Every Pretty Room Needs a Touch of Ugly

I probably should have subtitled this post Crazy Erin's Rules, because I won't be surprised if most of the world thinks I took a side trip down magic mushroom alley on my way to crack town. But if we all worry about what most of the world thinks then no one will ever do anything interesting. So I say if not ugly, then every room at least needs something weird or vaguely dangerous or just plain unexpected. Something that feels a little alien, something that heightens contrast. A touch of ugly sharpens pretty and blurs the line between decorating and art.

design crisis

I am obsessssssed with this room. That top drawing is the stuff of nightmares, naked lady or not. But the juxtaposition of confrontational and demure is perfect and amazing. 100% commitment is everything here.

design crisis

Robert Couturier is a master at creating tension and contrast by combining traditional and contemporary elements in unexpected ways. I think I should hate that rug and the red on red on red, but in this space I love it. I can never figure out how his rooms began, and that is probably why I like his work so much. There is no formula, no magic combination of proscribed perfectly matched elements. It comes off as pure alchemy. For me, adding one detail that feels a little off, or disturbing, or rough around the edges, is a step in that direction and away from overdecorated doom.

Some food for thought:

design crisis

design crisis

design crisis

design crisis

design crisis

design crisis

design crisis

design crisis

design crisis

A splash of ugly is the punctum -- the piercing of the veil. It's the thing that recalls humanity and brings life to a room.

Or at least that's what I think. How about you? Maybe I've been watching too much True Detective.

It's Educational: Rugs That Go With Anything

Welcome to Rug University... or more likely, Rug Kindergarten. The art and craft of weaving carpets is centuries old and even though I have spent years off and on reading about rugs, my knowledge is just a blip on the radar of fiber history. People who really know their stuff usually possess deep generational knowledge about the subject. I am just a crazy person who loves rugs and I'm sure I'll say something stupid somewhere. Oh well. What I can offer you is information on how and where to buy, and hopefully how not to get ripped off.

Deal? Let's do this.

For this series of rugucational posts I'm only going to deal with woven natural fiber rugs, or rugs that do not have a latex/canvas backing. They could be made of wool, or cotton, or other natural fibers, but they have no backing and the design is visible on both sides.

This is the backside of my handwoven (knotted) malayer rug.

I've been moving away from tufted (latex/canvas backed) wool rugs and towards handwoven wool, cotton, and jute rugs for a while now. Reading The Rug Chick's blog about how shoddily (and stinkily) many tufted rugs are produced totally confirmed a lot of my fears about mass produced wool rugs. I'm not saying all tufted rugs are poorly made -- I'm very happy with the Safavieh leopard rug in our front room:

I'm just saying I prefer to spend my skrillaz on rugs that have the potential to last for decades... if my boys don't burn holes in them first, that is.

Anyway, today let's talk about woven rugs that will go with anything. These are your cheap and chic workhorses that generally come in under $5 sq/ft -- sometimes a lot less.

rugs nazmiyal oushak

It's a good idea to decorate a room from the ground up. If you choose your rug first, you'll never have a problem finding fabrics and (even easier) paint colors to coordinate. Working from the opposite direction really narrows your opportunities for interesting and hopefully cheap rugs. Trust me -- I found out the hard way.

This post goes out to all the peeps like me who need a rug to play nice with the stuff they already have.

A solid field is the very easiest thing to decorate around. I suspect that's why jute/sisal/seagrass rugs are so popular. Plus they can be pretty inexpensive and they hide dirt well. Of the three, seagrass is the best to clean but the most expensive, although you can custom order seagrass rugs in any size with dozens of border options at The Perfect Rug for a very reasonable price. Jute is second, and sisal is the pits of hell. To maximize your cost/benefit ratio, you can buy jute and get it from Overstock (wait for a 10% off sale and try to stack a coupon on top) or get it from RugsUSA during one of their 50% sales.

This handsome guy is $180 for an 8x10 HERE.

I don't consider these to be forever rugs, but natural fiber rugs definitely deserve consideration. I like how they can casual up a room and add a natural element, which is especially nice if you don't already have wood floors.

rugs sheepskin-sisal-hide

Plus these rugs layer up right pretty and they can be so cheap.

A very simple geometric that runs edge to edge is the next easiest to decorate around. I put wool Moroccan beni ourains in this class. MFAMB just did a round up on cheap sources HERE so I won't cover that ground again.

beni ourain

Any furniture, any colors, almost any fabrics will do. Your rug will be an unsanitary disaster in no time, but that's another story.

