How to Layer Rugs: Advice and Inspiration from Design Pros

Experts demonstrate how you should (and should not) layer rugs to infuse personal style into your space.

Choosing the perfect area rug for your space is hard enough. But layering rugs can feel downright impossible, as you have to consider the perfect combination of colors, sizes, and textures. To give your space a refresh or make use of an extra rug you've had in storage, consider layering rugs with the help of a few design experts. They share how to do it properly—including getting the right proportions and which mistakes to avoid—along with a few safety tips you might not have considered.

“Layering is an individual’s decision and there are no real rules," says Rickie Broff, head of sales at Fayette Studio, which specializes in custom rug designs. “It's important to layer thoughtfully and intentionally in order to achieve a cohesive and balanced look," she says. "When done correctly, it can be a wonderful design choice.”

layered rugs

Carson Downing

Use the following guidelines and expert advice to get comfortable with layering rugs and channel your creativity to make the final look your own.

Why You Should Try Layering Rugs

If you haven't tried layering rugs before, there are a multitude of reasons you should consider the trend. For one, Broff says, “it can be practical when trying to anchor individual spaces within a large room.” In an open concept living room, for example, she suggests adding area rugs over existing carpet to carve out zones such as in a reading nook or under a card table. “Layering rugs can add depth, texture, and visual interest to a room, creating a cozy atmosphere,” she says.

Kate Lester, creative director and CEO of Kate Lester Interiors, explains that the rug-layering trend can be beneficial in more ways than one. Say you have your eye on a high end rug, but the price of the size you need to fit your space is out of your budget. Or, you want to experiment with bold colors but aren’t quite ready to commit. “Rug layering allows you to incorporate something vintage, or colorful, on a small scale," Lester says, "It’s beneficial to those who can’t invest in something substantial because they can pair a smaller version of it with a larger, more accessible or subdued rug.”

Lester explains that layering a small, colorful rug on top of a larger, neutral one could be the secret to making the smaller rug work in a space it otherwise wouldn't. “Have fun when layering," she says. "Grab that amazing vintage Turkish piece that may be a bit too small and let it have it’s shining moment on top of a fantastic woven piece."

Yet another dual advantage of layering is that it can conceal wear and tear on a well-loved rug, or allow you to use a rug that would otherwise look scanty on its own. “If you have a favorite rug that is too small or too worn, placing it on top or underneath another one can create a vignette without looking out of proportion or noticing imperfections," Broff says.

living room with white textured rug
Jay Wilde

How to Layer Rugs: Designers Share Their Best Tips

1. Always Begin with a Base

If there is one rule to follow when trying out a layered rug look, it’s this one. Chelsey Brown, author of Shut the Front Door and founder of City Chic Decor, explains why this is an important first step. “Begin by selecting an area rug as your base that’s large enough to fit under most of the furniture in the space," she says. "In other words, the base rug should easily fit under the front legs of your sofa, side chairs, and coffee table in the living room.” She explains that the base rug essentially acts as a canvas for the rest of the layered look. You can play around with how everything else is arranged on top of it, but you don't want the base to move.

Brown also recommends settling on a style or theme when getting started. “You can go for contrasting or complementary colors and patterns,” she says. “For example, a neutral base rug can work well with a colorful or patterned rug on top. Or even something misshaped—my favorite.”

white living room with layered rugs

Jay Wilde

2. Properly Position Your Rugs

The next step is something Brown also feels strongly about, as she maintains it’s the key to creating a cohesive look. “When layering rugs, it’s essential to overlap them slightly," she says. "Place a smaller rug at an angle or right in the center of a larger one.”

She explains that shape doesn’t necessarily matter, as you can layer two of the same shape or mix it up. “I personally use a rectangular rug as my base and top it with a wavy area rug that sits under an ottoman,” she says. At the end of the day, she suggests to experimenting with different shapes to find what works best in your space.

white room with blue bed

Adam Albright

3. Layer Rugs with Different Proportions

While it's not always the case, rug layering usually involves one larger and one smaller rug. Broff affirms that two very different sizes is a factor she always takes into consideration. It makes sense that the bottom rug needs to be bigger so that you can actually see both. But Broff adds that, “the bottom rug should be much larger than the top so one dominates the space and one acts as an accent.”

Something else that Lester suggests keeping in mind is that the bottom rug should always be the proper scale for the room. She agrees with Brown that all furniture legs should fit on the rug which, as a bonus, can make a small room appear larger.

layered rugs


4. Layer Rugs with Different Textures

A rug naturally adds texture to a room, so using more than one rug is an opportunity to double up on texture and add more dimension to a space. Brown explains that layering rugs of different textures creates a cozy and inviting atmosphere. She suggests piling a fluffy, high-pile rug (like a shag rug) over a low-pile or flatweave, like many washable rugs consist of. "This contrast in texture is not only beyond visually appealing, but also adds depth to the space and can even act as the feature statement in your room," she says.

Broff says she typically likes to use a rug made of natural or organic material—such as sisal or jute—as the base, and layering something a bit more visually interesting, perhaps with a pattern, on top.

layered rugs in white living room

Stacy Zarin Goldberg 

5. Layer Rugs with Different Colors or Patterns

Playing with patterns and color in the layering process is where you can be flexible and put your personal touch on the space. Still, keep in mind that less is generally more. Like Brown, Lester likes sticking to a neutral base, namely ones from her Harman Natural Collection with Jaipur Living, and adding color, patterns, or texture to the top rug.

Brown cautions that if you’re thinking about using patterns, make sure they don’t clash. “It’s usually a good idea to have one rug with a busy pattern and another with a more subdued or solid color to balance things out," she says.

white room with layered rugs

Kritsada Panichgul

6. Avoid These Design Mistakes

It can be easy to go overboard with rug layering, especially once you start combining colors, textures, and patterns. Broff explains that a common pitfall is trying to do too much all at once. “Using rugs that clash with conflicting patterns or colors can create a chaotic or confusing look and make the room look cluttered and awkward,” she says.

Lester notes that she’s not a fan of layering two colorful rugs, or rugs of the same material. “The juxtaposition of texture and color is what makes layered rugs interesting," she says.

living room with lined patterned rug
David Land

7. Safety Tips to Follow When Layering Rugs

“When layering rugs it's important to consider the position of furniture and flow of the room," Broff says. "I would be mindful of where foot traffic is so that you don't create a tripping hazard. Definitely don’t layer rugs on stairs or in tight spaces.” In addition to proper placement, Broff suggests placing a rug pad underneath the base rug so that the rug stays anchored to the floor.

Brown also suggests using rug pads, and says she always uses them after an unfortunate personal incident. “One time, I was chasing my dog around the apartment to grab a sock from his mouth and tripped over the rug in my entryway,” she shares. Now, she always makes sure to anchor her rugs. "Once you’re happy with the placement of your layered rugs, use tape or pads to secure them in place to prevent rugs from slipping," she suggests.

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