All About Rugs (Part Two of Three)

Heriz Persian rug provided by Black Sheep Unique. Photo by An Indoor Lady.

Heriz Persian rug provided by Black Sheep Unique. Photo by An Indoor Lady.

Hello fellow design enthusiasts! Below is a continuation of our three part series All About Rugs, this time focusing on Purchasing Considerations. Enjoy!


Written by Casey Cunningham in collaboration with Laura Burton.

Welcome back to Part 2 of my series: “I Love Rugs and Somebody Finally Gave Me a Platform to Talk About Them so I’m Going to Milk that with a Three Part Soapbox Rant” (Or whatever Laura named it).

Now that you understand why rugs are important and I’ve got you riled up to get your hands on your own fancy-pants rug, let’s talk about purchasing considerations. What are your needs when it comes to lifestyle, budget, maintenance, size, functionality and design style? 

PART TWO - PURCHASING CONSIDERATIONS

LIFESTYLE

Do you eat on the furniture? Do you have pets? Kids? Do you love to host GoT watch parties where people drink wine and yell at the TV when their favorite characters meet their untimely demise? 

Sometimes people say they don’t want to spend a lot on a rug because they have kids or entertain a lot and have a high probability of spills that will surely ruin the rug. FALSE: (To be read in Dwight Schrute’s voice). A good quality wool can often hold up to spills better than a budget wool. Because, science.

How often do you like to change up your environment? There are two types of buyers when it comes to design: 1) the “buy the best you can afford once” crowd, and 2) the “fast home decor” buyer who likes to switch things up often, spend less up front, and keep things “fresh”. Which one are you?

(Side note: Keeping things “fresh” is still no excuse to make impulse purchases or compromise on quality. Even if you’re working with a budget, good design is curated and intentional. Be prepared to be patient and plan in advance rather than scrambling to decorate before a party).

Then there’s the “Barefoot Test”. How do you want the rug to feel? Does it matter if it’s a little scratchy on bare feet? Do you want it to be extra cushy? Will the kids be laying on the rug?

How often do you like to vacuum? Will your Golden Retriever’s fur blend in with it? Does that matter? 

BUDGET

Only you truly know your budget, and everyone has one. Maybe your budget doesn’t allow for a $20k, hand knotted antique rug. But you can still purchase a natural fiber rug such as wool, jute, sisal, etc.. If your home style allows, you can get a quality flatweave style for considerably less than something hand knotted, and still have an upscale look.

SIZE

Make sure it fits your room. Don’t go smaller to save money – you’ll regret it. Know what your furniture layout is going to be, and as a general rule at least the front two legs of each piece of furniture should be on the rug. If you’re dealing with a dining space, plan on allowing roughly three feet all the way around the table. This way your guest’s chairs are never half on / half off the rug. In a living room, pay close attention to the side tables. As always, careful and thorough planning helps avoid unfortunate surprises.

When determining size, pay attention not only to the relationship of the rug with the furniture feet, but side tables can also be a factor. In our project above the rug was sized to ensure the side table could sit cleanly on the rug. Rug provided by Black Sheep Unique. Photo credit: An Indoor Lady.

When determining size, pay attention not only to the relationship of the rug with the furniture feet, but side tables can also be a factor. In our project above the rug was sized to ensure the side table could sit cleanly on the rug. Rug provided by Black Sheep Unique. Photo credit: An Indoor Lady.

STYLE

How much color are you comfortable with in a space? What is the architecture of your home? Are you looking for a statement piece, something to blend in, or something to provide more textural impact? Is your style trendy, timeless, modern, boho, global or traditional? There are different rug types suited for each of these styles, and the rug will either contribute toward (or detract from) the overall affect.

BONUS: BUYING TIPS

  • Quality rugs are pricey. Period. If you see an 8x10 patterned rug, with a bunch of detail for $300 do not be tempted! (especially if you’re buying online). It is likely a machine made of polypropylene. This has a very different look than a wool rug and may affect the overall quality of your design.  

  • Avoid buying online without a sample or seeing it in person first. Rugs are hard to photograph, and colors are difficult to capture. They often look VERY different in person. Always try to see a sample first. If you are buying from one of the online vintage rug shops that have popped up lately, have some wiggle room in your color scheme. (Back to the rug first argument).

  • Make sure you are buying from a knowledgeable, reputable vendor. There can be a huge mark-up in this industry and some vendors will initially quote a price that’s several times the actual value of the rug. Sometimes they come from countries where haggling is the norm. Buying a rug from a reputable showroom with clearly marked, fair prices makes for a more enjoyable buying experience.

  • Hand tufted rugs are a cost-effective way to still have a wool rug, but know that they will shed. Sometimes a lot. This can be frustrating if you are a neat freak.

  • Ethical practices. Many vendors and weavers have programs benefiting the people who weave the rugs and their families. If this is something that interests you, ask your showroom contact or spend a little time doing some research online to get more info on companies that offer these programs.

