interior design is at last regaining some balance. We have finally overcome the style policing of the minimalists who instructed us to burn all our carpets and replace them with wood floors, thus leaving our houses about as warm and friendly as a polar bear who’s just stubbed his toe! We are now free to treat each location individually, and dress it accordingly. For example, if you have an older house you may find on lifting a well-worn carpet that you uncover a set of virtually mint floorboards that need little or no attention other than a light sand and seal. By all means leave these bare, as they will probably be the wider planks that were used in years gone by, and will look fabulous. Some original floors can be successfully patched and renovated, but do know when to draw the line and admit that age and use have taken just too much toll. In these cases it’s better to simply cover them up. I mean, whilst I’m sure few would object to seeing Cheryl Cole or David Beckham uncovered, in the case of say Edwina Curry or Prince Phillip...need I say more?
If you don’t have the benefit of original floorboards but decide that wood is the right look for you, then by all means install a wood floor, but please, please make it a good quality one. I know I always bang on about quality (and I’ll be doing it again later without any apology), but in this area more than almost any other in interiors you not only get what you pay for but it shows. A cheap, poor quality laminated wood floor sticks out like Bagpuss at Crufts. By the way, if you are installing a new wood floor in a living room, why not consider adding a well-placed floor socket or two, so that you can have table lamps on coffee or side tables without unsightly trailing flexes.
A wood floor in a living or dining room can look the picture of elegance, but will need softening with a rug. Whilst for the traditionalists you’ll never better a hand woven oriental rug, for the more contemporary interior the range of available and affordable rugs is wider than ever before. Natural wools, with or without fabric or leather borders, give a smart tailored look. Heavily patterned or textured rugs, rich in colour,lend warmth to a room and can become a focal point. For the more adventurous there are fabulous hide or even layered felt rugs to be had.
Carpets are certainly back on the agenda for most rooms – if indeed they were ever really off it – and what a wonderful choice of different styles, piles and weaves we now have. The trend is away from the sisals and grasses that were all the rage a few years ago, and towards softer and more user friendly textures. Over the last few years we have seen the resurgence of loop piles, both tight and smart, and loose and luxurious, as well as 100% wool deep velvets and Saxony piles. Stunning striped carpets are now available, which look fabulous on stairs and landings. Manufacturers of plain twist and velvet pile carpets have moved with the times and re-coloured many of their ranges, moving away from the traditional pastel greens and pinks to include a wide range of smart putty, stone and soft grey colours, along with breath-taking steels and graphites. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water though, a rich emerald or cherry coloured carpet can still look fabulous in an atmospheric dining room.
Finally, and here I am back on the “quality” soapbox, if you’re going for a fitted carpet do buy the best you can afford. I’m not suggesting you sell off the family silver and auction your granny, but in this field - almost as much as in wood flooring - quality really is reflected in the price. Currently, in response to every carpet warehouse trying to undercut the competition and virtually give the stuff away, the market has been flooded with cheap (and mostly inferior quality) twist pile carpets, which may be fine for a quick fix, but most certainly will not have the durability and enduring lustre, depth of colour and all round sumptuousness of a good carpet!!
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - September 2013