Rug Buyer's Guide:
How To Choose A Rug
When the weather turns cooler, there’s nothing like a cozy textile underfoot to literally warm things up. The type of rug you’ll want depends on the space and use—our guide will help you choose the right one.
Written by Nissa Hallquist
Until now, perhaps you haven't needed to think about area rugs too much. But now that you need to choose one for your space—and see all the colors, shapes, sizes, materials and types of rugs out there—you may find the decision a bit more daunting than you thought. We’re here to help with the ins and outs of buying the right rug for your space.
Where should area rugs go?
Anywhere you have a hard, flat surface, an area rug can go there. Really. You just have to be sure that you have the right kind of rug for that particular space. Read on...
What size/shape rug do I need?
You want the rug you choose to be proportional to your space. As long as you give yourself adequate clearance, there are no rules on shape—and you’ll see below that there are quite a few to choose from.
As for determining the right size, first consider the space you'll be using the rug in. Options for each space include:
Living Room Rugs
Large, with furniture at center of room: 9x12, 11x14;
Medium, with furniture against wall: 6x9, 8x10;
Small: 4x6, 5x7 centered in seating area.
One large rug that extends at least 3 feet around the sides and foot of the bed; or 2 runner-style rugs on either side.
Dining Room Rugs
Rug should extend at least 2 feet around the table, so dining chairs will stay on it when pulled out.
Runner and/or doormat size rug, depending on the length of the space
Should I go with a solid color or pattern?
In this case, you’ll want to figure out exactly what you want your rug to say. Do you want it to stand out or blend in? A pattern is by its nature designed to attract attention and add a decorative layer to surrounding décor. Depending on the chosen color, of course, a single color rug tends to fade into the background. In that case, it is probably the texture of the rug more than the look that is most important to you.
How do I know if a rug is durable enough for my space?
The best indicator of a rug's durability is indicated by a traffic level rating (the higher the number, the more foot traffic a rug can tolerate and still look good). If a traffic level rating isn’t available, the measured pile height or construction type is also a good way to determine durability. For example, flat woven or kilim style rugs can endure much more foot traffic than a shag style rug.
Is it possible to have a rug in locations that can get wet?
Of course. There is an array of indoor/outdoor rugs made out of special synthetic yarns that are resistant to moisture. (That being said, it's not recommended to leave these rugs sitting outside in constant moisture year round.)
How are rugs made?
The choice of rug construction is dependent on the material used, the rug pattern and the desired texture and durability. There is a multitude of options, but the following are the most common methods:
Are some rug materials better than others?
A material is only better than another in the context of where and how the rug is used. Most of the rugs considered higher quality (in texture, color) are typically made out of natural fibers, like wool, silk, jute, leather, etc. Rugs made out of synthetic materials have traditionally been considered lower quality (probably because of the fact that they have concurrently been made en masse by machine), but they can actually be more durable than other materials.
Why are certain rugs so expensive?
A rug's value is based primarily on the materials that a rug is made of and the labor that went into its construction. Natural fibers tend to be pricier than synthetic ones. When any of the above construction methods are done by hand, you can be sure that hours of time and craftsmanship went into it. Also, not only is such work painstaking, but it makes each rug a one-of-a-kind, heirloom-quality work of art.
What's Care & Fair?
Care & Fair is an organization dedicated to ending child labor and creating better work and living conditions for rug-making families in India, Nepal and Pakistan. C&F members are recognizable for their social responsibility, and their rugs have a Care & Fair label. There are other organizations and initiatives to the same effect, but C&F is the largest and most recognizable.
How do I clean my rug?
While there are always some exceptions, most area rugs are suitable for regular in-home maintenance by the owner. This includes regular vacuuming and spot-cleaning of spills. For large or deep-set stains, professional dry cleaning is often indicated. (Always verify with a manufacturer's specific care instructions.)
Do I always need a rug pad?
Yes, unless the rug has a built-in rubber backing. Otherwise, since rugs are usually used on hard, smooth surfaces, a rug pad provides friction to keep the rug from sliding around. This is both a safety factor, and it prevents damage to the underside of the rug. In wet locations, the right rug pad promotes air circulation so the rug dries quicker.