Use an area code when picking a rug size

October 31, 2005|by ROSE BENNETT GILBERT/Copley News Service

Q: We are planning to buy new rugs for our living room and our dining room. This is a center-hall colonial house, so my question is, if I put down rugs in the living and dining room, do they have to match? Should we put a rug in the hall, too? And should it match the others? Finally, I like some floor to show around the edges of the area rugs, but how do I know what size rugs I need?

A: The answers are much easier than you think: No. Yes. No. And finally, plan to leave about a foot of floor showing all around. As New York designer Jeffrey Bilhuber points out in his info-packed book, "Jeffrey Bilhuber's Design Basics," (Rizzoli) this requires a major decision and minor mathematical skills.

First, decide whether you want your furniture to sit on or off the area rug. If you want it on, measure the room and subtract two feet from each direction to get the right size rug. For example, if your room's 10 by 14 feet, your rug should be 8 by 12 feet. Simple?


If you want to expose more floor, Bilhuber says to find the largest piece of furniture in the room that goes against a wall. Measure its depth, and add one inch to get the width of the border you'll want on all sides of the rug. His example: if a chest is the largest piece at 23 inches deep and you add another inch, you'll want a 24-inch-wide border along all four walls. Ergo, if your room measures 10 by 14, an area rug 6 by 10 feet should be the perfect fit.

That was the hard part. Now, let's go back for a closer look at your first three questions. Matching rugs? Don't even think of it. Matching anything is usually just dull, dull, dull. Better to choose rugs with colors that relate to each other well enough to tie the two spaces together.

Make that three spaces because, yes, you will probably want an area rug in the hall, too, for both decorative and practical reasons. A rug not only says "welcome" softly and colorfully, it's the first line of defense against tracked-in grunge.

Now, having said all that against matching rug patterns, we must add that there's an exception to every rule in decorating,. We're showing a snazzy "rule-breaker" in this hallway borrowed from Bilhuber's book. He has deliberately chosen to repeat the leopard-print thrice-over, on the entry rug, the hall runner and on up the stairs to boot. In the capable hands of such a pro, the repetition works like a mantra - it's fascinating, and fun.

Q: I was in a designer showhouse recently and saw a mirror in a formal living room that turned into a large plasma TV screen. The designer wasn't there and no one else had any more information on it. Can you buy such a mirror/TV screen, or was this something the designer had custom-made for the showhouse?

A: Luckily for every closet TV watcher, there are companies that make "disappearing" screens like the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't system in the showhouse. Between viewings, the plasma or LCD display masquerades as a "painting" or a decorative mirror, either looking ordinary and perfectly at-home with the rest of your furnishings.

The imposters work especially well in low-light areas like bedrooms and guest rooms, according to one manufacturer, MediaDecor. Side lights in the room should be kept dim to avoid annoying reflections on the screen, which might make this system less successful in active areas like family rooms. See what you think at

Kettle's for the birds:

Birdwatchers of the world, have you ever sighted the whistling icon?

If you've been in any chic kitchen during the past 20 years, you couldn't miss seeing the famous whistling bird teakettle designed by architect Michael Graves for Alessi, the Italian manufacturer.

An instant must-have among the design savvy, the little kettle captured status-seekers in a big way. And at a big price (think in the $135 range). More than 1.3 million of the original stainless steel design have been sold. Now Graves and Alessi are celebrating the bird's 20th anniversary with a new, numbered and stamped "Limited Edition Jubilee Kettle," just introduced this fall.

What's the difference? Well, the original blue handle is now dark red, and you get two bird-shaped whistles with this edition, one transparent, and the other, a matching dark red. Given the kettle's iconic status, bird - and trend - watchers will no doubt think that's something to whistle at.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Please send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190, or online at

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