In every house we’ve lived in, there always seems to be something that gets the best of me…some decor element that, no matter how much I research, analyze, brainstorm, and obsess, I just can’t seem to get right. In our current house, it’s been the rug under our kitchen table. I first documented my rug woes here.  In that post, I explained how I got not one, but two rug purchases very, very wrong despite my best efforts to get it right. At the end of that post, I conceded that we were simply going to live with the second rug (a natural braided tan and white rug), even though it was all wrong from every perspective (design, size, practicality). It wasn’t until that rug became so unsightly thanks to dirt, food and drink spills that I decided to give a kitchen rug one more go. This time…thank goodness…I got it so very right. Today I want to show you our latest (and last!) rug for under the kitchen table and share some practical tips for truly making it work!

Want to put a rug under the kitchen table but don't know how to control the food mess? Try these practical solutions for getting the look you want without a dirty rug!

Lessons Learned

Before I dish on our rug under the kitchen table, let me quickly summarize our first two failed rug attempts (because there is much to learn in our failures too, right?!?!). Our first rug was a flat-weave rug with a tight herringbone pattern. Not only did the flat-weave texture not hold up to heavy foot traffic, but the busy pattern was also way too much for the space. Our second attempt was the natural braided rug that I genuinely thought was going to be perfect: great design, durable, and a natural texture. In the end, the natural fibers of the rug turned problematic in two ways:

  1. Texture – The texture of a natural rug is not at all good for under a kitchen table. There are way too many cracks and crevices for food and crumbs to get into, and forget about cleaning up liquid spills. Within a week of having the rug under our table, we had drink and berry stains that just wouldn’t come out.
  2. Natural Fibers – Think about what happens when you leave a white piece of paper out in the sun: it turns brown. So was the case with the white stripes in the natural rug. Since half of the rug sat in direct sunlight from our large sliding glass doors, the white stripes were becoming significantly discolored.

The braided rug HAD to go, not just from a design perspective (it really clashed with the stripes on the wall nearby), but it was just so impractical for under a kitchen table. Although I wasn’t sure how or with what I’d replace it, my girlfriend helped me play merry-go-rugs to find homes for the now-discarded attempts.

The flat-weave herringbone rug was moved to the playroom and we LOOOOOVE it. It’s soft and comfy and perfect for a play space (where we are often on the floor and don’t typically wear shoes). I love how it works with the reading nook and shelves and really changes the entire space! The braided rug was placed under the bed in our bedroom, but I’m not sure it’s going to stay. While it works well with the navy and white on the bed, it clashes hard (both color-wise and stylistically) with the “glam” dressers and other accessories we have in the space. I’m also really, really bothered by how stained and discolored this rug is, so it will likely end up in our next garage sale. Until then, below the bed it waits.

Now let’s chat about our new kitchen rug and why it’s working out so well! You all might recall that I recently bought a small buffalo check outdoor rug for the boys’ bathroom. I loved that pattern SO much that I couldn’t help but try it out in the dining area too. Once I discovered that the larger versions of the rug featured a larger-scale square pattern, I knew it was the right rug for our space!

Want to put a rug under the kitchen table but don't know how to control the food mess? Try these practical solutions for getting the look you want without a dirty rug!

I watched the rug for a little while, waiting for it to go on sale (as most outdoor items do this time of year). Once I could get the 7×10′ size for around $100, I jumped. (Here’s the listing for the rug, but it appears to no longer be available in the Navy in the 7×10′ size, but some other colors and sizes are still available!)

Want to put a rug under the kitchen table but don't know how to control the food mess? Try these practical solutions for getting the look you want without a dirty rug!

From a design perspective, there are so many things about this rug that actually (finally!) work. The 7×10′ size fits our space so much better (the other two rugs were both just a touch too big). The large-scale blue and white motif works with all three of the conjoining spaces (it picks up the blues from the foyer and the family room so well!). Also, because the dining room is a “connecting” room, there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities to dress it up. Adding a splash of bold yet controlled pattern on the floor was just what this little nook needed. Finally, the check on the floor no longer harshly contrasts with the stripes on the far wall, and I no longer cringe every time I look at the TV from the kitchen!

