how to create a DIY navajo inspired rug

DIY Painted Rug Inspired by West Elm

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE area rugs! They instantly change the way a space looks, and are an easy {and temporary} way to add color or pattern to a room.

However, if you are on a tight budget {like us} then you may quickly realize that the area rug you want is out of your price range, boooooo.  But then that’s the beauty of DIY, am I right? You can find a style you like and then re-create it in a way that reflects your personality, without spending a ton of money. All it takes is a little bit of time and patience. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you!

DIY Painted Rug

Today I am sharing how I created a DIY painted rug inspired by West Elm, for just $20!

I had originally planned to paint the rug I currently have in my office/studio but after coming across a pattern I loved, I realized I could get the same look with just a sharpie. In case you missed that post or want a refresh you can see my West Elm Inspired Rug here {pictured below}. If you plan to use a design with more lines and less filled in shapes I would definitely recommend the sharpie route. It’s easy, looks great and the rug still feels super soft!

DIY Painted Rug

DIY Sharpie Rug

However, if you are looking to fill in patterns and shapes with more color then you may want to try out the DIY painted rug route.

West Elm Inspired DIY Painted Rug:

One day while browsing the West Elm website I came across the  Phoenix Wool Dhurrie rug and instantly fell in love. The geometric/kilim pattern was fun, simple, classic and modern all rolled into one. It seemed perfect for our dining room!

Of course the price tag of $350 for a 5×8 was a bit steep for us so I decided to create my own version using this design as my inspiration.

I know that one of the reasons area rugs can be expensive is because of the materials and craftsmanship involved. My DIY painted rug wouldn’t be nearly as perfect or soft, but I was okay with that. When you have $20 you can spend on a rug, you have to make do with what you have. Besides, I really enjoy all of the stories behind the DIY projects in our home, and no one has anything exactly like it 🙂

The inspiration:

West-Elm-Phoenix Wool Dhurrie Rug

Materials Needed for DIY Painted Rug:

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Measuring Tape


Fabric Medium



foam brushes

Painter’s Tape

Cardboard Template of shapes to use {optional}


drop cloth/newspapers

Fabric Protector


90’s Music {optional}

By the way, one of my favorite ways to save money on rugs is to purchase remnant rugs from Home Depot or Lowes.  The rug I used in my office cost less than $30 and the one I’m sharing today was only $20! I always like to check to see what remnant rugs are in stock when I’m in there because it can be somewhat random, and you never know what you will find. I’m all about the treasure hunt so I’m okay with that 🙂 It would have been nice to get one a bit larger but I figured 5×7 would do, especially for the price!

Here is the before photo of my 5×7 Remnant Rug:

DIY Painted Rug

I already had the fabric medium on hand that you use to mix with your paint color since I had purchased it back when I bought the rug above, thinking I’d use it, but didn’t. I did actually use some of it on the DIY lace curtains I shared. I purchased the $20 remnant rug soon after we finished building our West Elm Inspired dining table, so I actually had everything on hand that I needed, woo-hoo! You can use acrylic or latex paint, and I just used some custom mixed navy and turquoise paint.  Just make sure that if you custom mix a paint color, that you make more than enough. The last thing you want is to run out of paint before your DIY painted rug is finished.

The first thing I did was create the shape templates in illustrator. I’m not gonna lie, I suck at math and am a more visual person so I thought planning it out on the computer would be easier. Plus this way I could play around with where I wanted the shapes and what color to make them too. I actually still screwed it up, but I’ll get to that a little later…

DIY Painted Rug

I decided to create 3 separate shapes, enlarge them, and then printed each individual shape out from my home printer. Each shape took up a few pieces of paper so I used some of the Delicate Frog Tape to tape the pieces of paper together. I actually won a bunch of Frog Tape {YAY!} when I attended Haven, and I had never used the delicate kind before. It was perfect because it didn’t tear the paper and I even had to move it around a couple times.

