Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home (2015)


setting up your home



Anne Ziegler + Scott Mason

Trend Forecaster + Entertainment Executive

Floors, like walls, provide a huge visual impact in a room.

Because they live beneath your feet, however, you experience them more unconsciously—so it’s easy to overlook them when thinking about style. Don’t let this happen to you.

Consider the floor your fifth wall. How you choose to treat it can make a room feel bigger or smaller, warmer or cooler, and the acoustics louder or softer. With all those elements at stake, it’s a good idea to design a space from the floor up, selecting a material (hardwood, cement, carpet, tile, and so forth) if you can, then layering on a rug or two.

Start the decision-making process by looking at the interplay between your floor and walls. No matter which material you select (flip the page for help sifting through the many options), the most common combination—and the one we’d recommend—is having floors that are darker than your walls. This grounds the space, while extending the walls upward visually. If, however, your walls are a dark color, you may want to opt for lighter floors that will help brighten the room. For the most part, it’s wise to avoid matching the two surfaces: dark-on-dark feels cavelike, while light-on-light lacks definition.

In addition to achieving flattering color coordination, a room also needs softness and warmth—which you get by adding rugs and carpets. As a good rule of thumb, we prefer carpets in bedrooms and closets (where it can absorb a great deal of sound), and we like rugs (the more decorative option) everywhere else. Our advice: Get your floors into good shape, then cover them with lovely rugs to make your home cozy and beautiful.



One of the oldest types of flooring—and currently the most popular. Hardwood can be used throughout your home, though we’d recommend going with something more water-resistant, such as tile, in bathrooms and kitchens.


•   Hardwood floors make a space feel “high end.”

•   Easy to clean and very durable (hardwood can last hundreds of years).

•   Add value to your home.


•   Depending on the type of wood and finish you choose, hardwood can be expensive. (Macassar Ebony, for instance, is $150 per square foot!)

•   Noise is an issue, especially with pets. The clicking of their nails can slowly drive you crazy.

•   You can’t hide scratches or dents (though some people prefer a weathered look).

a quick note on hardwood floor stains: light vs. dark

Light stains look modern and help bounce light around the room. The downside: you’ll see every speck of dirt that hits the ground.

Dark stains feel a bit more traditional, with the bonus of masking dirt. The downside: they can make a small room feel smaller.


Not your granny’s kitchen floor. A lot of laminate today is engineered to look like hardwood or tile, with many of the benefits and almost none of the problems. It can be used in every room of the house.


•   Much less expensive than traditional hardwood or tile.

•   It’s more resistant to scratches and dings.

•   Sound doesn’t echo quite as much.


•   Even the best laminate will have a slight sheen. Discerning friends will know it’s not the real thing.

•   The feel is not quite as solid underfoot as hardwood or tile.

•   Some laminates are vulnerable to spills. Liquids can cause rippling and buckling if not cleaned up quickly.

ceramic tile

Most commonly used in high-traffic areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms. The options are varied: porcelain or non-porcelain, glazed or unglazed. In general, non-porcelain is cheaper, but porcelain is more durable and naturally stain-resistant.


•   Ceramic tile is practically indestructible (unless you’re prone to dropping anvils on your kitchen floor).

•   Easy to clean.

•   It’s naturally germ-resistant, making it a great option in damp rooms.


•   Ceramic tiles absorb heat, so they always feel cold.

•   They’re extra-hard (meaning, they’re unkind to bare feet).

•   Weight can be an issue with larger, thicker tiles. They can get heavy when covering a lot of square footage. Always have your subfloor and foundation checked before installing.


Usually reserved for areas you want to feel cozy or intimate, such as a bedroom or closet. There are dozens of materials to chose from—and equally as many piles (the length and shagginess of the carpet). Here are a couple basics to keep in mind: the longer the pile, the harder to clean; natural materials, like cotton, won’t last long in high-traffic areas.


•   There are a lot of really affordable carpeting options out there.

•   Soft underfoot.

•   Carpet (combined with its sub-padding) absorbs sound.


•   It’s hard to clean—and prone to stains and discoloration from the sun.

•   Like clothing, it will absorb scent (both good and bad).

•   Carpet ages quickly and will start to show signs of wear after 18 months.

slate tile

Naturally dark and textured, this type of stone was once reserved for use outdoors, but it is now being installed in entryways, kitchens, fireplace surrounds, and bathrooms because of its extreme durability.


•   Slate is an all-natural material with the warmth of wood and the endurance of tile.

•   Waterproof and stain-resistant.

•   It holds up beautifully in high-traffic zones.


•   It can be pricey, especially when covering a large area.

•   Tiles can crack under extreme pressure (furniture legs are a common offender).

•   Again, since it is tile, it’s cold—especially in winter.


A fairly new choice in the flooring world, eco-friendly concrete is quickly gaining popularity for its low maintenance and versatility when it comes to finishes. It’s great for those who want the same floors throughout their home, because it can be used anywhere.


•   There are multiple ways to finish concrete. It can be stained, dyed, painted, or left natural.

•   Extremely affordable (depending how you choose to finish it).

•   Lends itself to easy cleanup.


•   Concrete will be cold—though it works well with radiant heating, if you’re able to install it underneath.

•   The end look of your floors can have a lot to do with how the foundation was poured or the finish applied—which you may or may not have control over. Getting a consistent look can be tricky.

•   Concrete is heavy, so you’ll need a strong subfloor and foundation to support it.

the great rug layer-up


Large area rugs typically come with large price tags. Save some cash by layering a few smaller rugs together—just be sure that they complement one another. The key is contrast; the mix should look purposeful (not accidental). Here are a few of our favorite ways to achieve this.