Area rugs can help unify room, add comfort

Experts offer advice on how to size up 'em up

With area rugs hot, there’s a rug for every taste, style and budget. But advice on what to do with those rugs can be varied and confusing.

Put all the furniture on the rug. Keep all the furniture off the rug. Have the front legs on and the back legs off. Buy a rug large enough to fill the room. Buy several small rugs to help create smaller seating areas.

What’s the untrained decorator to do?

“I tell people that nothing is ever in stone,” says Lisa Skelley, of LJS Interior Redesigns in Avon, Conn. “I really think furniture placement is mostly about a feeling. Don’t obsess over the rules. If you can comfortably converse with someone in the room, then you’re fine.”

Area rugs have become popular in the past few years because more people are installing hard surfaces with the availability of inexpensive wood flooring, says designer Kenneth Brown, host of HGTV’s “reDesign.”

“Area rugs are an easy way to change the mood of a space. You can redefine your look with new colors or patterns and even give the space a larger seating area by increasing the size of a rug,” he says. “While wood adds warmth and beauty to any space, rugs give a room comfort.”

Area rugs can provide a focal point and help unify the colors in a room.

If you’re starting to decorate or redecorate a room, conventional wisdom says to select your area rug first. The rug serves as the inspiration and link to the space’s other colors. If you already have your furniture, window treatments and wall color, bring swatches when shopping for a rug. Most stores will let you try it out and bring it back if it doesn’t work.

“Keep in mind that area rugs often define your furniture plan,” says Brown, whose design of actress Kristen Bell’s bedroom is featured in the spring issue of InStyle Home magazine. If your furniture is solid, bring a pattern in with the rug, and vice versa, he says.

Before choosing a living room rug, decide whether you’d rather have one large rug or multiple smaller rugs to anchor different seating areas within the room. If you choose one large rug, leave about 2 feet of the wood floor showing around the perimeter. And don’t forget to allow for space between the rug’s edge and a protruding hearth.

Another tip to gauge the right size: Brown suggests using painters’ tape to mark off the perimeter of existing furniture.

“A larger-scale carpet can be the backdrop for several groupings in a room, and the carpet becomes the cohesive element of the design,” says Effie Economou of Effie Economou Interiors Inc. in West Hartford, Conn.

Smaller area rugs can anchor distinct seating areas. They “create a cozy, intimate atmosphere and separate seating areas in a room,” Economou says. The main seating area should have the largest rug, with smaller rugs in secondary furniture groupings.

When clustering furniture, Skelley prefers to have all the furniture fit on the rug. If you’re in doubt about which size to buy, she recommends going with the larger option.

“The biggest no-no is where none of the furniture is on the rug,” Skelley says. There’s something uninviting about having a rug that’s too small in the middle of a furniture grouping. Wouldn’t you rather rest your feet on a rug getting out of bed in the morning, sitting on the couch or at the dining room table?

If you opt for multiple rugs in one room, they should be complementary in color and design, but they don’t have to be identical.

Using two of the same rug in different spots in the same room helps define separate areas “without causing the eye to become overwhelmed with two different rugs.”

But if you like variety, choosing rugs of different sizes, designs and shapes adds more interest, Skelley says.

“As long as you’re in the same color palette, you should be in good shape,” she says.