Alley's Carpet is spreading personality around a room, the area rug has few rivals. What could be more elegant than an heirloom quality Oriental area rug atop a gleaming hardwood floor, or more charming than a handcrafted braided area rug on timeworn pine planks. In myriad styles and prices, versatile area rugs set the mood-and more. Beyond beauty, these stage-setters are hardworking area rug design elements. Area rugs bring softness and warmth to any hard-surface floor, instantly infuse color and pattern into a space, and make comely cover-ups for soiled or damaged carpet. Area rugs are great unifiers, sparking entire color schemes. One of the best decorating strategies is to use area rugs to define specific activity centers within a room, especially important in large rooms and in today's flowing, open-plan homes. For example, let one area rug set boundaries for a conversation area and another area rug outline a dining spot. Area rugs can be used alone or in conjunction with carpet.