Selecting Flooring Color

Start from the floor and work your way up to develop a new color scheme.


The Designer's Lesson

+ enlarge image With neutral bedding and furniture the carpet can appear more neutral too.

Like the ceiling, the floor is one-sixth of a room's surface area, so the floor covering has a major impact on the color personality of the space. It can help create an air of comfort and luxury -- or it can make you want to climb the walls.

If you move into a house with carpet in place and it's not a color or texture you like, what are your options?

Carpet laid over hardwood floors that are in good condition is easy to pull up with a crowbar and the help of a few friends. But if the carpet was installed over subflooring and your budget doesn't allow for replacing it right away, you have a couple of choices for downplaying its impact.

Use the carpet as a starting point for developing a new color scheme more to your liking. Fabric is your friend here. A multicolor print or floral that includes the carpet color as an accent will establish a new color theme for the room while incorporating the carpet. Or layer a large area rug or several smaller rugs over the carpet. Sometimes, however, replacement is really the only happy solution.

Now You See It, Now You Don't

+ enlarge image A large room-size area rug can help cover what's really underfoot.

The easiest way to deal with an unwanted carpet you can't change is to cover it up. A room-size area rug will cover enough of the offending carpeting to minimize its color effect.

Even a smaller rug can help change the room's personality if the rug is centered over the most prominent part of the room. The underlying carpet becomes a border for the area rug, and its impact on the room is minimized. Shifting the color scheme or layering rugs can resolve many carpet problems.

In the living room or family room, position the rug to define the primary conversational grouping. In a bedroom, cover the area around the bed, using several rugs if necessary. To keep the smaller rug from "creeping" or bunching on top of the wall-to-wall carpeting, use a double-stick carpet pad under it.

A New Direction

+ enlarge image New bedding and draperies introduce a fresh scheme when carpet cannot be immediately replaced.

When carpeting is in good condition, use it as a starting point to develop a new look. Shop for fabrics that pick up your given hue but move the room's overall palette in a new direction.

Slipcovers, draperies, bedding, and paint will completely change the room's mood. If you find a source of inspiration in a catalog photo, fabric scrap, or piece of china, take it to the paint store and look for paint chips that are similar in hue.

Bring home your selections and lay them on the carpet to see which you like best. Also, test samples of your favorite paint colors on pieces of poster board to get a better idea of how everything will look in the room.

Next, look for draperies and bedding that relate to the new wall color and that include the carpet color as an accent. The fabrics don't have to match either the carpet or the wall color exactly; if the hues are similar and include a range of tones from light to dark, you'll have a more interesting mix and the fabrics will bridge the difference between the new wall color and the old carpet color.

A Necessary Task

+ enlarge image If you can't commit to a color, a neutral is the best choice.

If your floors are covered with burnt orange shag from the 1970s but you really love lavender and periwinkle blue, there's just no happy compromise. You'll have to replace the carpet.

Broadloom or wall-to-wall carpets come in a wide variety of colors, textures, and patterns. To narrow your choices, first consider how much impact you want the floor to have on the room's color scheme.

Spreading color underfoot limits the range of hues you can introduce on the walls and in the furnishings (that's what created this decorating problem in the first place), but light or muted tones, such as pale gray-blue or sage green, can actually be fairly versatile.

To choose a color for wall-to-wall carpeting, look for a hue that appears in your upholstery or draperies; select a darker shade to make the room feel cozier or a lighter one to open up the space. In a west- or south-facing room, a warm color could make the room feel too hot; a cooler hue offers a more refreshing choice.

A carpet that combines color and pattern stamps a room with strong personality. Florals may be formal or informal, depending on the design. If you have children and pets, patterned carpet may be your best choice, because the pattern helps hide spills and stains.

If you don't want to commit to a color, choose a neutral. A light neutral makes a room feel more spacious and lets your attention focus on the furnishings rather than the floor. Neutrals that include specks of dark brown or taupe (such as berbers or their look-alikes) work well in high-traffic areas and don't show dirt.

Wool carpet is the most expensive you can buy, but for the best stain resistance and durability, opt for nylon. If you prefer the look and comfort of wool but need the superior stain-repelling quality of nylon, shop for a blend of 80 percent wool and 20 percent nylon; blends are more affordable than pure wool but more expensive than pure nylon.

Get more color ideas from Decorating magazine

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