The price of some patterned area rugs can make you want to crawl under them and weep. And though the materials and time needed to hand-knot a quality rug often justify the cost, not everyone has that kind of money to drop.
Enter your neighborhood paint store.
Treating a neutral, natural-fiber rug as a blank canvas will yield completely customizable results and save you bundles. (My 4-by-6-foot sisal ended up costing under $150, all materials included.) Of course there's no way your guests will confuse a painted rug with a hand-knotted original, but it's better than having a bare floor or a rug in a solid color.
"It's important to layer textures and patterns in different scales in a room," says Mark Riddle, a design associate at Room & Board in Washington. "If everything is too similar, it causes discord in the room."
Plus, a patterned rug can help influence the rest of your design choices. "Take one of the colors in your rug and pull it into a piece of artwork or a pillow to draw it off the floor," Riddle says. "That way, you're not just drawn to one thing: Your eye is always wandering, which makes the room more interesting."
A word of advice once you've completed your masterpiece: Because the paint can wear off over time, it's best to place your rug beneath a table or in another rarely traversed area.
Here's what you'll need:
• Natural-fiber rug, such as sisal or jute. (Paint will adhere better to natural fibers than to synthetic materials.)
• Up to four matte paint colors of your choice. (I used inexpensive interior house paint.)
• One foam paintbrush for each color.
• Painters tape.
• Measuring tape (optional).
Fold the rug in half by length and width to determine the center point. You may also use a tape measure if your rug isn't pliable enough to bend. Mark it with a piece of tape.
Begin building your pattern. I chose to run a series of large diamonds down the center, but you can do squares, chevron stripes, smaller diamonds — anything that inspires you. I eyeballed this, but feel free to use a tape measure to be more precise.
Build upon your design with zigzags, triangles, crisscrosses, etc. A quick Google Images search for "graphic rug" will return plenty of ideas.
Use scissors to trim any overlapping tape to ensure sharp lines.
Once all of your tape is down, it's time to start painting. With your floor protected, work from the center out so you don't smudge along the way. Dip your foam brush in the first color and dab it on in a rapid motion. Be sure not to oversaturate the brush, because excess paint can work its way under the tape.
Allow your paint to dry fully, preferably overnight.
Slowly remove the tape to reveal your completed rug below. Use a foam brush to carefully fill in any gaps or make corrections.
Holley Simmons is the dining editor of Express. When she's not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.