Back to Journal

Rugs vs Carpets: Which one works for you?

Choosing between a rug and a carpet? Discover their pros and cons, and when each is best.

Bella Freud Apartment by Retrouvius
Bella Freud Apartment by Retrouvius
Rugs vs Carpets: Which one works for you?
Clara Carlino de Paz
July 27, 2023

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

Rugs or carpets? The eternal question for the interior designer. While every part of a design is important, flooring plays a key role in defining the style and soul of a space. In deciding between rugs or carpets, there are some specific considerations designers must bear in mind before making a (semi) permanent decision; and this article will go through all of them.

Before we go into it, and give you a quick summary for our busy readers, remember to subscribe to our newsletter to receive weekly, unique professional interior design content.

TLDR: Should I choose a rug or a carpet?

As always, it depends on yours’ or your clients’ context. Carpets are perfect for cohesive interiors in cold climates, where regular professional cleaning is feasible, allergies are not a concern, and decor flexibility is not a priority. On the other hand, rugs are ideal for creating a flooring focal point in spaces with higher temperatures, where flexibility in decor and the option of non-professional cleaning are desired.

If you were looking for an answer with more detail, worry not, we explore the uses, similarities and differences of rugs and carpets just below.

How do interior designers use rugs in their designs?

Angus Reid uses a rug to frame focal points of furniture, in this case, a dining table.

Dining room by Angus Reid
Dining room by Angus Reid

Christina Cole cosies up a bedroom with a large, neutral rug

Rollingwood Project by Christina Cole, Photography by Lindsey Brown
Rollingwood Project by Christina Cole, Photography by Lindsey Brown

Jen Talbot adds a layer of fun to a contemporary, modern living room

Photography by Dustin Halleck for Jen Talbot’s Bucktown Modern Project
Photography by Dustin Halleck for Jen Talbot’s Bucktown Modern Project

How do interior designers use carpets in their designs?

Rachel Chudley adds softness to an eclectic nursery with a neutral carpet

Rachel Chudley in collaboration with Schumacher; Photography by Simon Upton
Rachel Chudley in collaboration with Schumacher; Photography by Simon Upton

Laura Stephens layers a rug over a carpet for a double cosy and plush look

Living room by Laura Stephens
Living room by Laura Stephens

Wes Anderson uses patterned carpets to achieve an eclectic, maximalist look

British Pullman Train designed by film-maker Wes Anderson
British Pullman Train designed by film-maker Wes Anderson

What are the similarities of rugs and carpets?

Both rugs and carpets protect hardwood or tile flooring.

Textile coverings are perfect to maintain hardwood floors and tiles for hundreds of years. Both rugs and carpets protect permanent, expensive flooring from typical wear and tear, including discolouration, scratches and stains.

Rugs and carpets offer texture to interiors.

Texture is a key component of interior design, and carpets and rugs can be your perfect ally to achieve it.

Rugs and carpets enhance a spaces’ acoustics in residential and commercial settings.

Rugs and carpets help to reduce noise levels by absorbing sound waves, minimising echoes, and creating a quieter and more peaceful environment. This feature is especially beneficial in larger spaces or areas with hard surfaces, such as tiles or hardwood floors.

You can explore your taste and style with both rugs and carpets.

Both rugs and carpets allow for personalization and customization. Whether it's choosing a specific color, pattern, or material, or opting for custom-made designs, individuals can tailor their selection to reflect their unique style and preferences.

What are the differences between rugs and carpets?

The biggest difference is in the size of a carpet versus that of a rug.

Carpets are generally larger in size and are designed to cover the entire floor area of a room, extending from wall to wall. They are typically installed as a permanent flooring solution. On the other hand, rugs are smaller and can be placed in specific areas within a room. They come in various sizes and shapes, allowing for more flexibility in terms of placement – even allowing for overlaps and playfulness!

Another difference between rugs and carpets is that the latter require professional installation.

Carpets are usually installed by professionals and require professional installation methods, including stretching, tacking, or glueing. They are fixed to the floor and become an integral part of the space. Rugs, on the other hand, are not fixed to the floor and can be easily moved or repositioned as desired. They do not require installation and can be laid down or removed without any special procedures, meaning that clients can rework their space whenever it’s needed.

Carpets give consistency and uniformity to a room. Rugs do the opposite, acting as focal points.

Designers often use carpets to provide a consistent and uniform look throughout a room. While they are available in a wide range of colours, patterns, and textures to suit different interior design styles, their essence is generally more minimal than rugs’ because of their larger dimensions. On the other hand, because rugs are smaller, they act as points of visual interest in a room, breaking up the uniformity of tile, wood or stone. Rugs offer more design versatility and can be used to add a focal point or create visual interest in a specific area. They come in a much larger array of designs, including Oriental rugs, modern geometric patterns, or intricate hand-knotted masterpieces that are straight up pieces of art.

Carpets work best in climates that are cold or mild year-round. Rugs are more flexible.

Those in Northern Europe, particularly the UK, will attest to this: carpets can be a life saver. They are commonly used for their incredible insulation properties, providing warmth and noise reduction year round. In countries where certain or all times of the year are extremely warm, carpets may not be the best choice, as they will retain heat and increase the average temperature of a home. Rugs on the other hand are much more flexible, as they can be removed or relocated depending on the season.

Cleaning is much easier on rugs than on carpets.

Carpets typically require professional cleaning methods due to their large size and fixed installation (beyond typical maintenance involving vacuuming and spot-cleaning). Rugs, being smaller and movable, are often easier to maintain. They can be vacuumed, spot cleaned, or even washed in personal or professional laundry units.

Carpets pose special challenges for those with allergies.

The main concern is that carpets can accumulate common allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and mould spores within their fibres. When disturbed through activities like walking or vacuuming, these allergens can become airborne, potentially triggering allergy symptoms in sensitive individuals.

While this can happen in rugs too, their size means that the potential collection of allergens is much smaller. These risks can be mitigated by vacuuming with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, hiring frequent professional deep cleaning, and removing spills and stains as quickly as possible.

Overall, the choice of carpets or rugs depends on your clients’ needs, lifestyles and geographies’.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. What did you choose in the end? If you want to explore the world of rugs, we have an article with product recommendations. Otherwise, if you’re a flooring enthusiast, you might want to check out ‘The Best Wood And Timber Suppliers In The UK And Europe’ and ‘Trending Materials And Finishes For Summer 2023’.