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How to Choose a Rug

Katherine-Carnaby-Darcy

A rug can pull a room together, adding texture and warmth while balancing patterns and colours. The sheer immensity of choice means that there is a perfect rug for every room, but while tastes and trends may change there are certain rules of thumb that will always apply when it comes to choosing the perfect rug for your home:

 

How Many Rugs?

Before even looking at size, you may want to ask yourself how many rugs would actually look best? While in smaller spaces one rug is probably all that you would need or want, larger spaces can benefit from a few scattered rugs, rugs to break up living spaces for open-plan living, or even layering.

Large rooms can be defined using rugs, either by matching or toning together. A large living-dining space, for example, can be given an element of separation with one rug used to create a living zone and another for the dining area, this is an excellent way to create structure in an otherwise difficult space to define.

This open plan living-kitchen-diner, created by Hatch Interiors, benefits from unique but tonally similar rugs
This open plan living-kitchen-diner, created by Hatch Interiors, benefits from unique but tonally similar rugs

Even in spaces that aren’t mixed-use, having multiple or layered rugs can be an excellent option. Floors can look cold and bare, and rooms lack personality when there is too much open space. Layering rugs can seem like something only achievable by the pros, this couldn’t be further from the truth. An easy tip is to use plain, generally less expensive rugs such as jute, sisal or seagrass as a larger base then layer with a more colourful smaller rug on top, this adds plenty of texture and depth and means you can cover more space with two, generally, thinner rugs than splurging the budget for a high-end thick piled piece.

layered-rugs

Layering works especially well with highly patterned, handmade Persian and Oriental carpets, or flatwoven kilims. It helps by still framing your living space while allowing you to purchase a smaller, and thus less expensive, patterned rug. Layering a rug on top of a wall-to-wall carpet can also help to provide added colour, pattern and texture, breaking up dull spaces and working together with curtain, cushions and other soft furnishings.

While larger spaces benefit for more than one rug, more confined areas are best suited to just one, when the goal is to maximise the sense of space placing one rug, as large as will fit, is generally best-practice.

 

How Large is Too Large?

The question should perhaps be “how small is too small?”. The number one error that we find when it comes to clients selecting a rug is going too small. There is nothing sadder in a living space than a ‘floating rug’, lost in the middle of a room nowhere near any surrounding furniture.

As a general rule of thumb, if you are placing one rug in your living room, go for the largest and highest quality that you can afford. Chosen wisely, this helps to achieve a greater sense of space in a room and ties together different patterns and fabrics. The only exception to this rule is perhaps when placing a well-chosen rug in front of a fire, or in a kitchen when using suitable runners under work areas such as sinks, food prep areas or between units and islands.

The proper size for a rug is obviously dependant on the room itself, and rugs with more intricate patterns can often take up more visual space and therefore can sometimes be comfortably scaled-down. Rugs are generally made to pre-defined sizes, with a little variation from one supplier to the next, so it may not be possible (unless opting for a custom-made rug) to find something that is inch-perfect for your space, but general guidelines can be found below:

 

Rug size guide showing ideal sizes for furniture layouts

Rugs should frame a space, for the most luxurious look, being able to place furniture on top is best, but not always a possibility. Slightly under sofas is probably less desirable than almost touching, but all the way under is preferable for larger spaces where furniture is not placed up against the walls. Think about doors and how they open when choosing the size of your rug, for lower piled pieces this may not be much of an issue but for thicker tufted or shagpile rugs this could create issues.

 

If you’re really not sure, we suggest placing newspaper out to the size you think looks best, sometimes having something that takes up a physical space is more informative than taping it out on the floor.

What Colour, Pattern & Style Will Work Best?

Now, this really is the million-dollar question, and there is no right or wrong answer… well there are probably some wrong answers but the perfect rug for your space will be a matter of individual taste!

You should obviously start by choosing a rug that you like, that goes without saying, but there are a few things to consider to help you narrow things down a little.

Do you want the rug to stand out and be the focal point of the room? Using patterns or vivid colours (don’t be afraid to use a contrasting colour in your rug if you really want something that will pop) helps to add personality to a space, and can tie a complex room design or colour-scheme together.

