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A change underfoot

August 07, 2003|Adamo DiGregorio and David A. Keeps | Special to The Times

If you want to give a room -- any room -- a face lift, start under your feet. Nothing transforms your home more quickly and easily than a new floor covering. It pulls colors and furnishings together while giving the room an emotional attitude, from cozy to cool.

We're not suggesting that you get down on your hands and knees with a box of tiles and a utility knife or put down wall-to-wall wool Berber over your hardwood. Not when you can simply pick something out, pop it in the trunk, toss it on your floor and roll it out in a matter of minutes. Why do you think they call them throw rugs?

If the last one you bought was a kilim or a flokati, get ready for a few surprises.

"People are looking for new textures, something unique, easy to take care of, and durable," says Kathy Egan of Los Angeles floor covering specialists Eddie Egan & Associates. She notes a rise in the use of such unusual materials as cork, bamboo, cellulose and even leather woven with metal.

For retro fans, the Los Angeles design store notNeutral offers laser-cut mats and rugs in its "Link" pattern made from linoleum, with the look of speckled asphalt floor tiles developed in the 1930s to mimic marble.

The most popular contemporary vinyls are woven to resemble sisal and sea grass in neon solids, stripes, metallic and Chanel-styled tweeds that can be cut to fit or pieced into rugs.

Ideal for kitchens, work spaces and playrooms, these fade-resistant coverings are more comfortable to walk on than the scratchy fibers they mimic, making them excellent choices for porches and pool sides.

Indoors, floral rugs can add visual and physical warmth. They can even be layered on top of unattractive carpeting (once a taboo, now quite acceptable).

Shags have also returned in fabrics ranging from washable T-shirt jersey to scrap leather and fluffy sheepskins. Unlike shag carpeting, which requires a rake, these area rugs can be cleaned with a shake.

While shags add sculptural interest, other rugs supply graphic drama, from the lifetime investment of artist Kate Blee's hand-knotted geometric abstracts to the transitory $20 pleasure of Todd Oldham's polka dots that can double as the old party game Twister (spinner not included).

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