A Guide to Buying Carpet

Timorous Beasties platinum grain du bois from Brintons

Now I know that carpet suffers from a slight image problem for many of you but the fact remains that most of us have some of it, and it still accounts for 57 per cent of all the flooring sold in the UK. And some of the remaining 43 per cent is laminate and that is a banned word on these pages. Unless it’s preceded by the words “how to replace”

But when it comes to carpet there are so many different types and textures that it can be confusing knowing what to buy and where to put it and that’s before we’ve even got as far and colour and (yes I’m going to say it) pattern. So today, with the help of the lovely people at Brintons, who have been making them since 1783, here is the definitive Guide To Buying Carpet.

Atholl Gardens Oyster by Timourous Beasties for Brintons

The most popular place is still sitting rooms and bedrooms and that’s understandable. It’s soft and warm underfoot and also provides insulation and noise reduction. We were going to leave the spare room uncarpeted and then realised that the 16yo is the main user (the xbox is in there) and hangs out with his friends and the thought of them stomping about overhead while we’re trying to watch telly and drink wine in peace meant that floorboards above was a very bad idea.

The room was longer than the standard 4m wide carpets and we didn’t want a join so we bought a large piece of the carpet and had the edges bound (hemmed) in a contrasting colour. It covers the whole room minus eight inches round the edges and was way cheaper than a rug.

Padstow Surf Spot by Brintons

But the question still remains – which type of carpet for which room? It’s a question I get asked a lot. Especially when it comes to stairs. And do remember, if you’re on a budget (aren’t we all) that if you want a runner up the middle of the stairs you will have to sand and paint or varnish the edges which will make the overall job much more expensive than carpeting the full stair.

Having said that, you can always carpet the stairs and leave the landings – this is good if you have chosen a strong colour or a pattern. And a pattern can be great for this part of the house as a) you are always on the move so you don’t have to look at it for hours and get bored b) it will hide the dirt better and c) if it’s a pattern you love then it will cheer you up when you come in from work. Whose heart ever starting singing at the sight of an oatmeal twist?


Padstow Candy Spot by Brintons

Stair carpet needs to be hard-wearing so a twist or a cut pile carpet is a good choice as it’s more resistant to crushing than, say a loop carpet. A mix of 80 per cent wool and 20 per cent nylon is also a good choice for stairs which, incidentally, was invented by Brintons in the 1950s.

The reason for this is that the nylon toughens up the wool and in this mix it’s three to four times tougher than wool on its own, which is why it’s good for high traffic areas. You can have wool – which takes rich colour really well – in the bedroom where there isn’t so much footfall. Wool is also naturally flame retardant and insulates really well.

In the bedroom a Saxony carpet can be the perfect choice. It has thick pile and a soft finish so feels more luxurious underfoot. Some of them come with a velvet finish too.

This is also a good option for the sitting room although if you have dogs or cats who scratch make sure you don’t buy a loop carpet. As the name suggests if you pull one strand of a loop the whole lot unravels. That is why a cut carpet, where all the threads are individual, is better. (Are you listening Enid Cat? You have ruined my velvet sofa you will not have my Timorous Beasties Brintons rug and I can see you eyeing it).


image by megan taylor

If you choose a pattern you might need to buy more to match this across joins, or in rooms that are unusually shaped. On stairs with half landings or winders (curving round floors) you will need more to cope with the change in direction and how the pile lies.

Don’t forget the cost of underlay and fitting, although sometimes they will throw the underlay in for free. Always ask if you are buying a decent amount of carpet. And if you are doing the carpet to rug trick that I have then placing it on underlay will make it softer and stop it walking.


Ruskin Butterflies by Timorous Beasties

I remember, as a child being told, by my mother that one should never vacuum a new carpet for weeks as the pile would fall out. I think this may have been a ruse on her behalf to not do housework, but I did ask Brintons about it because it’s a rumour that persists.

They said: “A new carpet will contain some short fibres that will be removed by vacuuming. In the first few weeks this can look like a dramatic amount, but in reality is only a very small proportion of the pile weight and won’t affect its performance.”

In fact, they went on to say: “vacuuming is the most important thing you can do to keep your carpet clean. You cannot overvaccuum a carpet.”

