Best laid plans
Just as the right bracelet or necklace can add that finishing touch to an outfit, a well-chosen rug can mean the difference between a room looking like it was thoughtfully pulled together or a work in progress. Rugs are the crowning jewels of a room - they set the mood and anchor all the elements.
To achieve this from one design piece can make purchasing a rug difficult to commit to. Jason Yung of Jason Caroline Design says too many people select their rugs as an afterthought. As a result, their rooms fail to achieve a cohesive look.
'It is best to select a rug early and decorate around it, because if the choice is left to the last stage and the only viable rug is one that is simple or bland, the special contribution will be lost,' Yung says.
With more people leaning towards contemporary rugs to complement their decor, designers say flat-weaves are becoming an increasingly popular choice, especially in Hong Kong. Flat-weave rugs are woven on a loom, rather than knotted like pile rugs, meaning they do not have a tufted pile. Some well-known examples of rugs made in this style include Aubussons, dhurries, kelims, soumak and tapestries.
The materials used to make flat-weave rugs vary. Typically, the warp threads are made from a sturdy fibre such as linen, raw silk, heavy cotton or wool, while the fibres that make up the weft (or pattern) can be made from an assortment of materials. Wool is commonly used for flat-weave rugs because it is durable, easy to dye, soft and warm, but it is also possible to find silk, hemp, cotton or even cashmere. More recently, flat-weave rugs have been made from strong and durable jute and abaca, which comes from the Philippines, says Louis Papachristou, director of Faux in Hong Kong.
Life Styling Ltd creative director Nathalie Edwards says hot climates like Hong Kong's are perfect for flat-weaves, which tend to be thinner and not as insulating as knotted rugs. The Rug Company's CEO, Christopher Sharp, says flat-weave rugs are also turning designers' heads because they can be 'incredibly sophisticated and yet relaxed'. The Rug Company specialises in Aubusson flat-weaves, which are interpreted with a contemporary aesthetic. Some of its new designs include tartans by Vivienne Westwood that are backed in cashmere.
Papachristou says flat-weaves, which are cheaper than pile rugs, are also much lighter in weight, making them easier to clean and wash. Faux stocks cotton and wool dhurries, jute and abaca flat-weave rugs, the latter gaining in popularity because, Papachristou says, they are beautiful, extremely durable and can be woven into an infinite number of patterns and colours.
Flat-weaves also impart a feeling of informality and often have simple colour combinations that are easier to decorate around, Yung says. He likes to integrate rugs so that they become a piece of art on display - for this he uses rugs from Fort Street Studio, many of which look like fine watercolours floating on the floor.
Edwards says neutral tones will ground a space, while vivid colours add depth.
'If you choose pared-down tones and neutral colours it will be easier to make the rug live harmoniously in the space,' she says. 'But when you want to use the rug as the colour inspiration in the space, you need to ensure you get the look and tones right. The colour tones and combinations are what will add to the space - getting this wrong can make the space look messy and badly styled.'
When it comes to size, Sharp advises to choose the largest you can afford. 'Small rugs can look bitty and mean in the wrong space,' he says. 'However, if you have different areas that you would like to define, a number of smaller rugs can do this beautifully.'
So how do you get the proportions just right?
In living rooms it's best to integrate as much flexibility as possible so that the furniture arrangements can be changed. Yung says it's here that larger carpets are important in imparting a stronger feeling to the room, making it feel bigger. 'A living room is often defined by the rug,' he says.
Edwards warns that a rug should never consume a space but must be large enough that it has a central place in the room. For example, in the living room the rug should always meet the furniture or go underneath it. 'In most homes in Asia we are bare-footed, so when you place your foot by the couch you are met with the soft touch of your lovely rug.'
In the dining room, Edwards says, a rug must always be large enough so that if you slide your chair out from under the table you don't have the feeling that it is going to tip off the rug - it needs to be wider than your table and chairs when they are pulled out. Yung advises that this should roughly equate to 75cm to 90cm wider than the table on each side. The pile or construction of the rug should also accommodate repeated dragging of chair legs without excessive wear.
In the bedroom comfort is the priority. 'This is a private and intimate room that should impart a feeling of well-being and refuge. A rug can be a primary contributor to that goal,' Yung says. Edwards recommends using bedroom rugs for pure indulgence. 'As you climb out of bed there should be something to meet you, or for those with wardrobes at the foot of the bed, it is a wonderful way to link that space and add warmth,' she says.
Papachristou says in the bedroom people often mistakenly buy a rug with a pattern or design that is placed under the bed. 'This looks odd because it breaks up the pattern of the rug,' he says.
For the rest of the home small carpets and runners work well in the hallway and transitional areas. Yung also advises that the care and maintenance of a carpet should be considered before making a choice, as well as how it will wear in the location it will be used. For example, an entry rug will receive more dirt and wear than, say, a bedroom rug.
Life Styling Ltd
17/F, Carfield Commercial Building, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2521 2772; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rug Company
Lane Crawford, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3668
Jason Caroline Design
14/F, 39 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2517 7510; www.jasoncarolinedesign.com
3/F, Harbour Industrial Centre, 10 Lee Hing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2851 4040; www.faux-home.com
Fort Street Studio
3/F Westlands Centre, 20 Westlands Road, Quarry Bay, tel: 2889 5150; www.fortstreetstudio.com