A rug is a quick way to warm up a room or pull the space together. Picture: Ryan Christodoulou
A rug is a quick way to warm up a room or pull the space together. Picture: Ryan Christodoulou

Don’t be afraid to go large and bold when picking a rug for your home

By The Washington Post Time of article published Nov 19, 2020

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Michele Lerner

Whether you’ve just moved into a new home or want to improve your current space, interior designers often suggest an area rug to warm up a room or pull the space together.

If you’ve never picked a rug before, it can be daunting to choose the correct size, material and style that will complement rather than overwhelm your room. Interior designer Annie Elliott gives advice.

Consider size

We have a saying in our office: Unless your rug is crawling up the skirting boards, it is not too big.

Go large in the dining room. You want to make sure the chairs can move around without catching on the rug. Ideally, all furniture in a conversation area will fit on to the rug. If that is not possible, try placing the rug in front of the couch, but under the chairs opposite. It doesn’t look great when every piece of furniture is half-on, half-off the rug.

A small rug can look lonely when it is floating on a bare floor. Many people know that layering a small rug on sea grass or sisal creates a cosier, more finished look, but don’t limit yourself.

Wool can be a great first layer instead. Wool flat weaves are a lovely option, as is any broadloom carpeting with low, tight loops.

Choose material with care

I opt for natural fibres whenever I can, so if durability is a priority, go with wool. Woollen rugs are generally considered the most durable and easiest to clean.

There are more inexpensive woollen rugs and carpeting on the market than before, so don’t let cost be a deterrent until you’ve done some shopping. Nylon is extremely stain-resistant, but it won’t wear as well as wool.

Over time – I’m talking more than five years, not a few months – wool in a heavily trafficked area will wear away rather charmingly. Plush nylon flattens down instead, like a Muppet that has been run over by a car. Unattractive.

Most indoor/outdoor rugs are made with polypropylene, which holds up well to the elements, but not to stains if they are cut pile. Cotton rugs look fresh and summery; who doesn’t love a striped cotton runner on a beach house staircase? But they grab dirt and won’t let it go.

I strongly advise against cotton rugs if you have pets or children. And if you drink red wine, forget it.

What’s your style

Many people roll their eyes when you mention Oriental rugs, but I am a huge fan. They look fantastic in traditional interiors, of course, (make sure you have a few modern pieces to avoid a time capsule effect), but the contrast between an Oriental rug and an architecturally sleek space is smashing.

Secondly, Oriental rugs don’t show up dirt, so if you have young children or wilful pets, they are perfect. Thirdly, they are easily attainable. If your great-aunt hasn’t given you hers already, you may be able to snap up a large Oriental rug in an online auction for a reasonable price.

Unless you want the rug to dominate a room’s design, keep patterns small and tight. Light rugs are tricky from a cleaning perspective. Even if you buy a stain-resistant material, and even if you enforce a “shoes off” policy, solid, light-coloured rugs in living areas or on stairs can look grungy very quickly.

Restrict them to grown-ups’ bedrooms or less trafficked spaces. Surprisingly, wall-to-wall carpeting can be less expensive than a custom-cut broadloom, especially if you have an oddly shaped space. The cost of labour and binding can outweigh the cost of the extra carpeting.

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