From size and shape to color and style, there are a lot of things to consider when deciding on a rug for your home. The right rug will compliment your current furnishings and tie the room together. A high-quality wool rug that’s properly cared for can last decades and may even be passed from one generation to the next. The key is finding one that fits your space and carries a look that will last for years to come.
This comprehensive buying guide will help you learn the ins and outs of buying a rug and help you in your search to find the perfect one for your space.
Table of Contents:
Considerations for Buying a Rug
There is really only one question Oriental rug expert Jeff Arcari asks when advising customers on the perfect purchase for them: “Does the rug make you smile?” Loving the rug you buy is always the most important part of your decision. With that said, there are a handful of other factors to consider like: the quality of the rug, the materials and dyes, and how you plan to use the rug.
A rug is an essential part of any room. It has a fundamental impact on aesthetic design, how noise travels, and how comfortable people feel in a space. Whenever you buy a rug, you should consider your specific purposes. Is it for function or to make a statement? How durable do you need the rug to be? Do you have children or pets?
Here are the important factors to consider when buying a rug, and keep in mind that some of these items may be more important to you than others depending on your space and unique circumstances:
- Style: traditional, modern & contemporary, and transitional
- Material: wool, silk, natural fibers, and synthetics
- Weave: hand knotted, flatweave, tufted, and hooked
- Dye: vegetable and synthetic
- Origins: Persian, Turkish, Indian, Afghan, and Nepalese
- Sizes & shapes: area rugs, small, medium, large, and rug shapes
- Piles: pile height, cut pile, and loop pile
- Pads: safety- and durability- benefits of rug pads
The “style” of a rug broadly refers to its overall design, pattern, and definition, and it’s the first thing you should think about when making a purchase decision. The style of rug you choose will have a drastic impact on the overall appearance of your space.
In fact, many interior designers start with a rug and go from there when planning the design of a room. That’s why it’s important to consider every aspect of style when choosing a rug. Also consider how it will work with other design elements in your room, such as walls, window coverings, and furniture.
Traditional style rugs bring a sense of elegance and sophistication to your space. They typically have ornate and detailed designs and are often antique and vintage, though traditional style rugs are still being made today. Traditional rugs pair well with traditional-style furniture and decor, but it’s best to avoid putting them right up against other ornate patterns (a patterned sofa, for example). They often incorporate detailed patterns with contrasting saturated colors like reds, blues, and greens. Because of their ornate patterns and details, traditional style rugs are great at hiding dirt and debris, making them an excellent choice for heavy-traffic areas.
Modern & Contemporary
Modern and contemporary rugs tend to be less patterned and defined than traditional ones, and generally have no distinct borders. For this reason, they tend to work well in more urban or stylized spaces. Contemporary rugs are generally clean and have muted colors. They’re minimalistic and versatile, allowing you more freedom when it comes to choosing other furnishings. Their simplicity and lack of definition can also allow for more versatility in furniture placement and other patterns in the room.
Transitional rugs embody a mix of traditional and modern/contemporary styles and patterns and tend to incorporate more neutral, softer, and quieter color combinations. Many transitional rug designs use classic or familiar patterns that may not have traditionally been used in rugs, such as a damask or trellis pattern. In this way, transitional rugs are based off of traditional rug designs, but are modified greatly in color or scale to appear more contemporary or modern.
Matching a Rug to a Room
It’s important to match your rug to other elements of your room’s design in order to make the space feel finished and cohesive. If you’re not sure how to go about matching your rug to your room, consider contrasting your rug with nearby elements (such as a sofa or coffee table) and matching it to smaller features like accent pillows, throw blankets, or artwork.
Looking to match a second rug to an existing one you already love?
We can help you find the perfect second rug to seamlessly blend and complement the one you already own and love. Contact us at Landry & Arcari and we’ll reply with a link to our custom tailored gallery based on your specific needs.
When it comes to rug materials, there are a variety of options. In general, wool is king and hand-spun wool is the highest quality material you can choose. It’s soft but durable, breathes well, and holds its shape. A wool rug can also help even out the air quality in a space, and since wool is a renewable resource, it’s a sustainable and environmentally conscious choice that will never go out of style.
Other common rug materials include silk, synthetics (which may be a good choice for outdoor spaces), and cotton.
When it comes to rug materials, wool is king. It’s soft, breathes well, and is naturally stain resistant. It’s also strong, durable, and long lasting. Wool fibers also have “memory,” meaning they bounce back to their original shape after being compressed (from the weight of a chair or table, for example). Wool also absorbs moisture in humid environments and releases it in dry ones. In this way, wool helps even out the air quality in your space.
