Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Great Carpet Debate

"One day, if we ever buy a flat of our own," I said, "it will definitely have fitted carpets."

My British friends nodded in agreement. Understanding Frenchman gave me a look that said, "Over my dead body."

As with the Great Plate Debate, I know that we are not the only bi-cultural couple to be having this particular discussion. My British friends and I find it bizarre that many French homes don't have carpets anywhere, not even in the bedroom. I can understand going for a particularly nice wooden floor or some carefully chosen rugs as part of a stylish decoration scheme, but I find it very weird, for example, to see my French friends' babies and young children, sitting playing with their toys on a cold tiles or bog-standard Ikea flooring solution. This is one of the major reasons that French houses, even the nicest ones, never feel cosy to me.

I can see why, if you lived in the south, where it's warm for most of the year and staying cool in summer is a problem, you might go for a more Mediterranean style. (That said, my Scottish friend who live in Andalucia complains every winter of being freezing in houses that are designed to resist the heat.) In the north, though, keeping warm in winter is definitely more of an issue that cold in summer.

The reason, according to my sources of cultural insight into all things French, is hygiene. Apparently fitted carpet used to be popular in French homes, but a rise in allergies and an accompanying fear of dust mites, coupled with the fact that you can't mop a carpet with disposable antibacterial wipes, is a key cause in their demise.

C'est dommage.


  1. It is the same in Canada, but I love carpets! I am with you on this one!

  2. Carpets were really in in Texas in the 90s when my parents bought the house I grew up in. Specifically, beige wall-to-wall carpets all over the house, including in their master bathroom. I think it turned me off carpets for life. While I sometimes miss having something fuzzy under my feet when I step out of bed in the morning, my allergies would never allow me to have a carpet these days anyway.

    1. My granny had a carpet in her bathroom! We used to think it was such a treat not to get out of the bath on to the cold floor, but I do think it's going a bit too far all the same. And I would imagine Texas is a bit too hot in summer for wall-to-wall carpeting to be comfortable.

  3. Really? Maybe it's a regional thing because most houses I know in France (well, flats I mean) had carpeting, usually in the bedrooms. The salon often has an old parquet d'époque though, with splinters.

  4. Do you think could to do with the building? A lot of our friends live in modern suburban boxes and have communal heating, so maybe it's less of an advantage to have good insulation.

  5. I absolutely HATE all the tile here, I agree that it's cold and not cozy. I mean, at least get area rugs or something! Our last two apartments have had nice (but old) hardwood floors, after our first had tile and I just couldn't get used to it. I'm not sure that even if we move to the states I'd want carpet everywhere, since I do like the "super clean" feeling of a mopped floor over the uncertainly of what the vacuum left in the carpet . . . Plus I like the idea of being able to change the area rugs whenever the room needs a new look, rather than having to pay to replace carpet in the entire house (I'm thinking of my parents' horrid murky green carpet!)

  6. I think that it is regional thing. Out here in Bordeaux, it is like Zhu said - parquet in the salon and carpeting in the bedrooms, but you see less and less carpeting these days. Down south I've seen entire apartments, even the bedrooms, tiled. I wonder what it's like up near Lille?

    I have to say that I agree with the French. I'm not saying that you can't have clean carpets, but that it is a lot easier to clean non carpeted floor and keep it clean. I'm doing everything possible to get rid of the carpets in our place. I can understand the problem with it being cold, but in our case our heating is through the floor. We decided to put in parquet in two of the bedrooms because we know that we can re-sell the apartment easier with parquet because that is the new style in Bordeaux. If it were up to me, I would have tiles everywhere.

    I grew up with parquet floors so I guess that's why I'm not a carpet lover. I can see how they would be cozy - you could walk barefoot around your house on a cold winter's day.

    Something that I really wonder about is how the UK can love carpets so much when a country like Denmark, which has a similar climate, doesn't 'do' carpets at all. They mainly (well, what I saw in Copenhagen) have parquet flooring throughout with a lot of rugs. But let me tell you, are their homes ever cozy! For me, the Danes are the leaders in coziness.