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Mountain House Monday: The Living Room Rug Dilemma (+ Ask the Audience)


It’s mountain house Monday, living room edition. We have some rug debating to do as I can’t move forward with the living room design and keep decorating until we know what is happening underfoot. In a perfect world, it’s a big white fluffy comfy, cozy rug. But I have kids and they have limbs full of marinara, mud and sand, plus we are a big Play-doh and Lego family (which get easily stuck in high pile rugs). I want a light simple rug, but what will be the easiest and hide stains the most is something darker or busier. It’s an age-old conundrum and it’s painfully boring.

Emily Henderson Mountain House Living Room Rug Trellis Rug

I know you need more information. Here is what’s going on: everything in here was left over from previous projects and I really love every piece, but it’s not there yet design-wise so any of the given pieces MIGHT change.

The sectional is from Article—a brand I love—and they kindly loaned me this sectional back when I staged the Glendale house. I really really really love it and almost wish I had tried it in our LA house before bringing up here. It’s extremely comfortable, a really simple shape, has the right depth and comfort level, and the color and fabric is even pretty forgiving. My thought is that it’s a great piece to mix with other more weird/vintage pieces HOWEVER if I find a vintage sofa that is a show-stopper, I might switch it out (in which case it would either be donated to a family via Pen + Napkin or used in a Feel Good Flash Makeover project).

The coffee table (from Rejuvenation, though I don’t think this finish is available anymore) is also leftover and might get switched out for that big live edge stump I got at the flea market (which I wrote about here).

Another leftover (from the Portland project) is the rug, above, which is GREAT but it’s the EXACT color of the sofa, plus in person, the blue is brighter than we were going for. But we really do love how neutral it was. So we tried a darker rug, which felt more “usual EHD fashion” in a patterned navy:

Emily Henderson Mountain House Living Room Rugsectional View

The above rug from Serena & Lily really changed the feel of the room. We actually think that the wood flooring should be the big “texture story” in the room, and that this rug is strangely distracting from it, while I do love it. There’s also the visual layer of the plastered stone fireplace, and all together, it might just be too much “visual noise.” As a reminder, I really want this house to be calm, minimal, Scandi. I’m not sure this rug is helping to achieve that look here (at least not in this room).

Emily Henderson Mountain House Living Room Rug Stone Fireplace

So what do I want?? Secretly, I just want this rug that I’ve used a few times, seen below:

photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: target’s new “see it in your space” feature
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: styling to sell the (new) master bedroom

It’s so soft, plush but lighter than the sofa, with enough darker gray pattern to hide dirt, etc.

I also REALLY love the rug from the Portland project family room:

photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: how to design a pass-through” room

It has enough darker tones in it to be forgiving and while I might think that it would be too simple (and therefore boring), I think that it really worked up there and I love the simplicity in a way.

So we figured we’d round up all the rugs we are considering, broken down in two categories: adding some blue (i.e. old-school EHD), or sticking with neutral (which might be what my heart truly wants).

Emily Henderson Mountain House Living Room Rug Blue Options

1. Malta Blue Woven Wool Rug | 2. Rida Rug | 3. Marais Rug | 4. Matrix Ink Wool Tufted Rug | 5. Rider Denim Rug | 6. High-Low Dilla Lapis | 7. Modern Rug, Teal | 8. Classic Rug, Blue/Cream

I’m going to try out #7 but it’s far less textured than I want. It does have some interest and pattern but it might be too bright. #3 is the same Serena & Lily rug from one of the photos of the living room above, and #8 is a rug we used in one of the Portland guest bedrooms, and it has a nice flatweave texture to it.

Emily Henderson Mountain House Living Room Rug Neutral Options1

1. Modern Rug, Gray | 2. Edison Rug, Light Gray | 3. Masinissa Hand Knotted Rug | 4. Numa Charcoal Hand Knotted Rug | 5. Linzie Rug, Gray | 6. Judson Rug, Ivory & Black | 7. Classic Rug, Gray/Cream | 8. Evee Rug

I hate pulling triggers on rugs without knowing what else is going on, but it really will set the tone for the decor. I’m SERIOUSLY considering #8 even though it is busier. The black lines will look good with the black island. But #3, #5 both could also be good, forgiving, but still calm and quiet.

