Rugs are the foundation of a room, and the proper placement can go a long way toward making a space look and feel more comfortable. But, you might wonder, where to start? Don't worry — here are Gilt Home Editorial Director Tom Delavan's three favorite ways of decorating with rugs. “You have to commit to one of these,” he says. “In between — with a small rug in the middle of a room, for example — is exactly where you can go very wrong.”
#1: Create “zones” in a larger space
This method (shown in photo above) breaks up a room and makes a large space feel more intimate, cohesive, and defined by using rugs to delineate separate spaces for different activities such as dining, lounging, and playing. Just make sure there’s at least 2 feet of space between rugs. In this scheme, all the legs of the furniture pieces belonging to a grouping should be on the rug. (The exception is a sofa, where you can’t really see the legs.)
If you’re using this method to define a dining area, the rug should be about 4 feet bigger than your table to allow chairs to be easily pulled out. And the rugs in the room should match. “And, if they don’t match, they need to at least be cousins,” Delavan says. “You shouldn’t have one Oriental carpet and one Berber, or one Oriental and one sisal. Try for at least two of a kind.”
#2: The ultimate “finishing touch”: Looks matter
In this floor covering floor plan (see photo just below), it’s okay to be totally superficial. These types of decorative rugs tend to be ones you’ve fallen in love with because of their good looks rather than for practical reasons (like: “It fits my room.”). “You are buying these for the design, not for the perfect size,” Delavan says. Use these lookers to cozy up a nook or seating area or add pattern, color, and interest to a room. Just be careful not to leave one these small-ish rugs in the middle of a room with four feet of dead space around it. Says Delavan: “Then it just looks like you were too cheap to get the right size.”
Look around your home for the right space for your rug. It may be made to order for the bedside or the foot of the bed. Delevan likes to put a smallish, beat-up Oriental rug under a glass coffee table where it can be enjoyed without the wear-and-tear. “In an entryway, get site-specific,” he says, picking a thin runner for a long hall, and a welcome-mat shape for a small, square foyer.
Or try a layered look by putting eye-catching rugs on top of sisal, sea grass, or neutral wool carpet (or wall-to-wall that you want to hide). You can even take layering to the max. “In this case, there are no rules,” says Delavan, “but more is more.” For such heavy layering, spread multiple rugs in related patterns (such as antique Orientals in one color family) in a room. If you do this, though “you’ve got to go for it," notes Delavan. "You need at least five.”
#3: Almost wall-to-wall
This strategy (see photo below) centers a rug in a room with about one to two feet of space between the edges of the rug and the walls. The rug shouldn’t touch the baseboards anywhere. And, if it’s a rectangular rug in a square room, the opposite sides of the rug should be equal distances from the walls. We like it best in a bedroom, where it softens the overall look and makes a room feel larger. (This size rug is also a great sound absorber, perfect for anywhere you want peace and quiet.)
In some set-ups, decorators rule that all the legs of a piece of furniture must be on a rug to look right. In this case, the front legs of most pieces of furniture will be on the rug, but beds and bookshelves pushed up against the wall will inevitably have their back legs off (don't worry about that!).
(Top photo by Melanie Acevedo/trunkarchive.com)