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Share to PinterestHow To Choose the Perfect Area Rug

How To Choose the Perfect Area Rug

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestHow To Choose the Perfect Area Rug

You can upgrade a room and add warmth and character with a single swap: the rug. But when it comes down to it, choosing an area rug can be pretty complex. Which material should you select, and what shape and size are best for your space?

There are so many different area rugs out there that answering these questions before you start your search will significantly narrow down your options and result in a space-harmonizing carpet you'll love for years to come.


What purpose will the area rug serve?

Is it an accessory in a formal area that doesn't see a lot of foot traffic? Will kids ride tricycles over it multiple times a day? Or will it lay under a dining table to prevent chairs from scraping the floor?

If you're putting an area rug down where pets and young children have the run of the place, you'll want to opt for a durable material. Jute may be biodegradable and low on volatile organic compounds, but it's more fragile. Polypropylene, a synthetic fiber, is stain-resistant—it could work well in a dining room or with a dozing dog. Flat-weave cotton-blend and high-end wool rugs are easy to clean just like natural hides, although the latter won't be as easy on the pocket.

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What's the aesthetic goal?

Your choice of area rug will of course also be determined by the look you're going for and your color palette. Do you want a plain, solid color, or patterned rug? A neutral or bold hue? If you've already got teal cushions to match a teal feature wall, you might want to look for a neutral-base carpet with just hints of your accent color.

Soft shades and subtle patterns tend to have more staying power than overly vibrant rugs that may wear on you (or wear away) over time. Small-scale patterns also mask stains.

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Area rug styles

There are contemporary rugs, boho rugs like dhurries, traditional rugs like Persian carpets, and natural rugs made from sisal, silk, and leather. Look through magazines for inspiration, or chat with an interior decorator if you're unsure which route to take.

Dark shades make rooms feel cozy, light ones make them feel airier, and tones in between can help you get away with stray hairs and soil.

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How big should your area rug be?

If you're working with a large room, you can use multiple rugs to section off functional spaces, such as a TV area and a circular breakfast nook. Choose an area rug that fits partially under all your furniture or one that's almost wall-to-wall for an elegant look; the general rule is to have it stop two feet shy of the wall.

Bigger tends to be better, in general. In the dining room, measure how far your chairs go when pulled out for an idea of what size to get. Casters will protect your rug from furniture legs.

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Low-pile vs. high-pile area rugs

Flatwoven rugs have fibers that lay smooth, making them low maintenance and suitable for areas where you expect a lot of wear and tear. Low-pile rugs have ¼-inch-long fibers for a softer feel, but they're still easy to clean.

High-pile rugs and plush or shag carpets with fibers that are more than half an inch high feel wonderful on bare toes and make a bedroom warm and welcoming, but they can be tough to clean. High piles are also better at sound buffering in upstairs areas.

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Area rugs for kitchens and entryways

Entryways make contact with heavy and dirty shoes, and flatweaves and low-pile rugs can handle the inevitable dirt well. They're also great for kitchens. You might choose to cook with bare feet, and a narrow runner-like carpet sure beats a cold tile.

No one expects a kitchen rug to be expensive. If you're aiming for sustainability and don't want to get rid of your rug after a potential mess, choose nylon or cotton that you can wash. You could also opt for a cute foam standing mat if you usually stick to one spot.

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Get a rug pad

You don't want your area rug to be slipping and sliding all over the place. It's annoying and dangerous, but a rug pad can fix the issue. Look for one that's two inches smaller than the rug's perimeter, with a rubbery bottom and a more textured top that can adhere to the carpet.

If it's a cozy room, a thicker pad will act like good carpet underlay, giving the impression of walking on clouds.

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Outdoor area rugs

UV-resistant polypropylene, also known as olefin, is an appropriate outdoor rug material. You can lay a weatherproof rug on a deck or patio to make the space feel homier.

Neutral and patterned rugs both work; it just depends on your aesthetic. Check the underside regularly for signs of mold, even on rugs labeled mildew-resistant.

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Tips for caring for your area rug

  • You can't just soak every area rug in a tub or chuck smaller rugs in the laundry. Water can change the shape of the rug and cause discolorations. Read the wash instructions on the label or manufacturer's website—preferably before you buy, so you know what to expect.
  • Use the recommended cleaning product and spot clean with a damp towel as soon as you notice stains. Vinegar and mild dish soap solutions work on many fabrics. Always dab rather than rub to keep the rug looking new.
  • If a stain is beyond your capabilities and the rug is expensive, contact a professional instead of using a steam cleaner that might damage the material.
  • Be gentle when vacuuming; avoid roughly dragging the vacuum back and forth.
  • Rugs in storage should be wrapped in Tyvek or trash bags at the very least and kept dry.

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Listen to experts but go with your instincts

Thrift store or estate sale area rug calling your name? Follow your gut if it's within budget. You're the one who has to live with these domestic accessories, so you have to love the way they look.

Consider whether you can repair worn rug fringes and whether the carpet is handmade or machine-made. Handmade rugs can last forever.

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