How to Choose the Right Area Rug

Light colored area rug in decorated living space under wooden trunk with wheels

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Area rugs can be powerful design tools, whether they act as artwork for the floor or simply provide a complementary background for the other decor. Imagine taking a room with a dark red Turkish rug and switching it out for a plain sisal version, or exchanging a Moroccan tile print for a French Aubusson. With just this one simple switch, a room can go from traditional to modern, classic to contemporary, or bland to bold. Deciding which area rug is right for you involves several key considerations. Here we provide you with some to keep in mind when buying a new area rug for your room, including styles, types, patterns, sizes, and care.

Before Buying a New Area Rug

Rugs put up with a lot from us in our homes they get walked on, played on, wiped on, spilled on, yet provide us with padding and comfort for our feet, and change the look and feel of the entire room. They deal with a lot of wear and tear from our family, including children, pets, and visitors. A rug that is starting to look worn and tired, is stained, and in some cases starting to emit an odor is indicative of a rug that is past its time and should be replaced. Or, you might also be wanting to freshen up the room with a new look.

If your area rug is showing any of these signs, or you're looking for a change, then you'll want to start browsing around for a new one.

Buying Considerations for an Area Rug

Rug Styles

There are as many area rug styles as there are furniture styles, lighting styles, or room styles, meaning there's an almost unending variety of options. Rooms are no longer limited to traditional Persian rugs or classic European styles. Alongside these time-honored options are modern and contemporary alternatives, such as bold florals, strong geometrics, and simple jutes and sisals.

Before settling on a style, educate yourself about what is available and think about what kind of atmosphere you want to create in your room. Remember that an area rug doesn't need to match everything in a room, but it should work with the textures and tones of the existing furnishings.

Color

Color is a natural starting point when choosing an area rug. Obviously, you need to think about what colors you like and what colors you'd like to live with day in and day out, but that's not all. The color of your area rug will set the tone for the entire room, so it's an important decision.

If you already have furniture, consider how different colors will work with your existing items. Rooms with a lot of color and pattern often work best with a rug that has neutral tones or a single color. If you don't already have furnishings, consider how different rug colors will work with the tones of the flooring, walls, and ceiling. Rugs can either stand out or blend in, so think about what effect you want to create when considering color.

Rug Patterns

Not everyone is enthusiastic about patterns, but if your furniture and walls are all solid colors, a patterned rug can really bring your room to life. Likewise, if you have patterned furniture, a solid rug can have a grounding, calming effect. It's all about balance; if your room is already furnished, take this into account before choosing a rug. If the rug is one of the first items you're purchasing, though, think about what pattern is right for you. Do you want something eye-catching or a little more subtle? The effect a pattern has on a room is closely tied to its colors, so consider how the two will work together.

Area Rug Sizes

A rug that's too small for the room is one of the most common decorating mistakes. For most average-sized rooms, there should be about 10 to 20 inches of bare floor between the edges of the rug and the walls of the room. Depending on the size of the room, you can go as low as eight inches and as high as 24 inches. In any case, make sure the rug is centered in the room and the distance between the rug and the wall is the same on all four sides.

You can also use rugs to define spaces. If you have an open-concept space or you want to layer rugs, the rules can be a little different. Think about the area you want to highlight and choose a size based on that, but remember that it's better to go too big than too small.

Types

High Pile vs. Low Pile

When choosing a rug, it's important to think about what kind of pile you want: low, medium, or high. Low-pile rugs are generally sturdier than high-pile rugs and are easier to vacuum and keep clean. They're also less expensive than high-pile rugs. Rugs with a longer pile are softer and more luxurious underfoot and can help make rooms look cozier and more inviting. As a general rule, a room that gets a lot of foot traffic will benefit from a low-pile rug, such as a dhurrie or kilim rug, while a thicker rug will last longer in a room that doesn't get a lot of traffic.

