Thom Filicia talks designing from the ground up

Thom Filicia designed Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's Long Island house, so he naturally refers to the stars by their first names. That doesn't make it any less weird, however, when he mentions Jennifer and Marc.

But the warm, chatty designer is still able to talk design basics. It probably helps that he's been solving design problems for years on Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Filicia now also hosts his own show, "Dress My Nest," on the Style Network.

In addition, he keeps busy designing hotel interiors, furniture and textile lines — and writing a book.

We corralled him recently for some of his design thoughts on rugs and Seattle, while he was prepping for a presentation at the Seattle Home Show 2.

Q: I think picking out a rug is hard. How do you get started?

A: Just look at the rug as picking out your favorite new sweater. Are you traditional? Do you like things that are a bit more modern? Do you like things that are organic? Do you like something that's more plain? Let that be the springboard for the room.

Q: How do you figure out what size rug to get?

A: You want to create a seating area that has a relationship to the scale of the room and has a relationship to the scale of the sofa. In general, it's proportion. Go [maybe] 36 inches of wood [showing] around the edge of the room in general.

Q: Designers recommend picking a rug first, then building up the color palette from there. But lots of us have to work around furniture we already have. Do you have any advice for us?

A: I look at furniture and rugs the same way I look at clothing. If you were to go out and buy that jacket, you don't go out and redo your wardrobe. If you choose the rug and you're the same person who chose the chairs and coffee table and curtains, there's a relationship between colors and patterns you've already established.

Q: Rug stores can feel pretty overwhelming. What's a good strategy?

A: Before you start looking at rugs, you should start to figure out what you're about. You want to say, "I have a modern apartment in Seattle with all glass, floor to ceiling. I want to do something that's modern and has a lot of texture and feels warm." They'll take you and show you 15 rugs, and you pick your favorite.

Q: What are the latest trends in rugs?

A: Karastan [Filicia represents the rug and carpet company] in the next two years, all of their dyes are going to be organic. They're working on a corn-derived polymer, so all of their synthetics are not petroleum-based. That's kind of exciting to see carpeting, rug [companies] are starting to really think about the planet.

Q: Are eco-friendly furnishings going more mainstream?

A: It's still a little bit more expensive, it's difficult to find and somewhat limited. But every month it's getting better.

Q: This is your first trip to Seattle. Quick, what's our design aesthetic?

A: It has an earthy quality to it, even though it's an urban center. People have that connection with the water and mountains and the lakes. From a design standpoint, I think that's kind of important, that would be the thing that would inspire me the most. It's a great city but still kind of connected and grounded.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or

Tips from the top

Here are some design tips from Thom Filicia, a designer from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Dress My Nest."

Rugs: Let your rug be your designer. Start with the floor and work up.

Look in your closet: Find inspiration for color and texture in your clothes. Your wardrobe often includes the shades that inspire your emotions.

Experiment with color: Be bold, and select unusual palettes. Spring and fall are good times to bring in new colors.

Refresh: Perk up a room's design by replacing rugs.

Mix it up: Make a room timeless and timely, pairing a classic rug with more contemporary furniture, for example.