Walking on sunshine


EYE-POPPING AREA RUGS, IN amazing colors and patterns, are shaking up interior design.

As more modern and relaxed furnishings have come into vogue, more and more homeowners are swapping out the safe sisal rug that has become an emblem of contemporary style.

Upscale, downright bold attitudes are expressed in floral rugs that are sassy rather than sweet, stripes that don't follow conventional palettes, and gutsy geometrics as kinetic as pop art. There are retro looks, replete with bubbles or squiggles but not stuck in 1950s or '60s color schemes.

Even familiar Oriental motifs are updated by ramping up scale or refreshing traditional palettes. Fashion-forward hues such as apple green and peony, tangerine, red and magenta, chocolate and robin's-egg blue make you notice what's underfoot.

Many of the explosive colors and graphic designs play out like fireworks on the floor, lending depth and nuance to dimension. Giant gingko leaves or oversized chrysanthemums suggest a fantastic surreal garden, especially in on teal blue.

"Interior design has definitely taken yet another step forward," says Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the American Home Furnishings Alliance in High Point, N.C. "Floor covering is being chosen as an integral ingredient in room design, along with the furniture and wall decor and lighting." The brighter rugs, she says, "have helped espouse really eclectic decorating."

Many designers like to start with the rug when outfitting an interior, pulling out one or more of its colors for walls, upholstery and window treatments, as well as accessories such as pillows, lamp shades and even flowers in a vase.

A magazine advertisement for The Rug Company shows how that works. In a formal living room setting, sparsely furnished with a traditional chaise longue in a chocolate wood frame, a cocoa rug scattered with giant anemones in offbeat colors commands attention. A fuchsia bloom is repeated in the silk upholstery, and a wall, decorated with elegantly framed flower paintings, takes its teal hue from the leaves in the rug. The result is thoroughly modern.

Although strong geometric and linear patterns may look best with solid-hued seating, pattern on pattern can be dramatic in deft hands. A sorbet-striped rug with a perfectly matching striped wing chair is fetching in a bedroom with coral and white gingham curtains and beefy floral quilts in sympathetic hues. Companies like Massachusetts-based Pine Cone Hill make it easier with coordinated collections that match quilts or upholstered furniture to rugs.

A fiery shade such as cayenne can be dynamic on a more sedate background. That is the case in a rug whose abstract flower petals pop under a clean-lined matching red leather chair, which looks quite comfortable on its pale blue-green ground.

White, off-white and khaki furniture can be dressed up or down, providing the most versatile launching points. Annie Selke, owner and design director of Pine Cone Hill, loves color and updated a beachy cottage-style rug with a ticking pattern that eschews skinny blue or black on white for pinks, aqua, kiwi and red-orange with a pin stripe of white. The rug, from her Dash & Albert rug line, is perfectly suited to casual white slipcovers accessorized with complementarily hued pillows.

Graphic design has been a major catalyst in showoff designs settling into our homes. Our eyes have become acclimated to snappier patterns and more intense colors in print and TV advertising, as well as product packaging, greeting cards and wrapping papers. Paisleys, houndstooth check and animal prints have jumped from fashion to fabrics, wall coverings and rugs.

"Obviously we love to play with color on the floor," says Selke. "It gives our homes more upbeat personalities."


Dash & Albert Rug Co.: 413-496-9700, ext. 122, or dashandalbert.com

Company C: 800-818-8288 or companyc.com

Emma Gardner Design: 877-377-3144 or emmagardnerdesign.com

ESR Custom Rugs: 201-955-9500 or esrrugs.com

Foreign Accents Inc.: 800-880-0413 or foreign-accents.com

Christine Van Der Hurd Studio: 212-213-6541 or vanderhurdstudio.com

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