How to choose the perfect area rug.

Why buy an area rug?

Rolled up carpet rugs.

Rolled up carpet rugs.

There are numerous reasons why people purchase area rugs.

Some of the practical reasons include providing warmth, comfort and a pleasant cushiony feel over a hardwood flooring.

Area rugs strategically placed in an open floor plan can instantly create defined locations within your home.

The perfect rug can be an inexpensive way to make a real difference to the look and feel of a room without completely re-decorating. Properly placed, the right area rug is visually appealing and creates an inviting space and a sense of coziness. Think of your floor as a blank canvas just begging to have colour thrown at it.  Choosing the perfect area rug can allow you to display your artistic style.

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Where to start?

When it’s time to purchase that perfect area rug, where to start depends on your overall plan.

Are you completely re-decorating an existing home or moving into a new home and purchasing new furnishings?

Or are you doing minor decorating in your existing home or perhaps moving into a new place where an area rug would be the perfect addition to your collection of furnishings?

If you’re starting from scratch and the area rug is to be one of the dominant features of the room, then choosing your colour scheme in addition to ascertaining the correct size is probably the best place to start. On the other hand, if you’re adding an area rug to an already decorated room, then you not only need to decide on size but also to choose a rug that will complement your existing colour scheme. This is especially true if the area rug is to be part the dominant features of the room. If it’s not to be part of the dominant features, then having your new area rug reflect your secondary colour may be appropriate.

The following are just a few ideas to consider before purchasing.

 What size?

What size area rug you should consider will obviously differ from room to room in your home.

A rule of thumb is to choose an area rug that is 24 inches shorter than your smallest wall in the room. As an example, a room that is 10×12, choose a rug that is no more than 8 feet wide. Also, in large rooms it is common to leave as much as 18 inches between the rug edge and the wall.

In smaller rooms it’s acceptable to allow 8 inches. Keep in mind that you don’t want a rug that is too small as it could give the room an unfinished or choppy look.

An example of a stylish runner rug in the kitchen.

An example of a stylish runner rug in the kitchen.


Using a rug in front of the stove or sink serves the practical purpose of providing a comfortable platform for tired feet and legs. In addition to a standard rug, a runner would also work well in this situation as well as a round rug. Be sure to keep the rug a few inches away from the cabinets. It also wouldn’t hurt to use slip-resistant backing on your rug in order to avoid a nasty fall.

Living areas

In determining the size of the rug, you also need to take into consideration how the furniture such as sofas and chairs are to be placed on the rug. If the furniture will be  floating in the centre, a simple and common approach is to a choose a rug large enough so all the furniture fits on the rug without it feeling too crowded. 11×14 and 9×12 are common sizes.

If a large piece of furniture such as a sofa is against a wall, for example, consider placing only the front legs on the rug. If that is what you decide to do, you may be able to get away with a smaller rug. Some smaller sizes to consider would be 8×10 and 6×9.

All the legs of furniture on the rug is ideal, but as you can see in this example, this a stunning compromise.

All the legs of furniture on the rug is ideal, but as you can see in this example, this a stunning compromise.

You may even decide it’s preferable to have the front legs of the sofa on the rug and another piece of furniture such as a chair with all four legs on the rug. If your budget is limited and will only allow for a smaller size area rug, it is certainly acceptable to have no furniture on the rug or perhaps just a coffee table.

If it’s at all possible, it’s generally preferable to have all the legs of furniture on the rug, but sometimes it’s necessary to break the rules and do a little experimenting because of budgetary constraints. Of course, smaller rugs can still look visually pleasing. A situation in which multiple rugs works well is when you have more than one seating arrangement.  Smaller standard rug sizes are 5×7 and 4×6.

Dining room

In a dining room, it is common to have the entire dining set on the rug and extending 18 inches and even as much as 24 inches to accommodate the dining chairs even when the dining chairs are pushed out from the table.




When it comes to bedrooms, you really need to choose a rug large enough so that it extends a minimum of 18 inches beyond the bed. An area rug too small would look odd, as the bed would overwhelm the rug. Of course you may decide to just place a rug at the foot of the bed. Remember, however, that the purpose of a rug in a bedroom is to have a place to put your feet instead of the cold floors.

As a compromise, you may wish to have the rug placed about 1/3 of the way under the length of the bed. That way, when you get out of bed your feet land on the rug. If cost is a real concern, another compromise would be to place runners along each side of the bed.

Like the living room, In general, when it comes to the bedroom, bigger is better if you can afford it. Some standard sizes to consider are 8×10 and 9×12.

A good example of placing a rug 1/4 to 1/3 of the way under the length of the bed.

A good example of placing a rug part way under the length of the bed.


Traditionally, a runner is used down the length of a hallway with the furniture, if any, pushed off to the side on the bare floor. Some common size hallway runners are 3×12 and 2.5 x8.

