When you think of flooring options, is carpet the first thing that pops into your head?

For an increasing number of people, the answer appears to be yes. 

“We have definitely seen a rise in carpeting,” says Mélanie Berliet, senior vice president and general manager of the home-advice website The Spruce, which keeps tabs on social media and influencers to monitor trends. “It’s certainly no longer the design no-no it once was.”

Berliet says this is just the start of carpet’s return to prominence, and that she’s currently seeing “early adopters.” But, she adds, “I think it will become widespread.”

This burgeoning trend is primarily due to two factors, Berliet says. The first is the complementary rise of “grandmillennial” decor — or granny chic — which features modern takes on traditional design styles.

The other, she says, is the undeniable fact that carpet just feels nice underfoot. After more than a year spent mostly indoors, homeowners have gained a new appreciation for comfort — especially those who have been walking across hardwood floors. 

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Christina Collins-Pezzner, CEO and senior designer at Seattle design firm Spatial Matters Inc., agrees that coziness is a key to the carpet comeback.

“Hardwood floors are beautiful, but they can be very cold,” she says. “Carpets make a home more cozy at the end of the day.”

Convenience and savings

Berliet says carpet offers plenty of advantages beyond comfort. 

“When you have carpeting, you don’t have to think about refinishing,” she says. “All the damage and scratches that can be done to hardwood and other flooring — you don’t have to think about that. It also acts as insulation, so it can help keep your heating and cooling costs down.”

Carpet is also generally less expensive than other flooring materials, says Jennifer Winestorfer, who works in business development and marketing at Seattle-based Vogel’s Carpet & Flooring.

There’s a good deal of variance, she cautions, but as a general rule of thumb, “[Carpeting] is about half the cost” of other options.

Carpet also adds a certain amount of soundproofing, which can be especially nice if you have active kids or noisy roommates. “Carpet is going to be the quietest of all the flooring,” Winestorfer says. 

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Additionally, advances in carpet technology — such as its resistance to stains — have been a game-changer in recent years, Collins-Pezzner says, making carpets “definitely a more viable option for people and their spaces.”

Among the many fiber choices for carpet is triexta, which is used in the SmartStrand brand by Mohawk (shown here). Triexta is made from recycled corn and has fewer chemical additives. (Courtesy of Mohawk)
Among the many fiber choices for carpet is triexta, which is used in the SmartStrand brand by Mohawk (shown here). Triexta is made from recycled corn and has fewer chemical additives. (Courtesy of Mohawk)

Styles and placement

If you’re considering adding carpet, start by thinking about where you’ll use it, says Pieter Sundgren, a sustainable building materials expert who sits on the executive board of Greenhome Solutions, a Seattle-based green building product supplier. 

In the family room, where you might be doing yoga or playing with Legos with your kids, you’ll want a carpet with a tighter, more durable pile, Sundgren says. In the bedroom, look for something soft and cushy.

“You want to think about function,” Collins-Pezzner says. “Do you have kids, maybe pets? How much traffic is in there? Do you gather in that space a lot, where people have drinks?”

In a high-traffic spot, she suggests using industrial carpet, or a synthetic blend with stain-fighting technology. “They will set you up for less maintenance and less worry,” Collins-Pezzner says.

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If the idea of using industrial carpet unnerves you, rest assured that commercial carpeting has come a long way. 

“We’re actually seeing people are moving toward commercial-grade carpet, like in those heavily trafficked areas,” Winestorfer says. “There’s a lot of different options and styles that are not so commercial-looking. Because people don’t want it to look like a dentist’s office, right? They want it to look like a beautiful home.”

If you choose to go the commercial-carpet route, Winestorfer says, one good option is floor tiles, which are essentially small sections of carpet that you can arrange to fit your space.

“What’s great about them is they can work in odd-shaped spaces, where you have to do some weird cutting or move things around,” she says. Additionally, depending on the carpet tile’s pattern, you can arrange the tiles in whatever way you find most aesthetically pleasing.

For covering stairs, Winestorfer says, lower-pile carpeting works best. “If people use a really chunky product, when it goes over the stairs, the fabric can separate and it kind of looks funny,” she says. 

Carpet comes in a downright dizzying array of fibers, piles and price points. How do these  different types of carpet stack up?