After each shape was taped together I cut the shape out, then placed it on a piece of cardboard, traced it with a sharpie, and then cut out the new cardboard template. The cardboard template is what I used to “stencil” onto the rug. The photos below probably explain this better than I can.

DIY Painted Rug

I did this for all 3 shapes until I had 3 separate templates cut out of cardboard.

DIY Painted Rug

After I had all of my cardboard templates printed out I started marking out my measurements onto the rug using chalk as a guide for where my templates would start. This is when I realized I totally screwed up my plan.

When I enlarged the shapes on my computer I apparently made them too large, which threw off my original design plan. Oops. I had even tested out the first template to see how it would fit along the rug, but had only gone along the height of the rug, and not the width. This meant that I had to alter my design a bit and went with just 3 columns of vertical shapes. I considered re-printing and cutting the templates but decided just to roll with the punches instead.

It didn’t take long to line up where the shapes would go since I lined the first column against the edge and 3.5 inches apart, and then started the middle column smack dab in the center. I also used my original printed out shapes as a guide in addition to my cardboard templates {as seen in the photo below}. Once I had my template lined up I simply traced around it using a sharpie marker. I alternated between 2 different sharpies to make it easier when one was running low on ink.

DIY Painted Rug

DIY Painted Rug

This took a bit longer than expected and it was pretty late, so after I had traced all of the shapes I decided I would do the painting part the next day.

DIY Painted Rug

DIY Painted Rug

By the way, the paint dried slightly darker than it originally looked when I painted it on. Just FYI so you don’t end up with a color darker than you wanted. It’s probably best to test an area first to see if the color looks the way you want it to. I had started painting one of the patterns on my rug and then decided I wanted the color a bit lighter, so I just painted over the part I originally painted.

DIY Painted Rug

Before I started painting I put a couple of old tablecloths underneath the rug just to make sure no paint went through. You could use a dropcloth, newspapers, an old sheet, etc. The paint didn’t go through the rug at all actually, but better safe than sorry, right? I worked on the rug in our bedroom with the door shut so our pets wouldn’t run all over it or have their fur fly in the paint. Funny how as soon as a door shuts they freak out and wanna come in. If you have pets are yours the same way?

After I had my navy paint color mixed I used a foam brush {several actually} to apply the paint to the shapes on the rug. I originally tried a regular paint brush but found that the foam brushes worked much better. If you have really large shapes or stripes you could also use a foam roller.

DIY Painted Rug

After the paint had dried I actually went around and painted over the shapes one more time. A couple hours and many foam brushes later, my rug looked like this:

DIY Painted Rug

and my brushes looked like this:

DIY Painted Rug

Lol. Well, even when the foam part broke off I still used it to sorta squeegee the paint onto the rug. It worked surprisingly well and I wasn’t afraid to get a little messy.

I actually really liked how the rug looked with just the dark navy {it looks a bit darker in the photos then it does in person}. Our dining room doesn’t get too much light though and is super beige so I wanted to add a pop of turquoise to brighten it up a bit.

I was impatient so after a few hours it seemed dry enough so I went ahead and started painting around the edges of the pattern using a smaller paintbrush and some custom mixed turquoise paint. Don’t you just love how the paint is in an old Tostitos jar? haha.

DIY Painted Rug

DIY Painted Rug

It was so much fun watching the rug transform before my eyes, talk about instant gratification! At first I was bummed that I screwed up my original design plan, because I really wanted to have more than 3 columns, but I still think it turned out pretty awesome. In fact, I think it worked out pretty good because now there is more contrast in the dining room with the additional white showing on the carpet.  

Here is the rug all finished:

DIY Painted Rug

DIY Painted Rug

I actually want to pick up some fabric protector to spray over it just to make sure all that hard work lasts. I will probably do that next weekend.

So what do you think? Have you painted a rug before or are you considering making one? I LOVE our new DIY painted rug and I will admit that the painted areas are a bit stiff but not too terrible and since it’s in the dining room and not the bedroom I’m totally cool with that.

