How can you update a dated carpet? Designers say distraction is the key

Looking to get some extra life out of a carpet? We asked designers for their top tips for distracting from this potential eye-sore

How to distract from dated carpets
(Image credit: Future)

There is nothing quite like the burst of energy and enthusiasm for sprucing up your surroundings that comes with the announcement of guests. While there are some things that you can quickly edit to elevate your space (be it for guests or just for a lift), a fitted carpet is not something we can rip up and replace in a moment – no matter how good our DIY skills may be. 

A dated carpet, however, can have a detrimental effect on otherwise gorgeous design efforts. Marks and stains are likely to appear over time and worn areas where traffic is higher too, and while we are all for rustic, characterful interiors, a seen-better-days carpet is never the way to aesthetically 'age' your home.

So if you know that your carpet is not in top shape but ripping it up isn't on the cards right this second, there are plenty of simple ways to ensure the flooring is never the main feature of the room. When it comes to updating an old carpet, designers say it's in fact all about distraction. 

How to distract from a dated carpet

There are many carpet mistakes to avoid, but if the aesthetic of the fitted carpet simply was not your choice, and if you cannot change this in the foreseeable future, there are workarounds say designers: 'Fear not – there are creative ways to distract from it and breathe new life into your space,' says designer Jennifer Davis. From choosing the perfect rug to clever layout techniques, this is what to try.

1. Be strategic with rug placement

pink living room with white sofa and colourful armchair and accessories

(Image credit: Polly Wreford / Claudia Bryant)

'One effective strategy is to layer thin rugs strategically over the carpet,' suggests Jennifer. Not only will a living room rug add gorgeous texture and color to the space, but in the right position, it will cover imperfections so that the fitted carpet will appear a little more renewed. 'Loloi makes a great line of affordable, thin rugs that look like vintage rugs that work perfectly for this. 

'Look for rugs that create a visually appealing contrast with the existing carpet,' continues Jennifer. 'This will not only cover up the dated carpet but it also adds texture and warmth to the room.' If you're really in a hurry, Loloi actually has many of its rug collections on Amazon. Be sure to choose the right size rug for a living room too as this will add to the overall feel of the space.

White woman with long golden blonde hair wearing animal print rust colored dress in white room near window is designer Jennifer Davis
Jennifer Davis

Jennifer fell in love with design at a young age and has been working in the industry for over 25 years. She has developed an eye for detail and a talent for creating timeless designs. Jennifer offers a balance of creativity and forward-thinking with a structured, organized, and detailed mentality. 

2. Distract from a dated carpet with a fashionably dated rug

Brown living room with yellow sofa and green rugs

(Image credit: Future)

A fitted carpet that is hard to clean or too worn will not enhance a room in the right way. Vintage rugs, however, can be an asset in themselves bringing endless charm and character. So distract from a dated carpet with a fashionably dated rug. 

'There is no need to distract from an old rug! Embracing a dated rug can infuse a sense of history and character into a home, making it a focal point rather than an eyesore,' says designer Kati Curtis. 'Vintage rugs possess a timeless appeal, telling stories through their unique patterns and weathered textures. Instead of viewing an older rug as a drawback, homeowners can celebrate these pieces as anchors for a room's decor, blending them with both modern and classic furnishings to create an eclectic and personal space.'

Kati Curtis Principal Designer
Kati Curtis

Kati energizes spaces with a fearless commitment to pattern and texture, color, and motif. That commitment is invigorated by friends, mentors, and clients who share her design passions and passion for design. It’s reinvigorated by Kati’s travel bug, which has taken her around the world.

3. Use artistic statement pieces to distract

warm earthy living room with organic modern style

(Image credit: TR Studios)

Investing in iconic wall decor, art, and interesting furniture can bring style and timelessness to a home. And if an old fitted carpet is dampening the mood in your living room, go above and beyond to find pieces that will bring beauty and be the center of attention. 

'Additionally, consider incorporating furniture and decor elements that draw attention away from the carpet. A statement piece of furniture, vibrant wall art, or eye-catching accessories can divert focus and elevate the overall ambiance,' Jennifer assures us.

Artem Kropovinsky of Arsight agrees, saying that good-looking furniture is sure to capture guests' attention instead. 'Bring out bold furniture such as an extraordinary sofa or coffee table to divert people’s eyes from old carpets.'

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Artem is the founder of Arsight, an esteemed global design firm known for its expertise in residential and commercial interior design.  Based in New York, Artem's experience spans a decade. With a commitment to sustainability and authenticity, Artem, alongside his dedicated team, undertakes projects both in the US and internationally, earning recognition through prestigious design awards. 

4. Create surrounding visual interest with color

A dining room painted with Farrow & Ball's Stiffkey Blue

(Image credit: Zeke Ruelas / Ginny Macdonald)

Color in particular will bring a certain mood to a space. Choosing paint colors thoughtfully will go especially far in a room that features a tired-looking carpet, and is a fine opportunity to add warmth, energy, and design interest. 

Apply bright wall colors or textured wallpaper for visual interest at the eye level,' says Artem. Using the walls is not the only place capable of recouping what is lost in a shoddy floor covering. Injecting color into a living room large, entryway, or other space can be done with soft furnishings and decor pieces too. 'Make focal points in the room by using accessories such as cushions and throws.'

5. Emphasize architectural details with lighting

Pale pink living room with green velvet couches

(Image credit: Future)

The importance of good living room lighting need not be explained, and in a space that has a particularly unhappy-looking fitted carpet, layered lighting will work double-duty to highlight the good bones of your home. 'Utilize strategic lighting to create an emphasis on art or architectural details, subtly redirecting attention away from the floor,' adds Artem.

Combining a cleverly chosen chandelier, with floor lamps, and sconces will bring endless ambiance, and you can employ specific task lighting to accentuate picture rail or crown molding trim, kindly drawing attention away from what is underfoot. 

6. Use mirrors to add a clear focal point

A living room mirror idea with floor-to-ceiling mirrored walls either side of the fireplace

(Image credit: Future)

Mirrors lend us a hand in accentuating space and bouncing light around a room. They can also serve as the perfect distraction to dated carpets, providing expansive interest and framing the space with much more visual focus, drawing the eye up and around the room. 

'Use large objects such as artwork or mirrors to redesign the area and accentuate the space,' suggests Jennifer. It is all about anchoring the room whilst dispersing light for visual interest that is above floor level. Knowing all of the best living room mirror placements will see yours delivers an essential spark to your scheme too.

The art of distraction can be truly rewarding in the world of design. Naturally, it can feel frustrating to not have perfected a space as you have in mind, but being bold in your other decor choices, will help you (and guests) see beyond dated carpets. Your best bet is always going to be a large area rug which will help cover the majority of the eyesore in question, however, tweaks around the rest of the room to ensure the flooring is not the focus is also a good idea. 

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Contributing Editor

Camille is the former deputy editor of Real Homes where she covered a broad range of topics, including house tours, small space design, and gardens. She studied English language and Italian at the University of Manchester and during a year abroad studying linguistics and history of art in Bologna, Italy she started documenting her adventures and observations in a blog. Camille is always creating and spends her downtime painting, taking photos, traveling, and writing short stories.