Darren Palmer’s Guide to Choosing the Right Rug

The question of size when it comes to rugs is an all too common one. Most people wonder how big is too big when it comes to getting the right rug for their room but perhaps the question should be turned on its head. You should ask, “how big is too small for my room” as more often than not just one size larger will make the world of difference.

As a rule of thumb a rug should sit underneath every object in a living room. That means if you have a coffee table, sofa, occasional chairs or ottoman and even side tables, all of these objects should sit on the rug, in the instance of a sofa, chairs and ottoman at least the front legs. That means you have a room defining rug that brings all of the disparate elements in the room together, like an island in your rooms.

This approach is particularly appropriate if you’re working with a large, open plan space. You can use rugs to separate visually, or demarcate, a space as both living and dining, creating a separate visual area for each by simply laying down a rug under the living space, or even also under the dining.

Size does matter

Consider the right size for your room to be roughly 1m-1.2m wider than your sofa (at0 least) and the proportionate length. So if you have a 2m sofa you would have a 3.2m rug, with the corresponding side for a standard rug being 2.3m. Drama, however, often comes from over doing the scale so if you’re ever in doubt, as long as the rug fits in the room, go for the size larger than you think.

Size isn’t the only consideration though when choosing the right rug for your home.

Texture, pattern and colour have a huge amount of impact on the rug and therefore the room.

When considering you texture, think about who lives in your house and what the rug might be exposed to. If you have dogs or small children, a plush pile or a flat weave will be easier to wipe spills from, rather than a chunky knotted weave that can trap debris. Flat rugs will also be easier to vacuum on a day to day basis, however, if you have older children, no pets and a predictably clean living space, the softness under foot of chunky weaves, woven textures and uneven pile heights can look and feel very luxurious.

Colour is truly subjective in that one person’s love of a colour could be diametrically opposed to another’s hate for it.

I liken colour choice to music choice, where genres aren’t “right” or “wrong” but a reflection of experience and personal taste. When it comes to colour choice you need to truly please yourself, though a rug is a perfect place to bring some colour into your spaces. You can use your rug as an artwork on the floor, standing apart from your other soft furnishing choices, or you can use a few of the colours in the rug as a starting point for your cushion colours. Be careful not to match too perfectly and don’t overdo it when using a rug’s colours as a reference, pulling out more than 2 or 3 colours will start to look strangely matchy matchy.

Pattern is another bold way to bring interest into your rooms, and that’s just what good rooms are brimming with.

Any great interior will have compliment and contrast. There will be elements that tie together and elements that deliberately stand apart, but work together because they are diametrically opposed. 

Especially if your furniture choices are careful and neutral you will need to look at bringing in items for contrast, colour, pattern and compliment. You rug could be a bold colour, a big print, a geometric pattern, a simplification of a photorealistic image or any number of things. You can play with pattern as texture, with the contrast coming from the difference between the fibres in the weave. You can create contrast in shape by using a circle or an irregular edged form. 

Whatever your choice, think about your rug as the building blocks from which to create your decoration.

Use it to create interest and also to give your furniture a solid base to sit on and be bold with size, shape, colour and pattern. Your rooms will work best when you do.

Darren Palmer has a broad portfolio, having studied fine art & graphic design, originally working in advertising and owning his own graphic design company. After succumbing to his true passion, Darren now operates his own interior design studio and has been a judge on numerous seasons of The Block.