Should the carpet be lighter or darker than walls? We spoke to the experts

Are you considering carpet for your home? Want to know if it should be lighter or darker than your walls? Read on to see what the experts advise

Three examples of, should carpet be lighter or darker than walls? White living room with yellow carpet. Traditional living room with cream carpet. Modern hallway with blue painted paneled walls, yellow carpet.
(Image credit: Alternative Flooring | Jody Stewart | Fibre Flooring)

When choosing a carpet for the home, there are many factors to consider, with color being one of the most important, so, we explore, should carpet be lighter or darker than walls?

Carpet can wonderfully transform the look and feel of a room, adding cozy, tactile texture and a blanket of color to the space. Your chosen carpet ideas need to be long-lasting and practically well-suited to the needs of a room, but they also need to perfectly complement the other design elements and color palettes used in a space.

It comes as no surprise then, that the overall consensus from design experts is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to deciding whether carpet should be lighter or darker than walls. 

However, there are benefits and drawbacks to both, which we explore below.

Why a carpet's tone influences your wall color choices

Though there's no general rule, the most pleasing schemes have a contrast of some kind between flooring and walls. So, a lighter carpet will work well with dark walls, and a darker carpet is a good option with lighter walls. However, you need to think of a room's decor scheme as a whole – and the effects created by your color choices for floors and walls. It's worth noting, too, that design experts often use the floor as a starting point for room colors.

'Consumers are more adventurous than ever with the fifth wall, the floor. More carpet choice has made people braver about including more color, texture, and pattern on floors. We push the mantra of thinking of the floor first and planning your interior around it. Remember, walls can be changed more easily than floors, so always choose your carpet first,' says Lorna Haigh, creative director at Alternative Flooring

To ensure you're making the right decision for the carpet in your home, read on to explore, should carpet be lighter or darker than walls?

Lorna Haigh
Lorna Haigh

Lorna Haigh is the creative director of the UK-based brand, Alternative Flooring, a company that has been producing beautiful carpets, rugs, and runners for over 25 years.

Why choose carpet that's lighter than walls

If your room is light-starved or small but you love deep wall colors, choosing a lighter carpet can be the best choice. Here's why:

For a more spacious and uplifting look  

Cozy, country living room with blue painted walls, cream curtains, natural carpet, armchair and sofa around coffee table.

(Image credit: Naomi Astley Clarke)

To create a harmonious color balance in a room, a lighter-colored carpet often works best in spaces with walls painted in darker shades because it bounces daylight around.

'Floorcoverings in soft, pale colors can brighten up any area, creating the illusion of space, giving a light, airy look, says Jon Flannigan, product manager at Kersaint Cobb.

London-based interior designer, Shanade McAllister-Fisher shares how a lighter carpet can help to make a room feel bigger – ideal for small living room ideas or small bedroom ideas.

'A lighter-colored carpet, such as beige or light gray, can create a sense of airiness in a room. This can make the room feel larger and more spacious, which can be particularly beneficial in smaller rooms. I don’t recommend using lighter-colored carpet in areas with high footfall, but if you do, opt for one with a texture to help hide any dirt or stains that come from daily use.'

Shanade McAllister-Fisher
Shanade McAllister-Fisher

Interior designer, Shanade McAllister-Fisher, studied at the renowned KLC School of Design in Chelsea, London, and has gone on to lead her own award-winning design studio based in West London.

To establish a stylish contrast 

collection of contemporary pure wool carpets in chevron and twill weaves in country house setting

(Image credit: Country Homes & Interiors x Fibre The Contemporary Collection)

Whether you opt for a carpet that is lighter or darker than your walls, using your carpet to create eye-catching color contrast in a space can make for a truly unique and stand-out design. 

Use the color wheel to find a harmonious color pairing – remember, opposites always attract!

As shown in this blue hallway, the bright yellow, wool twill gorse carpet from Fibre Flooring creates an impactful contrast with the deep blue painted paneling, with the bold use of color uplifting this transitional, busy space with a playful and vibrant character.

Why choose carpet that's darker than walls

If your walls are pale, choosing a darker carpet can make your room feel more welcoming. 

To create for a cozy feel 

Large open plan white living room, barn conversion, vaulted ceiling with dark wood beams on show, seating area around fireplace, textured, natural carpet, view onto library area with white staircase

(Image credit: Fibre Flooring)

In a room with light-painted walls, a dark carpet can make the space feel more grounded, cozy, and intimate, and just like with dark walls and light carpet, create a sense of balance.

As shown in this beautiful country living room, the warming, earthy textured carpet creates an elegant contrast with white walls, whilst perfectly complementing the aged timber beams.