Which has somewhat rumbled the Mad Mother.


use a large piece of carpet instead of a rug


The key, as always, is to act fast. Use a blotting or a dabbing action rather than scrubbing and rubbing. If you do that the pile will burst and you may remove the spillage but you will end up with a fluffy patch that is lighter in appearance so there will still be a mark even if it isn’t red wine. If you’ve really made a mess then it’s probably best to consult the professionals. Mind you there’s even an app for this now (of course there is) Woolsafe Carpet Cleaning Apps.

Now some of you may have read about, or even tried, spraying club soda onto a stain. Or throwing salt over red wine – which I have tried and means you just end up with a purple stain rather than a red one – or that over old favourite white wine onto red to neutralise.

Natalie Littlehales, Brintons marketing mangager, says Never, Never, Never and No No No. “Soak with absorbent tissue, dab with a white cloth moistened with carpet shampoo (I know you haven’t got any – go and buy some now you’ll be glad you did) blot again, and/or use a wet suction vaccuum if you have. Then dab with warm water on a clean cloth and blot, or suck up, the remaining moisture. When dry brush the pile back.”



The fleece from one in every nine UK sheep goes into a Brintons carpet

Carpet is tough. Brintons provided 135,000 sq m of carpet (one of the largest orders ever place) for Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong which as 35m passengers walking on it every year .

There is Brintons carpet in The Kremlin and various Royal Palaces as well as Wembley Stadium and the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas.

Right that’s a lot to take in but I hope it has helped.

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I just can’t seem to skip a day without reading your blog . Everything in it just fascinates me , specially that you are able to send the message across very well. Thanks again Kate!

  2. Hi Kate. Have exactly the same xbox dilemma – 15-year-old son above my bedroom (so noisy!). Had the floorboards painted and it looks lovely so don’t want to ruin it with a carpet. I’ve put rugs up there, but they don’t cover enough floor and move around even with rug gripper material underneath. I was thinking of doing just what you have suggested. Does the carpet just sit on unsecured underlay and stay put?

  3. Ooh super piece as usual Kate. I really love the Ruskin Butterflies
    I’m just about to lay an amazing 100% wool natural undyed carpet (Barefoot Bikram) in my bedroom, the touching of which makes we almost weep with happiness, not least because its arrival signifies the departure of the heinous builders who have brought me almost to the door of insanity) It’s a beauty!

    None the less, I do have to take issue with your hatred of laminate. I like you was a total laminate snob as have always been an wide planked oak or original floorboards sort of gal, until that is, I put down a laminate in a rental that has absolutely out performed any floorboards I have had, and equally looks and feels amazing.
    It’s by Quickstep, is called perspective and comes in a wide format. It fooled even my estate agent pal (always satisfying!) who was raving about my gorgeous oak floor…not to mention everyone else who comes to my home. It is completely waterproof, muddy exuberant labrador proof, drunken gals in heels proof. Its a peach to lay, looks fantastic with my selection of carpets and is totally maintenance free. But best of all, it really feels like the real deal. It’s almost like you can hear it say “for goodness sake woman…what do I need to do to make you love me?”
    Suffice it to say I have now laid it in my new gaff, all 800 square feet of it, and it even looks fab with my Crittalls!
    I really think its time to revisit, as if fakery in the plant world has become acceptable, (although not to me!) then I think it’s time to give laminate its chance! I urge you to take another look, as if I can be persuaded, than anyone can!

  4. Hi Kate, great post as always and very timely as I am just researching carpet (slightly concerned I may be turning in to my mother!!). Can I ask where did you get your carpet edges bound ? This may be the perfect compromise for me ! Thanks

    1. Hi Clare, it comes to us all I’m afraid! I asked in my local carpet shop where I bought the carpet. If you have no joy there I just googled “carpet whipping” with my postcode and a few things came up. The key words are bound or whipped!

      1. Thanks so much for the reply Kate, will try local 1st…slightly scared what may happen if I google bound and whipped ????????

  5. This is a very useful post, thank you. In my house we have to think carefully about carpet because of the husband’s disability. When walking on crutches he can’t lift his leg too high so a deep pile gets in the way. Similarly thick deep carpets cause havoc when trying to wheel the chair over it. It’s like trying to roll through treacle. We’ve gone for a short cut pile so the wheelchair can’t snap any loops. It’s a real minefield!

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