Skip to content

Goodbye Boring Floors: How to Layer and Elevate Your Home’s Flooring Like an Expert

Expert designers teach you how to level up your flooring at home using carpets, textures, and materials

Bookmark article to read later

By House & Garden | June 4, 2024 | Design

Don’t skimp on your carpet size

Otherwise it looks like a postage stamp – this applies particularly in a dining room. The carpet should be generous enough to allow a chair to move in and out from the table whilst remaining on the carpet. – Christine van der Hurd

Don’t leave choosing your carpet or rug till last…

When decorating a room, starting with procuring or ordering the perfect carpet is quite often easier in the long run. Ordering a bespoke carpet or finding the perfect size and colours in an antique carpet can usually take a long time and it can be very frustrating when left with bare floor boards! – Christine van der Hurd

A circular rug adds a unique form to a boring floor. Image courtesy of Rowen & Wren.

Do think about flooring in a visual way

Draw grid lines into your floor plans to denote areas where you want different floor textures, paying special attention to doorways and focal points. Fill these areas with crayon to visualise the textures. – Kelly Hoppen

Rugs are generous touch in any space. Make sure your rug or carpet are the correct size. Image courtesy of Rowen & Wren.

Don’t make rugs too small

Rugs need to be generous and if in doubt always choose a larger size. You want them to sit under sofas and armchairs and still be visible around furniture. Another pet hate is rugs that sit like a desert island in the middle of the room and all the furniture around it. Do work out the furniture layout before thinking of rugs to go with a scheme. The size is really important, even if you “zone” the areas with several rugs as opposed to one big one. Each zone with furniture needs to be connected by the rug underneath it. – Sarah Vanrenen

Ensure you work out the furniture layout before thinking of rugs to go with a scheme. Image courtesy of Rowen & Wren.

Do create cohesion through flooring

Choose flooring that will work seamlessly from one room to the next to create a fluid and cohesive space. – Sarah Vanrenen

Do use antique floorboards or aged parquet flooring

They will make the room feel wonderful even if you leave it almost at that. – Tamsin Saunders

Do invest in antique rugs

The colours are so much softer, they are better made, more forgiving, and more beautiful than anything else you will find that’s new. They will appreciate in value and they are the foundation of every good room. – Tamsin Saunders

A fuzzy hearth rug in front of the fire or window adds instant glamour. Image courtesy of Ferm Living.

Don’t be mean when sizing up for a rug

You want it to feel generously proportioned within the space - ideally, so it sits under the front legs of your sofa and armchairs if spanning a living or drawing room floor. It can otherwise look a bit like a postage stamp. And do think about rugs in bathrooms. It’s a lovely way to bring in texture and warmth. – Anna Haines

Do put a shaggy white rug in front of your fire

A fuzzy white hearth rug in front of the fire adds instant glamour. I buy flokati rugs from Peter Jones (for similar, try this faux sheepskin one from John Lewis) . Try to get it as big as possible, and don't worry if it gets absolutely filthy, just take it outside and hose it down in the garden. – Nicky Haslam

A modern and colourful checkerboard rug is a playful addition to a modern home. Image courtesy of HAY.

Do invest in a good rug

Rugs are a chance to do something brave in a room – they tend to be a significant investment in a scheme BUT they are the artworks on the floor and can really offset everything else in the room. It can even be a good place to start a scheme. – Bunny Turner

Do use reclaimed floorboards; this is your stage

Antique, reclaimed floorboards are a must. The homogeneity of factory engineered planks undermine a room and, ironically, throw it into disarray. Even a superb antique rug cannot do all the groundwork. – Will Fisher and Charlotte Freemantle of Jamb

Investing in really well made, antique rugs will last a life time, as seen in this bedroom design. Image courtesy of Rowen & Wren.

Having previously been divided into flats, this 19th-century house in Hampstead has had a sense of harmony restored by Maria Speake of Retrouvius, with creative use of reclaimed materials and eclectic vintage pieces. Here, as throughout the house, the original features have been preserved, including the plaster cornices and limed-pine floorboards.

Don't use engineered floorboards

These are a pet hate of mine, and inevitably result in characterless, flat, pancake-like expanses of floor. You will never be able to make a floor look aesthetically correct in a period building if using an engineered product. Even "distressed" or "antique" finishes, with their "tumbled" edges must be avoided at all costs. The "planks" are always too short (to make shipping and storing the product easier), so one ends up with lots of small lengths and too many header joints.

Carpets with subtle textured wools, Moroccan berbers or coarse woven sisals instantly add excitement to a boring floor. Image courtesy of Rowen & Wren.

The header joints (where one plank meets another) on a traditionally laid floor will be at 400mm or so intervals (as they correspond to the joists the boards are fixed to). Engineered flooring often results in header joints spuriously distributed across the floor, often annoyingly close to one another. The cracks between the boards on a traditional floor, coupled with the pairs of nail heads, provide a rhythm, a visual cadence across the surface. Don't get me started on hiding the requisite expansion gaps with little scotia trims fixed to the skirting...yuck!

Don’t be afraid to add a running carpet along your staircase to add a unique touch of colour and texture. Image courtesy of Muuto.

Underfloor heating and traditional floorboards are not happy bedfellows, and if you are going to use underfloor heating, there are two products I'd recommend that are compatible: Dinesen supply very beautiful oak and douglas fir planks, and Paul Webb uses kiln dried oak planks that are bonded to ply - same principle as engineered but put together on site with lovely long boards. These boards can be spaced so header joints are visually accurate, and they can make nosings in the same material for steps etc. enabling you to get the right look, so you'd never know it's not an original floor. – Patrick Williams of Berdoulat

Don't spend a fortune on wood or stone floors.

Natural, raw materials should not be so expensive that you can't walk on them or are afraid to move your furniture. – Christopher Howe

Use colourful, patterned rugs to define spaces

Every seating group needs a rug, and I’ve never liked dining tables on bare floors. Vintage kilims and antique middle-eastern carpets can be very reasonably priced. Make sure you get the size right - for me the rug needs to be big enough so that at least the front legs of a seating group are all on it (and often even larger). And around a dining table be sure to leave enough space for people to pull their chairs back without falling off the edge of the rug. – Brandon Schubert

Rugs in a contemporary setting should be seen and not heard – art should be on the walls, not the floor

Use subtle textured wools, Moroccan berbers or coarse woven sisals. The French company La Manufacture Cogolin makes wonderful wool carpets and Christopher Farr has subtle wool weaves. – Douglas Mackie

This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK