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Craig Wallen is a certified fine arts appraiser and the owner of Gallery 51 in Philadelphia's historic Old City district. A curator of public and private collections around the world, Craig has been a guest speaker for The Textile Museum in Washington D.C.and a contributing writer for Hali Magazine in London.
During the course of several trips to Europe over the last few years, and to the Scandinavian countries, in particular, I've been privy to their unique approach to interior design and decoration. Over and over again, I have been impressed and visually wowed by the truly elegant rooms I was able to see there. It didn't matter if the building or the space was historic, traditional or starkly modern, there was a thread of design consistency with one particular feature jumping to the forefront. More often than not, I was treated to rooms, all painted in white, where virtually all the color and pattern was on the floor in the form of a beautiful, dazzling, oriental rug, sometimes new, sometimes antique, but always fantastic like this one above from Overberg Interiors.Continue to 2 of 7 below.
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Over time, the Scandinavian countries developed their own rug-making tradition, that draws on traditional tapestry-style weavings, as well as oriental kilims. The effects are equally dazzling and can be very effective in modern spaces. Rugs of this type were made in Sweden starting in the early-20th century and fit very well into modern and mid-century American interiors.
Rooms with a modern design aesthetic and a white-on-white color palette are well known to us in the U.S. But these are not your typical white box spaces. In historic buildings boasting elaborate and heavy baseboards, crown moldings and door trim, it was, for the most part, a glossy white for trim work, paired with flat white walls, white ceilings and sometimes white fixtures. The same traditional aesthetics also seem to have carried over into the realm of modern and contemporary spaces, where the lack of trim work and baseboards creates a sleek, yet elegant and very comfortable look.
The floors are most often treated in a traditional way, with wide plank pine, sanded to a satiny smoothness and treated with lime. There is no varnish or polyurethane finish to be seen anywhere, just a soft, pale, smooth matte finish that is very easy on bare feet. Just like the one here from Daily Scandinavian.Continue to 3 of 7 below.
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Pair With Dark Furniture
Unlike homes from the Victorian era or even the early 20th C., that featured heavily patterned draperies, dark colors and deeply carved, heavy furniture, the Scandinavian design uses white almost as a universal container, into which colors and natural materials are carefully, but almost effortlessly selected and placed. Even though the focus is not on the rug here in this room from Decorology, it's hard to imagine that these rooms would have the same level of impact without them.Continue to 4 of 7 below.
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Use Your Floor as the Accent Wall
With no other colors to bounce off the walls, the light tends to be clean and calming. Here, rugs form an elegant backdrop for whatever is placed on them and are not challenged by distracting or competing patterns. In each room, they sit as artwork for the floor, setting the tone for that particular space.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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Draw Your Eyes In
When distinctive rugs are placed into these settings, whether antique or new, with modern or antique furniture, the colors and patterns pop in unexpectedly beautiful ways. When paired with complementary accessories and artwork, the effect is magical, non-stuffy and speaks of easy living. This room in particular from Trendland draws your eye in the room, making you want to walk in and explore.Continue to 6 of 7 below.
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Use it to Liven Your Room
This uniquely elegant approach—using the floor as a canvas on which to make the major statements of an otherwise white-on-white room—allows the rug to provide a dazzle of color and pattern to both anchor and enliven the room. And while any colorful rug can conceivably fulfill this role, oriental rugs—especially classic or antique pieces—seem tailor-made for this duty. The dazzling array of colors, motifs, and meanings that define these rugs is hard to match, allowing them to easily provide all of the color and pattern needed for a predominantly understated, minimalist style as seen in this room above that The Doodle House used as inspiration from Style At Home Magazine.Continue to 7 of 7 below.
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Pop of Color in Any Room
And it really doesn't matter which room you choose, since just about any room can benefit from this treatment. Bedrooms, the rooms in which we most need to relax, are clear candidates for the calming effect of white with a healthy dash of color underfoot. This room from Emma's Design Blog nails it effortlessly. Nevertheless, the technique is equally effective in kitchens, which also often benefit from a clean and uncluttered design approach.