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INTERIOR BACKGROUNDS. FLOORS WINDOWS WALLS & CEILINGS . BACKGROUNDS. Begin With Ceilings and Floors. Floors are often the most expensive or most permanent backgrounds of the room, so plan your interior decoration around these first. .

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Begin With Ceilings and Floors

Floors are often the most expensive or most permanent backgrounds of the room, so plan your interior decoration around these first.


Carpeting can be installed wall-to-wall, or may be an area rug that has finished edges and is not attached to the floor.


Pros: Carpet adds warmth and comfort.

Comfortable underfoot.

Adds warmth and texture to the décor.

Least expensive of all flooring options.

Stain-fighting fibers improve practicality for kitchen use.


Absorbs excess moisture.

Some stains may be hard to remove.


When choosing the carpet for your home it is as important to consider the quality as it is the style and color.  

When judging the construction and durability of carpet it is important to consider the type of fiber, the yarn twist and the pile density. (while cotton is used for small throw rugs, it is generally not durable enough for carpets)

Carpet quality: fibers...

Nylon – Nylon is a synthetic fiber and is known for it’s strength and abrasion resistance. Over half of all carpets sold in America are nylon.

Acrylic - Acrylic carpet fiber offers the appearance and feel of wool without the cost. Acrylic carpet fiber has a low static level and is moisture and mildew resistant.

Polyester – This is a fiber that is naturally stain resistant because it has no dye sites, however, it is not as durable as nylon. Known for color clarity. It is very soft.

Wool – This is an expensive, resilient fiber shorn from sheep.  It is a natural fiber and is very easy to clean. It is soft and warm, but prone to high static. 

Olefin (Polypropylene) – This is an inexpensive very abrasive-resistance fiber but has less resiliency and limited in color range.


Twist refers to the number of times that the individual fibers are twisted per linear inch, and can be judged by looking at those fibers closely and comparing. 

Carpet quality: twist...

The tighter the twist the better the carpet will retain its appearance.  Twist should be easy to see with tight and well-defined tufts rather than those that are loose and flared open at the tips. Carpets that are “heat set” are best, as it gives the carpet memory, stabilizes the yarn, and retains twist the longest.


Pile density refers to the amount of fiber used in the construction of the carpet and is a combination of how closely the fibers are tufted together and their pile height.  Face weight, the numeric expression that refers to the number of ounces of the pile fiber in a square yard of carpet, is also a good indication of the quality of a carpet. 

Carpet quality: pile density

You can compare density by bending carpet samples as they would be bent over a stair tread. Then look into the pile. The higher density carpet will show more pile fiber and less of the backing material. A high density carpet will make it difficult to feel the backing.Dense carpet packs more fiber into the pile so that it wears longer, resists crushing and matting better and retains its texture longer in heavy use. Dense carpet also helps resist stains and dirt by keeping them on the surface of the pile where they're more easily cleaned away.


Carpet textures...


Sometimes referred to as a "plush", velvets are smooth finished carpets with a rich, velvety look. They are an extra dense, cut pile with a luxurious look and color.They are most suited, although not exclusively, to formal areas such as living rooms, and dining rooms.


Carpet textures...

Saxony Versatile beauty in cut pile. Not as formal as velvets, but easier to live with. The degree to which each individual tuft is visible in the pile creates a wide range of subtly different appeals. This texture is often called "trackless", and it is the most popular style in today's carpet market. It offers a solid color surface like a velvet, but with a rougher finish that helps to minimize sweeper marks and footprints.


Carpet textures...

Textured SaxonyThe most casual and rugged of cut pile carpets. Tightly twisted yarns curl back on themselves, creating a distinctive nubby, loose and shaggy, or pebbled texture look. They might be referred to as a shag carpet; some with very tight twist are called Freizé (pronounced "free-zay”). The twist level provides durability, while the looser pile provides comfort.


Carpet textures...

Berbers / SisalsThe visibility of each loop and the way light reflects from the surface give level loop carpets a charming appeal that blends well with any decor.The looped construction offers exceptional durability, and a unique look. Many berbers are patterned, using high and low loops, which can give an embossed look not available with most other textures.


