Wood vs. carpeting

Design Line

July 20, 2008|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Tribune Media Services

We're undecided about what to do with the front-parlor floor of the century-old townhouse we recently bought. The original, very dark wood is still in good shape, but wall-to-wall carpeting seems like a sensible substitute because it will be easier to maintain in a home with three boys. Carpeting also will add some needed color to the space. Do you agree this is a good choice?

Good design isn't achieved just by filling a space with attractive furniture and accessories. As so often preached from this pulpit, function matters as much as form.

Durability ranks high under the heading of function, especially because today's furnishing prices challenge many households' budgets. What's the point of investing in, say, a beautiful carpet when a different yet equally beautiful floor treatment may last twice as long?

Carpeting does seem more convenient in some ways than a wood floor, but I think that may be an illusion, even in your case. Sure, vacuuming is quick and simple - and so is sweeping with a fine broom or wiping down with a soft mop. There are many maintenance products that will keep a wooden floor looking good for many years.

It's also the true, of course, that many carpets are made to withstand rough treatment in the form of scuffing and staining. And if you do choose this alternative you'll find out whether your carpet can actually handle the abuse that three boys can give it.

You also may consider a compromise. Most of the floor can be left uncovered to show off the well-preserved wood, while area rugs can be added as decorative elements and boundary markers for furniture groupings, as the accompanying photo suggests.

If it matters to you, such a treatment may prove more affordable than carpeting. Rugs also allow for versatility that carpeting can't provide.

Perhaps you'll want to change the color of the wood if you do leave it exposed. Note that the medium stain seen on the floor in the photo can be achieved through a refinishing process that doesn't necessarily require a technician's involvement.

My own preference, however, would probably be to leave the wood as is. A dark background is often most effective in offsetting decorative rugs and fabrics.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designers. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at rsca@ritastclair.com.

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