cruelty-free floor: budget friendly diy faux cowhide rug

Lately I’ve been working so much on the Etsy store, and on the various friends’ weddings I’ve been designing for, that I haven’t paid much attention to the house. Until last night. I arrived back home from a long weekend in Chicago with a carful of IKEA furniture, tingly-numb legs, and a burning desire to finish the alcove project. Specifically, I wanted to finish the rug. If you’ll recall, I wanted to do some kind of faux-pony (fauxny?) or cowhide rug, but obviously not something from a real animal. The look I was going for was this:

Of course, as is the norm in the luxurious life of a freelancer, the budget is tight right now. So things that seem pretty reasonable in comparison to their luxe counterparts–like this $170 faux-cowhide rug from Overstock–are still pretty far beyond our reach for the mo.

I could wait and save up for it, but that’s not the Artistic Temperament’s Way (TM), so I decided on the spur of the moment to attempt a DIY version first. I imposed a budget of $50 for myself, so that if it went spectacularly wrong at least I wouldn’t have wasted a ton of money and be kicking myself for not just springing for the Overstock version in the first place. So I vaguely mumbled something to Jimmy about how I was going out but I’d bring back ice cream (a foolproof plan for making him less agonized over my bringing yet another project into the house), stole his car, and I was off to Jo-Ann. (I noticed these same supplies at Hobby Lobby, so you could hit that up if you don’t have a Jo-Ann.)

I thought, once upon a time, that I’d seen a nice low-pile faux fur in a pony print, and that was what I intended to use. But I was foiled by the Gods of Mild Inconvenience (who also shut down a restaurant in Chicago we’d meant to go to, lost one of my favorite knee socks as I was packing, and broke the only ponytail holder I’d brought with me), and the fabric was nowhere to be found. None of the employees had any idea what I was talking about, and so I’m left to ponder whether the Jo-Ann employees are apathetic or I’m insane. It’s probably the second one.

At any rate, I’m not one to be foiled by little things like not being able to find any of the materials for the projects I have planned, so I started working on Plan B while camped out at the pattern table in the store. (I could have gone home to figure it out, but Jo-Ann is like 10 minutes away, and it’s cold, and I’m lazy, and it’s hard.) After doing some poking around, I worked out what I thought would be a pretty good plan. And it was. Go me! So I bought these things:

You need three major components. The fabric used for the background of the rug is a microsuede that’s made to look like hide. It has some shiny spots and little crackles running through it. I think it looks nice, and it’s a lot softer and more weathered-looking than vinyl. Obviously it’s not fuzzy, but it does pretty much feel like skin on the right side. I found mine for $16.99 a yard, and I had a 40% off coupon to make it even cheaper. Since the alcove is so small, I only needed one yard (another benefit of making rather than buying: I could scale it properly). The microsuede is very thin, so I also picked up a yard of neoprene. It’s the stuff they use to make car headliners. It has fabric on one side, and about quarter-inch thick foam on the other. Mine was $14.99 a yard, and again, I just bought one. To stick them together, I used 3M Super 77 Adhesive, which I already had on hand (but I believe runs around $10 for a can, which will last a while).You can use any spray adhesive that’s safe for fabric.

So first things first: stick the fabric and neoprene together. It’s best if you glue the fabric side of the neoprene to the underside of the microsuede; that way, the glue can’t eat at the foam, and at any rate the foam will grip the floor under your rug better. I just sprayed a thin, even coat of adhesive over the neoprene, let it tack for about 15 seconds, then laid the microsuede on top and smoothed out any bubbles. It’s much, much easier if you have someone (Jimmy) help you lay the fabric sheet down. Otherwise, it tends to become a bunchy, wrinkly mess. If you mess up, don’t panic, just pull it apart and start over.

Once you’ve got it stuck together, it’s time to cut out your rug. Flip it over so the neoprene side is facing up, grab a Google image of the shape you want to guide you, and freehand it. This part is pretty easy, and kind of fun.

Using good, sharp scissors, cut along the line you drew. You want to be careful here, because this is the finished edge and any little “nubbins” or scissor nicks will show.

Now you’ve got your basic shape! If you have a printed microsuede, or you just want a solid hide, you could theoretically be done here. But of course, I like to do things the hard way, and I wanted a pony look. So I grabbed a tube of acrylic craft paint and some acrylic textile medium, and mixed up a batch of fabric paint. (Alternatively, you could just buy fabric paint, but I wanted to save a couple bucks and I already had all this on hand.) Pull up an image to help you figure out a natural placement for the spots (or stripes! Zebra rug, anyone?), lay out your hide on a floor that cleans up easily (i.e. my hall bathroom), and get ready to paint.

I used sponge daubers to do my painting–one foam brush about 1″ wide, and one little round foam dauber about 1/2″ in diameter. You don’t need anything fancy. Use a brush if that’s all you have. I started by drawing an outline with the little dauber…

…then filled in the outlined spaces. As I built up more coats, I made sure to brush over the edges of the spots a little, to give the impression of fur. You’ll see what I mean later.

