A really great rug is not the first thing you notice when you walk into your friend’s impeccably designed space that feels classy, warm, and inexplicably grown-up. Honestly, it’s probably not even the second or third thing you notice, because here it is people: you’re not supposed to!!! However, area rugs are truly important design elements that can ground a room and make it feel finished. If you’ve spent some time thinking about space design, you should know that a rug, especially the right one, can make or break a room.
Persian, kilim, Oriental (sigh), ikat, dhurrie, shag, modern – if the area rug universe feels overwhelming and saturated to you, that’s because it is. They come in a variety of styles, textures, colors, sizes, and prices, but we’re here to tell you to relaaaaaax. Here’s the good news: not all of them will fit your lifestyle, your room, or your style. You don’t actually have an overwhelming array of options. Great, right?! You’re one step closer to being that friend, the one with that impeccably designed space!
To help you narrow down your rug options, we present you this handy “decision tree.”
1. Do you have kids or pets, and/or will this be in a high-traffic area?
If yes, read on! If no, go to #2.
If yes, avoid:
- Light-colored rugs. If there is some anti-stain technology built in, that’s chill, but in our opinion few things looks sloppier than a dirty white rug.
- Shag rugs or any other rugs with long fibers. Longer fibers cling to dirt, dust and hair. Look for rugs that have “low pile” or “medium pile,” but avoid “long pile.”
- Rugs with tassels or fringe. Again, they’ll collect dirt and hair like crazy, plus they have the added potential “bonus” of doubling as a chew toy for both pet and baby.
- Rugs with glued-on backs. If either a real or fur baby pees on a rug with a glued-on back, it can soak through the rug and into the glue. The smell will never leave, which means the whole rug is ruined. (Note: A rug mat is recommended for most rugs, to keep the rug in place and help it last longer, just make sure it’s not attached to the back of the rug.)
If yes, look for:
- Darker rugs, or rugs with darker colors in the pattern. These hide dirt stains better. If you have a pet with white/light-colored fur, consider tan or beige colors.
- Wool rugs. Wool rugs can withstand heavy abuse and foot traffic, and when taken care of properly, can last a long time.
- Nylon rugs. They’ll also stand up well against stains and other accidents, in addition to heavy traffic, and are often cheaper than wool rugs, too.
- Rugs that can be easily washed or professionally cleaned. For your kitchen, it’s highly recommended that you get a rug that can be rolled up and thrown into the washing machine, as spills, crumbs and everyday dirt buildup will be more common in your kitchen than almost any other room in your home.
2. What shape of room do you have?
- Get a square or round rug.
- Get a rectangular rug oriented in the same direction as the walls of the room.
3. Which room is it?
For runners, either get a runner that’s the same length of your bed, or at least 2’x3’ for a smaller room (3’x5’ in a larger room).
For larger rugs, position the rug under your bed so that about 1/3rd of the rug lays underneath the bed, and 2/3rds of the rug sticks out from the foot and sides of the bed.
Also look for a rug where the sides stick out at least 3’ from the frame, while still remaining at least 5” away from the walls.
Leave at least 1’ between the edge of the rug and the walls.
Make sure that at least the front feet of the furniture—like couches and armchairs—are situated on the rug, if you can’t fit a rug that’s large enough for the furniture to fit on top of the rug.
Assuming the rug is situated under the dining room table, make sure that there is at least 2’-3’ on each side of the table, going from the edges of the table, so that chairs can be be comfortably pulled back without going off the rug. (Example.)
Tip: Trace the outline of the rug, with the exact dimensions, in the place you think you’re going to situate it, using painter’s tape. This will give you a preview of what the rug will look like in your space, and help you figure out the size you need.
4. What colors and textures do you already have in the room, and what “mood” do you want to set for the room?
For a more “serene” environment, opt for warm, neutral tones, like beige, grey, light blue, cream, off-white, white, and tans. Avoid using contrasting colors; for example, you wouldn’t pair your mostly light grey and off-white motif with a orange Persian rug, would you? Orrrr if you would and that sort of juxtaposition is part of your bedroom style profile, go with it!
Look at your current furniture. If you already have a ton of patterns, get a rug that has a more muted, subtle pattern, to allow all pieces to shine rather than fight.
If your current furniture is mostly the same color and few patterns, you can go for a more bold, striking contrast with your rug.
A bold patterned rug + lots of heavily-patterned furniture will make the room look clogged and overdone.
These are higher-energy rooms! Even if you have dark wood chairs and grey walls for your dining room, you can punch things up and throw in a more colorful rug.
Tip: Try to complement the dining room rug with the living room rug. Even if they’re separated by a wall, this will create continuity in the house.
For kitchens, runners have been very popular lately, and they’re an easy way to add in some personality to what can otherwise be a boring, utilitarian room.
For Any Room
When considering rug texture, (and keeping in mind everything we went over in #1 about kids and pets) consider the other textures in the room. You can create interesting contrasts with not only the rug’s color and pattern, but with its texture vis à vis the other furniture, too. Consider:
Creating contrast with texture can be another great way to bring in personality to the room.
5. Cool, so you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of rugs. How do you choose now?
These rugs fit your lifestyle and the room they’re in, they help you achieve the aesthetic you’re going for, and they all have interesting textures and colors that complement the room and its furniture. So how to choose?
If you’ve got several good options, consider one of these strategies:
Check the return policy
If you can swing it financially, try ordering all of the carpets at once, so you can try them all out in your home. Note that some companies reserve the right to refuse your returns, though, if they think you’re abusing their policy! So check and make sure you can return whichever rug(s) you decide not to keep. Many places include free shipping and returns, but double-check this before placing your order.
Get outside opinions
Sometimes your friends can point out concerns or shortfalls you never would have considered. Everyone is going to have a different opinion, and at the end of the day you need to go with what you will like, but you never know what good point a friend will contribute that can change your mind and help you narrow down your options.