The Quintessential Question – Surface or Object?

February 26, 2010

How many times has a client terminated a potential carpet sale by saying, “I love it, but it just didn’t work”?

On a base level, it is not enough to love a carpet as an individual piece. The carpet has to fulfill design intentions and expectations to be a success. A successful carpet choice is based on how well it performs in a room. If the client understands the process, they will feel better about making a selection and a purchase.

Carpets can fall into two basic visual functions, as “Surfaces” or as “Objects”

Before launching into a description about a carpet’s color, type and mood with a client, try discussing the “Surface or Object ” concept with them. It’s simple and it works.

Sutra in Pumice

On the “Surface”

“Surface” style carpets allow your eye to flow over and through the pattern with ease. The eye is NOT drawn to the carpet first when you see it in the furnished space. Surface carpets tend to represent an architectural plane upon which the client’s furnishings rest. A “surface” carpet works like a beige carpet in an all beige room, becoming a supporting player.

As an “Object”

“Object” carpets draw the eye to themselves. These are carpets that tend to be seen as “art for the floor”. They function as paintings often do, by providing visual information. Object rugs can stand alone or drive a room scheme with their visual punch. Many traditional rugs tend to function as “objects” because of their complex patterns and colors. Object rugs want to take center stage, and often provide the color palette for the room.

Sutra in the colorway Moonstone and Oyster

A key to the “Surface or Object” question is often color

An oversize complex floral, typically considered an “object”, can be made to feel more like a “surface” by weaving it in variations of the same color without much contrast. By the same token, a subtle tonal pattern can be pushed toward being an “object” by weaving it in bright, contrasting colors.

The color relationship between floor and carpet will also play a huge part in making a carpet feel as if it’s a “surface” or an “object”. Imagine that the floor is dark chocolate and the carpet is ivory, or alternatively, visualize a pale limestone floor covered by a soft ivory carpet. If there is a high color contrast, the carpet will “jump” off the floor. But if the carpet and the flooring color are similar, the resulting effect will act like a “surface” because the two will visually blend.

Fronde installation

An opportunity to be valued

The simple “Surface or Object” concept can empower an overwhelmed and uninformed client. It promotes an understanding of how each choice can shape a project, going well beyond purchasing on impulse. By utilizing the “Surface or Object” concept you are sharing with your client a visual tool that will allow them to make informed decisions on the way to finding their “perfect carpet”.

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