Design Impact: The Rug

We were in the car the other day and Joe was letting me ramble on about decorating ideas I have, including those that could be accomplished in a rented space. I mentioned how I wished it was easier to replace light fixtures in a rental, then wondered aloud whether a great light fixture had the biggest impact on taking a room from okay to WOW.

Joe patiently listened and said “Uh huh” in all the right places, but when I thought about it a little more (welcome to the inner wanderings of my mind), I realized that I should stop worrying about lighting because honestly? I think rugs have the biggest design impact.

Take the above. I adore the living room on the right. I mean, the floors are gorgeous. It feels fresh, clean, and oh-so-simple. But the room on the left has a similar aesthetic and color scheme, but with the use of (two!) rugs, the feel of the space is totally different. Cozy. Warm. Textured.

Then there are these two photos, which Naomi posted a while back but which illustrate the point perfectly:

Room on the top — no rug. Exact same room WITH rug below. Crazy, right?

Are you with me? Do you think rugs are the quickest way to impact the design of the room? Paint is obviously up there too — though it’s not so quick or easy! What are your tips for making a room feel totally different when you’re on a budget or in a rental?

{Image Credits: French by Design via Savvy Home, photograph by Jean Marc Palisse; Flourish Design + Style via This is Glamorous; Laura Resen Photography via Design Manifest}

Leave a Comment


  1. 1.26.12

    I remember reading in a Refinery article – to paint your ceiling! That’s one way of making it easier. also instead of painting a wall you can hang up upholstery instead :) That’s what I did at my last rental.

  2. 1.26.12
    The NOW said:

    The last pic looks so so so much better w the rug. Amazing what a rug can do! xoxo

  3. 1.26.12
    Rebecca said:

    Love this and totally agree! We are working on making the ‘sit in’ part of our kitchen cozier as it’s this awkward section right now. I know a rug will really tie it all together. Thanks for this post :)

  4. 1.26.12

    I totally agree! I just bought a black and white chevron area rug for my living room and am excited for it to warm up my space. I love my hardwood floors but I love fun rugs more!

  5. 1.26.12

    I completely agree– I used to grumble over how expensive rugs are (not as cheap as throwing a new color of paint on the wall or something), but I really believe they’re the transformative piece.

  6. 1.26.12

    A lot of my rooms look a little empty and I had reached the same conclusion- they need rugs! Now I’m on the hunt for perfect rugs and have yet to find one that will give the room the right feeling within our budget.

    Anyone have suggestions of where to go w/o spending too much money? (We’re in a “starter” home so don’t want to spend a ton of money on rugs that may/may not make it to the next house)

  7. 1.26.12

    All, Alaina from Live Creating Yourself posted yesterday on an amazing
    deal on an 8×10 chevron rug! I think I might get one for our bedroom:

  8. 1.26.12

    We just splurged on a nice new rug and I am so in love with it. It’s the most beautiful shade of mocha and oh so soft… yes, rugs are pricy but definitely a worthy investment. (I was so happy to see the old one go, as you might not be surprised to hear, it was blue!)

  9. 1.26.12
    Lisa said:

    I totally agree. I went from an apartment with tile floors to one with beige carpet and kept my rugs anyways. It may be a little weird to put a rug on top of carpet, but it breaks up all that boring beige and really defines certain areas.

  10. 1.26.12

    aaaaaaaaagreed. just got to see our first new one in action upon returning from Alt. will post soon, i think!

  11. 1.26.12
    Nicole said:

    Wow this is crazy! Curtains are another thing that can transform a room completely if done correctly.

    This may seem weird and you won’t believe it, but I once replaced all my old outlet covers with new ones and it REALLY made a difference. Obviously not the same caliber as adding a rug or curtains but it made my apt look more crisp and fresh. I really couldn’t believe what a transformation it made. I swear it is the little things sometimes!

  12. 1.26.12
    Natalie said:

    This is so true! I’ve been thinking about decorating ideas a lot lately since Seth and I are moving into a new apartment next week. I’ve been thinking about a rug, but the floors are carpeted so wouldn’t it be weird to have a rug on carpet?

  13. 1.26.12
    Chelsea said:

    I built our living room around a rug I fell in love with. I completely agree with you. xo

  14. 1.26.12

    If I could only decorate with one thing, it would be a rug. I change mine up regularly and it completely changes the look and feel of the room. Love these examples!

  15. 1.26.12

    While I despise the outdated ceiling fan with light kit in our living room, I can vouch that adding a rug totally changed the feel of the room. It’s more cohesive, warmer and, best of all, it’s pretty to look at. I don’t pay as much attention to the ceiling anymore!

  16. 1.26.12
    Traci said:

    I completely agree. I live in a rental and for the longest time I just had no rug near my door. I knew i needed one but didn’t want to spend a lot on a rug that may not match a place when I buy, but then there was a special on hautelook and now I LOVE my entrance!! I think painting the wall behind your bed really makes the rental feel more homey. In chicago alot of the rentals are nice but just cookie cutters so by panting the wall it makes me feel like this is my home:)

  17. 1.26.12

    I think a rug plus a patterned throw blanket or window panels make the biggest impact if you can’t paint. If you have built-ins (or a bookcase) you can also cover pieces of wood or cardboard with fabric/wallpaper or paint and mimic the look of a painted back.

    Kinda like this:

  18. 1.26.12
    Kelly said:

    I’m totally with you on the rug thing. I’m not crazy about the kitchen in our new house, but the amazing rug in it helps me live with it for now!! **I’m trying to talk Christopher into letting me get a second, similar one for our upstairs hallway!

  19. 1.26.12

    Here is my list –
    1.) Hardware can change a kitchen in a snap.
    2.) Paint can set the mood in a bedroom in pinch.
    3.) Throw pillows and rug in the right shades and textures make a living room feel cozy.

    Shades of Light and Rugs USA have GREAT deals in fun geometric patterns.

  20. 1.26.12
    Jaclyn said:

    It i so hard to make a rental feel cozy, but I love this rug idea. You’re so right, two rugs make a huge impact. Especially when one has a really memorable pattern. Good luck with decorating! I like to switch out the cabinet knobs, light plate switches, and handles with pretty ones. Then you can switch then back when you move.

  21. 1.26.12
    Amanda said:

    Good point…you defiantly got me thinking!

  22. 1.26.12

    I just did a photo shoot in my apartment and I SERIOUSLY grappled with the restrictions of a rental. We never had a rug in our past apartment and it has cozied up the new place so much. We also invested in a great light fixture and had a handyman install it – so worth it! But above all, for me home never feels truly homey without my art and tchotchkes!

  23. 1.27.12

    Thanks for the link love darling! I totally agree with you – rooms without rugs feel empty to me… And two berber rugs? Well that’s just perfect isn’t it!

  24. 1.27.12

    I just stumbled upon your blog. I love it. I will definitely stay in touch.

    It is amazing how much that rug changes the room.

  25. 1.30.12

    Agreed! Love throw rugs as decor too.

    – Sara @ Gameday Stylist

  26. 4.8.13

    Good article! We will be linking to this great article on our site.
    Keep up the great writing.