DIY Painted Rug

Painted Rug in Dining Room |

DIY Painted Rug

We hope this tutorial on our DIY Painted Rug was helpful. Do you plan to give it a try? If so we would love to hear about it below.

UPDATE – 1 Year Later:

I’ve had this rug for about a year now and still LOVE it! It seems to have gotten softer over time – although the painted areas are still crunchy and is holding up really well. I have no problems vacuuming it or doing spot cleaning. The best advice I could give is that if you create a custom color be sure to have extra set aside, or know exactly how you made it. There are a few spots where my cats have scratched the rug and it could use a couple touchups, but I don’t have the same paint so I’ll have to try to color match it.

UPDATE – 2 years later: 

The rug held up much better than I expected but one of our cats ended up struvite crystals and long story short he peed on the rug… multiple times. I did spray the rug down with Scotch Guard after I painted it which I do think helped prevent stains, but I cleaned it and he’d pee on it again. Although he’s been on medicine and is better now, the rug had to go. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. I don’t know if it’s better to buy a rug and have your cat ruin or, or spend tons of time creating a design on one and have your cat ruin it. I guess both scenario’s suck. At least the rug only cost $20, it lasted 2 years, and I really enjoyed painting it.

  • I love this! The navy and turquoise combo is beautiful together. Yay for working with what you’ve got! 🙂

    August 19, 2014 at 12:57 pm
      • mini

        this is absolutely superb! !! one . question tho….what ki da paint did u use.was it acrylic or sm other kind?

        August 27, 2014 at 5:10 pm
  • OMG!!! This is an awesome job…you worth lots of congratulations!

    August 19, 2014 at 12:58 pm
  • Gorgeous! Seriously… I love it! Pinning!

    August 19, 2014 at 6:24 pm
  • Oh my gosh I love it!! I’ve been wanting a rug for my kids room but you’re right, they’re way too expensive! This might work for me, thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    August 19, 2014 at 7:27 pm
  • Does Home Depot bind the remnant for you ?

    August 19, 2014 at 8:41 pm
    • Karen

      Looks great and will work better than a floor cloth in the spot I’m looking to place it. What kind of protectant did you use afterward? Scotchguard? Thanks!

      August 6, 2015 at 7:23 pm
  • Amazing. It looks so professional and expensive. I really like the colour combination.

    August 19, 2014 at 8:43 pm
  • Holy moly girl. You’re blowing my mind with this rug! And then just seeing it with a small glimpse of your table and stunning white chairs…. oh my. I’ll be pinning and sharing on my FB page.

    August 20, 2014 at 1:33 am
  • What an absolutely fabulous idea. I was confused while reading through your tutorial, thinking that your final rug was the inspiration rug. No one will ever know that you didn’t pay big bucks for your awesome rug.

    August 20, 2014 at 6:03 am
  • I love this rug! It looks absolutely amazing and you did a fabulous job! Thanks for the tip about HD – I never thought of that!

    August 20, 2014 at 9:13 am
  • Wow, this is awesome! Looks even better than the original 🙂 Great job!

    August 20, 2014 at 11:04 am
  • It turned out perfectly, Katie! I love it!! I have been wanting to try to paint a rug, but I couldn’t find a plain white one anywhere. Will you please tell me more about this remnant rug thing? I need to know your secret!

    August 20, 2014 at 11:49 am
  • What a beautiful transformation! I love the pattern and color combination and especially that it didn’t cost a fortune. I’ll be featuring your rug makeover on my blog this Friday and would love for you to link up to Your Designs This Time every Monday!

    August 20, 2014 at 1:44 pm
      • Trudy Musgrove

        I love the idea of less rows it looks lovely.I also like the idea of just a touch of turquoise to bring a soft touch of color.GOOD IDEA!!

        August 30, 2015 at 7:35 pm
  • I love this, Katie! It really turned out great!

    August 20, 2014 at 3:17 pm
  • I love this! Looks great!