I am constantly picking pollen and leaves out of the West Elm faux beni in our very low traffic nursery. It sure is cute, though. Don't spend much on this type of a rug, and for the love of all that is holy buy something small enough to shake it out every now and then.

All over patterns (like the one I just bought, for example) are also relatively easy to decorate around because they have no borders and no center medallions -- things that can make furniture placement tricky.

rugs Hollywood+Regency+Living+Room+grand+living+KLOmIYEt1hwl

Tony Duquette makes it look easy, but let's face it -- nothing about this room is easy.

If you have a wonky inflexible furniture plan and buying a rug is stressing you out, an allover design is your friend.

madeleine weinrib

I don't hate this Madeleine Weinrib rug, but I personally would never buy a giant cotton rug I couldn't throw in the washing machine. You want wool -- delicious stain repellent wool.

rugs overstock

Dhurries (aka kilims, aka flatweave rugs) are relatively inexpensive because they use fewer materials than full pile rugs. This wool dhurrie came from overstock and it's dirt cheap -- $262 for an 8x10. Even Ikea can't beat that price. Overstock actually has a multitude of well priced wool flatweaves in various colors and patterns. I'm partial to striped or tribal versions, personally... trellis and chevron are feeling pretty dated.

rugs eskayel

This looks like it might be a wool kilim. I would hit that. Dhurries are nice because they can be used on both sides before they need to be washed. I like to think that a wool dhurrie rug could last for decades if padded, rotated and treated to the occasional bath.

If you buy a dhurrie, a good rug pad is a must. I've shopped around and this one from overstock is the best I've found. It's soft, squishy, does the job and doesn't mark up my wood floors.

The next level of quality and design represents a fairly significant jump in expense. I'm talking about Tibetan type rugs.

rugs tibetan tiger

I wish I were talking about Tibetan tiger rugs, but a) they aren't cheap and b) they don't exactly go with just anything.

Who am I kidding? This goes with everything.

But really I'm talking more about tone on tone hand knotted wool Tibetans:

rugs tibetan

This may or may not be a Tibetan, but they are often woven in simple muted patterns.

This one is silk and wool. Unlike other handwoven (hand knotted) wool pile rugs, they do not have fringe.

Warning: there are a lot of creepy 80s Memphis wannabe patterned Tibetan rugs out there. Don't buy them.

Anyway, "Tibetan" rugs are interesting in that they aren't made in Tibet (because of Chinese occupation). Most are made in India by Tibetan and Nepalese workers... or not. The could also just be handknotted Indian rugs made in a "Tibetan style." I don't really have a problem with that as long as the wool is nice quality and it's handmade. Just don't pay $8000 for a rug unless you get an appraisal.

Shouldn't be an issue, right?

I bought mine off Ebay from Pakobel Rugs. He doesn't have any Tibetan/Nepalese (he spells it "Napalese") rugs right now, but you should check back since he gets them in waves. I HIGHLY recommend him -- totally professional and courteous.

In the meantime, may I suggest this 8x10 handknotted Tibetan style rug for $375? So awesome with kelly green and white. Available HERE from brandrugs on ebay.

I would buy from them because they have a 100% positive feedback rating. Also, all good pro ebay rug dealers will give you a 14 day return option. It's a safety net that could be expensive to use (I have return shipped a rug and it's not cheap), but it's good to have just in case. Also, use paypal in case you need an extra level of protection for disputes.

The last category of neutral rugs I have the strength and endurance to tackle today is the beloved Turkish Oushak.

rugs darryl carter oushak

This super light super subtly patterned rug is an antique Oushak (Ushak). Every decorator and their mama wants an antique Oushak because it goes with anything and it adds that certain handmade, natural/organic element every room needs.

Problem is, a real antique (80+ years old) Oushak is expensive... even on ebay. You can, however, buy a newish one at a competitive price. They will most likely be knotted in India or Pakistan (Peshawar), but they still have the soft colors and large scale patterns that work with a variety of decorating styles. I like Rug Emporium's listings:

He lists new Oushak type rugs every day. Some are blue, some green, some very light and neutral. I'd wait for a light neutral one with an allover pattern (no center medallion) to pop up. 9x12s tend to close in the $500-700 range, which is not bad for a large hand knotted rug.

Just fyi, Oushaks can also come in fabulous pastel colors that may not go with everything but are still awesome and amazing. Here's a rug I wish I had bought... it's an actual vintage Turkish rug and it is HUGE (like 10x16). It went for over 1K which is totally worth it, but totally out of my price range. It sure is good, though.