Thanks for playing along, friends! I hope this piece presented you with some thought-provoking questions. In our third and final installment, we’ll be looking at basic styles and current trends in the rug world.

All About Rugs (Part One of Three)

Photo by An Indoor Lady. Wool and Silk hand-knotted rug from India, provided by David Alan Rugs.

Photo by An Indoor Lady. Wool and Silk hand-knotted rug from India, provided by David Alan Rugs.

Hi blog friends! So this post will be a little different today. I have asked my senior designer Casey, a “travel obsessed foodie” who is also incredibly passionate about rugs, to write a series of guest posts (mostly because she is funny AND knowledgeable – a great combo for my blog audience!). Casey has won awards in rug design and has been traveling abroad for the last 4 months, so she has a unique perspective. There is a lot to know about rugs, so this will be a 3 part series (likely coming out about 2 weeks apart – ish). Enjoy!


Written by Casey Cunningham, for Laura Burton Interiors

Full disclosure: I love rugs.

Like, to a weird degree. I CARE about them. I can’t explain why, but it started many years ago when I was working in a retail showroom. Ownership brought some guy who sold fancy rugs in to give us an education. Seeing one-of-a-kind pieces and learning what it takes to make them unexpectedly lit me up. In the last few years I’ve created several rug designs, a couple of which have done well in competition. My (not so) low key life goal is to be an internationally renowned rug designer (living in Portugal, drinking affordable wine and eating pastries like they have the nutritional value of baby spinach...) anyways.....RUGS.

Yes. I’m a little biased.

But every interior designer has things they get extra excited about selecting. I worked with someone who loved lamps (and I will never see love + lamp without thinking of Anchorman). Laura is a big fan of chairs and hardware. For me? It’s rugs.

In this three part series we’ll discuss:

1.    Why rugs are important (and why so expensive?).

2.    Purchasing considerations.

3.    Styles and trends.

PART ONE - WHY ARE RUGS IMPORTANT?

THE PRACTICAL ARGUMENT

A rug is often the largest purchase in a space (both in relation to surface area and cost). They serve not only as a buffer between a cold hard floor and bare feet, they also act as insulation and provide sound absorption. It can be on the receiving end of a lot of wear and tear if it’s in a high traffic area so materials and construction matter.

THE DESIGN FUNCTION

Visually, a rug anchors and defines a space. It creates a cohesive grouping for your furniture. It adds texture, color and dimension to your environment. Given that it’s often the item with the largest surface area in your space it can have a huge impact on the design of the space.

THE EMOTIONAL APPEAL

If you buy a quality, hand knotted 8x10 rug, it likely took three people working side by side 6-10 months of their lives to weave that rug. Think of the conversations! The stories exchanged. The major life events that can take place over the course of six months.

If you have a true rug buying experience, it is like purchasing art. It’s finding a unique design that speaks to you on an emotional level. If you purchase an antique there are stories and symbolism woven into each piece and they are often “signed” by the weaver.

WHY ARE THEY SO EXPENSIVE?

Without fail, a trip to the showroom involves sticker shock. When you move into the world of unique, hand knotted, antique or otherwise “designer” rugs they elicit an emotional response. People, especially first-timers, get excited. They form emotional attachments. Then when they hear the price the response is usually “NOPE!”

During a recent trip to Morocco, I took a group of lady friends to a high-end rug showroom and watched them, one by one, light up when the vendor started laying out rugs. In one showroom visit, they went from a mild level of interest to a manic episode that involved scrutinizing every rug brought out to understand which one best represented them as human beings (or something like that). They would stare for minutes. Walking around it multiple times, pausing, and growing more attached. I love watching this process. Given that Moroccan rugs tend to be more affordable than some other styles, a lot of rugs were purchased that day, but more importantly, they walked away with a newfound appreciation.

So why the hefty price tag?

As I mentioned earlier – for a living room sized rug, you’re looking at 3 people working for six months to a year on one rug. Let that soak in – 3 people, up to one year. Even conservatively, that would be about $23,000 for three minimum wage American workers to work 6 months.

But then you look at the materials. Quality wool comes from high up in the mountains and there is the process of cleaning and dying the wool.

After the rug has been woven, it is often shipped halfway across the world. The average 8x10 weighs in at 40-50lbs.

In the case of antique rugs, sometimes they require repairs prior to selling.

THE “RUG FIRST” ARGUMENT

Don’t design yourself into a corner. Many people don’t consider the rug until everything else is purchased.

I hear you, people... It’s important to have a comfortable sofa to curl up on to watch TV at the end of a long day. Picking a wall paint color is a HUGE decision, because a mistake can be costly and/or time consuming.

But there is a logical argument to making the rug the first purchase if you are starting over in a space.

For one, it takes up a large portion of real estate in a room so it’s a great place to set the tone, design theme and color scheme for a room. In addition, it makes the whole design process for the rest of the room easier, because you can simply pull from the colors in the rug for the other elements in the space (like sofa fabric and wall paint!).

