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posted: 6/20/2014 12:01 AM

How to get just the right rug underfoot

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By Margaret Ely
The Washington Post

How do you choose the right rug? Should it be wool or jute, patterned or solid, big or small?

Judging from letters to the editor and questions in The Post's weekly Home Front chat, it's a subject lots of us have on their minds. So we tracked down Lorna Gross-Bryant, a Bethesda, Maryland-based interior designer whose stylish, bold rug choices caught our eye.

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Recently honored as one of the top 20 African-American interior designers in the country by design blog Pink Eggshell, Gross-Bryant has been featured in national magazines and participated in several show houses, including the 2013 D.C. Design House.

We chatted with Gross-Bryant about her work and her fondness for rugs, as well as her tips for choosing the right one and trends on the horizon.

Q. We noticed some bold area rugs in your work. Can you walk us through some of your choices?

A. I have an affinity for rugs that have pattern or a lot of texture. The basic solid-color rug isn't going to do it for me. My preference is for Tibetan rugs. I like the patterns. The patterns are more open. It doesn't let the room look too busy. I see rugs as artwork on the floor. That's why I lean away from just a solid rug. If I do a rug that is monochromatic, it will have a lot of texture. I love using jute. It's a natural fiber, and it's not too pricey. It's braided and so pretty. I use it in casual spaces or a more formal space. I also use hemp in more casual spaces, and I like cowhide rugs.

Q. What trends in rugs are you seeing right now?

A. Rugs are becoming much more eco-friendly, with the glues manufacturers are using and with renewable materials. Any time you can opt for natural fibers, try to. Check out linen, wool and grass. They are always great. I'm seeing new patterns right now. I see chevrons a lot. They are hot right now, as well as shag rugs made of felt. I haven't used that kind yet, but if I did, I would use them in a contemporary setting or in a child's room.

Q. At what point in the design process should someone incorporate a rug -- before they start or after they've picked everything else?

A. It's at the beginning or middle for me. It's rarely at the end. It matters what happens after you pick a rug. If a client says they have had a rug for a certain amount of years -- maybe it's a family heirloom. Then we start with a rug. I pull from the colors that are in the rug, and then I determine placement.

Q. How do you decide on a pattern or color?

A. It's all personal preference. Sometimes, you want beige. With beige, the pattern on top of the rug becomes more important because it's monochromatic. How do we make sure the rug isn't sterile? You want to make sure the room has some character. If the room is already put together, you want to make sure it relates. For example, if you have a couple of coral pillows on a sofa, it might be a good idea to bring coral into the rug or get the complement to the coral. Make sure it relates in some way. The goal is to have everything work in concert.

Q. How do you decide what size you should use, and why?

A. I like rugs to define the seating area. Let's say it's a contemporary space and it's vast. Define the living room with a very large rug and the dining room with a large rug. All the pieces should sit on top of it. Typically for a large dining room, that's a 9-by-12-foot rug for a table that sits six to eight. You could also, in the living room, just put a rug under the coffee table. Then make sure the edge is just under the sofa if you opt for that. The cool thing about a smaller rug is you can get a pop of color, interest and pattern if you are on a tight budget. (A rug in) the bedroom is optional. You can have it where all the pieces are sitting on top of it, or you can have it closer to the foot of the bed and then add a bench.

Q. Any tips for layering rugs?

A. I love to layer rugs. I think it adds texture. The under-layer will be a flat weave, a sisal, a flat-woven wool or a sisal-and-wool mix. Then layer with a patterned rug on top. That sometimes makes the room look larger.

Q. How do you decide what fiber to use?

A. Try natural fibers, or sisal and hemp. If you have young children or pets, always opt for wool. You can clean it well. If it's an area that is relatively formal and low-traffic, then incorporate some silk. If you can't afford silk, use synthetic because it gives you almost the same effect but at a lower price.

Q. Do you have any sources for rugs you would recommend?

A. As a designer, I like Galleria (Carpets and Rugs) at the Washington Design Center and Stark. One Kings Lane has some nice rugs. Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Teen. Restoration Hardware has some decent rugs.

Q. Any other insider tips?

A. For safety and durability, put a rug pad under your rug. And don't get freaked out if you bring the rug home and it starts shedding. Just vacuum it. It might be a month and half or so before it stops. It's not a cheap rug; it's just a natural thing that occurs.

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