CARPET TIPS & IDEAS: Undertone, Depth & Color
While wood flooring is the number one choice for living rooms and dining rooms, many of my clients are still choosing carpet for their bedrooms, stairs and family rooms.
- it’s soft and warm underfoot
- it’s safer on stairs (or at least softer on the toosh when you do biff it)
- it has more acoustic value – particularly on stairs and in bedrooms (wink wink)
- because the carpet really should match the drapes (another bad joke, I know)
However, the challenge comes when you have to choose a carpet based on those wee little carpet samples that aren’t even big enough to be coasters for my wine bottle – a first world problem.
But before we get down to the nitty-gritty of choosing a carpet, make sure you take home AT LEAST FOUR sample boards from the store. Most flooring stores have very little natural lighting and A LOT of fluorescent lighting, which can bring out the ugly in the best of things.
At the flooring store…
- pick your two favourite sample boards that have the TEXTURE you like, along with a nice range of colours to choose from
- pick two-three more boards that maybe aren’t your fave, but are ‘contenders’
- sign the boards out, toss ’em in your trunk and head on home!
Because many of my clients are looking for a light to light-medium toned WARM neutral carpet, we’re going to focus on this range and learn how to narrow the choices down to the PERFECT sample.
STEP 1 DECIDE WHICH COLOURS YOU DEFINITELY DON’T WANT
Carpet sample boards are usually arranged by colour, from darkest to lightest and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the other samples on the board. Eliminating unnecessary samples can help to focus on the REAL contenders.
Here’s your potential board at the beginning. Many are simpler than this with fewer options, but this is a great place to start…
Take some paper and cover up the COLOURS that you DON’T like. Since you’re looking for a light to light-medium neutral, you’ll cover up the obvious green, blue, violet and orange hues…
STEP 2 COVER THE SAMPLES THAT ARE TOO LIGHT & TOO DARK
Keep in mind that carpet often looks up to ONE TONE LIGHTER once it’s installed. This is because of the way natural/artificial light catches the tops of the carpet fibres, especially on the large scale.
And just like the great Britney Spears, let’s hit that baby one more time…
Carpet can look up to ONE TONE LIGHTER than you might expect.
Taking the ‘too light and too dark’ samples out, here’s what you end up with…
STEP 3 DECIDE WHICH UNDERTONES YOU DON’T WANT
Now that you’ve done the easy and obvious steps (bad colours/too light/too dark) you come to the tricky part – finding the undertones.
The best way to figure out what the undertones are is via comparison. When you look at a sample all on its lonesome, it’s easy to think it’s ‘beige or gray’ with no undertone. However, it’s via COMPARISON that you see how the samples are different from each other (the same goes with paint colours).
THE MAIN UNDERTONES TO WATCH FOR WHEN CHOOSING CARPET
It definitely varies depending on the home/homeowner, generally, there are TWO undertones to watch for…
- GREEN – green is great if it suits your home but it’s often a surprising mistake
- PINK – usually the least desirable undertone
Flash back to the PREVIOUS photo. Comparing the samples, which ones strike you as having obvious and possibly undesirable undertones? Don’t worry or get too particular, just single out the ones that are OBVIOUSLY the wrong colour.
Looking at this next image, you’ll see which ones I’ve covered up because they seem too pink, yellow or orange…
You’re now left with a reasonable selection of neutrals and have eliminated the ones that NOBODY picks because they’re tragic. Or if they do pick them, they often regret it.
So, JUST LIKE THAT, you went from 35 SAMPLES DOWN TO 7 – good job!
Now here’s the fun part…
You should have approx. four-six contenders (or seven, as shown above), and because I’m a sneaky lil Ginger, these are our next steps (I don’t have photo examples of this process, but you can do it yourself)…
PEEL. Gently peel those 4-6 wee little carpet samples off of the board (the ones you think ‘might’ work).
LABEL. As you take them off, label the back of each sample with a pen (a, b, c, etc…) and label each carpets original location with the same letter.
COMPARE. Compare them to each other. You have NO idea how much easier it is to see what the different undertones are once that silly old board is out of the way. Without a frame surrounding them, you can butt the samples right up to each other. You can also put the samples up to your baseboard and furnishings to see how they interact with your interior finishes.
ELIMINATE. Eliminate the ones that aren’t working. Maybe they clash with the couch fabric or don’t tie in well to the flooring in the next room. One way or another try to get down to 3-4 faves.
WRITE DOWN YOUR FAVES. Match up the letter on the back of the carpet samples to those on the board and write down the names of your faves.
GLUE GUN! Whip your hot glue gun out of its holster and glue the samples back in their proper place (crazy glue works as well).
See how easy that was? And yes, this is sneaky, but really, it’s the flooring company’s fault for making the samples so damn small.
If we were to whip those samples of the above board (which I no longer have in my possession, otherwise I totally would), we might notice these things…
- 1 and 2 look a bit more pink/taupe compared to 3, 4 and 5
- 3 looks a touch green compared to all of the other samples
- 4 is the warmest, most golden of the bunch
- 2 and 5 are the lightest, but 5 has more warmth
- compared to the others, 6 is the GRAYEST, although it still has warmth (taupe undertone)
- 7 is warmer than 6 but not as warm as 4
- 7 is comparable to 3 but less green
So for ME PERSONALLY, numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 would be OUT of the running. I don’t want anything as taupe/pink or as warm golden as these samples. This leaves me with 3, 6 and 7…
These could be different from what YOU end up with, but the goal is to have 3-4 POTENTIAL CARPET SAMPLES. Remember, you have many boards and you may get your fave 3-4 via several boards!
STEP 5 ORDER LARGE SAMPLES OF YOUR FAVES
You’re probably feeling brave now and want to jump ahead and order your carpet, but slow down crazy pants. Ask your flooring supplier to order some larger samples (usually takes no more than FIVE working days). You’re spending 1000’s of dollars and another few days will be worth it.
Large samples are the best way to choose carpet because…
- it will be easier to see the undertones
- it’s easier to see how the overall texture of the carpet will act when you walk on it
- the lighting in the flooring store will likely be different from the lighting in your home. This can affect not only the colour of the carpet but also how the texture appears
- you can see clearly how the colour reacts with your furnishings, paint colour, etc…
I would ask the carpet supplier to order large pieces of these FOUR samples (or more if you have them!). Even if you think you’ve found your fave, order the others just in case – comparison is KEY!
Happy decorating, chat soon!
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ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2016, TOTALLY UPDATED IN 2021