An area rug is a great design tool for anchoring a space. Few finishing elements are as fundamental or transformative—so it’s critical to choose wisely. Size, color, pattern, texture and shape must all be carefully considered. At best, a wrong choice will be a missed opportunity to create a cohesive and appealing first impression. At worst, the wrong rug will clash with other finishes or throw the room off balance. Here are a few mistakes to avoid when choosing an area rug for your space.
Mistake #1: Going too small.
Area rugs come in all shapes and sizes, but a common misstep is selecting an undersized rug. While it may seem safer and is likely more economical to choose a smaller option, a rug that is too small will make the space feel unbalanced and unfinished. A diminutive rug can make the room itself seem smaller and the furniture may feel oversized.
“Think of the rug as defining the conversation area in the space, so it should engage with the furniture,” says interior designer Carrie Zirkle. “For dining areas, make sure that not only the table, but also the chairs are on the rug when someone is sitting in them to allow for an even surface.”
Mistake #2: Going too big.
At the risk of sounding like Goldilocks, finding that just right size means being careful not to swing the other way either, automatically selecting the largest rug you fit into the space. An area rug needs to accommodate the desired seating area, not the whole room. An oversized rug will overwhelm and make your space feel crowded while also interfering with the circulation or flow of your space.
“The spatial planning we do, where we lay out the space in plan form, is about making sure everything, including areas rugs are scaled appropriately,” says Liz Koch.
Ideally, you should leave the same amount of floor space on all sides of your rug. As a general guideline, we recommend allowing 12 to 18 inches on all sides. However, this can vary depending on the size of your room and how the space is being used, as well as the shape of your rug. Generally it should be centered in relation to the seating area, not necessarily the room itself, as illustrated in the above lobby space.
Mistake 3: Avoiding color or pattern.
Once again, it’s important to find that just right balance between color, texture and pattern in your spaces. Spaces with furniture and finishes featuring tone on tone layering of different saturations of a single color, like the example at right, work well with a bold color and/or pattern for the area rug.
Conversely, spaces with bold furniture and finishes are best complemented by an area rug featuring tone on tone pattern and/or texture. Taking this approach will soften the overall effect, helping to create a comfortable, appealing space.
Mistake #4: Leaving the rug as a last minute design decision.
“The rug helps make the space cohesive and ties your furniture, finishes and decorative elements together, so it should not be an afterthought when everything else has been set,” says Carrie.
Due to its scale and prominence, an area rug can make more of a first impression than other finishing elements so it makes sense to start there and work your way up. It’s also typically easier to find fabrics for pillows and window treatments that coordinate with the area rug rather than working the other way around.
Mistake #5: Giving up on an area rug in spaces where accessibility is required.
Area rugs can be simulated with an inset pattern in carpeting or other floor options.
“We do this a lot overall in senior living spaces where an area rug would present a tripping hazard and cause challenges for the residents,” says Liz. “An insert pattern provides the same effect.”
Treated much like a typical area rug, the inset should follow the same guidelines for sizing and relationship to the furniture, as well as color and pattern. It’s a nice alternative to define the conversation area, add interest and tie together the overall space.
“This should also be considered in hospitality spaces as well, for a more finished look,” Liz states.
Even though area rugs are considered an accessory for your interior space, when done well they provide the foundation for creating a positive experience. In addition to the practical benefits of cushioning, comfort and noise control for hard floors, area rugs offer artistic value whether functioning as a focal point or a unifying element.
Liz Koch has five years of experience focusing on commercial interior design. She loves seeing the transformation from the planning stages of a project with space layouts and interior design to the finishing touches, like area rugs, that help to pull everything together.
Carrie Zirkle also is in her fifth year of commercial interior design. One of her favorite moments with each project is when placing accessories or adding that final touch, such as an area rug, that brings a smile to a client’s face.
Blog Editor: Jodi Kreider, LEED AP
This article from Curbed, “How to Choose a Rug for Your Living Room” provide a few more ideas.