Want to put a rug under the kitchen table but don't know how to control the food mess? Try these practical solutions for getting the look you want without a dirty rug!

Design perspective aside though, I also wanted to ensure yet another rug didn’t get totally trashed under a table where two messy kids (and sometimes messy adults 😉 ) eat. I love the look of a rug under a table, but also don’t like to waste our money. So this time around, I’m utilizing three strategies to keep this rug looking and functioning great!

Use an Outdoor Rug

The only other time we’ve successfully had a rug under our table was when we used an outdoor rug (so I’m not quite sure why I didn’t start my rug search there when we first moved in). Outdoor rugs, as you might expect, provide durability and food/liquid resistance that traditional indoor rugs don’t, making them ideal for high-traffic and spill-prone areas. Also, not only does the treated, low pile of outdoor rugs resist dirt and stains, but if the rug does get dirty, you can drag it outside and hose it down until it is clean.

Want to put a rug under the kitchen table but don't know how to control the food mess? Try these practical solutions for getting the look you want without a dirty rug!

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth mentioning again: Target’s outdoor rugs (the Threshold brand) are soft and vibrant like indoor rugs but with that added durability of outdoor materials. We’ve used them for years in all of our bathrooms, so I’m somewhat embarrassed that it never occurred to me to try one under our table until recently. We’ve now had this rug for 2 months. Not only do spills and crumbs wipe/pick right up, but a good scrub with a clean sponge returns any high traffic areas back to bright white! And another perk of an outdoor rug? I don’t need to worry about the rug discoloring in our bright CA sunshine!

Protect Under a High Chair

It’s no surprise that the family member who drops (or rather, throws) the most food onto the floor is the baby. At 17 months old, Sam’s favorite things to do is drop anything he doesn’t want onto the floor; and that “fun” trick was leaving our other rugs a total mess. After my last rug post, a reader commented that they used clear office chair mats under highchairs to protect the rug underneath. At first, I was a little resistant from a design perspective…I was really worried how weird and obvious it would look. But…I really didn’t want to trash this rug, so I researched and found an ultra-clear mat with lots of size options. And now that we have it and use, I have to say it’s one of the smartest things we’ve done in our home. Not only does the mat mostly blend in with the rug (it’s obvious here only because I intentionally shot it at an angle it would reflect), but it makes wiping down and picking up food super easy. And of course…the rug underneath is as clean as can be! Tip! Do some research to find a really big mat that will cover the dropping radius of your child!

Want to put a rug under the kitchen table but don't know how to control the food mess? Try these practical solutions for getting the look you want without a dirty rug!

Keep a Handheld Vacuum Handy

The last thing we did to make a rug under the table really work for our messy family is to keep a handheld vacuum handy. That might sound like common sense, but it’s a recent change for us that is making all the difference. Our old “dustbuster” died a few moves ago, and we never got around to replacing it. Whenever we had a mess to clean up, we’d just lug out the full-size vacuum that is in a nearby closet. But let’s be honest, pulling out the large vacuum was never my favorite thing to do, so I didn’t do it as much as I should have. As such, foods, crumbs and drips stuck around on the rugs much longer than they should have (making it even harder to get those stains out).

A friend of ours’ had and raved about this cute little powerful hand-held vacuum, so I’ve had in it my Amazon cart for ages. I finally bought it and wish I had done so ages ago. Its compact size is ideal for storing on a nearby shelf and its super-strong suction picks up pretty much everything. We now do a quick clean up every night after dinner with this handy little guy, and our new rug is fairing so much better as a result!

I am so excited to finally have a rug under the kitchen table that not only looks great, but is easy to keep clean with two messy kiddos in a high-traffic area! If you love the look of a rug under a table but just don’t want to see it destroyed by daily life, try some of these tips! By employing a combination of an outdoor rug, a clear mat under messy kiddos, and spot-vacuuming regularly, we’ve been able to enjoy our new rug without staring at spots and stains all day long!

Want to put a rug under the kitchen table but don't know how to control the food mess? Try these practical solutions for getting the look you want without a dirty rug!

I hope you all had a great week! We’re spending our weekend getting our backyard ready for warm-weather fun, and I’m so stinkin’ excited about it! I’ll see you back here next week!

See You Soon!
Megan