A Celebrity Designer Told Me to Stop Falling for This Design Trap

It makes a huge difference

santa fe modern home

Courtesy of Bobby Berk

Nothing ties a room together like a rug, but perfecting the look isn’t as simple as unrolling it onto your floor and calling it good. In fact, a rug that’s the wrong size, or positioned awkwardly, will make your space look … not quite the best. These might seem like tiny details, and many people don’t even know they’re falling into this design trap. But with some subtle adjustments and the help of a well-trained eye, you can make your home look like something out of a catalog. 

We spoke with Bobby Berk, interior designer and star of Netflix’s Queer Eye, on how to properly use a rug to create a fab space. 

Measure Before You Buy

“Generally speaking, a lot of people will go too small with their rug choice,” Berk said via email. “You don’t necessarily need to fill the entire room with a rug, but you will want to accommodate any furniture and make sure things work scale-wise.” 

Bobby Berk living room featuring blue rug. Santa Fe boho modern home

Bobby Berk

Measure your space before you buy any rug. Berk recommends purchasing a rug that fits underneath all your furniture (leaving about six inches excess on all sides) and that leaves a full foot of exposed floor between the rug’s edges and the walls. A too-tiny rug or one that’s pushed up against the wall can really throw off the proportions of a room. 

Anchor Your Furniture

When it comes to placement, Berk said you don’t want your rug to be floating untouched on your floor. Arrange your room so the rug sits partially underneath the legs of each piece of furniture. 

Bobby Berk neutral living room with contemporary design

Bobby Berk

“Consider the rug the ‘anchor’ of a room that all large furniture pieces should be tethered to,” Berk said. “Having pieces of furniture that float outside of the rug can make the room feel disjointed and not cohesive.”

The one exception to the rule? Placing a runner. These skinny rugs work well in almost any narrow space, Berk said, whether leading you down a hallway or placed between a counter and a kitchen island — and they can rest free of any furniture.

“You always want to make sure there are a few inches of ‘breathing room’ around the runner and it doesn't sit too close to walls,” he said. “Beyond the functionality of a runner, you can also use a runner to visually trick the eye and make the space look larger. For instance, if you have a narrow hallway adding a runner with a stripe can elongate the space and make it visually feel larger.”

Consider the Material

Where you place your rug also impacts what type of material it should be made from. If you’re laying a rug down in a high-traffic area, like the middle of your living room, you’ll want to choose one with more durable fibers such as wool, a synthetic or a flatweave: Something that won’t pile over time. For lighter-trafficked areas, Berk said you can choose materials that are a little less durable, like cotton or silk. 

Bobby Berk mid-century modern home with exposed wood beams

Bobby Berk

“I also recommend thinking about how a rug is actually going to feel underfoot,” Berk said. “You don't want to be walking on something that feels uncomfortable—especially in a bedroom.”

Keep pattern and color in mind as well. Certain patterns can help hide stains on a highly trafficked rug, while it’s harder to hide them on a solid-colored rug. When in doubt, Berk recommends opting for neutral colors and simple patterns.

“I find that a flatweave is the style that has the most versatility, whether in a living room, dining room, or bedroom,” Berk said. “Remember you can always switch out your pillows, art, and throw to change things up but swapping in a new rug can get expensive and annoying so neutral is always a safe bet.”