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Red Rugs Are Taking Over Tasteful Interiors

The “red room” in Pali Xisto Cornelsen’s Los Angeles home. Photo: Pali Xisto Cornelsen

Scrolling through Instagram a few months ago, I stopped cold on a photo Laila Gohar had posted of her Upper West Side apartment. A dark, wood-paneled room with intricately coffered ceilings appeared to be carpeted wall-to-wall in a blood red that reminded me of a Dario Argento movie. In the center, a bed formed by a mattress on top of a thin platform upholstered in a similar shade was the only furniture, along with two (also red) upholstered chairs and a folding room divider. A few months later, Gohar posted a photo of a living and dining area laid with that same red carpeting, leading me to believe the floor of her entire apartment is red. The color is bold, unexpected, and a little sleazy. I was intrigued.

Around the same time, I noticed bright-red carpeting — with matching drapery — in a room in the Los Angeles home of Daphne Javitch and Pali Xisto Cornelsen. Two examples do not necessarily constitute a trend, but I was convinced something was there, especially since Curbed had declared last winter that wall-to-wall carpeting (no matter the color) was back. Yet it was found mostly in commercial spaces like art galleries, museums, and hotels (not to mention in offices and on Hollywood red carpets) such as the recently restored TWA Hotel, where the iconic “Chili Pepper red” carpeting Eero Saarinen developed for the Flight Center was reinstated. Seeing it outside those spaces, specifically in homes, and in such a scarlet hue, felt irreverent, so I reached out to Cornelsen, a designer of interiors and furniture, to chat about his own red room.

Turns out Cornelsen was also responsible for that red platform bed in Gohar’s apartment. She had brought it over from a previous loft where he had designed a wall-free bedroom using Japanese washi paper hung in wooden frames the year before. Instead of using rugs, he suggested a bright-red tatami mat to stay on theme. When Gohar moved to the Upper West Side, she repurposed the tatami as a bed, using the color as a jumping-off point for the rest of her home.

Cornelsen began experimenting with red accents in his own pieces after working with Raf Simons at Calvin Klein (he was also inspired by Jean Royère’s use of color). “It’s such a miss to not bring these vivid colors to your home because they bring another energy to your life,” Cornelsen says. “They hold a certain force to them, and once you do it, you sort of feel like you want their presence at all times. And if you pick the right one, you can be timeless and funky at the same time.” For him, that shade is Vidar 0653, from a collection of fabrics Simons designed for the Danish textile company Kvadrat in a long-standing collaboration. Cornelsen first used it as an interior back-panel color for a sideboard and then on a coffee table, after which “it became a color I was very comfortable using,” he says.

It’s the same red he used for Gohar’s tatami mat and on the pull of a floating nightstand he designed for the same room. In his L.A. home, the red curtains are also Vidar 0653. He was able to find a match for the Kvadrat red for the carpeting, which was done by Melrose Carpet. “It helped a lot that the furniture in this room is all neutral toned,” Cornelsen says. “It’s almost as if the furniture was asking to live in a bright room so it could come to life more.” After going fully crimson, he realized, “you can’t do anything wrong with red.”

While I love the drama of wall-to-wall carpeting, installing it takes some commitment and effort and isn’t necessarily the most convenient undertaking for city renters. Luckily, you can achieve a similar effect with area rugs. Across Instagram, I noticed red rugs popping up in the homes of other stylish people. CAP Beauty co-founder and CEO Kerrilynn Pamer had a more burnt-red area rug covering the living room of her mid-century L.A. home, as did interior designer Madelynn Furlong Hudson. (New York Magazine’s very own Wendy Goodman also recently purchased a reddish-orange rug after being inspired by Kim Hastreiter’s wall-to-wall carpeting of the same color. The style is Kenwick in orange from Aronson’s.) Turns out, in a funny coincidence, Hudson had toured Gohar’s uptown apartment to rent when Gohar was moving out and became “obsessed” with the red carpeting. In another serendipitous turn of events, both Pamer and Hudson own the same rug.

It’s Nordic Knots’ Grand, a hand-loomed, cut-pile rug, in brick red. Hudson chose the Stockholm-designed carpet because she was on the hunt for a “dull-salmon red” that would “add warmth” to a room but still “feel subtle enough that it acts almost as a neutral,” she says. She and her husband recently bought a Brooklyn townhouse and are designing their living room around the rug, which they used in their previous home. For Pamer, an image she saw of Bella Freud’s apartment had a “coral-y red wall-to-wall carpet situation that I adored,” she says. “I always thought if I found the right rug, I was going to mimic this committed design moment. Then I found it.”

While Cornelsen’s and Gohar’s color and the Nordic Knots’ shade are completely different genres of red, the effect is similar. Whether wall-to-wall carpeting or a large-scale area rug, the floor covering anchors the space and everything in it while adding an unexpected element of color. In Cornelsen’s sunken sitting area, the vibrant red takes on a life of its own — the background becomes the focal point.

For what it’s worth, Nordic Knots’ PR team confirmed that the company has seen a notable increase in demand for its red rugs this year, not only for the Grand rug in brick but also for this style designed in collaboration with Giancarlo Valle.

If you’re looking to experiment with this look in your own home, Cornelsen has this advice: “You just have to go for it. You have to believe in what it will do to your space. You have to embrace that it will be a bold move.”

Here’s another bricky red from Schoolhouse that’s about $600 cheaper than the rug from Nordic Knots.

This one-of-a-kind Persian hand-knotted rug, tasseled like the Schoolhouse Mesa, is a deeper red.

For even more savings, consider this darker-red style from Rugs.com that’s an unbeatable $400 for a nine-foot-ten–by–13-foot rug that happens to be 100 percent wool.

This hand-loomed wool rug from Safavieh is a brighter red that’s closer to the Kvadrat Vidar 0653 color — and even more affordable than the rug above.

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Red Rugs Are Taking Over Tasteful Interiors