We shoot this room (and most of the rest of the house) in 6 weeks so I HAVE to start pulling triggers. Luckily, because we are shooting for a magazine, many companies will send the rugs for us to try out as an option (plus we have other spaces we can try them in if they don’t work in the living room).

But I’d love your opinion. Know that any other chairs and accessories we bring in will be vintage and weird, but not wacky or too colorful. So…do I stick with a cozy neutral color story here and let the wood and windows be the star, or do I bring in some soft color/pattern with one of the blue rugs (which will feel in line with classic EHD style)? Let me know what you guys think. Xx

UPDATE: There were SO many comments (thank you!), so we decided to add a poll feature to capture everyone’s thoughts. We’ll of course take into consideration all the comments, as well, but feel free to vote if you’ve already commented, too.

Mountain House Living Room Rug

Neutral or Color?

Option 1 - Go Neutral

Living Room Rug

Option 2 - Pop of Color

Living Room Rug

You did it!

Thank you for doing your daily design duty.
Your vote has my vote. 🙂

Fin Mark


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My vote is for neutral number 8! Ditch the blue 🙂

Also, did Sara get married? I’m spying a new last name! If so, congrats!


That’s my vote too, or Neutral 7 for the name if the grey is right with the fireplace and floor.

I feel like the neutral you have in the actual room is too light, but the blue one definitely fights for attention with the fireplace and seems out of place in that shot (it works better in the window shot).

Mary Ann

Hi Emily –
Thanks for asking…. I agree that *that* blue rug is too bright for your room but the cream/beige/oatmeal/neutral idea is just too blah, safe and uninspiring when paired with the couch. I think some other options people offered like a toned-down blue/grey/black would be a better choice. A rug with a little color and definitely *some* (softer?) contrast is what this room needs. You can do better!
Of these choices, though:
Blue 1 or 5
Neutral 5

Jennifer L Wenacur


Mary Henrie

I actually notice the wood more with the blue rug, sometimes color will allow the wood to shine a bit more


I agree, number 8!

Rebecca Morris

I definitely think you should try out #8 in the neutral category. It just seems interesting and more rustic than the others which could work well in a mountain house.


Neutral 5, 6 or 8!


Neutral #2 or #8!! Love!!


I almost wish there was an aesthetically pleasing plastic cover for rugs the way you used to for old pink couches. ??




Blue # 1,3 & 4 🙂


Blue #5. I really think you need the color but this medium tones option isn’t too blue.


I like this one too!


Blue #1 is my favourite of these options too. There’s a Danish rug company called Fabula Living that I think might be a good fit for what you’re looking for here


I vote for a blue rug! The kitchen (which I think is adjacent) is very neutral so it would be nice to have some color. Blue is about as Scandinavian as it gets, and echoes the sky through the windows. The blue rugs that you show are beautiful, but maybe a lighter blue with a small pattern? A subtle flatweave (“transmatta” in Swedish) with graduated stripes oriented to be parallel with the wood grain in the floors? I loved the blue rug you used in your Boathouse makeover and think it would look amazing. In the Boathouse it did not detract from the wood tones. The neutral with the wood and the fireplace may look very beige. Looking forward to seeing how you transform the space!


I LOVE # 5 in the neutral category. Seems like a beautiful mid-tone neutral you won’t get tired of and then you can have more fun with other elements in the room.


Yes, agreed!!


I like #5 as well!


The blue is warm and inviting. It actually complements the floors. The beige makes the room look dreary and dismal. It actually blends with the floors and does not bring out the beauty in the space or the floors.


Neutral. It sounds like you aren’t really fond of the blue.


In this house/room, I like the neutral. Of the options, I like #6, too. Have you ever tried Loloi rugs? They have lots of textured neutrals.

Oooh I will check them out xx


I have a Loloi in my entryway, and it does not show dirt! Seems very resistant.


No blue. The end


Agree! Too busy!

Also, I only sort of recall that fireplace from last year when you were talking plans, I thought it was going to be renovated? I don’t mean to be critical but it looks both crooked and wonky in the pictures. Is that the camera? Is it going to be renovated? Might influence rug choice.


A bunch of Emily’s inspiration photos had really textured organic fireplace *moments* and I believe her goal here was to achieve something similar, with the added bonus of saving time and money. I personally think it looks fantastic!


Agree. Do something different!

