The in-laws house is carpeted almost wall to wall. With the exception of the bathrooms, kitchen and dining room, and, oddly, the formal living room, there is only plush, soft, beige carpet.

I was raised with an inexplicable loathing of rugs and carpets. Small rugs existed solely to slip or rumple at an inopportune moment, casting you to the floor writhing in pain from a sprained ankle or broken limb, or perhaps scalded near to death by the hot tea you were carrying when you fell. I have never seen this happen, but it must have happened to someone in my extended family for the fear to be so strong.

Larger rugs, including wall-to-wall, served to collect dirt, fleas, and other disgusting things, and were to be avoided at all costs. This made little sense. For millenia the peoples of northern cultures have counted on carpets of various sorts to protect ones poor toes from frigid floors, to keep out drafts, or simply to make a room beautiful. From whence came this 1970s counter-counter-culture that rejected traditional rugs along with trendy shag carpets, insisting on slick wood or tile floors? Or linoleum, in a pinch? I have no idea.

Rugs aren’t common in places I’ve been in Brazil, excepting small area rugs that can make a sitting area more luxurious. We covered the painted concrete floors of our apartment with colorful rugs, and that has been great for acoustics as well as pleasant bare-foot walking. One learns where they are and doesn’t trip over them. Besides, they are heavy enough to stay in place.

In some places it has been the custom to drape tables with heavy carpets. Here’s Saint Jerome at a table covered with a carpet. Not so common these days where I’ve lived, though I’ve come across it now and then!

Saint Jerome, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

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