Thursday 22 August 2013

Choosing a rug: tips and ideas

Instead of posting a space this week, I'm doing something different. A friend of mine recently moved and asked me for rug advice. Or let's say her email felt more like a cry for help. I thought, why not just write a post with rug tips and ideas with a mix of images in case someone else might benefit from it.

Here is the story: She's going from a flat with old wooden floorboards, which she has never felt the need to cover with anything, to a house that has both wall-to-wall carpeting and wooden flooring. The carpet has a light greyish colour and after arranging the furniture she says everything looks dull and flat. After viewing some rugs she felt overwhelmed by the options and realised that she would have to think this through before buying anything. In her email it was almost as if she was yelling: "Why can't they just produce one type of rug?!!" I admit that I was amused. I told her to take a deep breath and answer a few questions about colours, styles, etc. and I would see what I could come up with.

There is no need to share any details of our conversations; the images will reveal them (she likes wool rugs and blue colours but she doesn't want any stripes). She also asked if I had any gallery wall ideas, which is the reason why I tried to find images that had rugs and gallery walls. For simplicity, all the images of individual rugs are from the same source, Mail Order Rugs, which is a very user-friendly website. You can search for rugs by shape, colour, etc., and you can also search for rugs within your budget so there is no need viewing colours you don't like or rugs you cannot afford.

When choosing a rug you have to think of a colour scheme for your space. It is easier to choose home accessories that fit a rug than to try to find a rug that will fit the accessories you already have. A neutral coloured rug isn't an option for my friend, she needs colour for her "dull and flat" space and she has two options:

#1 Cool colour: That would be colours like blue, purple and green. A blue rug won't necessarily make your space feel cool, it will depend on your furniture and accessories and the balance between all these items. Keep in mind that cool colours can make small rooms look bigger. [Asiatic Carpets York Duck Egg, 100% wool - available in various colours]

#2 Warm colour: Red, yellow and orange are warm colours that have a more intimate feel. You can go for an intense warm colour to create a little drama in your space or keep the warm colour of your rug a bit more subtle.

Light cool coloured rugs are excellent in small spaces like hallways where you need to brighten things up a bit. Dark coloured rugs work very well in vast spaces where you need to bring the walls closer, but you may want to keep the colour on the walls light to avoid having a space that feels overwhelming.

Another thing to consider when buying a rug is whether to choose a pattern or stick to a plain rug. As my friend has a neutral wall-to-wall carpet she wants a pattern for her living room.

The pattern is, of course, a matter of taste but if you want to go bold you may want to go for an abstract rug that gives your home a contemporary feel to it. Or you may want to go retro. If you are more traditional a floral pattern may be a solution for you, something like the rug in the dining room in the first photo.

When pulling this post together I remembered this Melbourne home in the photo below. There was something about the geometric squares of the rug that appealed to me. Notice also the balance between warm and cool colours in that living room.

I thought of this ethnic pattern for my friend that has geometric squares and is available in various colours. [Plantation Rugs Frankie 03, 100%]

The reason I put the two images below side by side was to show you how a colour scheme can transform a space. Both these living rooms have the colour yellow, a warm colour, but in the room to the right it is subtler and tones well with the golden accent of the rug. The pattern of the rug is not exactly subtle but the black colour works wonder and tones with everything in the room. The result is an earthy and warm look that is also grand. In the living room to the left, the yellow colour of the lamp and painting is brighter; the space looks much more playful, yet has a balance between a warm and cool colour.

This shows you how important it is to choose the right coloured rug (and accessories) for your space. Maybe your favourite colour is not the thing your space needs and you have to keep your mind open to other options and ideas.

I find it a bit funny that last week I was thinking about a multi-coloured rug with stripes for my own living room and then the minute I started going through these images in my files and writing the post I changed my mind. Now I'm picturing in there a subtle yellow coloured rug. Well, that is what I initially had in mind for my space so maybe after all my intuition was right.

In this last image section we have four rooms with rugs in yellow and orange shades. Personally I find these spaces more intimate and quieter, somehow less demanding without being dull.

This is what a warm coloured rug will do for your space. Maybe we could say that with a soft yellow colour you are safe while an orange rug will add just a bit more drama. For more drama and passion go for a red rug.

As my friend hasn't decided which pattern to go for, I decided to let my last rug idea have a floral pattern, which feels more traditional, as I mentioned before. [Asiatric Carpets Matrix Devore Yellow, 100% - available in various colours]

When you have decided which style and colour work best for your space you have to choose the size of the rug. I decided to copy the tips on the Mail Order Rugs website to my post. They say that there are no set rules and then they give these ideas:

  • it’s good to choose a rug that’s at least 60cm (2ft) shorter than the smallest wall
  • in front of sofas it is good to have the two front feet on the rug to secure it
  • for rugs under a dining table add 90cm - 120cm (3ft - 4ft) to the length and wide of the table to accommodate the dining chairs
  • in hallways you should have at least 15cm (6 inches) of floor showing on each side (remember to measure the floor from where the doors swing open, leaving the first 90cm or so clear)
  • rugs come in all shapes and sizes and it is unlikely you will find your exact size, so consider two smaller rugs or a custom rug

I cannot really add anything to these tips but I do remember reading somewhere that in the living room all the four legs of your sofa should be on the rug, but I guess that depends on the size of your living room.

I hope these rug tips and ideas will give you a sense of what works best for your space, be it cool or warm colours, rugs with a pattern or plain ones. Try to keep your space personal and really think about your taste before buying a rug, or you may end up with something that soon starts feeling all wrong.

photo credit:
1: Patrick Cline for Lonny, July 2012, p. 144-145 / 2-3: Emily Henderson / 4: Bonnie Tsang via Emily Henderson / 5: Michael Graydon for Canadian House & Home via Modern Jane / 6: Virginia Macdonald for Style at Home via Pinterest / 7: Brooke Holme via The Design Files / 8: Patrick Cline for Lonny, Jan/Feb 2011, p. 80 / 9: Kevin Dotolo via Pulp Design Studios / 10: S.R. Gambrel / 11: Williams-Sonoma via Nicole Franzen/Pinterest / 12: Reven Wurman for Design*Sponge via Pinterest / 13: Anastassios Mentis for Apartment Therapy via West Elm/Pinterest | All individual images of rugs via Mail Order Rugs


  1. Rugs are a fab way to quickly change the look of an entire room. I usually change my rugs according to the season as during summers I like light, flat knit rugs with vibrant colours/patterns and in winter I am into chunky--knit, neutral, cosy rugs.

  2. A rug well chosen can clearly transform a room. Although I like our living room rug very much, I was thinking of opting for one in a more vibrant colour. The room needs a pick-me-up colour, but maybe I should keep the rug, as it's beautiful, and do some other changes.


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