Do you notice the ground you walk on? The gut response to that is “No” but chances are you notice the ground you walk on when it’s not what you expect. Most of us notice soft grass, silky sand and hard concrete. You probably don’t notice the floor in your home but if you had eye-catching, cushy wool underfoot you would.
Carpets and area rugs are one of interior design’s most underappreciated elements. Professionals know the value but on average, consumers are happy to trek to IKEA and get something that fits the two square metres under the coffee table. If it’s almost the right colour red, that’s a bonus.
But then again, maybe they’re not happy. “I had recently given birth to my daughter and was wanting to make our Hong Kong flat more like a home. I didn’t think getting a carpet would be such a big deal,” begins Summer Fearnley, founder of custom manufacturer Barefoot Carpets. “In the UK there are so many options in all price brackets. I looked into some of the more designer shops here and was astonished at how much carpets cost. I didn’t want to invest in something that would probably get wrecked by having two small children at home. The only other option was maybe IKEA?” she explains. (For more on selection check out Interior Design.)
Enter Fearnley’s Barefoot Carpets. Created in 2009 as a response to “extortionate boutiques and standard home store fare,” with just enough support and industry connections. “I had some contacts through my job as an architect and found my carpet supplier. They don’t deal with one offs but do supply businesses. After chatting to some friends I found that a lot of them had the same experiences as me, and so I asked if they would be happy to buy one from me. And they were!”
Barefoot Carpets designs and manufactures custom carpets in all sizes and shapes in about six weeks, for substantially lower prices than what a traditional retailer might charge. Fearnley encourages clients to be as creative as they desire, to use geometric shapes, naturalistic patterns, art, photos, neutrals, floral patterns, bright colours … anything that will complete a room the right way. Aside from a silk weave Persian rug and carpets so large they lose detail (think of the first generation wide screen television units), Fearnley can make anything.
Barefoot Carpets predominantly uses 100 percent New Zealand wool (and non-toxic dyes for all its products and actively works to reduce its environmental impact), though special wools and different materials (like bamboo silk) are available for the right piece. “The great thing is that they are bespoke so can be made in colours to match your palette. They can be made fun for children. They can have words, letters, or pictures on them … They really tie a room together and make these transient flats much more homely.”
And though carpets are all around us — try and imagine a library without one — the perception still exists that they get smelly, furry and, in Hong Kong, mouldy. Not true says Fearnley. Treat a carpet right and it will be about as smelly as a sofa. “I don’t do anything special with them. They get hoovered with the rest of the floor.”
In four short years Barefoot Carpets has amassed quite a portfolio, from the utterly wild to the muted. But like any creative process, the journey is half the fun. “I love to see what my clients come up with,” finishes Fearnley. “Everyone is so different and it’s great to see their personalities going into the finished product.” A seat on the floor has never been so welcoming.