Layering rugs is one of those design things that most people will not attempt themselves. We all know that rugs can help define a space and tie a room together. There are also benefits to layering rugs that elevate the room even more. Most questions ask about the sizing, placement, and type of rug that can accomplish that cozy and beautiful look, so I will try to address these questions and offer a few bonus tips to achieve your home sanctuary.
Photo credit: Studio McGee
It doesn’t take a designer to know that there should be different sized rugs when layering, so starting with the largest rug is helpful in establishing those layers. Depending on the room size, most rooms will accommodate a 9x12 or 8x10 as their base. The second rug should be a smaller size that allows for a decent border of the larger rug to be visible.
Ideally, the top rug will be 2/3 the size of the first rug. Something you should also consider is the furniture in the room. You want (at the very least) to have the front legs of your main pieces like a couch or chairs to be on the rug or rugs and the rug should extend past the sides of the furniture pieces. This gives way to the more cozy look and feel as you will always have a rug underfoot when walking around the designated seating areas of your living room.
Photo credit: Rebecca & Genevieve, Kate Marker Interiors, Chloe Dominik
When it comes to the bedrooms, you can use an area rug that goes under just half of the bed and extends past the end or use a larger one under the whole bed. If you do this, you can also opt to layer another rug that is only at the end as you can see in this photo. This is ideal if you have your eye on a vintage rug, but don’t want to spend as much on the full size, then you can still get the look without breaking the bank!
Photo credit: Undecorated Home
The only exception to this rule of sizing is if you are overlapping the rugs rather than stacking them, which leads us to discuss the next aspect of layering rugs to consider….placement.
Typically, your first rug should be laid down straight according to the furniture or the direction of traffic (like in a hallway). You can layer the second smaller rug centralized revealing the first rug as a border as discussed before OR you can overlap them to help anchor gaps between different areas within a room.
Photo credit: One Kings Lane
If you are opting for more movement in the room and want to overlap them, the smaller accent rugs should be set on the bias, meaning at a diagonal from the first rug. This can be done within the confines of the first rug or spilling out onto the floor surface. Try playing around with the angles of the secondary rug to highlight a piece of furniture or see what‘s the most pleasing to the eye and flow of traffic in the room.
Photo credit: Hadley Court
Color & Pattern
If stacking your rugs, you will want to pick a neutral base flat weave rug like a jute or sisal, which are durable and great especially for high-traffic areas. If you do use a pattern for the base, go with a simple stripe or black and white pattern. All of these types of rugs work on their own when or if you want to go with a more minimal palette, but can be totally transformed simply by layering another rug over the top. Long pile rugs aren’t a good idea for layering.
Photo credit: Wit & Delight
More recently, we are seeing a trend of multiple rugs laid in a room that are more related to each other, however, it is important that they are color coordinated and the mix and match of the patterns work together. It’s okay to play around with the rugs and while going neutral on the base is the more safe option, feel free to take a risk as long as the rugs are complementary or tonal, meaning different shades of the same color and patterns that are not harshly contrasting.
Photo credit: Country Living Magazine
The rugs you choose should always be different in some way. You don’t want to use the same rug in different sizes, and one way to ensure some contrast is through textures. Play with different textures even if you’re opting for a neutral color scheme. The softer rug is often placed on top, as it is nice to have this one underfoot and it softens the space and makes it look and feel more cozy and inviting. You can use a short pile rug with a thicker shag on top or a soft pile rug on top of a thin woven rug. If you’re opting for a chunky natural weave for the bottom rug, choose a thin soft rug on top.
Photo credit: The EveryGirl
All things considered
Look at your living room as it is now. Do you have a patterned wallpaper in your living room? You could pair a base neutral rug with a different scaled pattern rug to that of your wallpaper. That pairing would work well for a transitional space too if you’re looking to add a pop of color to the room.
Remember that high quality wool area rugs, hand-woven and detailed patterned are usually more expensive than plain rugs. And as rugs go up in size, they get more expensive, so layering a smaller patterned rug on a larger plain rug is cost friendlier!
Photo credit: Rejuvenation
Another tip: A great way to utilize smaller rugs is to store them in a basket and set them out when you have guests. A lot of people like to sit around an ottoman on the floor with pillows and you can increase the coziness of the space by just rolling out some extra accent rugs.
I often get asked if you can put a rug on carpet, and the answer is yes! In fact, I recommend it. Rugs are the best way to define an area. Use them over the carpeting in your living room, under your dining table, and at the end of a bed! It will break up the sea of carpet and give you the layered look. The advice I would give though is to vary the texture. If your carpet is plush, use a low profile woven rug. If you have Berber carpet, you can opt for rugs that have a greater pile height or shag to add softness to the room.
Photo credit: The Spruce
Also, it is a misconception that layering rugs is just for boho styling, it’s only for the colder months or just the living room. Although adding a rug in the winter can be a nice additional layer of comfort, you can apply these tips for all design styles any time of year in almost any space, interior or exterior; even layering hides, which don’t have to be central to the bottom rug. You can play around with different arrangements and try different angles until you achieve the desired look.
Photo credit: Pottery Barn, The Accent, Rugs USA
Truth is, layering rugs is a great way to add interest, color, texture and dimension to any room in your home all year round. There are so many different looks you can achieve by just trying new things out. The same tips apply to styling outdoor rugs too. I hope you found these tips helpful!