A perfect example of an entryway rug and hallway rug.

A perfect example of an entryway rug and hallway rug.


In addition to the typical rectangular shaped rug, the entryway is a great location to use a round rug instead. Be sure to place the rug far enough so as not to block the door from opening. Greet your guests by choosing a rug that reflects a theme to set the tone of your home or that reflects your fun or playful side.


There are myriad shapes of area rugs available. Everything from the usual rectangular and square rugs to oval, round and half-round to even octagonal in shape and just about everything in between.


It is a good idea to consider the type of traffic and wear your rugs will be subjected to. In entryways, where traffic will be high, or dining areas, where it may be necessary to have the rug cleaned more often, consider low pile type of rugs. In living areas and bedrooms, high-pile are the way to go.

Rug materials

Area rugs are made from a stunning array of differing materials. Below is a sample of the more common ones.

Light bamboo carpet with brown edging.

Light bamboo rug with brown edging.


It is difficult to imagine a more versatile material than bamboo. Bamboo fibres make a beautiful, versatile, and durable rug. Even a type of silk can be made from bamboo and woven into rugs. Bamboo rugs are hypo-allergenic and are a renewable resource. They are also easy to clean and are great for high traffic areas of your home such as entryways.


Another very versatile resource, also known as manila hemp, Abaca is a relative of the banana, native to the Philippines. The fibres are removed from the leaf-stem and made into a variety of different products. Everything from ropes, paper and teabags to banknotes, clothing, furniture and of course, woven into rugs. The fibres are very strong and durable, elegant and yet suitable for high traffic locations.


Likely the thickest and most resistant of all commercial natural fibres, coir is a coarse fiber extracted from the outer shell of coconuts. The fibre is very strong but less flexible than cotton. The coarse fibers are often woven to create a pile in door mats.

Cotton rug

Cotton rug


Cotton is a soft but strong and stable fibre and is available in many colours. Cotton rugs are typically found in a flat weave and generally inexpensive compared to wool and are often used in kitchens. Cotton pile can become felted and may attract dirt. Fortunately, however, it’s easy to clean.


Jute is the name applied to the vegetable fibre produced by the Corchorus plant. After cotton, jute is the next most widely cultivated vegetable fibre. The fibre is soft and has a golden shine, and in fact is sometimes known as the ‘golden fibre’. Since it is a natural fibre, it is 100% bio-degradable and environmentally friendly. Jute can be used on its own or blended with other materials.


Also known as mountain grass, hemp rugs are made using the fibrous stems of the cannabis. By nature, hemp area rugs have a course texture and the fibre is stronger than cotton. It has a dense heavy weave that will eventually soften over time. Long wearing and suitable for high traffic areas, it’s also bio-degradable and resistant to mildew and rot.

Hemp rug Image source

Hemp rug
Image source


Sisal fibres are removed from the leaves of the agave plant. In addition to being used in the making of twine, ropes, furniture and woven into rugs, sisal fibres can be used in the reinforcement of fibre-glass and cement. It is used extensively in the automobile industry. Interestingly, it is a major component in the making of buffing cloth. It is strong, but gentle enough to polish steel without scratching; it’s also, very durable and suitable for high traffic locations. However, it can be a bit rough to walk on with bare feet. Sisal is a renewable resource and 100% bio-degradable.


Wool is popular in rug making and there are many good reasons for this. Wool is, of course, all natural so it is a renewable resource. Unless you’re allergic to wool it is hypoallergenic. Wool fibres are naturally coated with a fatty substance called lanolin, which gives


Wool Rug

wool its ability to resist staining and soiling and in fact, has a higher rate of stain resistance than some of the best synthetic fibers. Wool acts like a natural air filter and has a way of keeping dirt at or near the surface, which makes cleaning wool very easy.

Wool is also naturally fire resistant.

Unlike many soft rugs, wool fibres are naturally elastic and resist matting, which makes them very durable. A wool rug will maintain its look for many years even in high traffic locations. Furthermore, wool is a good insulator and will help keep your home warm and dampen noise levels.

Seagrass rugs Image source

Seagrass rugs
Image source


Wool is a premium natural fibre, and can be found in a stunning array of colours and patterns. Although it can be somewhat expensive, it may be more economical in the long run to purchase a good quality wool rug that will give you years of service.


Seagrass is another all natural renewable resource. Highly durable and suitable for high traffic locations, it is also very stain resistant, repels moisture and is not easily damaged by water. It’s also very easy to clean, which make it suitable as a pet friendly rug. Finally, it contains hypoallergenic properties and feels very pleasant underfoot.


Silk is a natural protein fiber, produced by the larvae of the mulberry silkworm. These fibres can then be woven into textiles.

Beautiful silk rug.

Beautiful silk rug.

