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How to Choose an Area Rug

Area rugs are versatile. They can create cozy conversation areas, allow you to embrace a bold print or provide a neutral anchor to a room. With all the styles and colors available, choosing an area rug that integrates with your decor isn’t hard if you consider the following factors.

large living room area rug

Know Before You Buy Your Area Rug

area rug.
  • Size - Measure the space where your rug will be. This will help you avoid buying a rug that’s too big or too small. Most rugs come in multiple sizes, but it's no use falling in love with a rug only to find out it doesn’t come in the size you need.
  • Color - Select a rug with colors that coordinate with your decor. The colors in the rug don't have to match the colors in the room, but at least one color should coordinate. Take swatches of paint or upholstery fabric with you when you shop. Remember that lighter-colored rugs make a room seem more spacious. Darker colors in the rug bring a cozy atmosphere to a room.
  • Pattern - Take into account patterns on the furniture and walls in the room, so they don't compete with the rug. If you have furniture or wallpaper with an ornate pattern, choose a subtler pattern for the area rug. If the walls and upholstery are fairly subdued, you can try a busier pattern to add more interest to the room.
  • Design - Choose a rug with a central medallion if you want it to serve as the focal point of the room. However, if there's another obvious central point, such as a fireplace, use a rug with a more repetitive pattern and no medallion.
  • Texture - Keep in mind that texture is also an important element in your decor. Several different fibers within a rug or carved areas can add more pizzazz to an area rug's texture. Rugs made of sisal or jute can add an interesting texture to smooth hardwood or tile floors.
  • Shape - Don't feel limited to rectangles. Octagonal or circular rugs add a unique touch to a room, and runners are great for hallways and other narrow and/or high traffic areas.
  • Traffic - Notice how much traffic the area receives. In high-traffic areas, selecting a rug with a detailed pattern may be more practical. The more pattern, the lower the maintenance.

Here are some tips to coordinate multiple rugs in the same room:

  • Use rugs of different patterns within the same room as long as the colors coordinate.
  • Select rugs of different sizes to create more interest and contrast. Using two rugs of the same size may divide the room in half.
  • Incorporate rugs of different sizes that are designed to coordinate with each other.

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Good to Know

Trying laying out a bed sheet to get an idea of the area you want your rug to cover. Measure the area the sheet covers and use it as a go-by for your area rug.

Choose the Right Size Area Rug

Not sure which size rug will fit your space? Read on for some helpful shopping tips.

Entryway Area Rugs

Entryway area rug.
  • This is a high traffic area, so you want a rug that's durable and easy to clean.
  • Look for a rug that's slightly wider than your front door so more than one person can stand on it upon entry.
  • A 2-ft x 4-ft to 3-ft x 5-ft area rug will work perfect for the entryway; runners are also nice.
  • Most entryway rugs have non-skid backing so you don’t have to worry about slipping or sliding on the rug when you walk in.

Living Room Area Rugs

Area rug under a coffee table.
  • Typically 4-ft x 6-ft or 5-ft x 7-ft area rugs work well under coffee tables. The size you choose depends on the size of your coffee table and surrounding furnishings.
  • The area rug should be large enough to accommodate all four legs of the table and approximately the same length and width of the furnishings in the space.
  • To accent the furnishings most effectively, leave some flooring between the area rug and the furniture exposed.

Dining Room Area Rugs

Area rug under a dining table.
  • Measure the length and width of the table, then add at least 4 feet to each measurement.
  • Most dining room tables need an 8-foot wide area rug.
  • The chair legs shouldn't fall off the rug when people are seated at the table or pulling the chairs away from the table to seat themselves.

Area Rugs for an Entire Room

Area rug for the entire room.
  • Leave an equal amount of flooring exposed as a border on all sides. If that isn't possible, try to ensure the borders on parallel sides of the rug are equal.
  • Place furniture coasters under the back legs to raise them to the height of the rug. It's  okay if the front legs of the furniture are on the rug and the back legs are off the rug, as long as the piece is stable and balanced.
Good to Know

A good rule of thumb is to leave at least 8 inches of floor exposed around the perimeter of your area rug.

Types of Area Rug Fibers

Area rug fibers chart.

Originally, area rugs were made from wool or cotton. Today, there are several natural and synthetic fibers available. Check out the different options here:

Learning the Lingo

Here are some terms to eliminate confusion from your shopping trip, so you can focus on what's pretty.

  • Hand-Carved - Using hand shears, the weaver cuts a design into the rug. The carving and sculpturing give the rug a distinctive and unique look.
  • Hand-Hooked - The weaver pushes a hooking tool through the foundation cloth to the front of the rug, then pulls the yarn to the back, leaving a loop on the surface.
  • Hand-Knotted - Each knot is individually tied by hand. These knots are single strands of yarn that have been looped around two adjacent warp threads.
  • Hand-Tufted - An inked-on foundation cloth is stretched over a loom. Then a manually operated hand-tufting gun pushes the yarn through the back of the cloth. When the rug is taken off the loom, a scrim and layer of latex is placed on the back. A backcloth is then sewed on to the latex and scrim to protect your floors.
  • Heat Set - This is a process polypropylene goes through to put a twist in the yarn. When the yarn is set with heat, it has a wool-like appearance.
  • Jacquard - A mechanized loom that has an endless belt of punched cards is used. The holes in the card are arranged to produce the weave of the rug.
  • Line Count - One indicator of rug quality is the number of knots or stitches per square inch. When comparing the line count number of different rugs, it's important to remember that this number may be calculated differently, depending on how and where the rug was made.
  • Pile - This is the surface yarn that makes up the face of the rug.
  • Stitches / Needle Count - The number of loops of yarn is known as the stitch or needle count. The higher the stitch or needle count, the denser the rug. Higher-density rugs last longer and wear better than more loosely woven constructions.
  • Warp and Wefts - The warp yarn is the stationary thread on the loom. These fibers are the strongest part of the rug. They're intersected with wefts — the filling yarn that's woven though the warps.
  • Wilton Loom - These rugs bear a close resemblance to hand-knotted rugs but are machine made. The pile is woven between two backings and then split down the middle so you get two separate rugs.

Select Your Rug Pad

Rug pads keep your rug properly positioned, preventing it from slipping and sliding. Rug pads also:

  • Reduce wear and tear on the rug.
  • Help to absorb the impact of feet and noise.
  • Make vacuuming your rug easier.
  • Protect smooth-surface flooring, like hardwood and laminate, from being scratched by the back of the rug.

For rugs placed over carpet, choose a pad of thin polyester fabric coated with adhesive. This type of pad prevents dark rug color from bleeding through on a light carpet. A pad made from slightly heavier polyester scrim coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) holds a rug firmly on wood or other smooth-surfaced floors.

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