At Emily’s House London we are, obviously, passionate about rugs. We’re also passionate about how you can use and position rugs creatively around the home to make it look and feel great. Vintage rugs are special for their inbuilt history, warmth and colour tones. They also come in all sorts of sizes! In the first of our ongoing series of guides, we thought we’d offer advice on how to use the varied shapes cleverly.
Today we’ve asked Parsons-trained interior designer Sophie Ashby, of Studio Ashby, to weigh in with her expert tips too. Sophie’s recent projects include luxury residential development Craven Street in London’s Covent Garden, plus a townhouse off Trafalgar Square. “For me, the scheme always starts with either an important art piece or the rug,” she says. “I love pattern, particularly geometric or tribal patterns and am not afraid of making a statement with a rug as you can then layer plains and simple, more diminutive patterns on top to soften the look.”
“For me, the scheme always starts with either an important art piece or the rug”
Sophie Ashby and glimpses of details from her latest project Craven Street, while it was in process from her Instagram
Use smaller pieces to zone areas within a room
Smaller, square or rectangular Kilims, Tulu or Berber rugs are great for marking out a small cosy zone within a larger room – a quieter seating area away from the television perhaps, under the desk of a small work space in the corner of a living room, or even under a home bar. The hit of pattern will add a greater dimension to your interior decor, making the small area feel much more inviting in the process.
Small rugs are great for creating smaller, cosier zones within a large room
“I think you can put rugs anywhere, there are no rules,” says Sophie. “I buy and stock pile rugs because, like throws and blankets, they can be thrown anywhere to instantly add warmth and homely cosiness. Children’s bedrooms are a great place for smaller rugs – I like to place them off center underneath the end of a bed as they make a new ‘area’ where kids often like to hunker down and play.”
Use runners to divide a room
Hallways are the go-to place for runners, but definitely not the only spot to consider. Trying to portion your loft up so that it feels domestic? Got an open-plan kitchen-diner that feels just a little bit too undefined? Runners are perfect for adding textural divisions to such spaces. If your seating area, workspace and kitchen are altogether for instance, plant runners between each area to make the room feel more domestic, less chilly and vast.
The long runner in this room perfectly demarcates a workspace. Photography: Birgitta W. Drejer / Sisters Agency. Stylist: Pernille Vest
For Sophie, the bedroom is also an ideal place for slim runners. “I sometimes like to place longer runner style rugs either side of the bed as I think there is nothing nicer than waking up and hitting something soft with your feet – this is on the assumption that the flooring is timber, which is my preference”
How to use large rugs to encompass vast areas: Apartment in South Bank Tower, London by Studio Ashby
“I love the idea that rugs are so tactile and invite you to touch and study them close up”
How to work with supersize rugs
In beautiful, historic Leeds Castle in Kent, the rugs reach to the outer edges of some of the rooms so that they read like fitted carpets, only they have a wonderful textural clash with the original chevron floors. Use supersize rugs, such as Beni Ouarains in the same way – outlining almost an entire room or area. “I like rugs to capture all the furniture in a living space,” adds Sophie. “Rather than just the front legs of chairs and sofas, or just under coffee tables, I much prefer them to be huge and encompassing.” Try containing an entire set of living room furniture – the sofa, armchairs and coffee table – for example, or running a huge rug under the whole bed, bedside tables and any end-of-bed furniture you might have. And don’t be afraid of asymmetry – we love to see the end of a rug peeking out at the other side of the sofa in this kind of setting.
Use rugs to add a textural layer to sofas, chairs, even tables – we also love hanging them on a wall
Be creative – hang or drape your rugs
Rugs are soft textiles that are to be enjoyed not just by your feet. We love draping them on chairs (note Jenna Lyons does too) or hanging them on the wall where they bring another sensibility – and a great shot of vertical pattern – to a room. A rug on the wall is much like a painting – try a long narrow runner vertically to create a big statement.
“To me, rugs as wall hangings are beautiful and I love the idea that they are so tactile and invite you to touch and study them close up,” adds Sophie.
We also encourage you to break any rules. Think rugs are not for bathrooms? What could be more luxurious than stepping out of your bath or shower onto a gorgeous, sumptuous and colourful antique rug.
Bathroom with antique rug in place of a bath mat. Image from House to Home, photography: James Merrell