Materials

The material that a rug is made of comes into play, whether it be a natural fiber rug or a synthetic rug.

Natural fiber includes such materials as wool, silk, cotton, jute, or bamboo. Wool rugs tend to be higher quality and more expensive, but hold up well in high-traffic areas, yet have a tendency to shed at least for the first few months. Rugs made out of cotton are less expensive, are a good option for casual spots, yet fade quickly, and are not stain-repellant.

Synthetic rugs are popular choices on the market and include polypropylene, nylon, polyester, and microfiber. These rugs are typically fade-resistant, easy to clean, and very budget-friendly. They are less expensive making it easier to exchange them out for a new one, and a good alternative for families and pet owners.

Cost

The cost of an area rug is all dependent on a number of factors: from the size you need, the materials used, how the rug is constructed, to the overall quality. If the rug is handwoven, imported, has patterns or dyes, is machine-made or hand-knotted, made with man-made or natural fibers, these all affect the price of a rug, too.

That being said, to give you some kind of idea of the price, a quality 8x10 size area rug can run anywhere from $300 up to as high as $10,000 to purchase. A 5x7 rug can run anywhere from as little as $35 and go up to $1,000 or more.

The quality and amount of work that has gone into manufacturing the rug drive the cost up higher. Keep an eye out for sales around holidays, like Memorial Day, Labor Day, or the end of the year, which are always good times to look. Figure out what you can afford to spend on a new area rug before you start shopping.

How to Choose a New Area Rug

Lifestyle

Your lifestyle should be a big determining factor in what rug you ultimately choose. If you have children or pets, a white rug with a high pile is probably not the best choice. If you expect that your rug will have to deal with a lot of wear and tear, a flat weave rug with a pattern that masks stains is worth considering, as it will be easier to maintain and keep clean. On the other hand, if you want to create a sense of comfort and luxury, a flat weave rug probably won't do the trick. Instead, you'll want something softer with a higher pile. Just be aware that it will not stand up to damage as well as something with a lower pile.

Maintenance 

When choosing a rug, be honest with yourself about how much work you are willing to put into maintaining it. Most rugs need to be vacuumed and rotated regularly. Flat-weave rugs are easy to vacuum, but you can also take them outside and beat them out the old-fashioned way. High-pile rugs are more difficult to clean, and some must be either sent out or professionally cleaned in the home.

No matter what type you choose, be sure to use a rug pad that is compatible with the rug material and the flooring below. Don't expose a rug to direct sunlight if you can avoid it, and definitely do not let stains set. If you do any of these things, you may actually ruin your area rug, no matter what type you choose.

Where to Shop

Area rugs can be found in many places, from the supercenters, carpet stores, home improvement centers, department stores, and online. When buying a rug, it is a personal preference how you purchase it, but it is nice to have the chance to run your fingers through the rug's pile to see how it feels and see how it's constructed.

Touching different types of rugs can help you understand the difference in how they're made and what the materials feel like, which can help in your selection process of an area rug that's the perfect fit for you and your family. You can always check out area rugs in the store and then look online to see if the same one is available and compare the price point.

Take your time when looking, peruse all the many options to choose from, as an area rug will be a focal point in your room for a few years.

FAQ
  • How often should you clean a rug?

    Your rug should be vacuumed one to two times a week and deep cleaned at least twice a year. If you have kids and pets, you should consider cleaning it four times a year.

  • How long do area rugs last?

    The average lifespan of an area rug is approximately 3 to 10 years. This, of course, also depends on the quality, care, and use of the rug.

  • Do you need to put anything under an area rug?

    You should always put a pad underneath an area rug. This helps to protect the floor, keep the rug from slipping, provides more padding, and extends the life of the rug.

  • What time of year is best time to buy an area rug?

    Almost any time of year, there seem to be sales on rugs. Fall and winter are when stores are bringing in new styles. January and early spring, the late spring months, and during holidays are popular times for sales on rugs, too.

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