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How to Choose an Area Rug

Rug Buying Tips

Pick the perfect area rug shape and size for your living room, dining room or any room with these tips.


The traditional rule of thumb is to measure the seating area and select a rug the closest size up. This allows all of the furniture legs to rest on the rug for a unified look.

For a more modern look, break the rules using smaller rugs that fit the front furniture legs (or no furniture legs).

Try filling the entire room with the rug. To do so, measure your room and select a size that allows for two feet of floor space around the rug’s perimeter.

You can also layer rugs. A smaller rug on top of a larger one helps define seating areas and creates visual interest. Use carpet tape to keep the rug safely in place.

Use furniture coasters under furniture legs to protect your rug.
To get an idea of how a certain rug will look in your space, lay a bed sheet folded to that size on the floor.


Area rug in a dining room.


For the best area rug in your dining area, measure the length and width of the table, and choose a rug that’s at least two feet larger on each side. This allows ample room for your guests’ chairs to sit comfortably on the rug.


Rugs in front of the sink or stove help ease pain in the feet, legs and lower back. Whether you choose individual rugs or a stylish runner, keep it about six inches away from the cabinets. If your rug doesn’t have a slip-resistant backing, a rug pad can help prevent slips and falls.

Area rugs flanking either side of the bed.


Use an area rug to make the bed the focal point of the bedroom. Measure the space for a rug that extends two feet to each side of the bed, unless it’s on a wall. Don’t be afraid to layer rugs.

Another option is to use a runner along each side of the bed — on hard floors or on top of existing carpeting — to create a soft, warm place for your feet in the morning.

Area rug in an entryway that is wider than the door.


The right rug makes a great first impression. Look for something wider than the doorway for comfortable greetings and departures.

Runner in a passageway layered atop carpet.


A runner is the ideal solution for hallways and passageways. Make sure you have six inches of floor space on all sides of the runner for the most comfortable fit.

Round area rug in a foyer.


Don’t be afraid to use shapes other than rectangle. Round rugs are great for seating vignettes, passageways and entrances. Also consider square rugs, runners, oblong or animal hide rugs.

Colorful area rug in a living space that coordinates with the colors in the room.


To coordinate your rug color with an existing color palette, follow the 60-30-10 rule. About 60% of the room is your dominant color, such as the walls or the largest piece of furniture. 30% is a secondary color — this is where your rug color choice comes in. And 10% is an accent color, like vases and lamps. Accent colors should be from the rug and aren’t dominant or secondary, so the entire room fits together nicely.

Patterned area rug with patterned drapes in the same color family.


Before selecting a patterned rug, consider your space. Do you have patterned walls or furniture? If so, it might be best to choose a subtly patterned rug. If your space is filled with solid color, a bold or bright pattern may liven things up.

Area rug pile.


When buying an area rug, consider foot traffic. Low pile works best in high-traffic areas, as it is easier to hide tracks. A detailed pattern is also helpful in high-traffic areas, as it helps hide stains. High-pile rugs are soft, making them great for bedrooms and sitting areas.

Area rugs fiber chart.


Before buying a rug, consider the material it’s made of. Natural fibers, such as wool or cotton, look beautiful and feel great, but some are more susceptible to staining and fading. More affordable synthetic rugs resist staining and fading better.


Eliminate confusion from your shopping trip by learning a few key terms.

  • Hand-Carved: Using hand shears, the weaver cuts a design into the rug. The carving gives the rug a unique look.
  • 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-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-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 to form the pile. When the rug is taken off the loom, a scrim and layer of latex are placed on the back, and backcloth is then sewed onto 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 design produced by a mechanized loom that has a belt of punched cards. 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. The higher the count, the higher the quality. This number may be calculated differently, depending on materials used, assembly techniques and whether the rug is domestic or imported.
  • 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 through 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.

Area rug pad layered between carpet and rug.


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

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

For rugs placed over carpet, use carpet tape or a rug pad. When choosing a pad, look for thin polyester fabric coated with adhesive. This type of pad prevents dark rug color from bleeding through onto 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-surface flooring and won't damage the surface.

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