We writers know the tyranny of the blank page. Painters know the pressure of a blank canvas. And this week I discovered terror in another type of tabula rasa: a blank rug.
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The folks at Vecco Studio invited me test drive their make-your-own rug product. I loved the concept: Can’t find the right rug for your room at the right price? Make it!
The raw products arrived: A plain, beige 3-by-5-foot area rug, some stencils and several cans of colorant. My mission was to combine them into some that looked better than the cat’s litter box.
It looked daunting. I froze then called a friend. “Let’s have dinner and afterward you can help me with my rug project!” I calibrated my voice to make this sound fun.
“Sure,” she said, but I could hear her trepidation.
After dinner we laid the low-pile rectangle on the coffee table. We set the stencils on it this way and that, trying to envision a successful marriage of the various shapes. We stared at the blank rug, contemplated the possibilities, glazed over, gave up and had another glass of wine instead.
The next night, I took on the task again, this time more seriously and alone. I had the whole evening ahead. No company. No excuses. Then that stuck feeling hit:
I had rug block!
I thought of that famous — and dreaded — college essay question: What’s on the other side of your wall? Whatever you say — cobwebs, cement, butterflies, a new universe — those with the keys to the kingdom will plumb and analyze the response and use it to determine your fate. That’s all.
I wasn’t just decorating a rug, I was exposing my soul! Whatever I imprinted on this would reveal the deepest regions of my psyche, like some reverse Rorschach test, where you make the blots and others say what they mean. I stepped outside for some air.
I e-mailed customer service. “Help! I need direction!” (I should get a T-shirt that says that.)
“You’re over-thinking this,” the support person said, and sent me a link to a blog for some inspiration. Everyone on the blog was smiling.
“I can’t even start!” I e-mail.
“If you don’t like it you can vacuum the color up before you seal it and start over.”
“Start over! I can’t even start once! I need fewer options, not more.”
After a two-hour staring contest with the rug, which I lost, I finally picked my favorite stencil, a 10-inch fleur-de-lis, and started painting. I built from there. Soon, as happens with writing, I started having fun, lost track of time, and next thing…
…I woke up in the morning, and there on the floor was this new lovely rug. And I wondered how that happened.
As we discussed last week, getting the right area rug for a room that’s already furnished is tricky. So much has to click: colors, style, pattern, size and, oh yeah, price.
But the effort is worth it. The right rug holds great-looking rooms together like glue. The wrong rug, however, can be a room’s undoing. If you can’t find the rug you want, consider strumming up some courage, and making your own.
Here’s one way:
Know what you want. This is the hardest part. Take a good look at your room and decide where you want the rug, how big it should be, and what colors would make the space click. Then figure out what style you want: For old world looks try wool Persian, for casual try sisal, for country or farmhouse consider braided or needlepoint. Because this DIY product incorporates large motifs and clean geometric lines, it works in traditional or modern homes. I put mine at a back door entry, but I can easily see more whimsical patterns in kids’ areas.
Dial in motif and color. Circles, stars, leaves, flowers, cupcakes, guitars and tiger stripes are among the shapes. Pick one, two or three that work together. Next choose your colors. I chose warm shadow grey, blue burst and golden pear, colors that work in my family room.
Play. Move stencils around until you find a combination you like. Don’t worry about color yet. Just pin down the pattern. Take your time. Careful planning is the key to the rest of the project going smoothly.
Get to work. Set the stencil you’re most certain of where you want it. Cover the surrounding area to protect it from overspray. Shake the can and spray until the area is saturated but not pooling. Though I thought I’d laid the color on thick, I found places where I had to go back and hit again. Because the colorants are low VOC, you can do this indoors.
Blot. Before lifting the stencil, blot the image area with paper towels so color doesn’t drip or run. Then lift the stencil and wipe off the back so you can use it again without smudging the rug.
Fix mistakes. Fortunately, if you make a mistake, which I did, or you change your mind, you can vacuum up the area you don’t like after the product dries and have a do over.
Seal it. After the color dries, and you’re sure you love your rug, spray sealant on the colored areas to lock in your handiwork. Now there really is no going back.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (DaCapo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.