All rugged up: How to find the right rug

Choosing the right rug is a sure-fire way to draw your design scheme together
Cath Muscat

A good rug is like a work of art underfoot – making an invigorating statement or just quietly pulling a look together, all while providing luscious softness for chilly winter toes. “As rugs aren’t permanent, they offer a perfect opportunity to introduce colour and pattern to a room,” says House Rules mentor and designer Carolyn Burns-McCrave, “and because rugs sit below your eyeline, you can be bolder in your design choices than you would be for, say, a wallpaper.”

The hue for you

“The main question you need to ask yourself is if you want the rug to be the feature or to simply be another textural element in your home,” says Christine McDonald of Designer Rugs. Pattern is a great way to add a lift to a neutral colour scheme – a good tip is to match the secondary colour in the rug to your main furnishings. However, a bright rug requires confidence in your own style and is an expensive piece to change if you have second thoughts. For this reason, Claire de Luca of Armadillo & Co leans towards a neutral floor dressing. “Then you can add colour in cushions, wall colours, fabric and furniture,” she says. Floorspace’s ( online rug builder lets you custom-create your own rug from any of their beautifully neutral floor coverings. You pick the textile, such as jute, sisal or a wool mix, add a border in the colour of your choice and slot in the measurements – and it will calculate the price for you instantly.

Subtle colour and pattern add interest (Credit: Chris Warnes)

Size matters

Rugs can manipulate how a room looks and feels. “Don’t think that because you have a small room, the rug should be small,” says Christine McDonald. “The bigger the rug, the larger the room will feel. The opposite goes for large rooms, where smaller rugs can create intimate spaces.” A dining room rug needs to be big enough so the chairs can sit on it when pulled out. Shape has a part to play here, too. Round rugs can add interest, contrasting with the blocky shapes of modular sofas and rectangular tables. Getting the scale wrong is a common mistake, so the best way to choose the right size is to get crafty. “Tape out the size you need in your room before you go shopping,” suggests Carolyn. “It’s too hard to gauge proportions in a showroom.”

Rugs in a bedroom equal toasty toes in winter (Credit: Prue Ruscoe)

Textile roulette

For materials, weigh comfort against practicality. A shag pile or loose weave is tantalising underfoot, making it the perfect choice for cosy bedrooms. In dining zones, an offbeat alternative is an outdoor rug. Made of polypropylene, they are gaining in popularity as indoor alternatives as they are stain-resistant and can be easily cleaned after a particularly messy meal – just the ticket if you have young kids. Best of all, they’re relatively inexpensive; try Dash & Albert rugs from Winton House (

Christine McDonald’s pick is New Zealand wool. “Wool has a natural stain resistance in the form of lanolin, and is also fire-resistant, so it’s great for rugs placed near fireplaces,” she says. “Wool is extremely sturdy – even after a rug has been placed under furniture for long periods of time, the yarn will spring back.” Alternatively try a mix – wool blended with natural fibres, such as sisal, creates a rug that’s lovely to walk on and incredibly robust.

For a super-soft, tactile feel underfoot, silk is a luxurious alternative, but it’s somewhat more of a challenge on the care front. “Bamboo is a cheaper alternative with a similar appearance,” suggests Christine.

The right flooring can give your space a welcome splash of colour (Credit: Derek Swalwell)

Decorating with rugs – 5 top tips

• Do you already have a lot of colour going on in your room? Choose a lovely neutral rug as a quiet base. But if you want a colourful rug that makes a bold statement, pick it first and work your decor from the ground up.

• When looking for a patterned floor runner, select one where a good portion of it is a similar colour to the flooring beneath.

• If you have a striped rug on a wooden floor, run the stripes perpendicular to the floorboards, for visual contrast.

• Don’t hide the texture of a rugged-looking bedroom rug. Ensure it protrudes from at least one border of the bed. 

• Look to your room’s existing furnishings and palette for a clue as to what rug might look best.

You might also like:

Room recipe: Green oasis

How to make your coffee table more beautiful

9 signs you need to rethink your living room layout

Related stories