Area rugs have been a ubiquitous item in home decoration for hundreds of years. In the Middle Ages, cold castle floors were strewn with plants called "rushes," in order to provide a cushion for walking on, as well as a barrier from the cold. Importers from the Middle East brought with them the first true rugs into Europe, and they have been used for a variety of purposes ever since.
• Protecting Floors
In modern homes, area rugs can take on a variety of roles. In high-traffic areas, rugs can protect wall-to-wall carpeting or delicate finishes on hardwood floors from repeated abuse. Because area rugs can often be quite economical, they are not as difficult to replace when they are worn down, and can even be interchanged regularly in order to reflect a new design scheme, or a playful holiday theme.
• Definition of Space
In addition to offering protection, area rugs can also be used to define spaces for specific purposes. In large rooms, area rugs can create visually distinct locations that serve to section the room into smaller and more intimate areas. For example, in a large space an area rug can define a distinct sitting room by placing chairs, sofas, and coffee or end tables around a rectangular or oval rug. Another section of a large room can be defined visually as a dining area by the placement of a table and chairs on a rug. Office areas, work spaces, and other locations can also be defined by the deliberate placement of rugs to create a small area within a larger space.
• Focal Points
Area rugs can also create texture and interest in a space. Intricate patterns can tie into the decorating scheme of a room, further amplifying the design effect. They can also create a focal point that draws the eye visually to the floor. This can be especially useful in homes or businesses where the walls are painted in neutral tones. A colorful print on a rug can make a visually interesting statement in an otherwise bland or muted-tone room.
• Visual Appeal
In recent years the trend has been to use "found art" as a way to decorate walls, and small to medium-sized rugs can be used as unique wall art, especially in Southwestern themes. Any style of rug can be as visually interesting hanging on a wall, as it is when placed on a floor, however. Rugs placed on floors or walls can also help to dampen sound.
Area rugs can often be quite economical, simple to position, and provide the palette around which to design a room. Decorating rooms often starts by picking out the rug first, and using its particular colors or shapes to dictate the design scheme for the entire space. Small powder rooms, hallways, and odd spaces within a room can all benefit from a small rug. As can be seen, area rugs can fulfill many different roles, often all at the same time. This makes them an almost indispensable design element in any home or space.