Colorful Rugs

Choosing A Rug: A Simple Guide

Nikolett Papp
Nikolett Papp
May 25, 2023

Choosing the Perfect Rug: A Step-by-Step Guide

Any interior designer will tell you that no room is complete without a rug (myself included). Rugs can make or break a room's design, but choosing one can be complicated - especially if you're only just getting started in the world of home decor.

Here's everything you need to know to find the perfect rug!

Photo by LTK

Size Matters

Start by considering your room's size and layout to determine if one larger rug or multiple smaller ones work best. When sizing an area rug, allow a 4 to 8 inch floor border on all sides. Make sure all furniture legs sit atop the rug. If not possible, front legs on and back legs off creates a pleasant balance. Avoid undersized rugs - they make rooms seem incomplete. When in doubt, always choose a larger size.

For a perfect size fit, use tools like our free rug visualizer to see true-to-size rugs in your room with just a smartphone.

Area rugs typically come in the following standard sizes:

  • 6 x 9 feet
  • 8 x 10 feet
  • 9 x 12 feet
  • 10 x 14 feet

Though these are standard dimensions, don't hesitate to customize proportions to best fit your living room layout. Rugs exist in multiple other sizes.

Get Creative with Layers

Create depth by layering rugs of varying shapes, sizes and patterns. Balance an understated foundation rug topped with eye-catching accent pieces (such as cowhide rugs). You can also change it up during the different seasons of the year.

For example, try layering a neutral sisal rug with a fluffy shag rug during the winter months; an inexpensive sisal rug covering most of the floor paired with a plush rug on top (where people sit) is a cozy way to combine affordability and comfort. Then, transition to a lightweight cotton flatweave for a more breathable summer style. This innovative layering defines distinct zones while incorporating fun mixes of color, pattern and texture. 

Photo by Shine Rugs

Mind the Details

Account for architectural elements before finalizing rug dimensions. Avoid covering vents. Check furniture placement to keep pathways accessible and prevent tipped end tables at rug edges. Center floating rugs can seem adrift - anchor them under seating areas instead.

Photo by Ruggable

Plain or Patterned?

In urban interiors, make a bold statement with an ornate antique or graphic rug. For laidback spaces, natural fiber rugs like jute offer casual chic. As a middle ground, try sisals with subtle stripes dressed up with leather bindings. Use patterns to add an interesting touch to neutral spaces. Dark hues are great for disguising dirt in high-traffic areas (think entryways, hallsways and kitchens). Neutral solids blend into bold, eclectic rooms.

An area rug's color and pattern dramatically impact a room. Play up neutrals with vivid designs, allowing the rug to shine. Contrast brightly patterned décor with solid toned rugs to avoid visual chaos. Try pulling one or two existing room colors into the rug’s palette for a unified aesthetic. Coordinate the area rug’s style with both the flooring and furnishings to harmoniously elevate the whole space.

Choose the Right Fiber

From natural wools to easy-care synthetics, fiber characteristics and maintenance needs vary. Wool resists stains but costs more. Plant fibers like linen show wear, but cost less. Blends can be difficult to clean. For durability, indoor/outdoor synthetic rugs withstand spills and pets. Depending on your needs as well as the level of maintenance you're looking for, assess durability, softness and pricing to find the best fit.

  • Wool: Natural wool rugs add soft warmth with stain resistance. The fiber is durable yet pricey, needing professional cleaning.
  • Sisal and Jute: Made from smooth, durable plant fibers. Sisal wears well over time, jute feels softer underfoot. Neutral colorations can take dye overlays. Spot clean only.
  • Cotton: Lightweight cotton flatweaves provide a casual vibe. Ideal for summer rooms, cotton can handle machine washing.
  • Synthetics: Both easy-clean nylon and polyester offer fade and stain resistance. Though nylon wears longer, polyester comes in endless colorful patterns.
  • Viscose: With its affordable sheen, rayon mimics silk and wool. But the fiber lacks the durability and stain protection ideal for high-traffic.
  • Acrylic: Known for faux furs and hides, soft acrylic blends create style. This budget fiber's advantage lies in its ability to handle machine washing.
  • Hides: Genuine cowhide makes an investment in long-wearing patterned durability. Resists dust, mold, and heavy soiling over its extensive lifespan. Plus, it can be passed down for generations to come!

Photo by Rugs USA

Add a Rug Pad

Securing a nonslip pad just smaller than the rug prevents slipping, cushions, and preserves. Protect your investment for the long haul.

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