Silk is a luxury fibre and when woven into rugs and tapestries can exhibit a shimmering appearance. Silk fibres have a unique triangular prism-like structure that refract light, which is responsible for its beautiful sheen. Silk has a smooth soft texture but is not slippery like many synthetic fibres. Silk is often combined with wool to create a more durable stain resistant product.

Braided rugs

Braided rugs are also called rag rugs as they can be made of leftover rags. The braided rug dates back to the practice of the early Colonial settlers of braiding scraps of clothing and other discarded materials to make floor coverings. Despite the braided rug’s humble beginnings, the technique of braiding different materials into a charming

Braided rug Image source

Braided rug
Image source

floor covering remains popular, as evident by the multitude of braided rugs for sale. These rugs are made using a variety of materials and are generally very durable, able to withstand rough use and high traffic locations but easy to clean.



Acrylic is a man-made material, or synthetic fibre, first created by the DuPont Corporation in 1941. Acrylic can be made into a fabric that is soft, fine, lightweight and has the feel and appearance of wool. When dyed, the colours are absolutely brilliant. The material is resistant to oils and chemicals, has the ability to breathe and resists degradation from sunlight and so may be used outdoors. Rugs made from acrylic are generally cheaper than natural fibres such as wool, although, static buildup and piling can occur in the lower grades.


Nylon is a term used to describe a family of synthetic polymers. Area rugs constructed of nylon fibres are resilient and make a very durable long lasting product. Great for high traffic locations, nylon fibres take colour well and there are a stunning array of patterns and styles to choose from. They are, generally easy to clean as area rugs made of nylon typically come with some type of stain protection. Do be aware, however, that the stain protection may wear off over time.

Olefin rug Image source

Olefin rug
Image source

Polypropylene or Olefin

These two terms can be used interchangeably as they are basically describing the same type of synthetic material. Olefin has a wool-like appearance, but doesn’t quite have wool’s ability to bounce back in high traffic locations. To combat this, olefin rugs are often constructed in a certain way to increase durability. It’s common to see olefin used outdoors or in basements as the material dries quickly and isn’t susceptible to mold and mildew. It is also, resistant to fading from sunlight



Do I need a rug pad?

There is some disagreement on this point.

More often than not, it’s the salesman that says a rug pad is an absolute must. In that case, it’s often the salesman’s desire to make an additional sale that is behind the recommendation. According to many experts, however, a rug pad is not always necessary.

When it comes to deciding if you need a rug pad, you should consider the following.

Does your rug refuse to lie flat?

Does it curl at the edges or wrinkle and buckle?

Does your rug slide around on the floor?

Are you worried about the possibility of developing wear spots on your rug due to rough flooring?

Many of these problems are associated with cheaply made inexpensive rugs and the easiest way to avoid these situations is to purchase only good quality area rugs.

In the case of area rugs, as with most things, you get what you pay for. You may save a little money in the short-term by buying that cheaply-made rug, but don’t be surprised when it wears out in a few years or even months.

If you feel a rug pad is an absolute must, choose an all-felt pad and cut the pad so it is approximately an inch smaller than the rug on all sides.

Also, you may think the more soft and cushiony the pad the better but actually this allows too much up and down movement when the rug is being walked on and could cause premature breakdown of the backing on the rug. To avoid this, choose a pad that is as dense as possible. Also, be aware that some pads may cause discoloration or damage the flooring underneath.

All things considered, the best strategy may be to purchase a high quality rug, thereby avoiding the need for a rug pad.


60-30-10 rule.

In your quest to choose the perfect area rug, it may help to keep in mind a principle in interior design theory, called the 60-30-10 rule.

In following this rule, 60% of the room will consist of the dominant colour, 30% will be a secondary colour and 10% will be made up of accent colour. By following this ratio in your decorating projects you’re more likely to end up with a room that is balanced and visually appealing. This is interior design 101 and it’s a good place to start.

Colour fan Image source

Colour fan
Image source

60-30-10 rule, how to use it.

As an example, in decorating your living room, the colour of your walls, the colour of your carpeting or large pieces of furniture would consist of your dominant colour and so would be assigned 60% of your colour scheme. This is a good time to decide what size area rug you wish to have. If your intent is to purchase a rather large area rug in contrast to the room you’re decorating, you will want it to be your dominant colour.

On the other hand, if the area rug isn’t meant to be part of the dominant features of the room you may want it to reflect the secondary colour of your colour scheme. Other items that would consist of your secondary colour would be furniture and draperies or perhaps even an accent wall. In choosing your secondary colour, be sure to pick from the same colour family but different enough so as to create a contrast from the dominant colour


The above guidelines are the result of several hours of researching numerous websites and other sources and I hope you find the information useful and practical in your quest to find the perfect area rug for your home.  In general, there are a few simple rules that will increase your chances of finding a rug that is beautiful, affordable, and provide years of service. Remember- it’s not the end of the world if you end up breaking some of the rules. The key is to make the room look great!

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