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 a color or texture you dislike, what are your options? Carpet laid over hardwood floors 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.
For unhappy hardwood floor colors, look to three solutions: stain, paint, or replacement. Staining is the most popular, but you'll still need to choose between dark wood floors or light wood floors, and each has a different effect on the mood of the room. Painting flooring is also an option, although it usually requires significant upkeep. And finally, if your floor is in really bad shape, look to tile, carpet, or laminate to replace it entirely.
Selecting a floor color can be daunting when dealing with an existing color scheme. The easiest way to deal with an unwanted floor color you can't change is to cover it up. A room-size area rug covers enough of the offending floor to minimize its 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 floor becomes a border for the area rug and minimizies its impact. Shifting the color scheme or layering rugs can resolve many 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, use a double-stick carpet pad under it.
When flooring is in good condition, use it as a starting point to develop a new look. Shop for complementary fabrics that 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 photo, fabric scrap, or piece of china, buy paint in a similar shade.
Next, look for draperies and bedding that relate to the new wall color and that include the floor color as an accent. The fabrics don't have to match either the floor colors 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 floor color.
A Necessary Task
If your floors are covered with burnt orange shag from the 1970s or super-scratched hardwood, sometimes there's just no happy compromise. You'll have to replace the floor.
If you choose to install carpet, broadloom or wall-to-wall 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 in your upholstery or draperies; select a darker shade to make the room feel cozier or a lighter one to open 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.
If you don't want to commit to a color, choose neutral carpet colors or opt for wood flooring. 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 work well in high-traffic areas and don't show dirt. Almost any type of hardwood will add beauty and a touch of rustic charm to the room. But if you have young kids or pets, consider opting for more durable laminate wood flooring.