There are so many reasons we love runners. The practical: they help protect floors, and eliminate echoes and extra noise in the home. And the aesthetic (aka, the fun reasons!): they help spaces feel finished, can make a room feel longer, and add personality and color to areas that are often overlooked. But how to pick out one that’s perfect for you? Here, we’ll let you in on all our best tips, from choosing the right size runner to selecting the best material.
Where to Use Runners
First things first: where to put a runner? You’re likely familiar with the obvious answers, like the hallway, the kitchen, and the entry. But the truth is, you can put a runner in any long, narrow area that you like, or in an open floor plan where you want to create separation or a walkway.
Aside from that, runners work well in bedrooms, placed in between twin beds, at the end of a bed, or on one (or both!) sides of a bed, either on the floor or layered over an existing rug or carpet. They’re perfect for warming up chilly tiles in the bathroom, and are also great additions to narrow utilitarian spaces, like laundry rooms, pantries, and closets.
How to Choose a Runner Size
Runners come in all sorts of sizes, and can be rolled out in the shortest of closets to the longest of hallways. Most resources recommend allowing six inches of space in between your runner and walls on all four sides. But because the majority of ready-made runners are between two and three feet wide, choosing the right width is something you usually don’t have to worry about. And this is totally fine! We say whatever the width of the space it’s in—even if the runner isn’t exactly six inches away from the wall—make sure it’s centered, and make sure it’s not running too close or up against the walls.
You can also be flexible with the length of your runner, though we recommend using the six-inch rule from above as a place to start. Generally, you want the runner size to be as long as possible, which will help lengthen the area it’s in. But again, make sure the runner doesn’t sit flush with the wall, as this will make the space feel cramped and small.
If you can’t find the right size runner for your space, consider an accent rug instead (think 3’ x 5’ or 4’ x 6’). These work particularly well for smaller spaces that aren’t quite so long—like laundry rooms and entryways—and can fill out the room more than a slim runner would.
How to Choose a Runner Material
Once you’ve nailed down the right size, you’ll need to think about what material makes the most sense for your space. Will the runner be in a hallway by the entry, where lots of dirty shoes will be walking by? Or in the kitchen, where you’ll need to consider spilled food and drink?
For areas that receive lots of foot traffic, like hallways, kitchens, and entryways, durable materials like wool, synthetics, jute, and cotton are your best bets. (You can read more on rugs for high-traffic spaces here.) We also have a collection of washable rugs that is perfect for areas that will be getting extra dirty. Just throw them in the washer, hang dry, and they’re good as new!
For spaces that aren’t quite as busy—think bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, even less-used hallways—you have a little more flexibility with rug materials. The durable options above will absolutely work, but we love the idea of going more plush. Shags (though not technically a material type) tend to get matted down when in high-traffic spaces. So we recommend relegating these styles, along with faux sheepskins, to areas like the bedroom. And who wouldn’t want to sink their feet into a rug like that when getting out of bed?
How to Lay Down a Runner
You may have heard us say this once or twice (or more!), but it’s essential to use a rug pad underneath your runner. Lots of foot traffic means lots of opportunities for slippage—especially for a slim rug like a runner—and a rug pad will help keep it in place and protect your floors.
If your runner is curly or creased after taking it out of the packaging, don’t worry—this is very normal. Try gently folding the rug back in the opposite direction, and if it’s still not flat when you lay it down, place some heavy books on the corners for at least a day to smooth it out. (Read more about rug installation and care in our Rug Guides.)
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Consider doors. When choosing a runner size and material, be sure to take into account doors or other features in the space. If a door opens onto your runner, choose a rug pile that’s low enough for the door to clear, or go with a smaller size that will stop short of the doorway.
Make it a double. For long hallways or kitchens with L- or U-shaped layouts, we love going with two (or even three!) runners for extra coverage, comfort, and texture.
Look at the rooms around the runner. You don’t need to worry about perfectly coordinating from room to room. But since runners are typically in transitional areas like hallways and entryways, it’s important to select one that doesn’t feel too disjointed from the spaces it leads to. Trust your gut here—you designed the other spaces in your home, so chances are whatever you land on will feel right just right alongside your existing decor.