When decorating a home, carpet runners and areas rugs may not seem high on the agenda of important purchases to consider. However, the right carpet runner can make or break a room; the same for an area rug. Runners usually must provide specific functions in a home, for specific areas. Like the proper casting of the characters in a movie, the wrong selection of a carpet runner or area rug can make the entire decorating production seem off kilter. Decorators must establish a careful balance between the display of runners that seem totally appropriate and ones that seem pointless and clash. Like runners, area rugs need to serve a purpose; either protection or enhancement of room furnishings. Carpet runners and area rugs usually play supporting roles in your home showcase.

Runners usually serve to protect flooring that could suffer damage because it exists in a high traffic area. Hardwood, tile and marble flooring can suffer damage if careless residents or visitors wear shoes that damage these flooring materials, or drop food or other items that could stain or damage them. Runners protect these areas from uneven wear or damage. Carpet runners should be muted colors and patterns when used in common areas, in order to blend in with the more important features of the room. Fabric type, color and texture should be attractive, but should coordinate gently with other carpeting or rugs. Area rugs used in high traffic areas, or to protect one area of a floor from a piece of furniture, should be the size to do the job, not oversized. These rugs should also try to enhance other decor rather than try to be the center of attention.

Most runners fall into one of three categories. The stair runner protects stairs, which receive lots of use and can wear easily. They are more costly since they must be cut to fit the individual stairs, require lots of material and need to be professionally installed to ensure there will be no slips and falls. Corridor runners protect another high traffic area, hallways. They keep uncarpeted floors warmer to feet, and if the hallway is located in sleeping areas, the runners keep down the noise of footsteps and avoid disturbing anyone who may be sleeping. A runner with a bright, light color can brighten a dark hallway area. The last type of rug runner, the Oriental runner, is a more elaborately designed runner. It features more vibrant colors and more interesting, detailed designs and decorations. They are frequently collector's items, works of art hand-created by fine weavers using the finest materials available. They are in great demand.