Deco Multi rug in a sitting room
The Deco Multi rug shows how you can add colour and contrast and still pull an interior together.

Perhaps you want your rug to ground your interior decoration? The right rug will add texture, comfort and depth to a room without overly drawing the eye if there is already a lot going on in the space, natural colours such as greys, ivories and beiges are perfect for this and will have the added benefit of being versatile pieces that are likely to work with most interiors should you change things up or move home.

Katherine Carnaby Coast DIamond Cream Rug under armchair and coffee table
Katherine Carnaby Coast DIamond Cream Rug

While colour and pattern are really down to personal preference, think about what you want the rug to achieve and that will help direct your search.

 

What Material is Best?

Choosing the right material may be as much down to your circumstances as it is about aesthetics. Budget, location of the rug (how much traffic it will be subject to) and whether there are kids and pets thrown into the mix are all important factors to consider when searching for your perfect rug.

 

Wool Rugs

Wool has long been a favourite for floor covering. Warm, natural, good durability and ‘bounce-back’, these rugs do not flatten as easily as many synthetic materials. Colours can sometimes appear more subdued due to the nature of the fabric and they probably lie somewhere in the middle of the easy to clean and stain-resistance scale. Wool rugs are excellent all-rounders and can be used in most family settings but they are probably best avoided in areas likely to get a lot of water such as near sinks or at directly next to doorways to outdoor spaces. Prices vary but wool is generally a more expensive option than most synthetics.

Polypropylene Rugs

Polypropylene is extremely durable and hard-wearing, but it can flatten quicker than wool. Generally a cheaper material, this is another great all-rounder and perfect for families with messy children and energetic pets. Easy to clean and a top performer for stain removal a ‘Polyprop’ does exactly what it says on the tin – excellent value and durability in a massive array of colours and designs. It looks like wool, sometimes it can feel like wool, but it’s less expensive, more durable in terms of stains and wear but does flatten and hence look ‘tired’ quicker.

Viscose & Bamboo Silk Rugs

These rugs are the only option (other than a real silk handmade piece that would run into the thousands) that offer that silk-like texture so many people, interior designers included, love at the moment. They are often plain and their silky-sheen is a great choice for many interiors and styles, but viscose rugs are not the most durable or stain-resistant or durable and therefore are probably best kept for lower traffic areas such as bedrooms or living rooms with no kids, food or drinks.

Polyester

The only fabric that comes close to viscose or Bamboo Silk when it comes to that silk-like appearance. Polyester is ultra-soft to the touch and has can take on vibrant colours. Wear and stain removal is pretty good, although oils from your feet or shoes can weigh it down over time and while Polyester deals with water-based stains well, oil-based stains are more difficult to remove. Polyester generally lands somewhere between wool and polypropylene in the affordability factor.

Acrylic

Super-soft and easy to clean, acrylic is a favourite for high-grade kids rugs and good quality rugs that would not be achievable in wool due to the colour-absorption (wool does not often take vibrant colours well), or because the pattern requires a finer thread (the thickness of the individual strands of wool is limited as if made too fine it breaks on the loom, acrylic is able to be made to a finer and more consistent thread size without having the same issues). Like for like, acrylic these days probably costs around the same as wool, it can be easy to clean but is perhaps a little less hard-wearing.

Natural Fibres

Excellent for layering, hallways and kitchens, natural fibres don’t offer the same softness as most other materials but provide excellent texture and durability. These rougher rugs aren’t soft underfoot but are generally affordable and can add a quiet sophistication to a living space, giving it a light, natural appearance.

 

Anti-Slip Rug Pads

Some rugs will not require anti-slip pads due to their thickness and size, but even if you aren’t concerned about a rug sliding due to its size, it’s bound to move around a little with use, which can get rather annoying! Anti-slip mats for rugs add a little extra padding and prevent slipping (or worse ‘creeping’ on carpets). They should be combined or cut to size to be around 5-10cm (2-4 inches) smaller than the rug that sits on top. Speak to your rug supplier for advice on whether they think you would benefit or not.

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