Can you even imagine how long it would take to make a giant rug like that?

Forever, that's how long. And that's why hand knotted rugs are expensive.

That's all I have for today. Thanks for reading this giant long novel. I hope you're still awake.

For my next installment I'm planning a post on purchasing Persian type rugs. Excitement! And I also have a post in the works about other kinds of fancy antique rugs.

Let me know if there's anything specific you want to see and I'll try to work it in.

Until then, happy shopping!

[Images via pinterest]

Calling All Antique Rug Experts: What the What Did I Just Buy?

Thanks to everyone for your super smart rug suggestions on my last post. I followed your links and made moodboards and generally drove myself banana sandwiches trying to fit all the moving parts and variables together... do I switch this rug or sell that rug? Layer something small with seagrass or save up and spend big money to buy a big rug? Truth is, I tend to buy antique rugs that may or may not fit in the spaces I had planned for them. Hand made rugs are like pieces of art, and I need to have an emotional attachment before I can have a financial relationship.

oushak rug

I mean I would totally marry this rug, which is very similar to some antique Turkish rugs Karly and I saw at Round Top last weekend. Prices were INSANE, like we were shopping at 1st Dibs instead of a country flea market. The rugs were superb, though. I've never seen that kind of quality in person and I wanted to roll around all over the rugs like a dog in heat.

I am also not above having an affair with this rug I'm watching on ebay right now. It's huge and very old and ridiculously expensive and I LOVE IT. Too bad I'm not rich.

Anyway, I'm not the most practical when it comes to buying rugs for myself, and I just wasn't feeling anything I could find in my budget. So when reader Jill sent out the bat signal that a local antiques gallery was having a meganormous rug sale in a parking lot, I thought what the hay... I'll load up the babe and head out early to see what I can see.

 The calm before the storm...

I felt like I had just strolled into a third world country when I arrived, and by strolled I mean I stupidly brought my sweet seven month old baby in a stroller to the windiest, dirtiest, cheapest place on earth. And then something about the vast mountains of concealed fabric transformed me into a frantic suburban hyena panting after the scent of blood, tossing the place in order to see every single rug there (luckily/not luckily I wasn't the only one).

Totally embarrassing.

I knew there must be something good in those stacks, but every time I forced a nice worker man to dig out the very bottom rug, it inevitably turned up to be a filthy pee stained lime green and brown persian rug. Barf.

Y'all, I have NEVER seen that much dirt anywhere, and I have peed in poop troughs near diseased chickens and pigs deep in the Mexican back country. There was dirt in my teeth (!), dirt on the baby's face, dirt all over my stroller cum vaguely handy shopping cart... I had to hose that sad boy down with lysol after I left.

The rugs were so dirty you couldn't even tell what color they were. D.I.R.T.Y.

And then, magically, Jill showed up. She probably didn't recognize me beneath the layers of sooty filth, but she did recognize my very unhappy baby -- the baby I brought to contract some exotic infectious disease from the dirt.

Mother of the year. That's me.

Thankfully Jill turned out to be a super nice, very normal person with excellent taste. To wit, she pulled up this shockingly not too filthy rug. And then she passed it on to me. Behold.

savonnerie antique

But what is it??? It's huge for one thing -- 11 ft square. It's also very old, like maybe 100 years? It's wool and it weighs a million hundred pounds. The seller dude said it was hooked. And that's about all I know.

antique savonnerie

For scale.

It's not discolored, the field color is actually taupeish and the shadows are from folds.

I have since super mega vacuumed the rug, and I think it's miraculously not too dirty. I mean, it's old but not scabies dirty.

But what the what is it?

I know some things about rugs. Like anything I care about, I have obsessively researched Persian rugs since I first started buying them a few years ago. I can tell the difference between a Kerman and a Hamedan (kinda easy, I know), and I can tell you about abrash, kpsi, desirable colors and patterns, etc, but this here is not a Persian rug.

Is it an early American hooked rug?

A French Savonnerie?

Perhaps Spanish?

Or maybe even Chinese?

Here's the back. I think the foundation is jute... or maybe burlap?

Does anyone know anything about this here rug?

Because I'm not sure whether to keep or sell. I think if I keep, it will live in the bedroom and the bedroom rug will move to tapestry town.

But if it's worth some real money I might sell it and buy something more in line with the rest of my rug collection.

Or maybe it's super awesome and I need to learn to love it?

If only I knew what it was...


Keep or sell?

[top image via because it's awesome]