To begin, obviously, you need to select your rug. Select one with a minimum of 4-5 colors for the best results. Orientals are particularly well suited to this technique because of the number of colors they contain, but modern rugs can work as well. (And by the way, orientals can look amazing in contemporary spaces!) For most rooms, an 8×10 is the most appropriate size for a seating arrangement or bedroom, or 6×9 in small spaces.
Paint Color: Ignore whatever the MAIN color of your rug is. From the colors that remain, there should be a couple that are featured fairly prominently. Choose your favorite. Congratulations, you have a wall color! Thinking about an accent wall? Look at the colors that are used only as accents in the rug (see how this works?). Again, select the one you like, and there’s your accent wall! (FYI, steering away from the main color of the rug allows it be be a feature in the finished space. If you use the same color for the walls, the rug will recede into the background.)
Upholstery: By “upholstery,” I mean the primary fabrics on your furniture – not the accent pillows etc. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) The easiest and safest bet for upholstery is to go with your favorite neutral color in the rug, but again, don’t use the dominant color. Beige, cream, white, tan, khaki, brown, and olive are all good, safe choices. If your rug doesn’t have any neutral colors, brown and beige are almost always excellent. (Black also counts as a neutral, but it needs to be used carefully, or it can easily overpower a space.) If you have smaller furniture pieces, like chairs, ottomans, or benches, feel free to use a second or even third color on these, which can be another neutral, or something more bold if you prefer. Don’t want to go neutral on your upholstery? Look at the same colors your selected from when choosing your paint, and pick a different one.
Window Treatments: I’m referring to fabric window treatments, not blinds or shades. There are two directions you can go here. If you want the windows to make a statement, this is a good opportunity to repeat the primary color of your area rug. If you prefer your window treatments to be more subtle, use the same color you selected for your walls or your upholstery.
Accessories: Time to punch it up! This is where you bring the room to life. Look at the details of your area rug, and pick your two favorite colors. Use these (on their own, or in combination with the colors you’ve already used) in your accent pillows, lighting, florals, artwork, books, photos, candles, and any other accent pieces in the room.
A quick recap to illustrate what we’ve done here: If the color is important in your area rug, it should be important in the room (e.g.: the walls, window treatments, and furniture). If the color is used less in the rug, it should be used less in the room (e.g.: accent furnishings and accessories). Just like that, the room is complete!