An Illustration:

Finding the perfect shade of coral paint that’s not too orange and not too pink is relatively easy. Finding a teal fabric that has slightly more blue than green is doable -- there are hundreds to choose from. Finding a rug that has the perfect combination of these two colors that also looks good with the shade of beige in your tile floor and has a hint of the emerald green in your artwork (but no too much) and all of this in a traditional pattern, with hand knotted wool construction and no silk (because it needs to be durable) and priced within your $4000-$5000 budget that is available now because you have guests coming into town next week is anxiety producing. (Also, if this is your actual color scheme you might want to hire a designer because you may be a little out of control right now.)

If you consider the number of available rugs in a certain style to the number of fabrics and paint colors that exist, it makes sense to work from the floor up when possible. It’s not so much of a “rule” as a “life hack”.

Stay tuned for my next post on purchasing considerations. If you’re going to spend your child’s college fund on something (I kid, I kid!), you might as well get it right.

Rugs above provided by Black Sheep Unique. All photos courtesy of An Indoor Lady.

The Wonderful World of LED Lighting

The sleek profile of these round pendants is made possible with the thin form factor of LED lighting. Photo by An Indoor Lady.

The sleek profile of these round pendants is made possible with the thin form factor of LED lighting. Photo by An Indoor Lady.

There have been dramatic advancements recently in the world of lighting, namely in the form of LED. But with new choices comes added complexity. Gone are the days of simply going to the lighting showroom and picking pretty fixtures, and in fact as technology progresses, I see more and more clients becoming confused, making mistakes, and missing opportunities for a fabulous result. I’d like to help clarify what’s important in lighting selections, and boil it down to some key considerations.

ADVANTAGES OF LED

Rather than bore you with the details of lighting technology, let’s review a summary of the advantages of LED over historic technologies. First of all, LED bulbs are made with semiconductors rather than inert gas and mercury (okay I’m sorry – I said I wouldn’t bore you). It’s an important distinction though, because it means they don’t really “burn out”, but rather fade ever so slightly over the course of 30 years. This is a very practical advantage in hard-to-reach places (think about the hassle of changing light bulbs in 20 foot ceilings!). The initial cost is still a bit higher than with other bulbs, but the long term gain pays off. Also, because semiconductors have such a small form factor, it enables the tiniest of applications and shapes. This is a key differentiator. You have probably heard of LED tape, which offers the opportunity for accent lighting in the sneakiest of places such as under shelves and inside book cases. Recently I’ve even noticed a variety of new shapes in the realm of decorative fixtures. You’ll see some that look like raindrops, or grids of light dots, or as someone commented on one of my Instagram images: “floating Star Wars light sabers” (which certainly appeals to my husband and kids!). This is all enabled by LED technology. 

Our client for this project above considered lighting to be like fine jewelry, and each LED fixture has a unique personality and shape (Builder - Enve Builders, Architect - Vanguard Studio, Photographer - An Indoor Lady. The fixtures were purchased through Lightology).

MISTAKES TO AVOID

So where can you go wrong? The key mistake I see from consumers is not paying attention to the details. Terminology has changed, so the features and considerations are different. For example, light output is no longer described in watts, but in lumens, so you’ll have to think of it differently than you did a 60w versus 100w bulb (most labels offer a comparison chart). Also, not all LEDs have the range of dimmability that we are used to, so if that is important to you, be sure to ask questions of your lighting expert. Last but not least, the LED characteristic I’ve seen throwing most people off is color temperature. This refers to whether the light is a “cool”, or bluish tone, versus a “warm” or more yellow tone. We didn’t have such choices with old school incandescent bulbs, which were traditionally more yellow. Daylight has a cooler undertone, so that is my personal preference. The scale ranges from 2700K (warmest) – 6500K (coolest), and my ‘go-to’ tends to be 3000K, although I’ve had clients who liked 4000K. My advice is to pay attention to these details, so that if you swap out bulbs in one room, you don’t later buy a different color temperature in another room and create a strange affect from one room to the next. I’ve even seen houses where they replaced a single light bulb on an exterior sconce, only to find it doesn’t match any of the others (yes, that’s right, I am the person who notices these things as I drive down the street!).

Our clients above preferred to use light as an accent rather than a decorative feature. Note the light channel above the fireplace and the LED lighting INSIDE the mirror at right in place of a vanity sconce (Builder - Enve Builders, Architect - Geschke Group, Photography - An Indoor Lady)

BOILING IT DOWN

In summary, LED is a fabulous technology advancement and it’s where the industry is headed, so it’s time to embrace it and look at lighting with a fresh perspective. To prepare yourself before shopping for fixtures or bulbs, think not only about location (i.e. places where changing the bulb is inconvenient), but light output, dimmability, and now color of light. Don’t be turned away by the initial price tag of LED, but instead think carefully about the uses of your purchase. If you are remodeling, take advantage of clever new ways to accentuate a nice feature. And even if you are just replacing one or two bulbs, think holistically about your longer term lighting plan. It will help you avoid the common mistakes and be happier with your end result.