After one coat, a good amount of the brown will probably be showing through. That’s OK! Just let it dry and do another coat.

Or two more coats.

Eventually, you’ll build up enough that the brown is more or less covered. Mine isn’t 100% opaque because I thought it looked more natural that way, but it’s close. Here you can see how the edges are a bit fuzzy, to make it look more like short hair. Are you ready for the finished product?

Ta-da! What do you think? I’m pretty pleased with it–it’s not going to fool anyone up close, but from a short distance it looks really good. It’s nice to walk on, despite not being fuzzy, and won’t shed like a real one. And the foam being on the bottom keeps it from sliding around on the carpet.

I wish I could show you the rug in its natural habitat, but the last few pieces of Craigslist furniture are still waiting to be liberated from the alcove. I’m hoping to get the rest of it together this week, and I’ll have more posts about the other things going in (hint: the DIY lamp is 90% done, and I bought a cabinet for my LPs). In the meantime, happy cowhiding!


  1. This is so awesome!! From the pictures I’d never be able to tell this was a DIY! And your instructions are great- I’m wanting to run out and buy the supplies to make one right now! Pinning this…Great job!!

  2. Wow, your rug is gorgeous – you’ve sure done a lovely job! I really want to tackle something like this and will use your tutorial for reference, thanks! I have this linked to my animal prints post too over at my blog today, for inspiration!

  3. Alex says:

    It looks good but it doesn’t have that finished look. You should use some off white and some other shades of brown to make it look more realistic. Nice concept and job though!

  4. Michele says:

    Please let us know where your source is for the microsuede

  5. Ashley Stuart says:

    I loved this so much I went straight out to Joanns and got all the material! I just finished the rug and I love it! It will be a perfect touch for my nursery!! Thank you!

  6. Erica says:

    Wow! What a great job! I love diy projects and i will be trying this one for sure!, I love your color choices as well, do you mind sharing what you used in your color scheme?

  7. [...] faux zebra rug tutorial which I will try soon myself. Here is another faux cowhide project & here is another diy spotted cow hide [...]

  8. Hillary says:

    OMG! This is why I love the internet. I have always wanted one of these rugs, but I am a broke college student and don’t have the money to pay for a $200 rug. I am moving to my own apartment. I would love to do this! Might be one of my summer projects! Thank you for the idea and the thought put in the post!

  9. Kristin says:

    I’ve been looking at faux cowhide rugs for our new cabin, but can’t see myself dropping a couple hundred dollars on one. What a great idea! I am new to DIY projects, but really want to try this one. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Jon says:

      You should look on I just saw these great looking vinyl rugs in a natural cowhide shape. No painting just embossed vinyl that looks like leather.

  10. Would you be willing to make me a large rug? I tried it unsuccessfully…I’m not very crafty. I need a large brown and white or tan and white rug. I would be happy tp pay you and the shipping and handling. I live in AZ. Please, please give this some thought. Let me know. Thanks a million, Kathy

    • Kate says:

      Hi Katherine, thanks for stopping by! I’m sorry but I unfortunately can’t take orders…my schedule is super tight these days and I don’t have any free time on my hands. Please let me know if I can help if you decide to tackle it again!

  11. [...] my research I found these two blogs in case you were in an DIY mood: Makemoore and [...]

  12. [...] Real cowhide rug. From £159 Southamericadirect (or check out this tutorial for and excellent-looking DIY cruelty free one)/ ‘Stockholm’ rug. From £100 [...]

  13. Ungie says:

    Where did you get the neoprene?

  14. Auriela says:

    Love Love Love this! ! How much did it cost to make it all??

    • Kate says:

      Hi Aurelia, thanks for stopping by! I think it ended up costing me about $25 but would probably be more like $35-$40 if you didn’t have the spray adhesive and craft paint on hand. I hope it helps!

  15. […] did some research and found a tutorial for a DIY faux cowhide rug from to lead the […]

  16. Deanna says:

    Didn’t anyone actually read the article before asking questions here? She said exactly how much it cost and where she got the materials IN THE BLOG POST. Come on, people, really!

  17. javs says:

    Hi Kate, this is awesome! I love how the hide rugs look, but despise the idea of tearing the skin off an innocent animal. I would like to do a black and white one. I did wonder if finding the same fabric you used in white, then using black fabric paint would work? have some concerns about the white not being able to color the black sufficiently. What do you think about this? Also have you had any issue with the paint wearing/flaking off? Thanks! p.s i’m a rookie when it comes to this sort of stuff – never bought a piece of fabric in my life.

    • Kate says:

      Hi Javs, thanks so much for commenting! I think the black on white would work just fine. The “hide” fabric I used came in a lot of colors, or you could use microsuede if you can’t find it in white. That would give you a similar, slightly fuzzy look. I didn’t have any issues with the paint flaking off except in one spot, where the leg of a chair pushed hard into it for a long time. Other than that, it held up pretty well! Good luck! :)

  18. Stacy says:

    Have you had any experience with having pets around this rug, and how to clean it?

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