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Ask the Experts: The Textile Designer

Madeline Weinrib, Founder of Madeline Weinrib

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At what point in the decorating process should you choose a rug?
Traditionally, it’s always been said that designers should start with the rug, and I would agree. It’s a very good way to define a space, particularly in a New York apartment. It’s easier to pull color from the carpets for your sofa and windows.

Why would anyone buy a custom rug?
I like everything to sit on the rug. I don’t want a couch to be partially on and partially off. If you customize it so everything sits, or “floats,” on the carpet, it’s a cleaner, neater look. You can create rooms within rooms with rugs.

Do you need to be conscious of material choice in each room?
Personally, for ecological and aesthetic reasons, I only use natural materials. Synthetic materials will last forever, but I like how natural fibers patina with age. Avoid light colors in entryways. Material-wise, wool and silk are very sturdy, but silk does get dirty quickly, just like a silk blouse.

How do you feel about rugs that go beyond the traditional rectangle?
Sheepskins make really nice throw rugs. You can put them down anywhere and they look pretty. Round rugs are beautiful in entry halls, particularly with a table on top. They can also look nice in large, spacious bedrooms. But when you’re dealing with small spaces, they’re really hard. I recommend that people who don’t have large apartments stick to squares.

Are there particular colors that tend to be universally complementary?
Gold silk in a rug works well with many colors. If the rug is wool, and you have touches of gold silk, it looks very rich and pulls everything together, yet it still is subtle.

Should I buy a rug online?
It’s very hard to tell if a rug is well made just by looking at it on the internet. Do your research, because people seem to be pricing rugs randomly. Ask if the rug is handmade; a machine-­made carpet should not cost anywhere near the price of a handmade one, which should be expensive. It’s like looking at two gold bracelets. One’s gold-filled, and the other is real gold—but the client doesn’t know the difference. Also ask about the material. A cotton rug is always less expensive than a wool rug, and silk is always more expensive than wool. I love the blending of wool and silk; it makes for a beautiful texture.

Any other ways to bring in high design without breaking the bank?
I love the idea of cotton because it can still be handmade and maintain design integrity without costing an arm and a leg. In fact, I’ve come to feel that wool rugs are like oil paintings and cotton rugs are like drawings. You don’t have to buy a knockoff; you can still get the original design, beautifully made.


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