When we think of making interior design changes to our home, we often think of a fresh coat of paint, a new sofa or even reupholstering a piece of furniture without ever looking under our own two feet for the obvious solution. A change of carpeting can bring out new charms in your old furniture and in you! Whether you are looking for wall-to-wall, area rugs, runners, solids or patterns, carpet can dramatically change the look of your living space. And in today’s marketplace, the possibilities are endless.
Color is one of the most personal and subjective elements of carpet buying. One person’s “beautiful” is another’s “boring.” Fortunately, there are more colors and designs available then ever before. Consider some of the new neutrals, like yellow, light blue and pale green, in addition to the more conventional yet forever elegant beige, tan, ivory and cream. Also, remember that while light colors make a room seem larger, dark colors can make a room seem cozier and more intimate.
The area in which the carpet or rug is placed will determine the importance of durability. A high traffic area needs a long-wearing, stain resistant fiber, while your bedroom may require only something that is soft to the touch and pleasing to the eye.
In order to decide what level of durability is needed, here is a guide to the five basic carpet fibers: wool, nylon, olefin, polyester and acrylic.
The Benefits of Wool
For centuries, wool has been synonymous with quality and taste. Wool products are prized for their ability to take and retain color, the softness of the fibers and for the overall ability to maintain that “new carpet” look longer.
Ownership of wool products has become a source of pride for many people. Wool has numerous traits that make it ideally suited to carpet almost any area of the home:
- Wool is easy to keep clean due to its natural barriers against dirt and dust.
- This natural fiber purifies air quality by absorbing common contaminants and not re-emitting them into the environment.
- It resists combustion, making it fire resistant. Even burns from cigarettes or hot embers do not permanently mar wool.
- It is a biodegradable product and environmentally friendly.
- Wool absorbs sound, making it acoustically advantageous.
- Wool is water repellant, making spills easier to clean up.
- Wool saves on heating costs because of its inherent thermal properties.
- Wool maintains long-term appearance retention due to its natural resilience.
Although wool was once thought of as a very expensive, high-end product, manufacturers such as Stanton Carpet Corporation have developed some wool carpets that wear extremely well and are a terrific value. Companies are also making wool carpet affordable, while maintaining elegance and high-style design.
“Wilton” is another name associated with wool carpet. Wiltons are high-quality woven carpets that are produced by interlocking the surface yarns simultaneously with the backing, usually a combination of cotton and jute, and generally feature more intricate designs.
The Synthetic Fibers: Nylon, Olefin, Polyester and Acrylic
Approximately 97 percent of all carpet is made from synthetic fibers and yet, some people are still reluctant to purchase a synthetic product. The fear is that the synthetic carpets will not age will and that they will become difficult to clean if stained. Fortunately, times have changed and synthetics are no longer the step-children of floor covering. New innovations and techniques have resulted in spectacular carpets with long lives.
Nylon resists soils and stains, making it a natural for high traffic areas. It is resilient and wears well. If solution-dyed nylon is used, the carpet will be colorfast because the color was added during the making of the fiber itself. Nearly two thirds of the fibers used for carpet in America are made of nylon.
Olefin is a strong fiber, often used for indoor/outdoor areas such as patios because of its resistance to moisture and mildew. Berbers made of this colorfast fiber are also commonly found in game rooms because they are easy to clean. Additionally, unlike some synthetics, olefin causes minimal static electricity.
Polyester is the best feeling of all the synthetics, and is used for carpets with thick, cut piles, creating velvety soft products. Polyesters have excellent color and are resistant to water-soluble stains.
Acrylics are prized for their ability to mimic the look and feel of wool at a much lower price point. In addition, they have a high resistance to moisture and mildew, making them a good option for bathrooms or scatter rugs (especially in doorways).
- If possible, buy the rug first and make it your focal point, then dress the area with furniture.
- If space permits, the furniture should sit on the outskirts of the rug, not on top of it.
- Rotate area rugs periodically to minimize the wear and tear to any one part.
- If furniture lies on the rug, try to occasionally move everything one or two inches in order to keep it from permanently crushing the carpet fibers and leaving depressions in the rug.
Patterns are the spice of life. They can be sweet and delicate, or full of pizzazz. They can blend in or stand out. A large design can cut your room down to size, while a minimal pattern or solid colored carpet can make your room appear to grow in size. A bright floral design can make a room that doesn’t get much natural light, more welcoming than before. Patterns can also hide a multitude of sins, camouflaging the little spills and mishaps that come with life at home.
Carpet has become one of the most versatile items in home decorating and has found its way into 95 percent of all households in America. Recent innovations have produced products that are more vibrant, stronger, and wear better than ever before. Wool and synthetic fiber carpets have become an affordable luxury, that with regular vacuuming and deep cleaning, can be the proud focal point of your home for years to come.
Article courtesy of JP Communications.
Originally printed in the Spring/Summer 1999 Issue of Chesapeake Home.