Floor Transitions Floor Transitions

Q: I have a question about floor coverings, specifically how to coordinate rugs from room to hall and hall to room. My living room has hardwood floors, as do the downstairs hall, the staircase, and the upstairs hall.

In the living room, we have an Oriental rug with navy blue as the predominant color. We were able to find a smaller runner in a matching pattern for the downstairs hall, which opens on to the living room.

Now we are redoing the hardwood floors for the stairs and upstairs rooms. I cannot find a matching stair runner for the stairs, which we'll use with brass rods. I am wondering if I should find a similar navy blue runner, even if the pattern is different. The upper and lower halls all have the same floral wallpaper pattern, which is not being removed at this time, so the new rugs must work with it. Do I continue the navy blue theme, or should I do something completely different? Is it okay to have three different rug patterns, one for downstairs, one for the stairs, and one for the upstairs hall? The budget is small so it is not possible to replace the rugs already in the lower hall at this time.

A: Combining disparate patterns is one of the greatest challenges to the decorator. It's far easier to coordinate colors and styles - you can quickly see that purple and pink won't look subtle together, or that Colonial furnishings will be a safe bet for a Colonial-style house.

With combining patterns, it takes a good eye, and a sharp sense of color. But of course, it can be done - just about anything can be done, as long as it's done right. I'm sure you've seen rooms decorated in a highly ornate style, with patterned chintz upholstery, patterned drapes, Oriental carpets, and intricate paintings on the walls. And these rooms often look just fabulous.

The first thing to consider is the color, and it sounds as if you're taking that into account. You don't say what the color of that wallpaper is, but assuming it has blue and another two colors, you could pick up one of the other colors to use as the dominant color in the rugs on the stairs and in the upstairs hall.

Let's say the wallpaper is navy blue with maroon and white flowers. It will be fairly easy to find a stair runner in a traditional Oriental pattern with maroon as its predominant color, but which also has some navy detailing. Then, in the upstairs hall, you could continue with this look, or you could use an Oriental hall runner with white as its predominant color, with accents of maroon and navy - providing you don't have kids or pets with muddy feet who will make short work of a white carpet.

This way, as you walk from the downstairs to the upstairs, you see the change in the colors of the carpet, but each carpet blends into the next with the common theme of the wallpaper.

  • Tip: In order for this to really work, you may want to add some accessories that will be in keeping with the look of combining patterns. It will probably help you to take a couple of hours to browse through decorating books at the library or at the bookstore, looking for rooms that rely heavily on a combination of patterns. To do this, think rich, layered, details: a carved hall table holding a vase painted with a floral design, which in turn holds a bouquet of dried flowers. Think lacy curtains with a pattern, Victorian prints of birds and wildlife on the walls, a big asparagus fern on a stand in front of a window.

Don't forget about texture when you're going after this look; it relies just as heavily on texture as it does on pattern. Think heavy silks, brocades, and carved woods.

If, however, you don't go for this look, you may want to simplify the upstairs (and the staircase) by choosing carpet that's just in a solid color that matches one of the colors in the wallpaper. I'd recommend using a different color (one also found in the wallpaper) for the upstairs hall, just to add some variety.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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