Designer-Approved Strategies for Dealing with Dingy Carpet

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Nothing is a bigger style bummer than dingy wall-to-wall carpeting. Don’t get me wrong—I love that cushy, soft feeling underfoot as much as the next girl. But when carpeting starts to look worse for wear, it becomes a bit of a design dilemma, especially if you’re in a rental and can’t just rip it up. First things first, spring for a professional carpet cleaning or ask your landlord for one. Then try one of these designer-approved strategies for downplaying the datedness of your carpeting situation, stains and all.

Hide wall-to-wall with an oversized area rug.

When it comes to the floor, layered rugs are your best friend. Sure, you’ve seen this artfully done with natural fiber rugs paired with sheepskins or Moroccan shags, typically over hardwood. But the rug-on-rug look works with wall-to-wall, too. “Using a large throw rug on top of carpeting not only allows you to bring colors and patterns into the room,” says designer Jennifer Carter of Studio Envie. “But it also draws your eye to the center of the room rather than the outer edges.” That’s exactly the case in hair stylist and salon owner Siri Campbell’s bedroom as seen here. You barely notice the nubby oatmeal carpeting (which isn’t even that bad by the way) because of that gorgeous vintage carpet sitting on top of it.

One thing to remember here is that bigger is always better. When you can’t afford a stunner like Campbell’s, Cecily Mendell, designer and principal of Cecy J Interiors, suggests printed indoor/outdoor rugs since they’re super stain-resistant and budget friendly. Don’t forget to take doors into account when you’re measuring. Designer Susan Galvani of Spruce Interior Design is also a fan of layering. She suggests a seagrass or sisal, which add texture and warmth but are also very durable.

(Image credit: Susie Atkinson)

Distract, distract, distract.

Sometimes the easiest solution for camouflaging ugly carpeting is just to find a way to divert attention away from it. Large scale, colorful art usually does the trick. “It won’t make the carpeting disappear, but it will make it much less noticeable,” says Carter. Painted woodwork and a funky fireplace also do the trick, if this living room from Studio Atkinson is any indicator. Basically anything striking on the walls or ceiling of your room will help: a painting, a statement light fixture, windows with bold colored trim. Again, best to pick one or two decorative distractions as opposed to a room full of them. Less is more.

Neutralize it.

Blah beige carpeting definitely had a moment in the late ’90s, early 2000s, and it’s boring but relatively inoffensive. Colored carpeting is an altogether different animal, and the layered rug trick might not get the job done. In these cases, designer Crystal Nielsen of Crystal Ann Interiors suggests bringing in neutral-toned furniture to offset the bold carpet color. Don’t pile on tons of colored accessories either. Pick one or two calm accent colors that complement the carpeting and pepper those around the room to tie the whole scheme together, as seen in this chic pink bedroom. I mean, I never thought I’d see the day where I’d like millennial pink carpeting, but, I guess, there’s a first for everything.

(Image credit: Sarah’s Big Idea)

Put a pattern on it.

Paint is the quickest way to refresh a room, right? Well, if all else fails (and you can get the greenlight from your landlord or housemates), break out the brush and try stenciling. Sure worked for blogger Sarah Riedl of Sarah’s Big idea in her music room, where she added a mandala pattern to her flatweave. I think this technique would be easier to pull off on lower-pile carpeting, where long fibers won’t get in the way while you’re painting. Bet you can’t find a cheaper solution. Pretty sure this cost Sarah about $55 plus shipping and handling for the stencil. Also, did you see that custom Sputnik chandelier made out of old microphones spray painted gold? Totally off topic but man is that quite the upcycle.

So just go for it. Your dingy carpeting can’t be any worse after trying one of these ideas out, I promise.