Carpet textures...

Cut And Loop

These carpets are often called "sculptured", because of the pattern formed in the face of the carpet by the looped areas. Cut and loops provide a casual setting, and are usually found in family rooms and rec-rooms. In solid colors, their subtle shading creates a unique style of multi-toned beauty. They are sometimes referred to as “traceries”.


Installed under the carpet, this cushioning makes your carpet feel better by absorbing foot traffic pressure for a softer walk. It improves insulation, increases the efficiency of vacuuming, reduces noise, and maximizes durability.

Carpet pad...

Bonded Urethane - Made by grinding flexible polyurethane foam into small particles and bonding them together with a chemical adhesive. The quality is measured by the foam density, or weight of the material per cubic foot. Bonded cushion is commonly called "rebound“.

Prime Urethane - Manufactured in chemical mixing and reaction processes. The quality is measured by the foam density, or weight of the material per cubic foot.

Sponge Rubber - There are two common variants of sponge rubber cushion: Flat sponge cushion generally offers a firm feel, while rippled sponge provides a softer feel. The quality of sponge rubber cushion is measured by its weight in ounces per square yard.

Fiber - There are three common types of fiber cushion, natural fiber (such as hair or jute), synthetic fiber (made of nylon, polypropylene etc.), and resinated textile fiber (made of recycled textiles). The quality of fiber cushion is measured by its weight in ounces per square yard. Fiber cushion is commonly called "felt“.


Vinyl flooring (or resilient flooring) began as linoleum and has been a very popular choice over the years.  In the last several years, there have been huge improvements in durability and styling.


Pros: Relatively inexpensive.

Soft and quiet underfoot.

Easy to clean and maintain

Durable (higher-quality grades).

Available in a wide range of colors, patterns, and sizes.

Stain resistant.

Damage relatively easy to repair

Available in tiles or planks or rolls


May show wear after about five years (lower-quality grades)

Cushioned vinyl may be cut easily by small rocks, etc.


Wood flooring...


Hardwoods are the most durable, versatile, and resistant to wear. Comfortable underfoot. Parquet floors are those installed in a pattern or 3D effect. Appear warm and luxurious.

Cons: Must be sealed well and maintained to resist spills, scratches, chemicals and wear. Refinishing worn floors is difficult, requiring sanding, re-staining, and refinishing

Floors may expand or contract or finishes crack with variations in temperature and humidity.


Wood flooring...

The type of wood and the stain offer a variety of wood grains and colors.


The top layer includes a decorative paper layer with the design on it and coating over it.  Almost all laminates are installed as floating floors, meaning that the laminate planks or tiles are attached to each other, but not to the sub-floor.


Pros: Virtually stainproof and fade-resistant.

Easy to clean and maintain -- never needs waxing.

Economical, priced only slightly higher than quality vinyl.

Available in wood grains and patterns that mimic tile, stone, and other materials

Forgiving of uneven base surfaces Resists indentations, stains, heat, fading, and surface moisture.


Wood portion of flooring susceptible to damage from excess moisture. May appear to be “fake” wood or stone.



Pros:Ceramic tile gives you unlimited patternpossibilities.

Durable and easy to maintain

Many shapes, sizes, textures, and colors

Glazed tiles are impervious to moisture and stains


Relatively expensive, especially if new subflooring is needed

Requires monthly cleaning with an oil-base detergent to resist stains (unglazed tiles)

Relatively noisy, cold, and hard underfoot

May show surface wear in high-traffic areas (glazed tiles)

Chips easily if hard items are dropped on it

Ceramic Tile...


Stone floors...

Pros:Stone floors are elegant and durable. The hardest stones (granite and marble) are most durable.

Easy to clean if sealed.

Comes in polished or honed (matte) or textured surfaces.



Requires frequent resealing. Needs regular waxing and polishing to maintain sheen.

Can be highly reactive to acidic solutions such as vinegar or orange juice, so use caution in where you put it. Hard to stand or walk on for long periods.

Sandstone, limestone (travertine), marble, slate, granite, and the man-made stones terrazo and terra-cotta are suitable for floors.


Cork flooring...

