Do you have an “area rug” that is dictating your design?

Ever interested in how a design develops?


I want to share the process of designing this family room so far, with my client’s permission.   It is still early on in the process.  So, it’s very conceptual.   As we look at that, I also want to discuss how elements in your home can either halt changes all together or dictate the color palette and design.

This client had consulted her builder’s designer as her home was being built.  She was advised on the paint colors and some other elements such as this area rug.


We all know area rugs are not cheap, especially a large one like you need for a family room (I tell clients at least 8×10 in most cases).   Nor is a good paint job.  And, it’s for that reason that this client really does not want to now go buy a new area rug or repaint the walls.  I totally understand.  I have my own “area rugs” that hold me back when it comes to redesigning rooms in my home.

So, we did our best to work with this rug and the existing paint colors.   Here is her gorgeous home as it stands.



The area rug dictated the color palette and therefore, much of the design.   Many times, a large multi-colored piece acts as a jumping off point for the rest of the room.   This is not a bad thing – it can be the perfect inspiration for a space.  Other times, though, it can restrict what you can do with the design and may not allow you to go in the direction you really want to go.

See some of our rough draft options below.  We found that the rug could be made to work.  It’s not a bad rug, but it doesn’t go well with the overall feel of the house and severely restricts the palette.  That wouldn’t be bad, except that such a palette can quickly create a darker room.  And, in this case, that’s not what the client was going for.


Please ignore the crooked deer head and floating chandelier.  This was in the very early stages of the design process and still messy. It was pre-shopping and post color scheme talk/ design consultation.  It was all just very rough as we hammered out a direction.

This next drawing is with a different finish on ottoman (less texture) and with a wood finish on chest of drawers.  There are also different pillows and an industrial light in corner.  (photographer type light)


Then, just for kicks, I threw out a few “what if” designs.  Just in case she got the wild hair to change the wall color and rug.  Here it is a different wall color and rug.


And, just the rug, if we left the wall color.


One other rug.


And, how about with curtains as well as with a different rug and wall color?


As you can see, it opens up so many more possibilities.  We no longer have a multi-colored large element dictating the color palette and design and pushing us in a specific direction.  Again, that is not always bad.  Such a piece can serve to inspire an entire design.  Other times, it can push you in  a direction you weren’t wanting to go.

She commented that she liked the designs with a different wall color and rug better, but that it’s hard to part with the rug or wall color.  That is why I’m touching on how such things can hold you back.  They hold us all back at times.  I know I’m just as guilty.  Many times it just takes me a while to be ready to part with those elements.

After seeing these choices, she still wanted to go with the rug and wall color, after all, it is very hard to part with a fairly new expensive item like that rug.   No problem.  Yet, with more thought, she wanted to test the waters of changing just the rug out.  And, here is where we stand.



This is just a start on the room and is still very conceptual.  For instance, we plan to nix the deer head and we are making the sofas a tad darker to match their actual color better…   We are still exploring rugs as well.  We still have a ways to go with finalizing a design path and furniture layout, then finding accessories like pillows, sourcing actual items, and so on.

I’m fine with whatever she decides.   What is most important to me is that she is happy, both with  her financial choices and visual design choices.

Isn’t she awesome for allowing me to share this dilemma in a post?!

This isn’t really about my client.  It’s about an age-old dilemma that we’ve all faced.   I often see various versions of this dilemma – difficulty getting rid of something we just purchased and wasn’t cheap, yet isn’t working well in a design plan…  and the awful feeling that goes with it.  It’s like buyer’s remorse.  We all like to really get our money out of things.  I know I do.

Have you been in that boat?   Have you ever allowed an item to dictate your color palette and design in a direction you didn’t really want to go?

It’s not bad if you have.  Many of us can’t change a whole room at once.  We take it in phases.

I know my own versions of this “area rug” have dictated design in my home at times.  For me, redesigning a space can be challenging for my practical side.  I think that is why I always check Craigslist first – just in case I can find an inexpensive version of what I want.  That way, I don’t feel bad about changing it out later.  I also consider if I sell something that isn’t working well in a design, can I buy something to replace it with the money from the sale.  And, of course, I ask myself – can I re-purpose that item for elsewhere in the house?   Can it be painted (you know I’ll paint anything) or altered?  Is there a diy version of what I want?

At the very least, though, it’s great to be able to envision a room in various ways, with varying constraints to determine if it’s worth such changes.   Seeing those images is fun, no matter if it inspires us to make a big change, or even if it is just something we can file away for a future design, once we are ready to make that change.

By the way, I’m a big believer in going neutral to fairly neutral on expensive or large overwhelming items. For example, if you must spend a lot on an area rug, choose something that can work with several color schemes. That way, if you get tired of one, it’s alright. You can keep that same rug, yet change up the room.

Do you have an “area rug” (or something similar) in your home that is forcing you in a certain direction?   Is there anything in your home that holds you back – either halts or dictates design in a way that you aren’t thrilled about?



  1. It is a wonderful skill to both be able to work with a client’s previous ‘area rug’ piece and to be able to design from scratch! I often feel frustrated when stuck with a tricky piece but sometimes it an inspire the most creative end designs! Good luck – cant wait to see the outcome!

    xo Allison
    Spicer + Bank

  2. Great post!! I change my mind (a lot) so I don’t tend to buy rugs that are more than $100-150…for this very reason. Why are rugs so stinking expensive?

  3. Oh my gosh Kristy, we have around 8 rugs my husband brought back from the Middle East and now don’t have even one of them out. Just not sure what to do when it comes to that style of rug. When we moved into our first house where we could actually use one he was adimant we put the largest one out (a bright red one larger than 8×10) and it practically covered the entire floor. That was how I ended up with so many red items in my livingroon when we started working together – and I wasn’t even that crazy about red! Those darn rugs can definitely be hindering :)

    I love that black & white stripe rug you have pictured – need to get that bad boy for my room :D

  4. What a great post! I have now decided to go with sisal type rugs in my living room and bedroom, so that way I am free to change up my decor with ease! Oh wow you saved me from a major headache! Thank you!!!

  5. Awesome post! Such good tips and I never know what a difference the area rug could really make!

  6. This is great advice Kristy! Unfortunately, kids and animals dictate this too. When we had our puppy, ALL the rugs had to get put up. :-( Boy did I miss our sheepskin rug! This is often why I try to find items on craigslist that are just a couple years old…my octo sheepskin was $65! At this point I’m holding out for a Pottery Barn Henley rug in Espresso – a nice solid neutral. :-) Thanks for the tip – can’t wait to see the end result!

  7. Oh yes, experience has taught me to stay with neutral rugs!!! I have a burgundy/red “feature wall” in our main bedroom – ugh. Luckily I don’t have any rugs in there yet, so that wall will be painted over and the entire room will be changed. I like all the different design concepts you came up with for this room, lots of possibilities for it. This was a great, thought inspiring post, thanks :)

    Suzy xxx

  8. this is a great post!!! Love your inspirations and the pop of green is awesome!
    Thanks for sharing how you “break it down”

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>