Learn to Decorate with Needlepoint Rugs from 4 Legendary Decorators

Today we are going to learn from Mario Buatta, Elissa Cullman, David Easton and Bunny Williams, each a legendary interior designer who tops any list of interior design greats. There are no better teachers from whom to learn the alchemical art of decorating with the best needlepoint rugs.

needlepoint rugs, needlepoint rug, best rugs, Elissa Cullman

1. Elissa Cullman. For the living room of her own Connecticut house, interior designer Elissa Cullman chose a custom needlepoint rug with a floral pattern in keeping with her large collection of American folk art. Elissa said she chose a light cream background for the needlepoint rug and painted the walls cream and chose light colors for the upholstery fabrics, because the light colors prevent the massive fireplace and dark beams from dominating the living room.

Needlepoint rugs, needlepoint rug, best rugs, Elissa Cullman

1A. Elissa Cullman’s Connecticut living room in an earlier incarnation. The house is situated on over 100 acres with a working farm and stables and has been in the Cullman family for generations. Elissa has overseen several renovations, including one in 1974 when architect Robert A. M. Stern added French doors. Note that all the upholstery and drapery fabrics were changed in the latest version pictured in 1. above so as to give the room a cleaner more modern look. Note also that the needlepoint rug has been kept and it works even better with the new decor. In a previous blog post we saw how Jackie Kennedy’s sister Lee Radziwill changed fashion many times over the years but kept the same Bessarabian rugs even though she moved from London to New York to Paris and modernized her decor many times. Elissa Cullman and Lee Radziwill’s examples show us that great rugs are always in style. Great interior designers know that the same great rug they have will bring uniqueness, depth, layering and warmth to their new and more modern decor and prefer to do so. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.

needlepoint rugs, needlepoint rug, best rugs, Mario Buatta

2. Mario Butta. For the living room of a 1930s Georgian-style residence designed by Houston architect John F. Staub, Mario Buatta chose a cream background needlepoint rug with circular floral medallions. The needlepoint rug has apple greens, yellows and reds and the upholstery has each of these colors mostly as solids but also in patterned fabrics. The white background of the needlepoint rug provides a neutral canvas that supports the colorful upholstery fabrics and the lemon yellow walls. Mario Buatta described this room as .. “cheerful, cozy” and said that the lemon-yellow walls and draperies “bring in sunshine day and night” Architectural Digest. Note that the cieling is also painted white so it provides another large white surface along with the needlepoint rug. This allows the lemon yellow walls to be the star.

Fabric sources: Clarence House ottoman velvet and green silk on armchair. Colefax & Fowler floral chintz. Buatta’s clients have included several Phippses and Fords as well as Mariah Carey, Barbara Walters and Joan Rivers.

needlepoint rugs, needlepoint rug, best rugs, David Easton

3. David Easton. The family/breakfast room of a house just outside Aspen, Colorado that interior designer David Easton created for the family of Steve and Nancy Crown of the Aspen Skiing Company, owners of Aspen’s four world class ski areas. Nancy Crown told Architectrual Digest that David Easton and architect Eric Smith have created a house that is “..reminiscent of a home you might see in the French countryside….almost every piece that he chooses for a house is considered with respect to historical reference.”

“When you get onto the basic issue of materials and what looks good out there, everything is textured,” Easton explained to Architectural Digest. The beams and trim work are Colorado oak treated differently to give each room an individual and natural look as if it has been there for a long time. The walls are French-plaster and the floors are in wormy oak, terracotta tiles and stone tiles. This is true of the family/breakfast room in the picture.

David Easton chose a custom needlepoint rug with a floral and leaf trellis pattern that evokes French Alpine history. The rug and drapery fabrics are the two large areas of pattern and bring a lively energy, pattern and color to this otherwise monochromatic room.

needlepoint rugs, needlepoint rug, best rugs, Bunny Williams

4. Bunny Williams. For this romantic bedroom in a house in Provence, Bunny Williams chose two needlepoint rugs, one for the floor and one as a bed cover. The needlepoint rug on the floor is inspired by19th century English needlepoint rugs and the one on the bed is an antique needlepoint rug in a pattern inspired by Kashmir paisley shawls that were the height of European fashion in the 19th century. The needlepoint rug grounds the high canopy bed and pulls together the floral fabric used on the walls and drapery. Notice that using the same small scale floral print on the walls and drapery makes the room feel grand and cozy at the same time.

needlepoint rugs, needlepoint rug, best rugs, Mario Buatta

5. Mario Buatta’s signature yellow walls are inspired by a visit he made to the London house of Nancy Lancaster many years ago. Buatta chose a yellow background for the needlepoint rug instead of cream that he chose for the Houston living room featured in 2. By putting yellow on the walls as well as on the floor, Buatta is able to use darker colors in the upholstery and create a more theatrical effect. Whereas the Houston living room was all about light and sunshine, this living room is for a northern climate and gives the feeling of being cosseted and protected. The box layout of the needlepoint rug creates a feeling of cozy inclusiveness.

needlepoint rugs, needlepoint rug, Elissa Cullman

6. Elissa Cullman chose a floral needlepoint rug with boxes laid out in a diagonal for this rustic Connecticut family room. The pattern of the needlepoint rug supports her collection of American folk art. Note how the curved canopy shape of the ceiling is counterbalanced by the linear and angular structure of the needlepoint rug.


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