Shanade McAllister-Fisher adds, 'a darker-colored carpets, such as navy or forest green, can create a sense of depth and coziness in a room, particularly when paired with similarly toned walls. This can make the room feel more intimate and comfortable, which can be ideal for larger rooms or areas where you want to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Create an opulent look by choosing a dark carpet in a thick pile to add some plush comfort underfoot.'

To cope with heavy footfall

grey hallway with black and white geometric carpet

(Image credit: Carpetright)

A room that sees a lot of traffic – perhaps an entryway – always benefits from a darker carpet to hide debris tracked in on shoes. If the space is narrow, as is often the case in an entryway, for example, lighter walls will help it feel bigger and brighter.

'It's worth saying, too, that patterned carpet like the one above, is great for disguising debris that both dark and light plain carpets can't hide, so always consider this for busy rooms you don't want to be vacuuming all the time,' says Lucy Searle, Editor in Chief, Homes & Gardens.

To make a statement with a patterned carpet

Modern living room with white painted walls, yellow patterned carpet, armchair, tall green plant, fireplace

(Image credit: Alternative Flooring)

More on pattern. 'A lot of projects start out with the carpet being selected first, especially if it is going to have a pattern in it and be multi-colored. Once the color scheme is decided, then I pull a color from the carpet for the walls. I’ll go lighter or darker depending on the mood of the room and the natural light source,' says Molly McGinness.

If you're thinking of embracing white room ideas, but want to inject an element of color into the room, then a patterned carpet is a great way to do it, and no matter what style or pattern you choose for your carpet, all will work with white painted walls.

When to match carpet to wall color

Elegant living room with cream carpet, marble fireplace, white window shutters, artwork on walls, glass coffee table

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Matching your carpet with your wall color can be a great option to consider for both a minimalist design and a maximalist look. 

Whether you opt for a beige or brown carpet to complement your neutral room ideas or go all out with a bright pink or deep blue shade, making the most out of this 'fifth wall' and matching your carpet color to your wall color can create a united and stylish space.

Massachusetts-based interior designer, Molly McGinness says, 'if your intention is to make the room feel larger or more expansive, I would use a monochromatic scheme, using light shades with materials that offer a change in texture. 

For example, a white-on-white scheme where the walls are matte white, the carpet is white but with dimensional texture, and the furniture is in white but with the fabrics having an additional texture. None of those whites are going to be the same, and the monochromatic scheme allows the eye to travel quickly through the room, giving a more expansive feel without drawing attention to where the walls and carpet start and stop.'

Molly McGinness
Molly McGinness

Molly McGinness has been an interior designer for over 25 years and is based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. McGinness specializes in designing second homes and vacation homes for her clients.

Does light or dark carpet make a room look bigger?

Jeanette Fusco, interior designer at HiHomePicks says, 'generally speaking, lighter carpets will make a room look bigger, while darker carpets can make a room feel cozier and more intimate.

Neutral colors like beige, gray, and taupe can help to make a room look bigger and brighter. Alternatively, if you want to make a room look cozier, use warmer colors like brown, red, or burgundy.'

Choosing a lighter carpet is definitely the easier and more popular option when trying to make a room feel bigger, but dark colors can also be used too. In smaller spaces, interior designers often embrace more impactful color palettes and maximalist designs to distract your attention away from the room size, so dark walls and a dark carpet can actually be a winning option for a smaller room in your space.

Jeanette Fusco
Jeanette Fusco

For over a decade, Jeanette has been an interior designer for private residences and businesses, as well as working as an expert consultant at online furniture retailer, HiHomePicks.


How do I choose the right carpet?

'When it comes to choosing the right carpet for your home, it is important to consider the size of the room, the amount of natural light, the color of the walls, and the type of material. A mix of light and dark colors, natural and synthetic materials, and neutral and bold colors will create a balanced and stylish look. With some careful consideration and the right carpet, you can make any room look its best', says Jeanette Fusco.

Lorna Haigh also shares her advice for choosing the right carpet material for your home. 'floor coverings are a key interior design element both aesthetically and practically. Wool is a natural choice for all rooms but especially for the bedroom as it is hypoallergenic and soft underfoot. Patterned wool carpets make a design statement in sitting rooms, while for high-traffic areas such as hallways and stairs, wool boucle and sisal boucle work well. Sisal is the most popular natural fiber option because it’s so versatile, hardwearing, and available in an array of weaves and shades.'

Zara Stacey
Managing Editor

Zara is the Managing Editor at Homes & Gardens. She joined the brand in February 2022 as an Interiors Content Editor, specializing in writing content on interior color trends, decorating ideas and design inspiration. After studying English Literature at University, she worked as an Ecommerce Website Editor, Content Writer and Buying Intern at multiple independent businesses within the luxury retail and lifestyle sectors. She enjoys nothing more than discovering new trends, brands and products, whether that be in fashion, interior design or lifestyle.