Q: I need to buy rugs or carpeting for a living room that has two distinct seating groups. What's the best choice in such a situation?
Also, just out of curiosity, are the terms "carpet" and "rug" interchangeable? I thought they were supposed to refer to different types of floor-covering -- partial and full -- but I often hear them used as synonyms.
A: How wonderful to hear from someone who's a stickler like myself! And, please, don't surrender to what I regard as an unfortunate trend in word usage. There is indeed a difference between a carpet and a rug.
The English and American definition of a rug is a movable floor covering smaller than 9 feet by 6 feet. "Scatter rug" often refers to the smallest rugs.
Large floor coverings are properly identified as carpets. The term "carpeting," however, is supposed to be used only for machine-made broadlooms that are fitted and tacked down to cover the entire floor -- though even I won't reprimand someone for confusing "carpet" with "carpeting."
Now to your main question. A room-size decorative carpet with an all-over, non-directional design might be the best choice for your living room. "Room-size" means that the carpet is bordered by a bit of exposed flooring.
That's my fail-safe option. But if you're willing to be more decorative and dramatic, consider the small pattern found in many Persian carpets. These look best when combined with plain, striped or larger patterns on the furniture and window treatments.
A wall-to-wall broadloom in one color would afford you a wider range of choices for the fabrics as well as the room's overall design. Another advantage is that broadloom is generally less expensive than the other types.
The presence of two distinct seating groups complicates the issue somewhat.
If your room is spacious and you're trying to diminish the distances, it might be wise to place a rug under each set of seating pieces. The use of color-coordinated but not matching rugs will give emphasis to the seating groups and make the room look cozier.
In the photograph, a pair of French armchairs, a desk and various accessories form an attractive grouping delineated by a 6-by-10-foot kilim rug -- or is it carpet? The rest of the floor in the room is covered with a large kilim.
The color scheme helps unify this spacious setting. Peach-painted walls work well with the chairs' beige-and-coral striped chintz and the warm autumn colors of the other furniture. ZTC The rug itself -- a combination of beige, brown, coral, red and green -- forms a distinctive pool of color, and each color is used elsewhere in the room in different intensities.
The choice of floor covering depends on a number of factors, including how effectively a rug or a carpet will pull together a seating group or a room. Size, color and individual taste should be your principal guides.