Dear Jenny: Can I Use a Rug on my Wall-to-Wall Carpet? - Juniper Home

Dear Jenny: Can I Use a Rug on my Wall-to-Wall Carpet?

Kids Room

Here’s a question from a reader that I know many of you living in newer homes have asked yourself:

Hi Jenny,
I am helping with a friend on her house (just a few ideas for her girl’s nursery) & I suggested that she put a rug on top of her carpet. She declined & I persisted. :) She finally said she thinks it looks tacky & cheap. Oh no! I have never thought that and I’m wondering if I’m way off-base. Does it just depend on the type of rug (weight of it) or do rugs on top of carpet always look tacky?

I’m going to open this one up to the comments section, because I think the vote is going to be pretty split. Also my answer is a pretty lame one: it depends. I think overall, I prefer no area rugs on top of wall-to-wall carpeting, at least carpeting that has a pile greater than 1/2″. I feel like the area rug never sits right on top of shaggier carpet.

Here are some examples that I do like in kids rooms. Notice how low the pile is with all of these carpets:

Serena and Lily

House and Home Magazine


Marie Claire Maison

Coastal Living

Angie Hranowsky (thanks Vinyasa Mama for the source!)

And of course, I LOVE the look of an area rug layered on top of natural fiber rugs or flooring.


O at Home

Country Living

Peter Dunham

When we rented a house in Delaware last year, our bedrooms upstairs had carpeting and I opted out of floor rugs. I actually felt like it was a bit of a bonus. Rugs are EXPENSIVE!! If you were counting on the rug to add some pattern or to define the space, use the hundreds of dollars you’re saving to invest in a pair of benches with a great pattern. Or amazing window treatments.

What do you think, readers? Do any of you have area rugs layered on top of your carpet? How is it working for you?

P.S. If you have a very general question about home decor that you would like to see answered here, please email your submission to jenny Please keep the emails brief and remember that the question should be relevant to most LGN readers.

**PPS As I was waiting for the photos to upload for this post, I was lost in thought, staring at my desk. Suddenly I realized that what I was staring at was an area rug on top of high pile carpet on the cover of this month’s Elle Decor! Looks great here:

What did you think?
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109 thoughts on “Dear Jenny: Can I Use a Rug on my Wall-to-Wall Carpet?

  1. I think you're right. We tried putting a rug on top of a dirty and stained shag carpet in our son's room, and it drove me nuts because it curled up, didn't lay flat, moved around, etc, so we ended up replacing the carpet. But we have a dhurrie in our own bedroom on top of a berber carpet and it works just fine.

  2. I often put area rugs on my natural seagrass carpet..adds a little pattern to the otherwise plain base..but rugs on top of thick carpets with pile is a strict does look like you said "it depends"..have a lovely weekend, visit my blog when you have a moment! xx meenal

  3. I also think its a question of habit. If you are from a cold region, where everyone has wall-to-wall carpet in every room, then rugs are very commonly used on top of carpeting. I think that if you are from somewhere warmer, where wood and tile floors are the norm, then it might look odd. I think it sometimes looks awkward with a rug on a long pile carpeting, but its never seemed 'tacky'. Although maybe I'm just defining 'tacky' differently?

  4. Agree with, it depends. I love your idea of using color and texture on a bench, where there is already thick carpet in a room. Primarily, you want the rug to function, rather than get in the way, and if it doesn't sit right, it doesn't function. It just looks weird.

  5. i'm not the biggest fan but the green carpet in our apt is horrible! my husband doesn't understand, but i just had to cover up some of that green!!

  6. I notice that one factor many or most of these photos have in common is a neutral carpet on which to layer the rug. I also have a neutral carpet in my home (a but more than 1/2" pile) and have layered rugs on top. I eventually rolled up most of the rugs, but that was just because I wanted a more open, simpler look. So it just depends on what you're going for. Also, if you're renting it's definitely not a bad idea, as it protects the carpets and improves sound-absorption from and for the neighbors (if in an apt).

  7. We have neutral regular pile carpet and I have rugs in a of our bedrooms- 2 are my children's rooms. They have smaller scale rugs like the ones you posted, but in our MB I have a 5×7 rug at the foot of my bed with 2 slipper chairs on it and I think it makes a huge difference in the feel of our room. It definitely defines the small seating area. I originally put it there our of necessity (I didn't have anywhere to store it) but I really like it.

