Home Decor

How to Layer Rugs—Because Why Stop at One

Just keep these expert tips in mind.

May 28, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

Rugs might be one of the simplest ways to add an interesting dimension to a room. “Rugs are perfect for defining a space and pulling in texture, pattern, or color to bring everything together,” says designer Nicole Arruda.

Layering rugs, one on top of the other, is an even more interesting decor choice, whether you’re placing an accent rug over a larger area rug or covering up that blah wall-to-wall carpeting with a piece that’s much more your style. Layered rugs evoke coziness and warmth, and it’s an especially great idea if you’re someone who likes to switch up your space frequently: “Rugs give you the flexibility to make an easy swap down the road when you're ready for a change,” adds Arruda.

That said, layering rugs can still feel a little intimidating, so we decided to get some tips from the experts on how to guide your design process.

Covering Up That Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Don’t worry if the wall-to-wall carpeting in your bedroom isn’t everything you’ve ever dreamed about—your space can be saved with a bit of layering. “When layering rugs over wall-to-wall carpeting, I make sure the pile of the carpet is not too plush,” designer Alex Epstein of Purple Cherry Architects notes. If carpeting is too thick, the area rug won’t sit as nicely on top of it, Epstein explains. She offers another tip to ensure that an area rug remains neat and sleek once it is placed. “Be sure to use a sticky, non-slip rug pad,” Epstein advises. “It will tape the rug to the carpet surface without leaving any residue, while also holding it perfectly in place.”

Be mindful of the thickness of the layering piece, too. “You need to make sure that the layered rug is a flat woven rug, as you do not want anything too thick,” designer Jennifer Hunter says. We particularly like vintage pieces atop wall-to-wall carpeting for this reason—they’re excellent for adding intrigue and personality to a space. Plus, as designer Kelsey Haywood notes, using a vintage rug as the top layer means that you don’t have to shell out for an oversized piece. “Oftentimes, sticker shock is what keeps someone from purchasing a vintage rug,” Haywood comments. “Layering a smaller vintage rug on top means you don’t have to spend thousands on an area rug and can avoid navigating the tricky, non-standard dimensions vintage rugs come in. It’s a win-win!”

How to Arrange Your Furniture Accordingly

Once you’ve layered your accent rug over the wall-to-wall carpeting in your space, it’s time to set out your furniture. However, Sharon Derry and Casey Stallings of Lime Tree Home offer a key tip to keep top of mind during the design process. “One thing we remind our clients to consider—especially if layering over carpet—is that lighter-weight furniture pieces may not be as stable, and may wobble or tip over because the increased density and plushness of layered rugs doesn't provide a level surface,” the designers note. “This doesn't mean you can't, or shouldn't, layer a rug over carpet—it just means you'll need to be mindful of furniture placement.”

Be Mindful of Sizing

So, how large should your base rug and the accent rug be—and does scale matter? According to Abbes, an accent rug should be two-thirds of the size of the rug underneath it. This doesn’t hold true in the case of cowhide or sheepskin, though, according to Abbes. “Since those particular rugs are smaller in scale it's important to make sure that these are still proportionate to the furniture layout.” Your larger rug should be sizable enough to “cover the entire seating area” in a living room, Hunter notes.

Play With Pattern

When layering one rug over another, don’t be afraid to mix and match styles and textures, designer Michelle Gage says. “I often layer a smaller vintage woolen rug over a larger jute,” she notes. “This gets you the size you need for the room but also adds a little color and pattern to keep things interesting.” Or opt for something even more dramatic. “I always like to go a bit more drastic with my textures when layering rugs,” designer Fanny Abbes says. “For instance, pairing a plush sheepskin accent rug on top of a woven sisal rug is a great way to contrast the two materials in a soft yet effective way.”

Remember to have fun!

Despite all these tips and tricks, ultimately, it’s important to remember to trust your gut and have fun with your choices. Once you start experimenting, you'll realize just how versatile your space—and this trend—can be.

Do you layer rugs in your home? How do you combine colors and textures?

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Sarah Lyon

Written by: Sarah Lyon

Freelance writer and interior design enthusiast