A rug can anchor a room, define it, add warmth, and help layer a room’s decor.

From nearly the beginning of time, animal hides were used as sitting and sleeping surfaces and to provide warmth on a chilly night. Beginning about 4,000 years ago, flat weaving of wool was introduced to replace animal hide. Somewhere along this historical trajectory, rugs went from mere functionality to works of art. Today, there are many ways to use area rugs in home décor.

Rugs can be hand knotted like traditional Persian rugs, hand-loomed or flat woven to reveal different size piles, hand tufted starting with a foundation cloth, hand hooked on a foundation cloth with a rug hook, and machine made. They can be made of polyester, silk, wool and as you might expect, the method and material used will result in a wide variety of prices and quality.

One function of a rug is to visually create boundaries from one room or area to the next. If you want to define the dining area from a living room area in an open floor plan, use rugs in each location to signify a change of use.

If you have more than one rug in a room, it is best to use different size rugs. Not only does this create more variety and interest, but it is preferable because the first has the effect of cutting the room in half, a result you may not want to achieve. Two identical rugs in the same room also suffers from the sin of being “matchy—matchy.” Instead, it is more harmonious to use patterns that complement each other. Try using similar color schemes with one small pattern and one larger scale pattern.

Rugs can be used to tie a room together or make a statement all its own. If you do not already have or plan to add new furniture, a rug can be your jumping off point for color. In fact, when I am decorating, I look closely at the colors of the rug to coordinate or copy the other colors in the room.

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Or, if your room is a mostly neutral palette, the addition of a rug with color will provide that focal point and interest you need.

Also think about painting one wall in the room the color of one of the colors in your rug. Alternatively, if the other items in your room have more ornate patterns, choose a rug that is subtler.

As in the past, certain rugs can be used as wall hangings to great effect. Think of the rug as a piece of art that needs to be displayed and admired, rather than walked upon.

Many people find it intimating to decide what size and shape of rug to use. Rules of thumb are different depending on the purpose. If you want a room-size rug, get one that measures 3 feet less than your room size, as that will make the room look larger. If you would like to put a rug under your dining room table, you must leave at least 2 feet of rug out from the edge of your table to ensure people can move their chairs in and out easily. Runners should be 4 inches narrower than your hallway and 18 to 24 inches shorter. When it comes to shape, think about what would complement your furniture arrangement better. Rectangular is not always the best choice.

Decorating with rugs, like pillows, is an easy way to change your décor without a total makeover.

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Deborah Macdonald is the owner of Textured Design Napa. Contact her at 707-255-0246, Deborah@textureddesignnapa.com or www.textureddesignnapa.com.