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It’s the oldest of decorating truisms: a house isn’t home until something’s hanging on the walls. It’s personalized touches like artwork or family photography that define your space.

Today, it’s rare to see original art hanging in a home, or unique knick-knacks.

As a result, we have a crisis of decorating identity. It’s all the poster stores online and big-box decor stores dotting the landscape. With mass-produced art more abundant than ever, its bargain pricing means “used art” can be found by urban dumpsters on every moving weekend.

Decor mags say the quickest way to update a room is to “change the art,” but look at the recession generation’s decorating budget and its “art.”

How much can an $89.99 framed lithograph really say about you? Is it worth investing in? And if art speaks volumes about the buyer, should you even think about hanging that mass-produced, easily-purchased lithograph?

Temporary wall art isn’t temporary at all

With growing emphasis on consumer responsibility in the face of how full our landfills are, it’s time to stop buying “transitional” art destined for the dumpster as soon as you can upgrade to a collectible piece.

Whether you’re talking about mirrors made from reclaimed windows, tapestries, or even just displaying found objects, there are creative solutions for your blank walls everywhere you look — from thrift stores to carpet shops.

So, here’s an idea for you: area rugs as wall-hangings.

Rugs as wall hangings: done for centuries

Persian wool carpets, ancient tapestries, and Oriental rugs have been used as wall art for centuries, and for many good reasons.

As travellers of old made long journeys, their tapestries were rolled and brought with them — creating a touch of home in a time when routine travel could take weeks. Those days, hanging giant tapestries and carpets was a must — not just for the color they’d bring, or the personal stories they told, but for the insulating warmth and even the sound-muffling qualities they offered, whether in a merchant’s tent or a king’s stone castle.

Today, hanging a 6×8 or larger tapestry seems audacious at the least, but we’re a long way from our decor roots. We’d feel miniature next to some surviving wall tapestries from the Medieval Ages, some as long as 80 feet and more than 16 feet high.

While hand-woven antique tapestries likely aren’t in your budget, some area rugs with great designs could redefine your living space — especially on the wall.

Wall hangings make sense today too

It’s not just the aesthetic of a wall-hanging that should persuade you. The historical reasons for tapestries’ popularity have modern cross-over appeal too. Here are just a few ways:

  • In urban shared dwellings, a good 4×6 or larger rug on your side a shared wall can dampen a noisy neighbor’s rumblings and audio.
  • If you’re likely to move in coming years, rugs survive moving trucks a lot better than framed artwork does.
  • It’s pragmatic — a 4×6 area rug can do a lot to affordably hide a flawed wall a landlord won’t repair just for “cosmetic” reasons.

How do you pick a rug? Either pick something that matches all the colors you have going on, or colors you’d like to incorporate, and has a design that speaks to you.

A hallway runner for over-the-sofa art

For me, a 2.6 x 8-foot runner, something like this decorative area rug would look great over my massive cream-color leather sofa — it’s the same length, and would be perfect running horizontally on the wall, creating the illusion of a longer, higher wall, if hung right. It’s a fun design with a big color palette to work with when painting, and it has enough visual interest that the rest of the room could be downplayed. In the future, it would be a great hallway runner. Finally, it has a higher resale value than another cheesy Ikea print, or could be a great money-making donation item for a thrift store.

A 5×8 rug as a dramatic headboard

In a bedroom, I can imagine this 5×8 “Rio” rug as a hanging at the head of a bed, offering something textured and rich, with a calming wintery bedroom color scheme.

In that instance, I’d want to make it a real feature point. Instead of a standard headboard, picture a floor-to-ceiling carpet like the Rio, trimmed out with beautifully stained six-inch-wide hardwood on the left and right sides to “frame” it as a feature. At five-feet-plus-trim, it’d be wider than a queen-sized bed, with plenty of bold drama. That it’s a soft sound-absorbing replacement for a headboard has additional bedroom uses, of course.

Put the “rugged” into hanging a rug

In other rooms, like the kids’ playrooms, can use rugs on the wall with other intents in mind. If the children like rough-housing, rugs can protect the walls… or even the kids.

Bamboo area rugs as wall art: easier to hang than wallpaper, way easier than painting, bamboo adds texture and eco-chic all in one go.

The biggest obstacle with using a rug on the wall will be how you choose to mount it. Whether it’s discreetly nail-gunning it in place, “framing” it onto the wall with wood trim, or attaching fabric loops in the “old” style for displaying it on a curtain rod, whatever mounting method you choose will be part of the design, and needs to hold that weight over time, because sagging is ugly, so choose your methods accordingly.

***

When rethinking items for your home, rugs are just the beginning. Over time, I’ll explore different ways of solving common home-decorating conundrums and humdrums.

When it comes to recreating your space, ideas are everywhere around us — even in history books, because, clearly, some ideas from the past should have a place in our present.

Feel free to leave comments, or questions, or suggestions that other readers can learn from. I’m happy to help you brainstorm a solution, and will be checking back!

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.