What is replacing carpet? This is how interior designers are keeping floors comfortable underfoot in 2024

Carpets have been usurped as the most popular type of flooring, and there's one particular way that almost all experts favor for a modern home

a living room with a large area rug
(Image credit: Adrian Gaut. Design: Crystal Sinclair Designs)

Carpets aren't as ubiquitous as they once were. Yes, they're still one of the most comfortable flooring options out there, but in terms of style, it's safe to say they've been usurped. The question is, by what? 

Flooring trends tend to move a bit slower than the rest of our interiors, but carpet has been slowly slipping out of favor for some time now. Aesthetically, it's a 'safe' choice for blanketing the space underfoot but, practically speaking, it has its downfalls - particularly the fact that it wears down in high-traffic areas over time. 

So, naturally, we wanted to know what's replacing them. We asked some flooring experts for their two cents, and there was one particular type of flooring trend that came out on top. Here, we take a look at their top three alternatives, including one on-trend option that still offers a cozy feel underfoot. 

Are carpets out of fashion? 

First, let's get one thing out of the way. You don't need to go tearing up your carpets if you don't want to. For warm, relaxing spaces like bedrooms and living rooms, they're a classic choice that will serve you well for years to come. Still, we had to ask the experts, is carpet out of style

'People still love the comfort that carpet can add to a room, but today's homeowners and renters are looking for stylish floor coverings without the long-term commitment of carpet,' explains Mary St. John of Rugs.com. 'Instead, they want to change looks easily and stay on top of the latest home decor trends.' 

Besides the flexibility other flooring options have to offer, there are also practical aspects to consider. 'Homeowners are choosing alternative flooring options because they want easier-to-clean flooring than carpet,' Mary says. 'Carpet used to be a practical solution, but people today want to avoid guessing what old spills and stains could be hiding in the carpet or soaked into the pad.'

As Therese Germain, flooring expert Vice President of Product at Ruggable, adds: 'Carpets can also be easily damaged and worn out with daily use, which is why more consumers are choosing other harder-wearing flooring options, like hardwood.' 

What is replacing carpet? 

So, the question remains, what should we be using for our floors instead? The experts we spoke to offered several options, and we take a look at each of them below. Really though, it's a combination of all three together that makes for the most practical and stylish flooring, culminating in a layered look that's trending right now, but promises to serve you for many years to come, too. 

1. Hardwood Flooring

a living room with pale wood flooring

(Image credit: Laura Sumrak. Design: House of Nomad)

Hardwood floors are a classic choice for underfoot. Durable, natural, and easy to clean, they also come in various parquet patterns which add visual interest to a space. 

'I absolutely think there is a movement away from carpet and a lean-in to hardwood floors,' says Ashley Macuga of Collected Interiors. 'Aesthetically, hardwood floors add instant warmth to a space, plus they allow you to easily layer pattern and color without the long-term commitment of carpet.'

There's a whole host of practical benefits that make wood flooring a more sensible alternative to carpet. 'More people have more allergies than ever before - and carpet is a magnet for dust and other allergens,' Ashley notes. 'If you or a child have severe allergies, one of the top recommendations from allergists is to remove carpet from the home.' Of course, being far easier to clean, wood is also a more pet-friendly surface too, saving you the cost of a professional carpet cleaner. 

2. Stair Runners

A woven stair runner

(Image credit: NW Interior Design)

For years, carpeted stairs have been the norm. Even if you didn't have carpet elsewhere in the home, covering the stairs was the go-to choice to help cushion your feet as well as reduce noise, since plain wooden stairs can make your stairway seem a bit sparse and echoey. Now though, there's a growing trend for a more hybrid approach. 

Staircase runners are one of the biggest interior trends of 2023, particularly patterned designs. Not only do they introduce some color and vibrancy, but the partial carpeting idea leaves just the right amount of wooden border at the side of your stairs to elongate them and add a touch of elegance. From a functional standpoint, runners also protect your treads from wear and tear, are less permanent than carpet, and work to reduce those loud thuds, too. 

3. Large area rugs

A modern neutral living room with a fireplace, coffee table, and a large area rug

(Image credit: Ruggable)

The real top spot on this list, however, goes to area rugs. With this flexible and versatile flooring option the styling possibilities are quite literally endless, with pretty much every color and pattern under the sun available. Right now, extra large living room rugs are very much the mood of the moment, and the good news is, they still offer the comfort of carpet underfoot, too. 

'Whether you opt for hardwood, tiles, or cork flooring to replace your carpet, rugs are a great way to go to offer comfort underfoot,' says Therese. 'Your floor is as much a canvas for creativity as your walls, and because rugs are so much more versatile than carpet, they give you a chance to be bold. They also allow you to create a different mood in each space rather than laying down the same carpet throughout.'

The impermanence of a rug is just another one of its many advantages over carpet. 'Rugs provide a solution for those who love how soft carpet can feel to the touch but without making a long-term commitment to a style or color,' adds Mary. 'Since today's homeowners want to be able to switch things up quickly, they're turning to rugs as an affordable and easy option for their desired aesthetic.' 

For the coziness of carpet, opt for a high pile rug like shag which is perfect for adding an extra layer of warmth. If you want something a little more lightweight and understated, choose a natural material like cotton or jute. Layering rugs is also a great decor trend if you want to experiment with different textures and cover more unusual floorplans by building up your shape. 

Of course, area rugs work best on wood or engineered flooring, which is why a combination of the two makes for the best alternative to carpet. Replicate the feeling on your stairs by throwing in a runner and you'll have on-trend flooring throughout your home that pairs function and style, all without sacrificing comfort either. 

Our top picks of on-trend area rugs to fill your space

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.