Liane Anderson

Neutral definitely. Somehow the blue draws attention away from the rest of the features in the room. It hogs the limelight. If the room was dull and uninteresting that might be fine. With a windows and view like that why would you want to draw attention to a rug!
My vote is for number 4.


Agree! I looked at the rugs in both cases first and the architecture second. The blue rug in front of the fireplace drew attention to the weird angle that the rug and fireplace meet each other. I almost just want to see a white washed jute rug in there for texture but low contrast with the fireplace.


I agree with Katherine. I was liking the blue rug and thought it highlighted the wood tones in the floor nicely until I saw that awkward angle with the fireplace. Not something that needs attention drawn to it!


Ok so I have the Dash & Albert rug you secretly want, plus the 2 young kids (3rd on the way) AND a dog. I hesitated too but before I bought it I got a swatch and rubbed tomato sauce and bright orange smoothie into it to see how it would stain. A little blotting and it was all out (thank goodness for 100% Wool rugs). So while it looks delicate, it’s actually pretty hardy and in person the dirty natural color hides a lot of sins. I say, if you want that rug, go for it! That said, I do discourage the kids from eating anything too stain-able away from the kitchen. I love how the rug is subtle, yet striking and it makes our room cozy in a way our precious rug didn’t.


Great endorsing on that one. D&A ,as well as 100% Wool are great choices, and I voted for the ‘secret’ rug as well. Looks great.

Erin Han

Blue is my favorite color…..but, please no blue for this room! I like 2, 5, and 8 from the neutral choices.


Windows and wood should definitely star. Go neutral with the rug.


I agree – the first two pictures were a great comparison. In the neutral rug picture, I saw the amazing windows! In the blue rug picture, my eyes were drawn down to the floor.


Many good options. Because of the balcony and size of rug, it just seems I’d want the entire sofa to be on it. It might be the picture, as I understand in person everything would feel different. But on the current pictures something feels off, placement wise. I like neutral #8, but I also like the blue. The live edge table would look great here. Loving the Mountain house updates.


Blue! At least in photos, the blue pulls my eyes to green outside where as the neutral makes me look at the ceiling and the furniture. Guess it depends on where your attention goes irl.


Just buy the rug you want to buy and set rules for everyone: 1. Shoes off at the door. 2. No food in the living room. Why postpone life or buy something you don’t really want just because you’re worried about a spill?

I raised two kids and they learned right off to respect the things in our house. They didn’t get the run of the place. That way, they behave the same in other people’s houses. I always got a big kick out of hearing my son tell all of his 17 year old friends to “take your shoes off.” And then there’d be 7 pairs of size 11 and 12 shoes all over the entry. Ha!


i have all those rules in my house…and still have stains that won’t come out on my rug and my couch. Accidents/rule forgetting happen. if you have littles who are still figuring things out, and you don’t want to be the generalissimo of Rug Rules, i think it’s great to choose more forgiving decor AND teach your kids to take care of things, while buying yourself some leeway for mistakes.


Yes, balance — as ever — is the key here. But if going neutral is one of your options, then just go ahead and get the rug you want. I don’t see how any of these neutral rugs would cover a chocolate or marinara stain (or red wine for that matter!) any more than getting one of the rugs Emily says she REALLY wants.

So I am Team Get the Rug You Actually Want.


I think you need a more vintage look rug. I like neutrals but the first thing I noticed when I looked at the first two photos was how the beautiful wood floors popped against the blue. But maybe a rug that’s not as dark…

Rachel Osborn-Zylstra

#5 neutral


Edison or Evee! Though I think a warmer neutral would also work – something with mustard or rust tones.


I know it’s not one of your stated options, but when I look at the room and consider the desire for calm/Scandi, what I’m I’m immediately drawn to is like a light pink/peach rug. This way it adds a bit of color but *blends* with the warm wood tones rather than contrasts, as with the blues and grays. There could be a tiny bit of texture or pattern on the rug but nothing too bold, to keep the peace and to let the wood floor speak. Whaddya think?!


I can’t help but see chromosomes in neutral #8…What about neutral #6?

Sahaja Carpenter

Now I can’t not see chromosomes, but I still like #8!


I see dog bones.