  8. I like rugs over carpet. We live in an apt. and old carpet (and bathtubs) skeeves me out. Gross. I have a baby and I want him to crawl and play but not on our apt. carpet (although I have steamed it and vacuum everyday). So, area rugs it is! It also ties our rooms together, particularly our open living area.

  9. I feel the same way as you, I'm open to anything, but I always consider the specifics of each case. Sometimes it's a nice solution, sometimes it looks cheap and tacky in deed… I guess it depends on personal taste and fell of style..

  10. i think the key is a neutral background. i think sometimes rugs help wall to wall carpeting b/c if you have a lot of carpeting it can be bland looking. sometimes the rugs will lay flat on longer pile if you need to break up an expanse of flooring or define a space. i prefer shorter pile carpeting in most cases anyway. well, mostly i prefer wood floors, but we have to work with what we've got. i like this post!

  11. Some great points here…I love rugs layered over carpet, especially huge expanses of carpet. I think it helps delineate and anchor furnishings. Lots of rules to follow to make it work, but it can work beautifully!

  12. i struggle with this all the time because we have wall to wall beige carpet in our rental and I HATE it. I really want to be able to add some more color and pattern but it's very difficult to find a rug that will work over it. So far, we've just kept the carpet as is, without the rug, but I think about changing it all the time.

    Also, the unkown image you have on this post is by designer Angie Hranowsky of her son's room. It's one if my absolute favorite boy rooms of all time so I'm pretty familiar with it :)

    Thanks so much for your post, Jenny!

  13. As long as the rug is in scale with the furnishings in the room I think it can work. I used a fairly thin rug from West Elm in my guest bedroom/home office and the pattern that it added to the space was a real bonus. For those of us who live in newer homes with open floor plans, replacing the carpet with wood flooring may be cost prohibitive.

  14. I have never been a fan of an area rug over wall to wall carpeting, UNTIL I lived in a rental with low-pile contractor spec carpet. It is a neutral color, but shows so much dirt! I needed to minimize how much carpet was exposed. I layered it with a natural seagrass rug and it looks great. It adds texture to the space, defines the seating area, and now… I have less rental carpet my kiddies can spill stuff on!

    Great question! And your rooms in your old house were done so well!! I love the color!

    Tiffany of {Living Savvy}

  15. It depends on the condition, pile and color of the wall to wall carpet. Though, in general, I think area rugs on top of carpeting help to define areas and add extra colors and textures to a room.

  16. I was not a fan of carpet on carpet until… 3 years ago we installed brown wall to wall as a quick coverup of our living room hardwood that couldn't be refurbished. I recently added an off white rug and it has brightened & cozied the space so much in a room that I wish could have more beautiful floors.

  17. if the pile of the carpet is low enough, i think it is just fine and can look great in some circumstances. but i also think you're right that more pattern can be added in other, less expensive ways.

  18. we have two rugs over carpet in our home….one in front of the crib in baby boy's room, and one in the loft to add that "homey" feeling. they look great, and i love them. wouldn't have it any other way.

  19. I think it can really depend on the rug you are covering up. Our condo came with wall to wall carpeting in the bedrooms. I prefer hardwood, but it is what it is. Unfortunately, the rugs aren't in the best shape. But, we can't afford to replace them right now. So, even though area rugs on top of carpets isn't my favorite look I think it is better than showing the dingy carpet (for me). But, if your friend has a nice carpet I don't really see the point in covering it up!

  20. It all goes back to what you said… it depends. I think that as a general rule, rugs look better on hardsurface flooring. But I would say that if you have a fairly neutral carpet with a low-ish pile, a rug can just add interest without seeming too obtrusive. The rug also needs to "hold its own". If it looks like you laid a sheet or towel down (because its too thin) then I think you're entering the tacky realm. Always enjoy your posts!

  21. I actually like the look of layered rugs on carpet. Perhaps I am biased though. We always rent, and so it is helpful for a few reasons… 1) it keeps us from getting the carpet dirty and therefore losing our cleaning deposit 2) It allows the room to look pulled together even when the carpet is not what we would have chosen. The key is to invest in a good quality rug pad!!

  22. I would normally opt for hardwoods and then a rug, but then you are basically paying for flooring twice. In any case, I am currently dealing with the scenario that I have a client in a rental and the room we are doing has HORRIBLE berber carpeting it, so we opted to lay a rug on top of it — it hides the carpet and gives her a place to practice her yoga.

