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Carpet vs. Area Rug for the Living Room? What’s Better?

A collage of living room with carpet and area rug.

The debate between ‘should I go with an area rug or install a wall-to-wall carpet’, is still alive and kicking. You might be surprised to know there is actually a big difference between the two. Occasionally, when I’m working on sourcing area rugs with clients, they will refer to them as carpet. I am here to set the record straight. They are similar but so contrasting at the same time. 

A living room with wall to wall carpet.

Carpet is a wall-to-wall rug covering the entire surface of the floor. If you live in a colder climate or love the plush feel of something soft under your toes, installing carpet in your home can be a good choice. It has been refined since the 20th Century, and gone is the bright shag carpet of the 1970s era.

There are many luxurious woven options and more neutral, complimentary color tones to choose from now. My favorite is the Berber carpet, which means the fibers are woven in tight loops and left uncut. Berber carpet can be used in modern and traditional designs and is considered very durable.

Another favorite, on the opposite side of the design spectrum, is plush carpet. Plush carpet is a high-pile fiber cut with a smooth, soft feel. Aesthetically, it looks elegant and feels soft and luxurious under your feet. 

The most impactful or useful areas to install carpet would be the living room or bedroom. Of course, who doesn’t want something soft under their feet when they step out of bed in the morning? It creates a more cozy, cocoon-like vibe in the bedroom.

A living room with sofa and area rug.

The same goes for your living room, because family or guests like to lounge on the floor when watching TV and what’s better than pillowy plush fibers underneath? It also serves as a sound barrier for your home. Carpet can absorb noises and keep large spaces from any echoes or loud footsteps, especially for those living in a two-story house.

There are some negatives to installing wall-to-wall carpet throughout the home or purchasing a home with existing carpet. If you buy a home that already has it, you are left not knowing the condition or the wear it has gone through. In general, carpet traps dirt, dust, and sometimes mites.

All these things can create long-term health concerns and wreak havoc, especially for those who suffer from allergies. I recommend vigorous steam cleaning and consistent vacuum to ensure your allergies and health concerns are kept at a minimum.

A beautiful living room with area rug.

An area rug is a smaller piece of carpet that comes in many sizes and is designed to accent a room but not intended to stretch throughout the home. As a designer, area rugs are more versatile and offer a variety of patterns and colors. They can add warmth and texture to your space, especially if you have wood or tile flooring.

It completes the design of each room, creating a cushy and finished look. You will often notice homeowners who layer rugs under the sofa and armchairs in a living room. They also look fabulous when laid under a dining table or placed in front of your kitchen sink or bathroom vanity. Rugs in these locations work to absorb any water or dirt that normally takes place during daily tasks.

For these high-traffic areas, I recommend using washable or indoor/outdoor rugs. A great example is the Senna Rug from Lulu and Georgia, made of durable hand-knotted wool.

FLOR carpet tiles are a unique option to use as area rugs, because they adhere to each other, rather than the floor. They are carpet tiles that can be configured in any shape or design to create an area rug in any space of your home. The beauty of using FLOR tiles, is you can remove any damaged tile and replace it with a new piece instantly. 

The benefit to adding area rugs in your home, as opposed to wall-to-wall carpet, is that you can sometimes machine wash them or even replace them often at a lower cost. Wall-to-wall is more permanent and expensive, but area rugs can move to different locations in the home or be changed out. 

There are new inventive rug companies, like Ruggable, which have created low-pile rugs you can machine wash. Surprisingly, you can just throw them in the washing machine, and the washer does all the work. One of their most popular and my favorite transitional rug designs is the Kamran area rug.

A woman selecting carpet and area rugs.

As a designer, my vote is always going to be for using area rugs. They are versatile and have unending patterns, textures, and beautiful color options. It allows designers the opportunity to combine every color scheme, in a room, into the rug. Area rugs connect the rooms of the home by making each space feel cohesive. It is the final piece of a puzzle that ties the room together.

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