Thursday, May 14, 2009
COLUMN: Area Rug
I've got a dilemma, Quad Cities. My feng shui is all kinds of funked up.
Let's flash back to a decade or so ago. My wee little efficiency apartment that had seen me through the latter half of my college years was becoming a touch less than efficient. With every nook, cranny, and corner of the apartment piling up with an excess of my stuff, I was officially outgrowing my habitat.
Just as I was gaining the gumption to begin a new apartment search, my landlord came to me with an offer. A one-bedroom unit had recently opened upstairs in the same complex, and it could be mine at a reduced rate -- if I didn't mind the current state of the unit's carpeting, which was, as she put it, "a little stained."
I went upstairs and had a peek. "A little stained" was the understatement of the year. The only thing "little" was the part of the carpeting that WASN'T stained. You almost had to applaud the enthusiasm and level at which the previous tenant desecrated his living space. Perhaps he was an aspiring auto mechanic who chose to practice his oil changes in the center of the living room. To call it "a little stained" would be like calling a Jackson Pollack painting "a little off-white."
So the carpeting sucked, but the rest of the place was quite nice, and the price was right - so I did it. I boxed up my stuff, bid adieu to the one room I had called home for nigh on a decade, and moved on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky. It's the place I still call home to this day.
My first order of business, though, was the carpeting. I rented a floor cleaner and gave it the ol' college try, but it only turned the stains from ungodly to unsightly. There was only one choice left - hide the carpeting at all costs. Or actually, given my budget, hide it at as low a cost as possible.
That's how I found myself at one of those 24-hour big box stores browsing for area rugs. And if there's one thing that big box stores are known for, it's clearly NOT floor coverings. When shopping for a rug at a megalithic-mart type place, there's only one question you have to ask: which of these fashion atrocities is the LEAST terrifying?
This explains the Rug o' Infinite Tackiness, a staple of my apartment for a decade and a constant conversation piece to many of my friends. Words can't do it justice. It's as if I somehow single-handedly freed Tibet, and it expressed its gratitude by vomiting all over my living room floor. I'm sure whoever designed it was thinking words like "ornate" and "exotic," but the end result looked like a set piece from a Bollywood version of "Goldfinger." At least it was better than the leopard-print option I left behind at the store.
For years, the Rug o' Infinite Tackiness served me well, but like all good things, it eventually reached its final sunset. I looked at it the other day and it appeared to be woven of 80% cat hair. In fact, my cats had clawed and frayed the edges so bad that in the past years, two vacuum motors lost their lives wrapped up in its tacky tendrils. It was time to bid the grand dame adieu.
I checked the big box stores to discover tacky area rugs had evolved to a new and exciting level. Suffice to say that apparantly these days, shag is "in." I chose "out," and instead walked into my favorite Moline furniture store -- a place where I walk in and immediately yearn for 80% of the store's inventory. A place that caters to furnishings that makes hipsters salivate. There's only one problem: hipsters are usually too busy being hip to bother making money, and this store might just be the most over-priced joint in the Quad Cities.
I found at least ten area rugs there that would look swell in any abode, but the cheapest sale price I could find was $600. Frankly, I'd rather stare at stains from the crooked angle of sitting on a wallet overburdened with $600 in it. I was whining about my dilemma to a friend, who stared me down and said, "Why don't you just go to Ikea?"
Of course! Ikea! Swedish functionality and affordability could be mine for only a 3 hour drive to the suburbs! On my very next day off, I leapt into the Beetle and journeyed up to Bolingbrook. I strutted through the doors of Ikea to the smell of cinnamon rolls and lingonberries. It was the smell of hope. Within minutes, I found a perfectly delightful striped area rug that somehow managed to match my sofa AND walls simultaneously. Oh, and some nice little plastic glasses. And ooh, a lint roller. And look at that desk lamp for only $9.99! Aww, lookit this cat bed! Hey, A mirror!
That's when it hit me. Ikea, for all its European pomp and circumstance, is nothing more than a big box store. It's the same mass-produced, low-priced consumer-quality junk you can find at any other megamart -- just infinitely less tacky. Thanks, Sweden.
My new rug is now down and enjoying its new role in life as a stain remover. I just can't get used to it. It changes the whole feel of my place. I can't watch TV without a small part of my brain going, "Something's weird! Something's weird! And stripe-y!" Hopefully this feeling will pass and I'll get used to the new rug sitting below all my furniture. If not, I can just go back to Ikea and get all new furniture -- and maybe some lingonberries.