  23. I simply had to put rugs on the carpet.
    Before I moved in with my fella the beige carpet had put up with a decade of bachelor living (weekly poker game traffic, hardly any cleaning). No amount of vacuuming, steam cleaning, and spot cleaning would clean it.
    I had to spend a lot of time convincing him to pull up the carpet. As a short term solution I put down thin rugs mostly to cover up the awful stains. Let's just put it this way, the only clean carpet was the carpet underneath the furniture.
    Happily, most of the carpet is gone and the rugs happily sit on the wood floors.

  24. we definitely did it on our place. we're renting and unfortunately our apartment has wall to wall beige carpeting. we got a huge 8×11 oriental rug and put it in the center of the living room. looks so much better, i love it.

  25. In all the pictures, it seems that the rugs on the carpets are smaller rugs that are used as accents to compliment the space and add sone fun flare. I think the pictures tell us how to do it right. Also, in a lot of the pics, no furniture is placed atop the rugs.

    Great post! Thanks, Jenny.

  26. I was always opposed to it, too. We have a very large 300 sf (16 x 20) living room. I was hesitant, but a friend talked me into it. It looked much better and really anchored the room. It was definitely the right decision for our space. I don't think I'd do it in a smaller room, though.

  27. As a designer, I'll add an area rug to a carpeted floor under three conditions: (1) the room is large and I am using it to define a space within the room;(2) the carpet is berber or low pile without pattern or tone on tone flecks; (3) the area rug is of high quality.

    Nothing kills rug on rug quicker than an area rug that is low quality and high pile. That's where I start to think they look tacky.

  28. I love rugs on wall-to-wall carpet! But only if the piles are different lengths, and they lay appropriately. We just moved into our house 6 months ago, and they had put in brand new carpet (over hardwoods!!) just 6 months before. We're not ready to rip everything up right now, but I can't stand the wall-to-wall beige. I've got some thin, canvasy rugs that I'm using and I LOVE them. They add texture, color, pattern and help me not feel like I'm trapped in an off-white asylum.

  29. I love this type of post! It's a question I've always had! I agree with you 100% Jenny, but of course, it does look great on the Elle cover!

  30. Thanks so much for posting this! I'm currently debating whether or not to do this for my daughter's nursery. (Actually I'm wondering if it's a sin to carpet the original pine floors in the first place. They look great, but there are wide spaces b/t the floor boards and stuff is always breaking off in between.) Anyway, I appreciate the debate and advice!

    P.S. I believe the source for the eclectic pink and blue girl's room is Martyn Lawrence-Bullard from Elle Decor, Oct. '06.

  31. i'm not positive, but isn't it bad on the carpet glue / padding to place a rug on it with traffic? I have never been a fan of rugs on carpet, but in some of your pics they really do enhance the room or add color if the carpet is light.

  32. In the new TradHome, Nine Freudenberger said, in one of her five tips of the trade: "Layer area rugs on top of wall-to-wall carpeting; it's an easy way to warm up a space and create a feeling of luxury." I tend to agree with her.

  33. We have, horror of all horrors, thick beige carpeting right next to the kitchen vinyl. (Which is another horror, by the way.) I've wanted to put a fun indoor/outdoor rug on top of the carpet in the hallway there, (because you should see the shape the carpet's in — I've got twin toddlers) but know that the rug would ride around and buckle. I've even considered getting one those clear vinyl runners with the teeth. On top of that can go a rug pad, and then on top of that the rug. Complicated, but it could work…

  34. I've had this same argument with friends and clients and I tend to agree with you: it depends. I probably wouldn't put a rug over a patterned carpet, but if the carpet is low pile and plain coloured then to me furniture sometimes looks lost and a rug helps to define the area (sitting/dining etc). Rugs on sisal looks fantastic!

  35. I am in the process of trying to get an area rug to lie correctly on my medium-pile carpeting… sigh. The rug transforms the room, so I want it to stay, but I also want it to lie flat and not trip people. The comments here are making me think that I'm on a fool's errand — oh no!

  36. All that matters is "do you love it?" If it's not the friend's thing, then she shouldn't have it. But if it floats your boat, then you should do it. Tacky is an opinion. Design always changes. Do what makes you happy.

  37. We are currently living in a furnished rental and there is a rug under the coffee table over shag carpet in the living. I HATE IT! It's not that is looks so bad, but it never lays flat and my girls trip over it all the time. I would get rid of it in a minute, but it's not mine to deal with.

  38. Candice Olson from Divine Design & Candice Tells All does this in some of her designs. Her tip is to put a non-skid rug pad between the two rugs to keep them from chafing against each other – she said to make sure you get the rug pad meant for carpet-on-carpet…

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