Interior Designers Dish On Choosing The Perfect Rug For Any Room

collage of rooms with rugs
A rug can be an integral part of any design scheme. (Kate Lester Interiors)

Rugs are more than the icing on the cake of a design scheme. They’re an essential accessory. A room without a rug simply doesn’t look complete. But choosing the right rug is crucial. From color to size and shape, there’s a lot to consider. Not sure where to begin? I spoke with several interior designers and experts to get their takes on how to style a rug.

Consider Your Flooring 

While there’s no hard and fast rule about this, interior designer Kate Lester recommends considering what type of flooring you have first. “When choosing a rug color you need to consider what it will be styled on top of. If you have dark hardwood floors, opt for a lighter-colored rug or one that is a bold color. If you have lighter flooring then you should look into a darker rug,” she says.

dining room with rug

They say that size doesn’t matter (at least when it comes to certain things) but it’s absolutely crucial to consider when styling your rug. (Amy Bartlam / Kate Lester Interiors)

Don’t Be Afraid Of Color

Rugs present a great opportunity to go strong with color, especially if everything else in the room is rather muted. So don’t be afraid to choose a bold hue, whether it’s a deep orange, a bright pink, or a combination of several. “Let the bold color in the room be in the rug, it helps ground the space and sets the tone for the room and the art— even if all other fabrics are neutrals,” says interior designer and founder of Art+Loom , Samantha Gallacher.

If you’re trying to style an outdoor rug, Kanan Gupta and Suchin Gupta, cofounders of Fab Habitat also recommend going strong with color, “Select a fun color that allows you to create that tropical vibe especially if the furniture is gray or wicker.”

Size Matters

They say that size doesn’t matter (at least when it comes to certain things) but it’s absolutely crucial to consider when styling your rug. “Rugs act as the anchors in the room and most larger pieces of furniture should be able to fit comfortably on it such as your full dining set, living room, or bedroom set,” says Leslie Murphy of Murphy Maude Interiors.

Not sure what the appropriate size for your space is? Murphy tells me, “A good rule of thumb is to ensure that the front legs of major upholstered pieces are on the rugs with the back legs off to provide enough breathing room and to achieve balance.”

light living room with dark geometric rug

For something more subtle while still incorporating pattern, try a darker, geometric rug. (Amy Bartlam / Kate Lester Interiors)

Kanan Gupta and Suchin Guptatell tell me, “In the living room, make sure your rug is at least six inches wider (8 inches is ideal) than your sofa on both sides. In the dining room, you want to place the dining room table in the center of the rug, allowing 30 to 32 inches on the ends of the chair on all four sides to avoid tugging.”

In bedrooms, Ben Hyman, CEO of Rivial, recommends placing large rugs underneath the bed so the top is just in front of your nightstand, “It should be the first thing your feet touch in the morning. If it’s smaller, place it beside your bed for the same reason. Two runners, one for either side of the bed, look charming here— especially mismatched, but complementary.”

Uniquely Shaped Rugs Are More Interesting

“When using as a focal point, I love rugs that are cut into unique shapes, such as my rose rug,” says artist and designer Elizabeth Sutton, who is launching a new collection of rugs in the upcoming months. “If you want something more subtle while still incorporating pattern, I love a neutral with black geometric rug. There are so many varieties out there for geos.”

formal dining room with giant rug

For dark hardwood floors, opt for either a lighter-colored rug or a bold color. (Amy Bartlam / Kate Lester Interiors)

While rectangular rugs are a tried and true way to frame sofa and coffee table, a less standard-shaped rug will add interest to a room. “When styling rugs with a specific or ‘odd’ shape you can cater your furniture layout to the shape of the rug, but there is also something so chic about offsetting a shaped rug, for example, a circle offset under a square sofa,” says Gallacher.

Layer Your Rugs

Layering rugs can be an interesting way to style smaller rugs or vintage pieces that are unavailable in larger sizes. “If you happen to fall in love with a rug that’s a bit on the smaller side, layer! Layering a patterned or colorful area rug above something more basic, such as jute immediately adds a level of interest and elevates the space,” says Murphy.


I am a writer, design expert, host of the podcast Bougie Adjacent, and comedic performer. I am absolutely fascinated by all aspects of décor and design. It once took me six months to choose a soap dispenser and I can’t even remember what it looked like. I like bright prints, southern exposure and any location you can call a “village or town.” There are currently over 100 episodes of House Hunters on my DVR.

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