    August 20, 2014 at 3:42 pm
  • WOW this looks absolutely beautiful..The patience needed for this rug i can imagine but the result is amazing.

    August 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm
  • Both rugs look awesome! What a great way to make an inexpensive rug look custom and special.

    August 20, 2014 at 7:27 pm
  • So so so amazing Katie, and even more amazing that you’re providing a free template! Love the colors <3

    August 20, 2014 at 10:19 pm
  • Katie, this is absolutely amazing! I think you gave me an idea for a fall projects.

    August 21, 2014 at 7:49 am
  • Katie you are a genius. This is beautiful and so smart! Love it!

    August 21, 2014 at 9:36 am
  • WOW! I love the design, the colors, everything. I’ve never seen anyone do this, but it’s a brilliant way to save money. I love a houseful of rugs too, but they can be so expensive. Great job!

    August 22, 2014 at 1:47 am
  • skills, man. skills!

    August 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm
  • Fabulous project!

    I have wanted to paint rugs forever! I love this tutorial! Please share this tutorial at my Show-Licious Craft & Recipe Party!
    ~ Ashley

    August 25, 2014 at 10:51 am
  • So gorgeous! Stop by House on the Way tonight to see it featured at the Twirl & Take a Bow party! We’d love to have you join the party this week too.

    August 25, 2014 at 11:36 am
  • I have never heard of Home Depot having remnant rugs before…where do you ask about them?

    This looks amazing. I would love a rug for my living room but I can’t find one I like for less than a hundred dollars…which is a bit steep for me. =)

    August 25, 2014 at 2:48 pm
  • i LOVE it! creative, thrifty, and beautiful!

    August 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm
  • This is one of the best rug project I have ever seen, girl!! Just love it, so as your new site! ♥

    August 25, 2014 at 11:01 pm
  • I absolutely love it!!! You did an amazing job! You must pack a lot of patience 😉 Well done!

    August 26, 2014 at 6:13 pm
  • I just love the colours and pattern you used! Looks fantastic! I’d love to do something like this with two very plain rugs we already have. Feeling inspired…:)

    August 26, 2014 at 8:51 pm
  • Patience is right! Man, I am so impressed with all those designs and how well they line up. Congrats on your feature at this weeks From Dream to Reality hop!

    August 27, 2014 at 2:31 am
  • Karen

    I love this so much! I have been wanting to paint a rug for a year at least. Can you tell me what the fabric medium does and how much you used? I just painted stripes on a drop cloth from Lowes that I tea-stained and am upholstering an old wooden rocking chair seat. The stripes are navy and look so cool (like vintage French linens). I am afraid that they may be stiff (I did not use any fabric medium-is that what it’s for?) and I am also afraid of it wearing off or worse, getting on someone’s clothes. Will the fabric protector prevent that? Thanks for any help you can give me. Again, very cool!!

    August 27, 2014 at 1:01 pm
  • Yep! I am totally impressed by this! You did an incredible job! Seriously, my mind is blown and inspired! lol I have seen these rugs at Home Depot and now I probably will buy one. I love area rugs, but some of the prices are just too much and sometimes ridiculously so.

    Thank you so much for sharing. 😀

    August 28, 2014 at 12:34 am
  • I save all my tostitos jars too! You are not crazy they are great for all sorts of things!

    August 28, 2014 at 12:49 pm
  • MIND BLOWN! Absolutely gorgeous! It looks even better than the West Elm rug! Great job!

    August 29, 2014 at 9:36 am
  • This is, wow, what do I say? Awesome, and that’s not enough! I’ve needed an inexpensive rug for our basement because it can flood there. I’m going to look for a beige nubby carpet remnant at Home Depot and try this. I have tons of acrylic paints, fabric medium and stencils. You’ve totally inspired me to try this!

    September 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm
  • Meg

    This is insane! Great job Katie! I’m so jealous – I doubt our city Home Depot has such great rug remnant deals (though I will definitely keep an eye out now that you’ve tipped me off to it!)

