At abc, we believe a rug has the power to transform a space — each handwoven piece is a work of art unto itself. It could be the color or design that draws your eye downward, or perhaps the texture brings a feeling of grounding into the body. If a single rug can do this, imagine the power of multiples!
Rooted in the belief that your home is a reflection of your inner world, we approach the art of rug layering through the lens of comfort and aesthetic joy. Layering is an expression of your taste, style, and preferences — you can do it with rugs you already own, or find a few that work together in endless combinations.
A popular practice in English country homes in both the 19th and 20th centuries, rug layering in the living room provided warmth or expanded a smaller room's sense of space. Today, we have found rug layering is a artful way to refresh your home with the seasons or create moments of character and expression.
We spoke to Haynes Robinson, abc’s SVP of Rug Product Development (and a rug collector himself!), to learn the ins and outs of layering your own rugs.
Size & Space Solutions
There are plenty of practical reasons to layer rugs. “People layer rugs to use pieces they have inherited, the rug they have isn't the right size for the space, or their budget may afford smaller sized rugs. Sometimes designers put down a piece of sisal (simple fiberous rugs), or a straw mat before placing a livelier motif on top. In England, they used apple grass to frame the space, then they would layer kilims or smaller area rugs on top of it. Rug layering can also be helpful for acoustics within larger spaces, the more you layer the more insulated it will be. Sometimes people will put them down for random reasons as well. For example, I had a client who purchased one rug, and their husband would sit in his chair and nervously rub his feet when he was watching the ballgame. We found smaller rugs for them to layer over and put under his feet so it wouldn’t wear a hole in the primary rug of the room. Things like that — funny little character traits — rug layering can support as well.”
“You want color harmony. Imagine the rugs were having a conversation. If they are talking to each other, they need to be able to speak and form a relationship. It’s nice to mix scales — a small scale with a medium scale with a larger scale, it doesn’t have to be ‘matchy-matchy.’ In fact, it shouldn’t be matchy-matchy, but the colors should be harmonious with each other. Color harmony can be super high contrast, or low. What matters is that intensity of the palettes should be similar. For example, you wouldn’t want a bright hue combined with a pale one, you would want something that has the same level of color. The colors can be a different depth of tone, but it needs to be in a friendly range.”
“The more patterns you have, the more you have to consider. You could go for that over-the-top pattern on pattern look but I think more people like to have the other pieces of the room speaking to the rugs as well. It’s grounding. It’s a space for your eyes to rest on for a minute and then your pillows, accessories, and furniture will continue to flow the poetry of the room.”
Explore 8 x 10 Rugs
“It depends on the rugs and the room, but you should think outside the 90-degree box and look for interesting angles. It’s visually stimulating. You’re going with this random, intentionally idiosyncratic look that shows each rug's beauty, so the shapes should be placed accordingly. Maybe one rug will be squared up on the main piece of furniture and then the others could be overlapping taking on other angles or following pathways throughout the room. If the rugs aren’t the right size for the room, you’re going to layer them to fit into the space. Embrace the playfulness of it by not trying to feel too structured or serious. Have fun with it and let yourself go and let them just be.”
“One of the great things about rug layering is if you have (or are buildling) a collection of rugs, you can seasonally change them. You may have a set of rugs you want to display in the summer season and then a set of rugs you want to show in the colder months. This was very normal in the old days. In the springtime and summer, people would put our their flatweaves and dhurries which are not as plush, and slipcover their upholstery. Then for the winter when it was colder, they would take the looser fitting slipcovers off to display the tighter upholstered look and they would unroll their formal carpets into the room. It’s a way to change the vibe seasonally.”
Explore Oversized Rugs
“The only hard and fast rule with rug layering is to have fun with it. At the end of the day, you’re playing with the items you’ve collected and trying to see them in a new light or utility. It’s a creative process, so you take a rug or two and transform it into something new and unique to you. I recommend taking every rug from every corner of your home, place them all together to see how they relate, and then put them back together in a new way. By playing around with them, you can see them with fresh eyes and experience them in a new way."