Rugs are the foundation to the design of a space, whether you're making the most of a bad layout or trying to create a more intimate setting in a big room. But it's hard to know how to use multiple rugs in one room without looking discombobulated or dated.
So what are the rules for rugs? How can you best incorporate rugs into your space? Can you mix two rugs in one room?
Here we explore what you need to know about using rugs to make the most of any space.
Photography: Jennifer Lavelle
Using Rugs in Living Spaces
There are so many choices when it comes to rugs. The options are endless, from beautiful antique Persian rugs that are practically heirlooms to modern look-alikes that can easily go in the washing machine. As the saying goes, a rug can really tie the room together.
But rugs can do a lot more than just bring together a room design. Rugs are helpful for:
· Creating designated spaces in a room
· Adding warmth
· Protecting floors
· Hiding older or damaged floors
· Muffling noise
· Making it easier to move
· Reducing allergens and dirt tracking
· Changing the look and feel of a room
· Adding personality and character to a space
Rugs do a big job, and choosing the right rug is a significant undertaking. You want to find rugs that anchor the room, call back to other aspects of your home’s design, and provide a safe, comfortable walking spot for your family.
Rugs are almost certainly a must-have if you have wood, tile, or another hard flooring. A cozy rug under a bed makes it much easier to step out from under the covers in the morning. A rug in the bathroom helps reduce the chance of slipping and falling. Rugs in the bathroom and kitchen protect the floors from moisture and offer a warm spot to stand—they can help ease weary legs from standing on hard surfaces.
In the entryway, rugs provide guests with a welcome spot to pause, wipe their feet or remove their shoes. Rugs are essential in almost every room.
For such a crucial piece of your home, chances are you probably haven't spent much time pondering your rug options (of which there are many). Here are the different areas of your home where rugs are important, along with some ideas on choosing the right rug for the space.
The Living Room: Multiple Rugs in One Room Create Spaces
Your living room rug layout can be vital for creating designated sections around the room. Typically, a rug under the couch serves as an anchor for the room. Think of this part of your living room rug layout as the conversation area.
Whether you decide to add a few chairs, a coffee table, lamps, and end tables will depend on the room layout, but a large, room-sized rug can help the room feel cohesive without making the space feel cramped (even in a small room). Of course, you'll want to leave some distance between the rug and the wall perimeter. In larger rooms, about 18 inches will create a nice balance. You can aim for about 9-12 inches of exposed flooring in a smaller room.
When you arrange furniture on the rug, you have choices—most people prefer the look of "two legs on, two legs off" the rug, but of course, it all depends on the furniture, the size, and the shape of the room. If you decide to layer rugs or use a smaller rug in the room, generally, it will look best if it is still touched by at least some (if not most) of the furniture. Also, anchoring a smaller rug with furniture helps avoid the "lonely island" effect in the middle of the room.
Are you wondering how to use multiple rugs in one room? Do the rugs need to match? A "set" of rugs used to be the norm in home décor. People would buy a large area rug with a matching runner and even a smaller rug or two. Now, it's perfectly acceptable and even preferred to mix and match rugs.
I like to look for several rugs with different textures and even materials. For example, a jute or woven rug can designate an entryway or create a distinct "section" of a room, while a vintage rug or even a rug with a deep pile can add warmth under the furniture of the sitting area.
Layering rugs can be both beautiful and practical, especially when a larger vintage rug isn’t within the budget. In this case, layering a jute or natural fiber rug underneath a slightly smaller vintage rug can be a great solution. When layering rugs, strive to keep a 12” minimum of the bottom rug showing on all sides.
Rugs in the Kitchen and Dining Area
Rugs are an excellent idea to protect floors and create a sense of space whenever you're eating and gathering. The legs of sliding dining chairs can scratch and damage wooden flooring. Spills from cooking can also wreak havoc on floors—so utilizing rugs in your dining and cooking spaces is generally a good idea.
Of course, choosing a rug material for a high-traffic, accident-prone area like the kitchen can be tricky. Under a table, a flatweave rug is a safe, smart choice. Look for jute, bamboo, or cotton selections. Rugs designed for indoor/outdoor use can also work well in some situations. Vintage rugs have stood the test of time for literally hundreds of years—and can be a beautiful and durable addition to nearly any space.
When choosing a dining room rug, it can be helpful to “match” the shape of the rug to the shape of the table. This will create a cohesive look and ensure that the room feels balanced. A round rug for a round table or a rectangular rug for an oval or rectangular table is typically a wise choice. The rug shouldn't extend too far beyond the chair legs (but the chairs should stay on the rug, even when pushed away from the table). Try to scale the rug to your table.
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
Ruggable rugs have become quite popular recently because they are machine washable. Washability or cleanability is an important consideration whenever you’re working with food and moisture. Spills will inevitably happen, so choose a rug that can stand up to heavy use. My personal vote, however, will always be vintage antique rugs—they clean up so well!
Antifatigue mats are pretty popular for the kitchen, but most options that are marketed as antifatigue are made with vinyl and treated with flame retardants and other chemicals. If you're concerned about toxins in your home, it may be wiser to go with a wool or cotton rug instead.
Rugs in the Bathroom: Yes or No?
We've discussed the hazards that come with the "new carpet smell," and rugs fall into the same category. Some of the rugs designed for bathrooms (and kitchens) are mildew resistant, which often means they've been treated with chemicals that can release hazardous VOCs in your home.
Bathroom rugs are certainly not a necessity, but you may want a bathmat or some type of floor covering to protect the floors and offer a place to stand when you step in and out of the tub or shower—not to mention simply for their beauty within the space. Look for rugs made with breathable cotton, hemp, or jute. Turkish cotton (the same material used for lovely Turkish towels) can also be woven into bathmats.
Design: Studio McGee
Be sure to look for a washable or readily cleanable bathroom rug. In the bathroom, hygiene is paramount, and you'll want a piece that you can clean regularly. Vintage rugs can also be a great option for the bathroom. If you use the bathroom vanity for cosmetic applications, you'll want to use a rug underneath the space to protect the floors as well. So again, cleanability is critical in the bathroom.
Choosing the Right Rug for the Bedroom
In the bedroom, you have several options for rugs. It's hard to determine what size rug goes under a king bed or a perfect-room-sized rug to fit certain layouts. But don't worry, you have plenty of choices—both in the type of rug and the placement.
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
The bedroom is another great example where using multiple rugs in one room works. You don't have to have a rug that runs entirely under the bed and nearby furniture (although an option), but the rug should be placed in a way that there's plenty of foot room when you step out onto the floor from either side. If your rug is smaller, you'll want to put it a few feet down from the head of the bed (in front of the nightstands), leaving 18-24 inches of the rug showing around the edge of the bed. Generally speaking, a rug should go underneath at least two-thirds of the bed. Runners are also a great option when a typical rug size won’t work—on either side of the bed or even in between two beds.
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
If you have a very large bedroom, another rug can designate your sleeping space from a conversational, dressing, or reading space in the room. Use the rugs to create different zones or sections.
Choosing the right rugs for your home can be challenging but fun. There are so many beautiful rugs out there, offering you many options. A room-sized rug can be an investment, but it's one that you'll enjoy for many years with the right care.
What are your favorite rug options? Do you use multiple rugs in one room to create different spaces? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.