    September 5, 2014 at 2:34 pm
  • Judy

    loved your rug. I’m redoing my bedroom in dark blues and white, but I haven’t been able to find a rug that I liked that didn’t cost a small fortune. I also like to make most of my own things, so thanks for the idea.

    September 11, 2014 at 4:27 pm
  • Katie, you amaze me! I am so inspired to paint my own rug now! I just wanted you to know that I am featuring your rug in my Friday Favorites this week! You can see it here:
    Also, I’m now co-hosting On Display Thursday and I’d love to have you share this, cause its awesome! Hope to see you Thursday!

    March 1, 2015 at 12:31 am
  • This came out amazing, I like it better than the West Elm one! I didn’t know Home Depot had rug remnants, I’ll be checking that often!

    March 5, 2015 at 10:38 am
  • I have been looking for an inexpensive way to do a custom rug for our living room. Thank you for the tips! Just curious has the rug held up this long?

    March 18, 2015 at 9:52 am
  • mj

    This is awesome! So glad I came across your blog. I’ve been trying to find a cheap alternative to a PB Teen rug for my daughter’s room. My only concern is whether painting an entire rug will make it too “crunchy”. Do you think if I add enough fabric medium it will help soften the paint so that it’s not too hard for my daughter to sit and play on?

    March 28, 2015 at 3:04 pm
  • Seriously amazing! You are very talented. I love that you provided the stencil template and I just may have to use it for a furniture DIY I have in the works.

    June 17, 2015 at 11:42 am
  • It’s days like this, when I find a project like yours, that I’m SO happy we live in a pinterest time! I’ve been drooling over a similar rug, but didn’t want to shell out the cash for it. Can’t wait to try this!

    August 11, 2015 at 10:29 am
  • WOW! Amazing and so pretty. Could you make one for me and send it over? 🙂

    August 15, 2015 at 7:42 am
  • nancy

    Now that time has passed, could you please let us know how durable it turned out to be? did the design rub or flake off? fade in trafficed part? tia

    August 16, 2015 at 7:20 pm
  • Hii Katie, this is absolutely superb one..
    what kind of paint did you use. .? is it acrylic or some other kind?

    August 31, 2015 at 5:00 am
  • Carol Oh

    Lovely rug! Tip: whenever you need your painters tape to be a little less tacky (more easily removed from delicate surfaces) press the sticky side into your shirt or pant leg and remove before applying to your surface. It will pick up a small amount of lint from the fabrics, so it is not quite so sticky. Just don’t use an angora sweater lol

    October 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm
  • Vicki

    I think your rugs look nicer than the expensive ones. And with 2 little kids and a puppy I wouldn’t buy an expensive rug.

    January 24, 2016 at 8:24 pm
  • Mary Hofstra

    I was just thinking that my area rug really needed to be replaced, with all the spots/stains it has. Then I thought; Can I paint it? Wow! Thanks for sharing this! I’m going to try it. You mentioned adding a medium to the paint. What exactly is that? Where do I get it? About how much will it cost? And about how much will I need? My rug is about 5’x7.5′. Thanks again and God Bless????

    June 8, 2016 at 6:21 pm
  • Jane Waldmann

    I don’t see what kind of paint you used and amounts. It’s beautiful and I would like to to try it.

    November 6, 2016 at 12:10 pm
  • Veda Woo

    Beautifully Creative! Not that there will be a next time….but Kleen Green Naturally Enzymes I poured straight from the bottle, undiluted onto a oriental rug to remove urine saturation, worked withour any color changes. Then I placed a towel over the area and walked on it. When it was dry, the stain was gone and only slight odor so I treated it again over night and then did the towel thing… odor! Never has left any paint damage….wonderful with clothes…..especially that towel! Normally I dilute it and use a sprayer. Perhaps you will have fun with your art again?

    April 1, 2018 at 6:04 am

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