How To Choose An Area Rug

You've just purchased new furniture and your beginning to feel like your living room is almost perfect, but it seems to be missing something...... a rug!  Area rugs add texture and softness to a room while also giving you the opportunity to incorporate additional color or pattern but choosing the right might not come so easy to you. 

The two most important considerations that go into selecting an area rug for your space are size and material.  I want to give you some pointers, based on what my clients often report they struggle most with: how to determine the proper size and the best materials for your needs.

Jenny Keenan via Southern Living
Photo credits: Laurie W. Glenn
Area rugs are typically sold in one of several standard sizes.  These includes rugs as small as 2x3 or 4x6 to larger sizes such as 8x10 or 9x12.  In most rooms, one of the standard sizes should do the trick.  However, if you do need a custom size, your designer, decorator or local carpeting dealer will be able to create a custom bound area rug for you that is only limited by the width of the rug/carpet roll. [And in case its not obvious, yes, I can help you with this.]

Photo credits: Laurie W. Glenn 

An area rug is meant to finish a room and to draw all the pieces together.  To achieve this, the rug must be the right size.  A rug that is too small looks skimpy - I think we can all call to mind visions of rooms afflicted with this issue. An area rug that is too large covers too much of the flooring below, leaving you thinking, "you might as well have wall to wall carpeting".  The size of the rug will depend on the rooms function and the furniture in the space but here are some basic guidelines to help you win the sizing challenge: 
  • Bedrooms: you want at least three feet of rug on either side of the bed.
  • Dining rooms: a trick to figure this is to sit in the chair and pull it out, as you would in getting up to leave the table. What is that measurement? It usually ends up to equal the front to back measure of the chair plus about 12".   
  • Living rooms: you can choose to either have your sofa and chairs anchoring the rug half on and half off, or you can have everything completely on the rug.  It is a matter of personal preference, the size of the room and the placement of the furniture.  Sometimes I have left a minimal of 6" of floor around the perimeter in small spaces in larger spaces I've left 12" to 18" of floor space uncovered.

When all else fails and you still can't determine the best size for your space, you can use blue painters tape and simply tape off various sizes so that you can get a visual.  Works every time!

Once you've determined the sizing, the next big issue is the fiber content. Durability is an issue with all textile products, but especially with those that will be walked on!  

  • Sisal, jute, and seagrass rugs are a great look that continue to be a popular choice among many homeowners and designers.  They provide a rugged, textural look that is a fantastic contrast against both casual and more formal furnishings.  These natural fibers are eco-friendly and inexpensive, however, they are not the most comfortable material underfoot, do not stand up to high traffic over the years, and are not easy to clean so it is important to think carefully about the areas you want to use these. 
  • Wool rugs, as I discussed in a previous post, are amazingly durable and can last for decades, even in highly used areas of the home. Available in endless color and pattern options, you can opt for a solid that is basically bound carpet or an intricate oriental inspired pattern.  Let the rug serve as a neutral backdrop or take center stage.  Don't be afraid to try a colorful area rug on top of a rug for even more visual interest.
  • Synthetic rugs are also good options, especially if you are not ready to commit to a more expensive rug.  There are nylon and wool-nylon blends that are less expensive than natural fibers and also have other qualities in the pro list, including durability and stain resistance.  

Jeff Lincoln Interiors via Traditional Home

Remember when choosing an area rug for space, whether it is your dining room, bedroom, foyer, or living room, that the furniture and scale of the room should work with the size of the rug.  A rug that does not work can ruin the entire look of a room, while a rug that is perfectly proportioned with the other pieces can bring the whole room together and add another dimension of texture and comfort.

I'd love to hear from you; please let me know if these tips are helpful for your planning!

Wishing you success with your next rug purchase!

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