Ten tips: Room Changer

An area rug can make a big difference to a space.

Room Changer

An area rug can make a big difference to a space.

By Maggie Theodora

We think a rug is to a room as a shoe is to an outfit … although we’ve certainly walked into a number of rooms in the homes of friends, family members, and acquaintances that are the equivalent of barefoot—no carpet or area rug! Just as shoes can complete an outfit and, in some cases, make an outfit, rugs do the same for a space. “I think rugs are one of the most important things in a space,” says interior designer Nanette Mattei of Nanette Mattei Design. “It defines a space—its look and feel and even how it sounds and smells.” A rug can also tie a room together, create visual pathways, connect spaces, reinforce an aesthetic, serve as art, help with acoustics, and add texture, color, and personality.  “A rug is an easy way to make a big change in the look and feel of a space,” says Lizzie Watson, who sells rugs imported from Kyrgyzstan through Page and Company. Here, design and rug professional share some of their top tips.  

“My father was in the [rug] business and that was all I knew about life,” says Jeff Neishabouri, who founded Kismet Fine Rugs in Jackson in 1989 and has rug factories in several Central Asian countries. “When I was a kid, he’d bring a rug home and put it in our living room, and it would have all these beautiful colors and the family would gather around it and it would make the room cozy and nice.” Now Neishabouri approaches fine rugs from a design as well as sentimental perspective. “[In the gallery] we pay attention to trends in color and pattern, and we also set trends since we make many of our rugs. We like to be a part of making someone’s house feel like a home, even if it means we have to make a completely custom rug for them,” he says. Here, Neishabouri shares some of what he has learned over his 30-plus years in the business.

1. A rug is an accent piece that warms the space. It should create a feeling of harmony for people entering a room.

2. Select the right color and style: A mountain modern rug brings rustic beauty; a contemporary rug brings a touch of modern art; a transitional rug combines traditional aesthetics with a present-day touch of style.

3. Balance is important. If a room is decorated with many artifacts and a lot of furniture, consider a solid colored rug to create calmness. If a room is filled with blocks of colors, an intricately patterned rug can bring a feeling of movement into it.

4. Rug texture is critical, both to a room’s look and to its physical feel. A soft Moroccan rug has a beautiful thick pile that looks and feels very different from a traditional, antique rug, which has a thinner pile. 

5. The Persian culture creates Tree of Life rugs that signify life, happiness, and beauty. Other cultures also create rugs with symbols and patters that can bring meaning to a space. 

Lizzie Watson says she fell in love with shyrdaks the first time she saw them, which was at North Carolina’s High Point Furniture Market. She was there with her mom to look for ideas about something they could make themselves or import. “We were looking for a way to spend more time together and, because she loves to sew, had been thinking poufs,” Watson says. “But we found these wool rugs from Kyrgyzstan. I immediately wanted one for myself and then started thinking that they could do very well in Jackson Hole—they’re super durable, made from wool and natural dyes, and come from another mountain culture.” Made entirely by hand—the average one takes about two months to complete—shyrdaks in 2012 were put on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. Most women—it’s almost always women who make them—are over the age or 40. Watson and her mother formed Page and Company, and their first shipment of shyrdaks arrived in Jackson Hole from Kyrgyzstan in October 2016. 

1. Choose a rug that fits your space. Some people like rugs to go wall-to-wall, but sometimes a room can look bigger if you don’t fill the space.

2. Try a rug out. When possible, put the rug you’re considering in the space you want it. People are very drawn to shyrdaks, but they are so different they can be hard to imagine in a space. I think the same goes for any rug on the internet. 

3. Choose wool! Wool fibers have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and are warm, water- resistant, and durable. A wool rug won’t get stinky, and you can shave it like you would a sweater. In Kyrgyzstan, a shyrdak is passed down from generation to generation. They last forever.

4. Pick your colors. Some rugs have vibrant contrasting colors; others have complimentary neutral tones. A vibrant rug can liven up a neutral room. A neutral rug can allow another statement piece to shine.

5. In 2018, Lizzie traveled to Kyrgyzstan with a cinematographer to meet the artisans whose rugs she sold and to make a movie to give people more insight into where and who shyrdaks came from. “We went to yurt villages high in the mountains and filmed women making these. They are art. Within the Kyrgyz culture, shyrdaks can be used as dowries,” she says.

“There are some rules about the size of carpets if you have a perfect space,” says Nanette Mattei, who founded Nanette Mattei Design in Jackson Hole about ten years ago after 20 years working in New York City as an art consultant and for home furnishing company Kravet/Lee Jofa. “But how many spaces are perfect? I don’t find myself following rules.” Generally, Mattei says, “the bigger [a rug] is, the better. But it is hard to convince people into larger carpets. They always want something smaller.” Mattei, who does both residential and commercial projects, says a big carpet “gives a space a feeling of confidence. People think they have hardwood floors and have to show the wood, but a carpet can feel warmer.” 

1. Small rugs chop a room up, which can be good or bad. Here, two smaller rugs create two different spaces—a TV watching area and chairs around a game table—within the same room.

2. I usually like larger rugs, but that doesn’t always make sense. Because this room has a door in from the garage and is heavily trafficked—it connects to the kitchen—it needed two smaller rugs instead of one big one. 

3. Rugs within sight of each other don’t have to be the same. One of these has a pattern and the other picks up colors the client likes. They’re complimentary, but not perfectly so, which I think gives the space extra character and shows a sense of confidence.

4. Having all the legs of your furniture on the carpet, rather than the front legs on and the back legs off, grounds a space.

5. Let yourself be inspired by a carpet, or not. Sometimes I find a carpet first and it inspires the whole space. Other times, it is fabric that first inspires me and then I work to find a carpet that works with it. 

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