Rug Buying Guide
Choosing a rug is no small decision. A good rug often stays in your house for years, and can even be passed down as an heirloom—and for a piece with that much staying power, it had better be the right rug. That’s a lot of pressure. Luckily, if you spend a little time thinking about what you want, what you need, and the fabric and weaves options, picking a rug might become a little less daunting. Read on for more tips on finding the perfect rug.
Step One: Measure Your Room
Area rug placement can be tricky. If a rug is too small, it looks like a decorating mistake and can make the room look choppy. If it’s placed in an odd spot, it could make your decor look disjointed or unbalanced. How do you make it look right? Make sure you pick the right rug size. Here are some pointers for every room in the house:
In the Living Room
Living room arrangements can be summed up more or less in two ways: furniture is either mostly lined up along the walls, or it isn’t. A small living room, for instance, is more likely to have a couch along one wall and a TV console across from it. In a larger room, the seating area might be grouped toward the center of the space.
- If furniture is along the wall: You can have a smaller rug that floats in the middle of your pieces. Or you can opt to size up to a larger rug that some of your furniture’s feet rest on.
- If furniture is in the middle: Pick a rug that stretches beyond each piece. Think of it as though the furniture is floating on a large rug island, and that rug will help tie the room together.
In the Dining Room
Chances are your dining table and chairs are centered in the room—and the good news is that makes a dining room rug relatively easy to measure for. Make sure your rug extends about 36" behind each chair, so guests don’t fall off the edge when they stand up. If you have a round dining table, consider pairing it with a round rug to create a bold design statement.
In the Bedroom
Bedrooms tend to have one main focal point: the bed. To choose a rug that complements your bed, make sure it is large enough to peek out on both sides and at the foot. A good rule of thumb is to leave a 1 ft. overhang for twin and full-size beds and 1.5ft. for queen and king beds. If your bedroom is especially large, you can let the rug peek out even more; the most important thing is that the bed doesn’t cover so much of the rug that you hardly see it.
Step Two: Choose a Look and Feel
Rugs can serve different purposes in different rooms. Maybe you’re looking for a cozy place to lounge, or maybe you need something to stand up to heavy foot traffic. Whatever you’re looking for, it’s good to know what you need and what you want in mind.
|Desired Features||Choice Material||Why You'll Like It||Good to Know|
|Extreme Strength and Interesting Texture||Jute or sisal||Adds an earthy, bohemian texture; strong enough for high foot traffic||Not soft underfoot; easily stained|
|Strong, but Fuzzy Underfoot||Wool||Sturdy fiber well suited to high-traffic areas; soft, fuzzy texture||Tendency to shed; requires more vacuuming|
|Bright Colors and Soft Textures||Cotton||Soft and strong; unique ability to maintain vivid colors||Easily stained|
|Luxe Looking Sheen||Silk||Smooth, luminescent look even when blended with other fibers||Tricky to clean|
|Fluff, Fluff, and More Fluff||Sheepskin, fur, or faux fur||On trend; adds warmth and texture||Extra-long fibers trap dirt and dust; tricky to clean|
|Luxurious Look at a Discount||Synthetic fibers such as nylon, acrylic, and polypropylene||Creates a similar look to natural fibers for less||Easily smashed under heavy furniture or high foot traffic|
Step Three: Pick Your Weave
A rug’s look, feel, and durability depend on more than just the fiber they’re made of: it is also determined by how it’s woven together. Read on to learn more about each weave’s strengths and styles.
- Flat-weave: These rugs have no knotting or pile, since they’re often made on looms, which create a smooth, flat surface. Example: kilims and dhurries
- Hooked: These rugs are composed of countless fiber loops, which create a cushiony feeling underfoot. To hold the loops steady, hooked rugs are often covered with fabric on the back.
- Hand-knotted: When a rug is literally knotted by hand, two things tend to surge: quality and price. Generally speaking, the more knots you see on your rug, the more valuable and durable it is.
Tufted: Tufted rugs are relatively quick and inexpensive to make, as their construction is simple: fiber loops are pulled through a backing, and then shorn on top to create a uniform fluff. Tufted rugs have a tendency to shed, so be prepared to vacuum slightly more often.
- Braided: This folksy style is often composed of a large yarn or cotton braid that’s sewn together into a large loop. The braid’s thickness helps it weather heavy foot traffic and other wear.
Step Four: Do I Need a Rug Pad?
In a word, yes. A rug pad is an important protective buffer for many things in your home:
- Your family. A pad can keep the rug firmly in place, so it won’t go sliding around as you or a loved one walks across.
- Your floor. In case any of the rug’s dyes start to seep out of its fibers, the rug pad can soak up the errant pigment, and keep your floor from absorbing the stain.
- The rug itself. Fibers can start to wear down as they’re walked on, especially if the weight of your foot grinds them directly into the hard floor. A rug pad absorbs some of that shock and can make your fibers last as long as possible.
Step Five: Place the Rug Just So
Watch Your Feet
Should the feet of your furniture rest on or off the rug? If in doubt, try it both ways to see which way you prefer (it’s subjective!)—but make sure you’re consistent with all feet or no feet on the rug. No matter which way you choose, make sure your rug is large enough to accommodate the preference.
Rotate the Rug
When you’re placing a rug in the room, orient it to the shape of your room, not to the arrangement of your seating. For a rectangular room, make sure the shape of the rug mirrors the room; the longest sides should be parallel to the longest walls.
Even if you’re a shoes-off kind of household, eventually your rug will need to be cleaned. Luckily, how to clean a wool rug isn’t very different from cleaning a cotton or synthetic rug, but beware: antique or delicate fabrics, like silk and sheepskin, are best cleaned by a professional rug cleaner or your local dry cleaner.
- Check the rug’s tag to confirm its material and any cleaning instructions that may be listed there.
- Vacuum the rug (on both sides, if it’s reversible), and shake it out if it’s small enough to lift to further loosen debris.
- Gently daub the surface of the rug with a rag that’s been dipped in water and carpet-cleaning solution or a gentle soap such as Woolite.
Lay your rug flat and avoid walking on it until it’s dry.