The Standard Decorating Rule Small/Cool Designers Broke 3 Times

published May 10, 2022
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bright happy living space with gold velvet sofa, coffee table with yogi tea setup, patterned wallpaper, red and white rug, shelves with l'objets, plants
Credit: Rikki Snyder

It’s common home design wisdom that if you want to ground a space, you lay down an area rug. Large rugs, as any designer will tell you, are the first choice for creating zones; putting one under a dining table makes a dining zone, placing one beneath a bed creates a sleeping zone, and slipping one under the coffee table between seating neatly sections off a living area. 

But at Small/Cool NYC, Apartment Therapy’s IRL, social, and online event that showcases decorating tips in 12 small and cool spaces, designers broke the cardinal rule of using large area rugs to create zones. (And they broke it three times!) It’s not that they went without rugs at all — it’s that the designers used much smaller rugs to partition these tiny spaces.

Credit: Rikki Snyder

Take the “Bespoke Style” room, designed by Sourya Venumbaka. It presents a fantastic use of two small rugs. First, there’s a dark green 5’ by 7’ rug that defines the office space. And second, you’ll find a runner — yes, a runner! — to partition the seating area. The result? Two lovely and distinct spaces in one small room.

Credit: Rikki Snyder

Then there’s “Be Our Guest” by the Novogratz. Instead of placing the bed under a giant area rug, they cheated with a tiny rug, placing it horizontally toward the foot of the bed to create the illusion of a larger one. (And it still looks lovely.)

Credit: Rikki Snyder

Lastly, at first glance, you probably wouldn’t notice that the rug in “Happy@Home,” curated by Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day!, is also a 5’ by 7’ model from Urban Outfitters. Because she positioned it in front of the sofa to divide the room, you’d never know it wasn’t a full-size area rug. 

As someone who has only lived in very small apartments, you can be sure I’m going to copy this bit of genius from the Small/Cool designers. Rugs can get pretty pricey, after all — so why not create an optical illusion with a smaller, cheaper floor covering?

Small/Cool NYC is a shoppable, in real life and digital home design showcase full of decorating tips and tricks from your favorite designers. Visit us from April 22 to May 15, 2022, on weekends (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) from 11 am to 7 pm ET at 515 Broadway in Soho, New York City. Check out our event schedule and the whole virtual experience online at and follow along on Instagram @apartmenttherapy. Thank you to our sponsors BEHR® Paint, Toyota Corolla Cross, Ashley, Yogi® Tea, and Chasing Paper for making this experience possible.