I’d like to see #8


No blue. And I’m going to be the rebel who says get what you really want. You can always scotch guard the heck out of it and deal. Every time I compromise for practicality I regret it. Kids are a mess but that’s life. I wouldn’t have an all white room (I’m not insane) but you might be surprised about how good the kids are with it if you gently remind them it’s a “special winter snow rug” or something of the like…? I say fluffy white goodness. Good luck!


Neutral 5 or 6.


Neutral #8!


We bought that great Dash and Albert rug that you’ve used a few times in brown. With a 5 and 2 year old, it still looks amazing and hides all the dirt. Plus the color wouldn’t take away from the beautiful flooring.

Sahaja Carpenter

Before you said it, 3, 5, and 8 were my favorite neutrals. 2,4,and 6 don’t seem as special. I’d love to see 8 or 5 if only bc they’re a bit different. I don’t feel like I’ve seen them a hundred times.


No Blue. Minimal to no pattern and light (non)colors if you want a true, light scandi feel.

Kelaine N Thompson

I think the rug from the Portland project family room with those tassels on the ends would be amazing! I am looking forward to seeing how you handle the angle of the fireplace with the orientation of the rug…that seems a little tricky from what you have shown us so far 😉

Whitney Anderson

Agree – #3, #5 or #7. Not blue. It will be beautiful!


I vote neutral 6 or 8! Going with the blue will really take away from the Scandi look here since it’s such a big piece of the room. It might be helpful to bring in some color from other smaller, less impactful pieces!


Neutral rug all the way! It doesn’t feel boring it feels like layered neutrals — and you’ve got lots of tonal things happening already I don’t think you’re in danger of being a white box. The rug will be seen from so many rooms and will carry a lot of visual weight.

Option 8 stuck out to me immediately!


Big live edge stump for coffee table and neutral 2 or 3 rug. 8 is too busy. Pillows throws, table lamps and chairs with black accents to tie in the island’s color.


I could go either way with the rug. What I care PASSIONATELY about is bringing in that giant tree root for a coffee table. That is going to M.A.K.E. the room. I’d personally prefer it with blue (classic ehd), but it would also be amazing as a neutral mixed in with lots of other pretty neutrals.

Laura B

I love the blues…they definitely add some warmth and depth. My vote is 1,2 or 5.


It seems like if you go blue you’ll lose your battle to make the floors shine! You even say “#7 but it’s far less textured than I want.” Only go blue if you decide you want to hide the floors! I vote neutral 5!!


Love the idea of the one from the Portland project – dark enough to provide contrast with the sectional and hide dirt but quiet enough to let the vintage weirdness shine. I worry large scale pattern will draw too much attention in the wrong way (can’t believe I just typed those words)


Ditch all the blue. Also bring in the live edge coffee table. I don’t feel like that one is right for the space. I think rug #3 is my pick.

Cris Williams

I say let the wood floors be the star! Your idea for a calm, scandi space sounds sooo relaxing. I would go with the Masinissa rug you love. Just wrap your kids in saran wrap, only feed them white foods, and don’t worry about stains! LOL

Leigh H

definitely agree w/ neutral, the best of these IMO 3,4,5, 6
5 is my top pick interesting but subtle. I also really like 3 and 4.
so hard to pick rugs!


My first choice is blue 5 (although on my screen it appears more grey). I also like blue 1 and neutral 3. Can’t wait to see what you pick!


Neutral #3!!


I vote neutral. I have a rug very similar to the neutral 3 option and also three kids and it hides everything. It’s in my living room and sees a ton of action and still looks fantastic 1 1/2 years later.


Blue #5. It’s still light enough to be in a more neutral room while adding a bit of life.


I like Blue #2 & 4, Neutral #8.

I’ve seen that neutral one you’re using above IRL a few times. I don’t understand why it always looks dirty. It looks dirty brand new….

Sarah Johnson

You think about rugs to much. They are all nice. Just pick one and go on to more important things in life.


Neutral all the way! #3 is my fav!!


#5 on the neutral! Gorgeous, calm, serene AND forgiving.


Practical question – what color is the dirt outside? You will want a great deal of “outside dirt” color in your rug if you think it will get tracked inside so it blends in with the rug. We have a cabin and as the constant in-and-our makes taking off shoes all the time impractical. . . .


Go with your heart, it’s your home!


I think you should go with your gut and stick to a neutral pallet here. It just looks more in line with what you’re going for and has a calm, sophisticated effect.

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