Pros: Cork tiles are inexpensive, soft, warm, and quiet underfoot. Non-allergenic. Unique.

Cons: They do have limited durability. They are susceptible to water damage and gouging. Comes in very few color and style choices.

Originates from a layer of tree bark, found in greatest quantities on a cork oak tree that grows near the Mediterranean Sea


Pros: Rubber tiles are durable and hard-wearing. Come in a range of patterns and colors to complement contemporary kitchen styles or home gyms. Often used commercially. Provides cushion for your step, slip resistance, and sound absorption.

Cons: They require periodic polishing to maintain their sheen. Susceptible to stains, cuts, and gouges. Some textures present cleaning challenges.

Rubber flooring...

Naturally derived from a rubber tree, but synthetically is a petroleum product.


Concrete flooring...

A solution made with water, acid and inorganic salts reacts with minerals already present in the concrete to create the color effects. It can be applied to both interiors and exteriors. The results are a mottled, variegated, marble-like look.

Pros: Concrete is extremely durable and easy to clean. Comes in the standard gray and colors.

Cons: Will look worn and dull if not sealed and waxed. No sound absorption. Cold and hard to walk on.



Walls Follow Floors

Once the floor covering has been decided on, plan the wall coverings. Suppose you are a prospective buyer, and the current owners have already moved out. They have left empty rooms. Do the floors and walls go together without benefit of other furnishings?


Ceiling & wall textures...

Orange Peel



Drywall compound can be used to apply textures to ceilings or walls. They can be sprayed, brushed, or spread with a trowel to create a variety of effects. They add interest, provide some acoustical advantages, and hide minor imperfections. They may be difficult to paint, and are difficult to remove.

Knock Down


Painting walls...

Painting is probably the most common wall covering because it is: fairly temporary, least expensive, and least labor intensive.

Before painting, walls must be prepared. They must be washed and cracks or nail holes filled. A primer is a sealant that makes surfaces non-porous, keeps out humidity, and may cover stains.

Stenciling is using a pattern to transfer a design onto the wall drawing or painting through the cutout areas of the design template. Faux finishing“fakes” expensive surfaces such as marble, by using sponges, combs, etc.


Painting walls...

There are two main types of paint…

Solvent-based Paint May be oil or alkyd (synthetic resin-based Sometimes called “enamel paint” Provides a durable and washable surface Brushes must be cleaned in a solvent such as mineral spirits

Latex Paint Is water-based and quick-drying. Environmentally safe. Quick water cleanup of brushes. May not adhere to some surfaces. Not as durable as solvent-based.

Paints are available in various finishes: gloss (easiest to clean), semi-gloss, satin or eggshell, flat (dull, but most formal looking), and textured (adds interest but difficult to clean or remove).


Decorative papers have been used to cover walls since the 16th century in Europe.

Wallpaper and borders...

Though wallpaper is an easy and inexpensive way to add color, texture, and style to a room, wallpaper is somewhat vulnerable to damage because of the nature of the material and method of application.

Walls must be carefully prepared before applying paper. Some paper needs to be pasted; most is pre-pasted and just needs water.

Strippable paper means it can be removed without having to score, steam, or scrape it off.


Wallpaper and borders...

Consider the elements and principles of design carefully when choosing wallpaper patterns.

Foil papers can make small rooms appear larger. Heavily embossed or flocked papers with raised surfaces can create a formal effect. Vinyl and coated papers are washable, so make cleaning easier.


Wall moldings...

Chair rails and wainscoting were originally added to plaster walls to protect them from damage to chairs. Today, there are primarily for decoration, applied to the lower 1/3 of the wall.

Baseboard, window, and door moldings hide breaks between surfaces and prevent damage to wall areas and keep dirt out of cracks. They provide a finishing touch.

Crown moldings are a wide trim board attached at the top of the wall next to the ceiling. Whether ornate or simple, they add a “finished” or elegant touch.


Wall paneling...

Solid wood paneling adds a warmth and richness to a room. It is attractive but costly. Cherry, mahogany, oak, pine, and walnut are popular woods for paneling.

