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A question from Kim:

What are your thoughts on multiple rugs in the same space? I live in a small apartment with an 18′x14′ room that functions left to right as living room seating area, dining area, and office, and then the super small kitchen area rugs along about half of one of the 18′ walls, so it’s behind the dining area and a little bit of the seating area. The problem is that I think the living room space needs a rug to ground the arrangement, and where the office and dining zones meet there’s carpet damage from my pets that needs to be covered so there has to be a rug there under the table/desk/both. Can I use two different rugs with only about 3′ between them? I’m thinking that maybe if one is simple(bordered seagrass, etc) and one had a more dominant pattern it might work. So are there rules for using multiple rugs in an open space?

I don’t particularly like to use the word “rules” when talking design just because everyone has a different set of them.  Instead, I like to find rooms that are inspiring to me personally and take cues from them.  It’s more about dissecting the interior and figuring out why it works.  The same goes for rooms that don’t particularly appeal to me.  It’s not always because someone didn’t follow “the rules” but, instead, the room doesn’t quite speak to me.  In that instance, too, I can draw from the room and figure what doesn’t work…and then try to steer clear of those elements in my own home.  This is exactly why one person may love a room while another person detests it.

So, why all the mumbo-jumbo?  Well, to try and help Kim out with her rug dilemma, I rounded up a few images which I find easy on the eye {you may not and that’s okay} AND happen to incorporate more than one area rug…instead of just rattling off a yes/no answer.  Let’s take a look.

KitchenLab eclectic living room

This open space is larger than Kim’s aforementioned 18′ x 14′ room.  However, notice the area rugs.  There are actually 4 rugs in one space!  One peeks out from beneath the sofa and three anchor the dining area. Three look to be made of jute while one is a dark pattern.  Why do they work?  Well, the 3 jute rugs work because they are similar in color and texture.  The black one works because, while it is darker in color, it rests upon larger jute rugs and flows nicely with the ebony floors.  The pattern is subtle – not bold – which helps to keep it cohesive with the rest of the space.

Here’s another example.  Again, this room is larger than Kim’s living space but we can still take cues from it.  Two seating areas at opposite ends of the long room are anchored by matching rugs…one smaller and one larger.  This divides the space into separate areas but keeps your eye flowing over the entire space.  If one rug were much different in appearance than the other, the room wouldn’t have the same feel.  So what about smaller spaces?  Let’s see…

This cozy, teeny living room has just inches between its 2 area rugs.  One defines a larger seating area, and one anchors a smaller area just off the main room.

These rugs work in such tight living quarters because they are similar, allowing your eyes to flow across the 2 rooms as if they were one.  The added texture doesn’t hurt either.

What do I take away from all this? It seems I prefer multiple area rugs that are similar in color and texture…not only to each other but to the rest of the space they occupy.  So, to answer Kim’s question…if her space were mine, I’d probably be inclined to keep the entire look easy and cohesive by using similar rugs in both the seating area and dining area.  But that’s just me.  Not a “rule” by any means.  I’d encourage Kim to scour the web for pictures of interiors that she loves and see if they offer any clues about her floor covering preferences.  Who knows?  She may be drawn to rooms with bolder rug choices!

images:  1 & 2) Rebekah Zaveloff via Houzz 3) Deborah Needleman‘s living room photographed by Melanie Acevedo 4 & 5) Jess Watson for Apartment Therapy



I think that’s a great point about using inspiration images to figure out what works in a room and what may not to your eye. I think a sense of continuity with the room and your style may be the most important factor when it comes to rugs, but that doesn’t mean your rug needs to be super matchy. I have a large jute rug that works because it has the kind of neutral color, texture, and simple lines that my furniture pieces have. I LOVE things like West Elm’s Andalusia rug in the yellow color because of its bold color in an uncomplicated pattern(my go-to theme for accessories) or their rug with the chevron pattern for its graphic element and high contrast color scheme(another thing I enjoy in small doses). In retrospect, this seems like a total no brainer now that I’ve put it into the perspective of my style and preferences. What I wondered when I was previously thinking about rugs in an open space was how related to each other they needed to be. Now I’m realizing that it’s not necessarily how one rug looks with another that’s important but rather that they need to work with the overall feel and look of the room, and that applies whether you have two rugs or ten. In each of the photos above, the rug underscores the feel of the room whether that be a bit rustic modern, understated and classic, or casual organic.

It seems so simple now, although design always seems so simple when some element finally clicks for you, doesn’t it?

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replied on January 6th, 2011

Kim – Yes, sometimes it does just ‘click.’ Glad you found your answer!

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I love these types of posts! It’s so helpful to learn how to design a room, and similar to what you said – some things may or may not work for a person or a home and this teaches me how to figure that out for my own purposes. I have a question – my home has all brown woodwork from the 1920’s – what are some tips for decorating with brown vs. white woodwork? It seems everywhere I look, everyone is decorating with white, but mine was all refinished when I moved in and I can’t bear to paint it. Do I just act like the color doesn’t matter? Or can I play it up somehow?

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replied on January 11th, 2011

Laura – It’s totally personal preference. I’ve seen great homes with painted trim, and I’ve seen great homes with stained trim. {If you happen to watch ‘Modern Family’, Cameron & Mitchell’s home has stained wood trim that looks amazing in their space.} If you have a LOT of woodwork going on…say in built-ins, fireplace surround, etc {not just baseboards/window frames} maybe painting some of it, say the built-ins or fireplace surround, would be enough to lighten things up. I don’t think there’s a wrong answer.

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It’s awesome. The rugs images are looking very great.

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