Are you choosing the right rug? From size to style to staying power, it can be a tricky business. So we turned to rug expert Joanna Mahserdjian (pictured, below), founder of Upstate Rug Supply.
“I love a room that feels collected over time – the tension between modern white lacquer and an antique gilt mirror,” says Mahserdjian of her design ideals. “I’ve always been drawn to the warmth that rugs bring to a space—the texture, color, and pattern. Antique rugs are truly works of art for your floor.”
According to Mahserdjian, the key to curating your rug collection starts with how you’re going to use the room. “Look at the conversation areas, the traffic flow,” she explains. “If you’re wanting to create different zones, layering smaller rugs can define the spaces—whereas one large rug brings together a whole space.” But no matter the size of the room, Mahserdjian insists a rug is always a good idea—as long as it’s the right one. “I have the tiniest Turkish mat in my very petite powder bathroom,” she says. “Sometimes it’s the unexpected places where it’s fun to play with rugs.”
The Rules for Choosing (and Using) the Right Rug
Nevertheless, there can be such a thing as the wrong rug for a room. “I avoid matchy-matchy scenarios and love contrasting color tones and scales in patterns,” Mahserdjian recommends. What’s more—sometimes the right rug is more than one rug, “For example, a large rug with a central medallion would look great with a small-scale, all-over design rug. I think it’s all about the mix. Layering high luster wool rugs with a more matte, distressed piece creates an interesting story.”
But when it comes time to install it all, where should the rug sit in relation to the rest of your decor? “For seating scenarios, the rule of thumb is that the furniture should be ‘touching the rug.’ Just the front legs are acceptable, but you don’t want the rug to look like it’s floating in the space,” says Mahserdjian. And don’t forget to leave room for guests around tables. “In dining rooms, chairs should be able to stay on the rug when they’re pulled out and back in – usually needing at least nine feet in width.”
Further, if you can, don’t hide what made the rug stand out to you in the first place. “If a rug has a key element in the middle, like a central medallion, I recommend not covering it up,” says Mahserdjian. But that doesn’t mean such a rug must be a no-furniture zone either. “Try a glass top coffee table or one with legs that reveal the rug underneath.”
Sometimes, even the most surprising combinations can be winners. “I’ve styled traditional Persian rugs with navy field on modern, concrete floors and bright-colored tribal rugs on antique, wide plank wood floors,” says Mahserdjian. “Buy what you love.”
How the Right Rug Can Come to the Rescue
If your room is feeling a little disjointed, the right rug might pull it all together. “All-over designs hide asymmetry in a room,” Mahserdjian says. ” It’s a designer trick when a room or the furniture arrangement isn’t symmetrical.
And don’t be afraid to engage a great rug in a high-traffic area. “Antique rugs are durable and were made over a century ago, so don’t be afraid to use them,” says Mahserdjian. “I’ve put rugs in commercial spaces, like hotels, that stand the test of time.” But if you’re concerned about wear and tear, she says, “rotating your rugs and using a good-quality rug pad can help extend the life of your rug, too.”
Have more than one rug that might be right for a room? Mahserdjian recommends saying “Yes!” to layering. “I recommend either layering multiple antique rugs or layering one special piece on a natural fiber rug,” she suggests. Layering can also help people buy a rug they love rather than get fixated on size. “Layering can help you ‘cheat’,” when it comes to size, she says, “and is sometimes a great budget option for someone who is not ready to invest in a large piece.” However, if you’re layering multiple antiques, she suggests, “create a color story and then play with texture, color tones, and pattern. It’s timeless—and very Ralph Lauren.”
And That’s Her Floor Philosophy
Though you can follow Mahserdjian’s advice, ultimately the rug doesn’t need to be right for her home. It needs to be right for yours. “I encourage my clients to think about it as if they were buying art for their walls: look for pieces that speak to you.” But, beyond buying rugs that you love, Mahserdjian has two final pieces of advice. “Buy from a reputable dealer,” she suggests. “And I’ll always recommend antique over vintage rugs—invest in the natural dyes and superior quality.”
Want more on the floor? Meet this truly extraordinary rug maker.
Paul Hagen is a writer and editor for aspire design and home magazine.
Photography for this piece is by Christian Harder.
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