Manufactured wood paneling has a wood veneer (thin overlay) top over a backing material, and laminated plastic paneling is printed in wood grain or other patterns. Both are more economical and finished to protect them from stains and moisture, but are less attractive.


A ceramic tile is a mixture of clays which is shaped and fired at high temperatures. The hard slab that results from this process can be glazed or decorated or remain unglazed.

   Advantages of glazed tiles: unlimited color range and superior stain resistance.

Advantages of unglazed tiles are: wear resistance and added slip resistance as compared to glazed ceramic tile.

Ceramic wall tiles...

The grout or adhesive filler between the tiles may present a cleaning challenge after time, or may crumble and allow water to seep under the tile.

Wall tiles are not usually as durable as ceramic floor tiles.


Fabric wall coverings...

Fabrics can be applied to walls to give unique textures, colors, and patterns. They can be attached with glue, tacks, or double-faced tapes. Fabrics can be repeated on windows upholstery, or accessories.

Grasscloth, burlap, or even carpeting have been popular on walls. The fabric needs to be thick enough to prevent glue from showing through. It must also be resistant to stains, fading, mildew, and shrinking. Cleaning can be a challenge.


Mirrored walls...

Mirrors can be used to cover an entire wall or smaller area. They make a room look larger. Large mirrors or mirror tiles can be used. Distortion-free glass should be used in large mirrors.

They are expensive, but give a dramatic effect. Make sure the view reflected is appropriate. Mirrors can be clear, smoked, or patterned. Maintenance is easy, but needs to be done frequently.



Ready for the Windows

Windows are the least permanent of the three backgrounds, although not necessarily the least expensive or permanent. Homeowners may even remove them when they move out. The floors, walls, and windows should all “go together” without the benefit of other furnishings in the room.



Bay window:A composite of three or more windows, usually made up of a large center unit and two flanking units at 30°, 45° or 90° angles to the wall.

Bow window:A composite of four or more window units in a radial or bow formation.

Curtains should be hung to the stool/sill, to the apron, halfway between the apron and the floor, to the floor, or puddled on the floor for a very romantic look.


Curtains are usually unlined fabric or lace. They are hung or shirred (gathered) onto a rod, and offer a variety in colors, patterns, and textures. They are considered informal.


Curtains may be sheer (transparent), semi-sheer (diffuse light and view), or opaque. Sheer curtains are sometimes used as an under-curtain, behind draperies.

Café Curtains Usually hung on rings that slide along a rod. They cover only the lower half of the window.

Austrian Curtain Panel has shirred pouf design

Scarf treatments are softly draped and free flowing.


Tie Back Curtains are drawn back to the side and held with a sash or cord.


Short window “tiers”, often hung on the top and bottom or as shown here with a valance.

Priscilla Curtains are tie back curtains, edged with ruffles.

Rod-pocket curtains have a casing and are shirred onto a rod; should start out being 2 times the rod width. 3 times the width for sheer curtains.

Long curtain “panels” with tab tops


A Valance is a top window treatment that can stand alone or be mounted over curtains or draperies.


Swag at the center with Cascades down the side

Blouson or balloon valance, sometimes stuffed with tissue paper for fullness

Scarf valance

Tailored Valance with a Jabot (center ruffle or drape)

Shaped Valance

Cornice Valance



Draperies are traditionally a more formal window treatment. They are pinch-pleated and hung from a transverse rod that allows them to be opened and closed by pulling on a cord. They are often lined or made of a heavierfabric.



Roller Shade (least expensive)

Roman Shades raise in folds

Pleated and Cellular Shades (two pieces of fabric with air space between)

Shades can be used alone or in combination with other window treatments. They were designed to filter or block the sun and cold air.

Balloon Shade

Woven Wood Shades



Vertical Blinds

Wood Blinds

Blinds are made of a series of evenly spaced slats that can opened and closed. They provide privacy and control over sunlight allowed into the room. Blinds are more difficult to clean than some other window treatments.

Vinyl Blinds



Shutters control privacy, the degree of sunlight in the room, and even temperature.

Shutters have crosswise slats called louvers, which vary in width. Some use a fabric insert instead of louvers. They can be painted or stained.



The End