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Rug on Carpet

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“Can I put an area rug on top of my carpet?” It’s a question interior designers hear every once in a while. And the answer is a resounding “Yes!” 

You can add a rug on carpet for almost any reason:


  • The carpet is old and stains won’t come out
  • The carpet is brand new and you want to protect it
  • The carpet is hideous and you can’t afford to replace it
  • You’re renting and want a custom look
  • You want a change of scenery

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The patterns, textures, and colors available for area rugs is almost endless. They can bring life to a dull room, without renovating the entire space. They can take a generic space and make it entirely personal.

Mixing and Matching in Style

When layering an area rug on a carpet, keep these design principles in mind. The end result is a spectacular, designer look.

Mix, don’t match, textures.If there’s one thing to keep in mind when layering, it’s mixing up the textures. For example, if you have a short-pile or looped carpet, opt for a luxurious shag rug. It offers a splash of soft elegance to the smooth look of the carpet, which enhances both surfaces. 

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Or, if you have a plush carpet already, go for a low-profile woven rug or a Berber weave. It will be an island of sleek elegance amidst the soft fibers surrounding it.

Go larger rather than smaller.Plopping down a small rug in the middle of the carpet doesn’t work. It looks out of place. It can actually make the space feel awkward or cheap. 

Size the rug to the room. Use it as an anchor point under your main furniture grouping. If you want to have two groupings, you can go with two smaller rugs that complement each other. Don’t go too small, however. 

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Choose colors that complement.Even if the carpet you want to cover is hideous, you need to find an area rug that complements it. Adding a rug that clashes with the carpet will make the situation worse. 

When selecting an area rug, consider contrast or coordination. A bright or dark rug will pop when put on top of a neutral color carpet. If you want something a bit less dramatic, get a rug that’s similar in color, but a few shades lighter or darker. 

Avoid pattern mixing.If you have a single-color carpet broadloom, you can go with a pattern on the rug. On the other hand, if your carpet has a distinct pattern, a plain area rug is the better option. 

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Styling Area Rugs on Carpet

Selecting the area rug to go on top of your wall-to-wall carpet is the first step. Next, you need to find the best way to style it. What is its purpose in the room? Here are a few ways designers style area rugs over carpet.

Designate a specific space.Area rugs are great for defining practical spaces, such as a dining area or a meditation space. They work great as a defined space for the kids to play or for the adults to talk. 

Transition between spaces.You may have the same color carpet throughout the house. This can get a bit boring. One way to break up the space is to use area rugs at transition points. For example, a runner placed in a hallway can be an inviting contrast to the carpeting in adjoining rooms.

Add subtle contrast.Adding a neutral area rug on top of carpet in the same shade can bring a subtle texture and contrast to the space. It’s a great way to elevate the look of a space without adding more color.

Add cushioning in a child’s room or play space.A plush carpet adds another layer of cushioning to the floor. This helps keep your child safer while playing or learning to walk. Plus, a plush rug is a great place for an impromptu nap after a busy day of playing.

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Bring focus where you want.Designers often talk about the importance of adding a focal point to a room. It’s easy if you have a great view or a grand fireplace. But, if you have four walls and some furniture, it’s more of a challenge. A unique area rug can draw attention where you want it to go. 

Achieve your style of choice.If you want to emphasize a certain style in a room, an area rug can help you achieve it. For example, a western style is easy to get if you put down a cow hide rug. A plush, deep shag rug works well in a luxurious boudoir. 

Bring the contrast.Bringing a bold design statement into a room is painless when you add a strong contrast. This works well when the carpet underneath is already a striking color, like a bright red or a rich gray. When adding an area rug on that bold carpet, go for sharp contrast. Think black and white, red and black, or blue and white. It will bring an instant elegance.

Cover the carpet completely.You absolutely hate the carpet you have and can’t afford to replace it. You can cover it the entire space with an area rug. It’s a great solution if you are renting or have to wait to replace the carpet. Keep the color or pattern simple since it’s covering a large space.

Let’s Get Practical

When you add a rug on top of carpet, you have two problems you need to address: creeping and bunching.

Rugs will creep across the smooth surface of carpeting, unless they have an anchor. Heavy furniture will hold down most rugs. Bunching usually happens when only part of the rug has an anchor but the rest doesn’t. Either problem can create a tripping hazard, on top of being unsightly.

To combat the creeping and bunching, you need a pad between the rug and carpet. Go with a pad made for use over carpets. Another option is to use double-side carpet tape to keep the rug in place. 

Is There Anything to Avoid?

For the most part, you can do just about anything when you lay rug on carpet. But, there are a few things you should avoid:


  • Don’t go too thick. A thick area rug on top of a thick carpet can become a tripping hazard.
  • Don’t lay carpet tiles on top of wall-to-wall carpet, though you can use an area rug over fixed carpet tiles.
  • Avoid layering area rugs over frieze or long strand shag. They don’t offer enough support for the area rug to lay flat, causing it to buckle and shift underfoot.

Try it out for yourself. Take an area rug from another part of the house and put it down over your carpet. See if you like it. If you do, go buy a rug especially for that space.

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