5 Ways to Use Area Rugs at Home

A well-placed area rug can soften a room that’s full of hard edges, and pull together a look that’s lacking in cohesiveness

Before buying an area rug, decide if you want it to fill the room or act as an accent

An area rug placed in the right spot can add much-needed personality to a room

It’s easy to be intimidated by the alluring array of area rugs on the market. There are plush, deep-piled wool rugs, narrow runners with chic awning stripes, investment-worthy tribal pieces, and even rugs made from recycled newspaper and cotton, like the purple rug by Blu Dot (shown below).

A well-placed area rug can soften a room that’s full of hard edges, and pull together a look that’s lacking in cohesiveness.

Five Considerations Before Buying an Area Rug for Your Home

1. Accent or Anchor Rugs
Before buying an area rug, decide if you want the rug to fill the room, virtually from wall to wall, or if it will accent a piece of furniture. Area rugs with all-over floral patterns, bold geometrics or high-voltage colours can amp up subdued decor, whether they’re placed under a coffee table or at the foot of your bed.

Going big? If you already have a sofa in vibrant look-at-me red, consider a large rug that’s neutral in tone but that has interesting texture. Create a cohesive look by choosing a rug with colours that complement your existing decor.

Tip: If covering a hardwood, concrete or tile floor with a large “room” rug, make sure to leave a border of eight to 12 inches around the room’s perimeter.

Consider layering low-pile rugs over wool rugs that are a little thicker. Photo courtesy Blu Dot

2. Layering and Overlapping Rugs
Layering and overlapping rugs opens up a whole new world of design options (plus it can hide a ton of sins, like scratched floors). In a narrow hallway, consider layering a small square area rug over a long runner to add visual interest to this often-overlooked space. (The smaller rug doubles as a place to take off and put on shoes.)

Love that awning stripe rug but find it’s a bit busy? Place a solid rug on top, letting some of the stripes peek out from under. Play with angles, textures and different piles of rugs. Take a page from the fashion rulebook: rugs don’t have to match; they just have to “go” together. And yes, you can layer rugs over wall-to-wall carpet.

Tip: Choose a base rug (consider sisal, jute or seagrass) in a neutral tone. Think of it as a backdrop, and then build from there.

3. Furniture on or off the Rug
Should your furniture sit on the rug or not? There are a few schools of thought here. Some people swear by positioning at least the front two feet of a chair or sofa on an area rug. Others believe the entire piece (all legs, please) should be on the rug if it’s “floating” in the centre of the room.

And finally, some opt for the “feet off” approach. Test the theory yourself and see what look you like best, being mindful of moveable furniture (e.g. dining room chairs) that may scratch your floor.

Tip: How you position your furniture will dictate the size of the rug you need to buy. If you opt for “feet off,” you can get away with buying a smaller rug.

4. A Rug for All Seasons
It might seem like overkill to change-up your rug with the seasons, but making a switch can dramatically alter the look of your room. In the spring and summer months, when you’re opting for a light and airy look, choose a flat-weave cotton rug or one made of natural fibres, such as jute. When fall and winter roll around, create warmth and coziness with rich wool or silk rugs in jewel tones. Go for deep piles or plush textures.

Tip: If you’re layering your rugs already (see above), flip your layers to accommodate the seasons. Bonus: rotating your rugs helps minimize wear and tear.

Give your room a sense of unity with a neutral-toned area rug

5. Rugs to Unite or Divide
Cluttered living room? Create a cohesive sitting area by grouping furniture on or around an area rug. If your space is large, use multiple rugs to segment it into smaller enclaves. A series of matching rugs will give you separate-yet-harmonious partitions, while rugs in varying sizes, patterns and materials can help create a distinct mood or purpose for each space.

For example, use a crisp bamboo runner for a utilitarian feel in the breakfast nook and a high-pile wool number for a cozy vibe near the fireplace. Just make sure the colours are complementary.
Tip: If you’re using rugs to divide a room, pick up a colour from at least one of the rugs and repeat it in the other enclaves.

Learn about environmentally friendly carpet options.