A Designer's Cost-Cutting Alternative to a Custom Carpet

We're stealing Harry Heissmann's idea!

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Christopher Delaney

There's inspiration aplenty at this year's Brooklyn Heights Designers Showhouse (if you're in town before November 3, get your tickets here!)—so much so that we nearly overlooked one of the home's cleverest design hacks. In the 1700s home's front dining room, designer Harry Heissmann covered the wall in a splashy, retro print from iconic design house Tillett (Jackie Kennedy was a fan), stocked the built-in cabinets with splatterware, retrofitted an original fireplace with a ventless model from HearthCabinet, and set an inviting table complete with a custom artichoke centerpiece, courtesy of Christopher Spitzmiller.

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HEissmann’s fish-patterned rug.
Christopher Delaney

But, it's a small detail under that dining table that caught my attention on my second trip to the show house: a round sisal rug with a fish motif. When I asked Heissmann where he found the rug, he said nonchalantly, "I painted it." What? "Can you do that," I asked. "Just, paint on sisal?"

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"Of course you can," Heissmann assured. "And it's so cheap." Indeed, sisal is beloved as a neutral floor treatment because it can usually be bought in large swaths and custom sizes for a very fair price. Plus, the designer points out, this also works on most faux sisals, which can be even less expensive.

For his room, Heissmann worked with the decorative paint studio Artgroove to settle on a motif, then had it painted right on the carpet. "The lore is that the original owner of the house was a sea captain, so I tried to introduce nautical elements without being too literal," the designer explains of his fish motif, which was rendered in your typical art store-stocked acylic metallic paints. Avid DIYers could take their own brushes to the sisal, creating a truly custom carpet. As the saying goes, the rug is your canvas.

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