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Decorating Advice

4 Colour Guidelines for Choosing an Area Rug

By 09/22/2012February 21st, 201717 Comments

I’m here in Calgary and loving it! I got through my first stage presentation yesterday and all went well. I was worried I would forget what I was going to say with all those people looking at me but thankfully, that did not happen!


One of the questions I was asked at the end was about area rugs, ‘How do you choose a colour? 

First, finding an area rug is hard work. You can have them be the focal point of a room just like a piece of art, or they can totally be in the background.

1. Keep the colour of your wood flooring in mind. 

If you are choosing a rug with a pattern, it should contrast with your flooring.


This rug on a dark espresso floor would probably not look as good as it does against the light background of the sisal rug which also seems to be the same colour as the wood flooring in this room.


Here the white outline of this zebra rug provides good contrast with the existing espresso wood flooring. The great thing about a skin (eeeeek, as a vegetarian should I even be saying this?) is that it takes up more visual space so it doesn’t need to cover the entire floor in your living room.

Notice that both of these area rugs make a huge dramatic statement and are visually the most important elements of the space. Important to consider when your area rug starts to look and feel like art.

2. If you are going for a really neutral, solid coloured rug and you want the attention to be on your pillows, walls or furniture, you don’t need as much contrast.


 Here the white is clearly the stand-out in this room!

3. Bring fresh colour into your space with an area rug.

During a recent on-line consultation with a client, I suggested this area rug as a way to bring in fresh blues and greens while still coordinating with her existing brown leather furniture.


What I love about this kind of rug is that there is very little brown and it, but just enough to pull the room together.

This fourth tip (below) comes from the editor and chief of Southern Living along with his 10 Tried and True Decorating Rules (check it out here).

4. If you can’t afford the antique Oushak rug of your dreams—it’s often a choice between that and, say, a year of college tuition—then embrace the khaki pants of carpets, plain ol’ sea grass. Although it comes in plenty of standard sizes, it’s usually pretty cheap to get a custom fit by the yard. (I got mine from Myers Carpet in Atlanta.) Over hardwoods, I suggest leaving a 1-foot-wide border around the room; if you’re trying to obliterate some awful tile, make it a 6-inch border. It looks nice when installed wall-to-wall too.


I love this advice because it’s in the category of ‘If all else fails, here’s what to do‘. If you are in a ‘I don’t know what to do so I’m not going to do anything’ standstill. This might help.

Happy weekend everyone!

ps. For those of you who wanted to buy sample boards the other day and they looked sold-out? They’re not, so if you need some here’s where to get them.

Related posts:

How to Choose an Area Rug

Interior Design May Look Easy, It’s Not

Top 10 Throw Pillows

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

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  • StagerLinda says:

    Hi Maria, so happy for you that your presentation went well–not surprised since you are the expert and know your stuff. This is a great lesson on rugs. Again, thanks for always being so forthcoming with great advice. Best wishes for the remainder of your show(s)!

  • Ginger says:

    I knew you’d be great!

    Such lovely rugs you chose; I’ll keep the advice in mind for the future. Right now, with my dogs, I have no desire for carpet of any sort. Hardwood unadorned is so much easier to clean.

  • teresa says:

    Congrats on the talk. Great advice and pics, as usual.
    I’m with you on the skins, even the clearly fake ones for kids freak me out. The same thing with the animal head trend. I guess I just think of all the animals that have perished or gone to extinction for a rug or a trophy. I’m sitting this one out.
    I love the 3rd choice for the brown and I think it works also because the background is a dirty off-white. That’s the 2nd time this week I’ve seen #3 on someone’s blog. Despite the Zebra, it is a very striking space.
    Thanks for posting when you have so much else going on. CTD

  • Wendy says:

    Thanks for helping to remove the mystery of decorating, Maria. I always appreciate your posts.

    My big thing as a designer is to PICK THE RUG FIRST. It is far, far harder to find a rug to work with existing furnishings than to “build up” from the rug.
    1. rug
    2. sofa
    3. chairs
    4. paint and everything else!

    • Maria Killam says:

      HI Wendy,
      I am 50/50 on which way is the best. I have picked out everything down to the toss cushions and then did carpet last and only one client did it prove to be a difficult task. Then for another client we did carpets first and needed 4 for her entire house and she would only commit to one because there were too many and she couldn’t decide.
      So I’m not convinced that the carpet is best first. It totally depends on the design as well, if you’re doing a more contemporary look and not looking for a complex Persian, just as easy to find it last.
      Thanks for your comment Wendy!

      • Wendy says:

        You are so right. There are zillions of cool contempo rugs that really can pull a look together. Is it safe to say that a Traditional interior should pick rug first? It used to be that the most expensive thing in every room was the rug, and everything had to match it. Nowadays, rugs can be another accessory!

  • SandyCGC says:

    Great “simple” summary for a “complex” subject, Maria. As you said, choosing an area rug IS hard work, but you give us a starting point. The point about contrasting with your floor is so important as in pix #2. In my case, my condo tile is so extremely busy and, with the wall of window blinds and windor patio door, even basic furniture adds clutter to the room. I had to go with a solid color and very simple. I have a smaller version of the rug in Pix #3 at the entry to the bedroom so the 3 cat people carn sharpen their claws in bliss. They use it daily and It still looks great. However, when I move to my new place, I hope I can go with something like pix #1. Other than the limitation of whatever floor I’ll have (I’ll be renting), I can then follow Wendy’s “building” plan: Fall in love with a rug, then pick my new couch and have my side chairs recovered and finish up from there. Congrats on your successful first day and thanks for taking the time to share with us.t

  • robin jurovich says:

    Area Rugs are hard work. There are many online sources but then you can’t read the color accurately
    I think it is a lot like sampling the paint on the walls. Order the sample piece of carpet, read the undertones and one might need to return a few area rugs before settling on the perfect one.
    What do you think Maria?

  • I always start with the rug and these are some of the same tips i share too!!! So helpful and when all else fails, buy the seagrass until the kids are out of college – right?

  • Erma Butts says:

    I like the third picture. I love the wood flooring and the carpet looks perfectly beautiful on the floor.

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  • Rebecca C says:

    Do the same rules apply to leave a one inch border if you are putting an area rug over carpet too? We have blah beige brown carpet and I love to put area rugs in those rooms.

  • Moshells says:

    Good article! This article helps in my decision-making as I shop for a rug for my new apartment as I move in.

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