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“Polyester is on the lower end, I would say,” Winestorfer says. “Then you have your nylon, and then you have triexta — it’s made from recycled corn” and fewer chemicals.

At the upper end of the carpet spectrum is wool, which is the only type that Greenhome Solutions sells. Its wool carpets are available in a variety of textures and patterns, from manufacturers such as Unique Carpets and Godfrey Hirst.

“Sustainability is all about longevity,” Sundgren says. Wool carpets, he says, have a lifespan of  “20 years to a lifetime,” significantly longer than many other carpet types.

In addition to its longevity, Sundgren points to wool as a top eco-friendly choice. “It doesn’t take chemicals to care for and maintain wool carpet,” he says. “With natural fibers, you don’t need to treat them with anything to use them in [a home].”

Rebecca West, who owns the Seattle-based interior design firm Seriously Happy Homes, is also a fan of wool carpet. “It’s sort of like natural marble,” she says. It’s more expensive overall, but it’s eco-friendly, allergen-friendly and “so beautiful, and so hard to mimic.”

Winestorfer encourages her customers to consider how a given type of carpet will feel under your feet. She recalls a couple who took carpet samples home to test them out. 

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“They said that they laid them all on the ground, blindfolded each other and walked on the carpet barefoot, and that’s how they picked their carpet,” Winestorfer says. 

Seattle interior designer Christina Collins-Pezzner has seen a trend toward bolder, brighter carpet choices. “I see things moving in a direction where people are excited about more patterns, excited about more color,” she says. (Courtesy of Ege Carpets via Spatial Matters Inc.)
Seattle interior designer Christina Collins-Pezzner has seen a trend toward bolder, brighter carpet choices. “I see things moving in a direction where people are excited about more patterns, excited about more color,” she says. (Courtesy of Ege Carpets via Spatial Matters Inc.)

Colors and styles

Berliet says one big trend she’s seeing at The Spruce is layering area rugs on top of carpet. 

“Layering is just a way to make a room feel cool,” she says. “It’s a great way to make it fresh and more stylish.” 

Collins-Pezzner is seeing a trend toward bolder, brighter carpeting.

“I see things moving in a direction where people are excited about more patterns, excited about more color,” she says. “We’re coming out of this sort of minimalist age [and] starting to see more of a maximalist era.”

Popular carpet patterns include animal prints, geometrics, florals and other botanicals, diamonds, lattices, checks and plaids. “Geometry that mimics nature” is big, Collins-Pezzner says, as is “anything with fractals.”

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West isn’t seeing as much demand for bright patterns in carpets overall, she says. “It tends to be more neutral, more textural, more natural.” But she does note one spot in the home where her clients are going big and bold.

“The place where people tend to take a risk is in their stair runners,” West says. 

During a previous remodel of her home in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, Kady Dundas had a staircase painted in a dark color. After deciding she wanted something different, she settled on the idea of a brightly patterned runner, which she recently had installed. Now, “I call them my happy stairs,” she says. (Courtesy of Kady Dundas)
During a previous remodel of her home in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, Kady Dundas had a staircase painted in a dark color. After deciding she wanted something different, she settled on the idea of a brightly patterned runner, which she recently had installed. Now, “I call them my happy stairs,” she says. (Courtesy of Kady Dundas)

One such risk-taker is Kady Dundas of Ballard. 

Dundas, who shares her 1937 house with her husband, Brendan, and their two teenage sons, recently decided to give a new look to their home’s narrow staircase.

“We’d had them painted a dark color during our last remodel,” she says, but she wanted to do something different. Online quests led Dundas to discover photos of staircases with brightly patterned runners, and she was enthralled.

“I wanted something bright that could be this transition” between the levels of their home, she says. “I just knew I wanted this in my life.”

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Dundas worked with West to install a brightly striped carpet runner that is durable enough to handle a high-traffic stairway. To say Dundas is pleased with the results is an understatement. 

“I am just delighted. I call them my happy stairs,” she says. “I think they are the happiest stairs in all of Seattle.”

West says stair runners offer “a lot less commitment” than carpeting a whole house in an eye-catching pattern. Further, when a house’s occupants differ on their flooring ideas, a stair runner can be the ideal place to add a “shock of fun,” she says.