A rug can bring interest, texture, and warmth underfoot, but rugs don’t have to go solo. Layering rugs can create fabulous effects within a room, adding to its decorative detail.
Layering rugs is a technique that interior designers use for large spaces and smaller rooms, with patterned designs and plain, and different rug fibers. And, as with all things interior design, they bring professional expertise to their combinations that make for style success.
But it is possible to embrace this interior design trend with a little know-how from the experts on how to layer rugs, and that’s what they’ve provided here.
How to expertly layer rugs
Choosing a rug means considering sizes, shapes, fibers, and color and pattern whether you’re looking at dining room rug ideas, living room rug ideas, or a design for another part of a home. Layer rugs and these factors have to be considered in relation to the rug combination, too.
It’s worth getting savvy about it, though, to pull off a great look. ‘Layering rugs introduces depth, texture, and dimension to a space,’ says interior designer Artem Kropovinsky. ‘It’s about adding warmth, defining specific areas, and playing with color and pattern to evoke emotions; a room that feels richer, cozier, and brimming with character.’
Based in New York, Artem Kropovinsky, founder of Arsight, has a decade of extensive and considerable global design experience. Prioritizing minimalism, sustainability, and authenticity, Artem, alongside his team of professionals, works on projects in the US and worldwide.
How many rug should you layer?
The first question when layering rugs is how many you should put together? ‘Traditionally, two rugs make the cut,’ says Artem Kropovinsky. ‘But if you’re feeling adventurous and the space allows, why not three? Just ensure it doesn’t get too busy.’
Bear in mind that the height of the rug combination also matters. Avoid creating a trip hazard when layering rugs – visitors to your home are especially likely to be caught out by this.
What size rugs should you layer?
Size is also an important factor when teaming rugs. An area rug mistake to really avoid is going too similar in size, the layering won’t be readily apparent and the decorative interest of the combination will be diminished. The rule of thumb?
‘The top rug should complement, not dominate,’ says Artem Kropovinsky. ‘Leaving about 12 to 18 inches of the base rug visible achieves a balanced look.’
What colors, patterns and materials work best?
Aside from putting together rugs of the right size, the colors, textures, and even patterns in the combination needs careful thought. Here, there are simpler approaches that can be successful, or you can be more adventurous in your approach.
‘Perhaps begin with a neutral base and add a vivid top rug,’ suggests Artem Kropovinsky. Or go bolder. ‘Playing with complementary colors can offer that delightful visual surprise.’ he says.
You could try a contrast of motifs. ‘A fun geometric juxtaposed with a floral or organic design brings a layered narrative,’ he says. Alternatively, try teaming pattern with solid color. ‘Using a patterned statement atop a plain rug lets the design shine, while a solid hue over a subtle pattern can create an anchor for the eye,’ Artem explains.
Pay attention to the textural combination as well ‘Texture is your silent ally,’ he says. ‘Imagine the comfort of a sheepskin over a rustic jute.’
Keep in mind the connection between the designs, agrees Laylah Holmes, founder of Holmes Bespoke, which specializes in bespoke handcrafted rugs and carpets. ‘Opting for a selection of rugs that share a connection that threads throughout, such as the color, a motif, or the fiber, will make it easy to create a layered feel with a harmonious appeal,’ she says.
‘Or why not try mixing it up and introducing contrasting details, such as adding a striped rug alongside a decorative design with a plain jute rug,’ she adds. ‘This will create a characterful space with a joyful touch of personality.’
Laylah Holmes founded Holmes Bespoke in 2018 to provide a fresh, unique and personal approach to custom made interiors, with a focus on liveable luxury, original design, and quality craftsmanship.
What rooms do layered rugs work best in?
There are some rooms in the home that are natural venues for layered rugs. ‘Living rooms benefit as layering can distinguish seating areas, especially in open floor plans,’ says Artem Kropovinsky.
‘In the bedroom, layering provides a plush step when you first get up,’ he continues. ‘For dining areas, a layered rug underneath can be a protective buffer, ensuring your favorite piece stays pristine.’
Laylah Holmes also recommends trying the technique in open areas. ‘Layering rugs in a room is a wonderful way of delivering an instant welcoming ambiance with a relaxed comfortable feel and a bohemian vibe,’ she explains. ‘This can work brilliantly in open plan living spaces, where the mix of rugs creates a sense of flow across the room, whilst at the same time subtly zoning each area.’
Can you layer a rug on carpet?
While rugs layered onto hardwood and lookalike floors come to mind, a rug can also be layered on carpet. ‘I love to combine rugs with wall-to-wall fitted carpets,’ says Laylah Holmes. ‘Jute is a fantastically versatile material that works beautifully across a room as it is very low maintenance and can be easily spot cleaned unlike the more roughly textured sisal, jute won't scratch hardwood floors; it can be finished with a softer textural rug on top.’
Rug pads are always worth using whether you’re layering rugs or using one solo to help prevent slipping. Be aware of how to clean an area rug as well to keep them in great condition and ensure they last. And for a look that’s up to date, check out the latest rug trends, and layer a fashion-forward design above a well-loved favorite.
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Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.
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