Designer Minnie Kemp explains the style secrets for picking the perfect area rug

From the color to material to scale of the design, Minnie Kemp has advice for getting the right rug for your decor

living room with blue sofas and black rug
(Image credit: Future)

For such a simple, decorative piece, there is a lot resting on a rug. And no, I don’t just mean the furniture you’re putting on it. I always think the rug you choose for your room is a careful balancing act. It should be a statement piece, breathing extra color and life into the space, but it also has to be pared back and not fight with the myriad of textures under which it sits.

Within my design process, the rug tends to be one of the last things I think about. Once I have the living room scheme together and I have a strong idea of its tones and its story, then the rug can come to life as the through-line of the decor reveals itself to me. 

Choose the color of your area rug

red curved sofa and red rug in a living room

(Image credit: Future)

Sniffing out that through-line of your decor, the one to base the rug color on, is easy, if you know how. One of my all-time favorite tricks is to base my rug on one of the fabrics already in the living room color scheme. This way, I am at an advantage with several pieces of knowledge: the colors work well together, the balance of the design works, and the rug will undoubtedly harmonise with the rest of the room.

When you sit with your scheme in front of you, it’s usually quite clear which fabric or pattern could become the rug design. I tend to choose the most graphic and punchy fabric in the room, so the area rug has weight and presence. At home I have an open plan ground floor.  The kitchen backsplash is made up of tiles created in collaboration with ceramic artist Katrin Moye who is a dear friend and a very talented maker.  The tiles are inspired by photographs I took whilst travelling in Papua New Guinea. When Katrin sent me the first samples I knew instantly I wanted to adapt this graphic bold design into a rug design. Who better to call than The Rug Company to help bring our drawings to life?!

Get the scale right

Depending on the size of the room the real creativity comes when playing with scale.  It’s amazing how a pattern will change and go from traditional to contemporary by simply increasing the scale and blowing up shapes. The colors are also very important.  

The Rug Company has beautiful boxes filled with poms, threads and yarns that once matched with your scheme will make up the final design.  Even though it’s a very bold design I wanted the rug to ground the space. In order to do this the colors needed to be more muted than the glazed highly saturated tiles. 

Consider the texture and durablity

living room with white sofa and large area rug

(Image credit: Future)

In all elements of my design work, texture is key. It creates depth and intrigue and this is especially important for a rug. Play around with tufted and knotted techniques, your pile thickness will also change a design completely. Ask yourself the question, “Will this design last?” 

Rugs are expensive and if the area is high traffic there is no use installing a white hemp rug. Go for wool with a darker base color and a flat pile or a fitted sisal rug.

Go to the best sources

colorful rug in yellow and red stripes

Rug  by Kit Kemp Design Studio x Annie Selke

(Image credit: Annie Selke)

Admittedly, designing a rug isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of amazing suppliers like Vanderhurd, Christopher Farr, Tim Page and Pierre Frey that have stunning rug designs ready to order if you are in need of inspiration.  

And, hot off the press, the Kit Kemp Design Studio has collaborated with Annie Selke on a new collection, a magnificent assortment of not only fabulous rugs but pillows, and bedding.  We designed the entire collection over zoom during lock down and it’s so amazing to see them come to fruition.  We hope they bring you joy and a splash of color to your life! 

Minnie Kemp is an interior designer, part of the team of design experts at the Firmdale Hotel Group. She has worked on the interiors of international hotels such as The Whitby Hotel and the Crosby Street Hotel in New York, and Ham Yard and Charlotte Street Hotel in London. She has also been involved in designing various residential projects in both the Unite States of America and the United Kingdom. She is the interiors columnist for Livingetc, reporting on trends and offering advice on home design and decor, and she was a judge on the first Livingetc Style Awards in 2021.