I get more questions about carpet size, style, and type than anything else, so in this post, I’m going to break the topic down for you.
Why Use Rugs?
Rugs literally frame your room and furniture. A rug’s color, pattern, shape, and size are also key elements in creating a unified and appealing space. And size matters. If you opt for a rug that is too small, it could jar with the scale of your furniture. And if you choose one that’s too big, the room will appear small. The right rug can also unify a room and add vibrant color and textures.
Acoustics is another reason for using rugs or carpeting. Do you ever notice when you go to a really loud restaurant how annoying and distracting it is because they haven’t thought about acoustics? Rugs and carpets absorb sound and really help with the echo that comes from ambient noise.
The third reason why rugs are important in design is that they define areas. If you have a very large rectangular room, for instance, you can create very intimate areas within it using area rugs so it doesn’t read just as one big cavernous space. In this photo, the round ivory chair and ottoman are floating on a round ivory rug. The rug defines this corner as a space in which you can perhaps sit and read or just contemplate life.
And a fourth reason designers use rugs is to enforce a monochromatic look which, as you can see in the first picture, is so effective and really draws the eye.
If you look at the photo above, you’ll see the rug is the color of lavender, the walls are lavender and the chairs are upholstered in a lavender velour. This is a great way to achieve a unique and monochromatic look by emphasizing color.
In this next photo, you’ll see a round, chocolate-colored rug with a chocolate-colored loveseat, a gray chair, and a white chair. This is an example of how you can be a little playful with your design, all the while having the rug there to define the area and what it’s used for. Imagine if the rug wasn’t in the room and all you had were these random pieces of furniture sitting about. The space would not look cohesive. So for those of you who wonder whether you should use a rug or not, my take is always yes, yes, yes. If you have hardwood floors or other flooring that allows you to use a rug, I would definitely use one.
Carpets vs Rugs
A lot of people ask me whether I prefer wall-to-wall carpeting or rugs, and my take is that they have different functions. For me, wall-to-wall carpeting looks great in certain spaces, in a home theater for instance. Here, carpeting is critical to muffle the sound. Another space where carpeting would be useful is in the primary bedrooms where wall-to-wall floor coverings are more popular. My vote is to do area rugs in the bedrooms because it allows you to change things up design-wise in the future, which you certainly can’t do with wall-to-wall carpeting. However, the disadvantage of doing that is that the bedroom doesn’t feel as cozy. A lot of people want that feeling of comfort a carpet can give when they are walking back and forth to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
When considering wall-to-wall carpeting, however, you need to keep in mind that for those people who have allergies or asthma, especially someone who’s sensitive to pet dander and dust mites, it can be dangerous. Carpet attracts a lot of dust and is far less easy to clean than hard-surface floors. You can remove dust mites by vacuuming regularly but you won’t truly get rid of them without frequent cleaning. Another negative with wall-to-wall coverings is that moisture and bacteria can get into the carpet before you realize it and start to create mold. So even though wall-to-wall carpeting is more economical, I vote that you stay away from it unless it’s for a very specific purpose.
Size, Furniture Placement, Rug position
People ask me a lot about what size rug they should be looking for. The good news is that most area rugs come in standard sizes: 3 feet by 5 feet, 5 feet by 8 feet, 8 feet by 10 feet, 9 feet by 11 feet, and 12 feet by 15 feet. That makes choosing one a bit easier! I’ll be linking some of my favorite rugs at the end of this post to help guide you as well.
This diagram demystifies the question of furniture placement and shows you what to do – and what not to do. On the left, you’ll see living room furniture that is sitting on a rug that is either 10 by 14 or 9 by 12. All the legs of the furniture pieces are on the rug. The ensemble looks great and is the preferable option. In certain instances where budget is a concern and you need to get a slightly smaller rug, or you happen to have inherited a beautiful rug that is a bit smaller, as long as the front legs of each piece of furniture are on the rug, you’re fine.
Whatever you do, do not have one piece of furniture on a rug and all the others off of it as in this rendering on the far right. This is a big no-no.
With dining rooms, the concept is the same. If you can, have all your pieces of furniture on the rug. And remember that your guests will be pulling their chairs out so allow for a big enough border around the table. Now, if your rug is smaller, you have a problem. Especially in dining rooms. You don’t want two legs of a chair on the rug and two legs off. Nobody likes wobbly chairs and the layout doesn’t look good.
A rug can be placed vertically or horizontally. There are no hard-and-fast rules about that. But the best way to decide which direction to take is to consider the shape of the room. I would always use the longer size of the rug against the longer side of the room. Layering rugs can be lots of fun, too. The sculptural float is one of my favorites. This is when you can bring a cowhide in to create a beautiful, sculptural area.
Pile: Cut versus Loop
Another question I get is whether you should get a loop or cut rug. A cut pile is a sheared rug with the endings exposed. A loop rug is made of a series of loops. A cut pile rug is cheaper and easier to manufacture but the loop is more durable because the tips are not exposed. Durability and economics are important so if you can find a loop rug you can afford, that would be a better choice. As for pile height, I like loop cuts that are flush to the floor, maybe half an inch. There are also rugs that are a combination of cut and loop pile and they give a lot of texture to your room.
New in Rugs/Carpets
A new form of the rug is emerging that you may or may not have already heard about, and that is carpet tile. You’ve probably seen it in big box stores like Ikea. Instead of buying a large piece of carpet, you buy carpet tile in squares or hexagons or herringbone and then assemble them together.
There’s a big advantage to doing this because if you spill a cup of coffee or some jam or mustard on the carpet that leaves a stain you know will never come out, with this option you just take those stained pieces out and insert fresh, new ones. In the past, carpet tiles haven’t been particularly aesthetically pleasing, but there are now some very stylish options available. For example, Shaw Contract offers some beautiful carpet tiles that feel very fresh and modern.
What type of carpet cleans easily and what doesn’t? Synthetic materials like faux silk will stain easily and the stain will be very difficult to remove. If you want something from which stains can easily be removed, you have to get a rug made with natural materials like wool or real silk.
Carpet on Stairs
You should probably consider carpeting your stairs for three reasons: it protects from falls, muffles sound and preserves the hardwood underneath. There are two basic choices in the style of the runners. I prefer the “Waterfall” method, where the carpet, if it were liquid, would seem to be falling down the stairs. It involves bringing the carpet over the edge of the tread and straight down the riser to meet the next tread without molding it to the riser.
If you have a bullnose edge that protrudes, then you’ll have to do the more tailored “Hollywood” style where the carpet is tacked down directly to the staircase and wraps around the bullnose.
I hope you enjoyed this deep dive into rugs and carpeting! There are so many beautiful options out there, the possibilities are truly endless. Whether you decide to keep it traditional and timeless or get creative with an edgier modern vibe, the perfect carpet or rug can serve as a room’s fabulously impactful finishing touch.