Different wools are made from different kinds of sheep, and the quality and feel of the wool depends on the type of sheep, how they’re bred, where they’re from, the quality of the grass they eat, and how well they’re cared for, in addition to how the wool is spun. New Zealand has put a great deal of effort and research into breeding sheep to produce high-quality wool and their climate allows for lots of thick and healthy grass to grow.
Silk is the second best material for rugs after wool, and the inclusion of silk is a great way to bring shine and sheen to a rug. It’s soft and luxurious, and best used in low-traffic areas. It’s surprisingly easy to clean and is fairly durable; however, it is pricey, so it’s very rare to find a rug that’s made of 100% silk.
Rugs made from natural fibers like sisal are fairly common. There is a wide range of natural-fiber rugs in the marketplace. Some rugs are made from treated fibers to make them more durable and long-lasting, but wool is the strongest of all natural rug materials.
Synthetic rug materials, which include viscose, nylon, and polypropylene, are man-made fibers intended to mimic the appearance and texture of natural fibers. While synthetic rugs can look nice, they’re not as durable as rugs made from natural fibers. Viscose, for example, is very easy to stain. The only time you should consider a synthetic rug is if you want to put it outdoors, in which case polypropylene is a good option.
A rug’s weave refers to the way it was made. The techniques used to make a rug impact its appearance and quality. It also influences its durability, maintenance requirements, and how well a rug holds its value over time. Some rugs are handmade, while others are manufactured with a machine.
Different weaves serve different purposes and provide different benefits. Understanding how a rug was made can help you determine if it’s right for your family and space and ensure you know how to care for it and make it last.
Hand-knotted rugs are made using thousands or even millions of individual knots. One by one, the weaver ties these tiny knots to the warp (vertical threads) and weft (horizontal threads) of the rug. This detailed, time-consuming work produces high-quality, one-of-a-kind pieces that are both intricate, durable, and easy-to-clean.
Best for: living rooms, parlors, dining rooms, and other formal gathering spaces
In contrast to knotted rugs, flatweave rugs have no pile. Instead of using knots, the warp threads and weft threads are woven together to create one solid piece. Because of their low profile and sturdy construction, they’re more durable than other, more delicate types of rugs and stand up well to heavy foot traffic.
Best for: kitchens, hallways, entryways, foyers, and other high traffic areas
Tufted rugs are made without using any knots. Instead, a machine or handheld tufting gun pulls loops of yarn through the rug’s canvas backing. These loops are then cut to create the pile. The finished product often looks similar to a hand-knotted rug, though tufted rugs are generally less durable.
Best for: living rooms and bedrooms
Hooked rugs are very similar to tufted rugs. A machine or hooking needle pulls loops of yarn through the canvas backing. However, the loops are kept intact rather than being cut like they are on a tufted rug. This gives hooked rugs a unique appearance and texture that almost looks like embroidery.
Best for: living rooms and bedrooms
High-quality rug dyes produce a saturated yet translucent quality, which allows a rug’s colors to shine as the fibers catch the light. Most antique and traditional rugs were made using vegetable-derived dyes, producing a rich and vibrant result. While synthetic dyes have come a long way since their emergence in rug-making in the 19th century, and can be used relatively quickly and inexpensively, many rug enthusiasts insist they lack the luster and shine of natural vegetable dyes.
A rug’s origin generally refers to where it was made. There is a long and storied history of rug making, and the origin of a rug impacts the kind of labor embedded in the rug making process as well as its design, appearance, and unique story. A tremendous amount of craftsmanship and effort goes into making a single rug, and weavers must be highly skilled and passionate about their work.
Nearly all regions across the globe produce rugs, but Persian, Turkish, Afghan, and Nepalese rugs are the most common:
- Persian rugs: Acknowledged around the world for their rich colors and unique designs, Persian rugs tend to be made using high-quality natural wools, silks, and vegetable dyes.
- Turkish rugs: There is a long and rich history of rug making in Turkey, and Turkish rugs are known for their exquisite detail, tight weaves, and handmade quality.
- Indian rugs: A number of regions in India are well-known for their rug making, including Kashmir, Bhadohi, Jaipur, and Agra. Dhurrie rugs, which are thick but flat, as well as pure silk rugs, are very popular.
- Afghan rugs: Most Afghan rugs are either Turkman or Baluchi carpets. Afghan rugs are known for incorporating dark red shades, and often feature gul motifs.
- Nepalese rugs: Traditionally crafted from fine sheep’s wool sourced primarily in Tibet, and now often from New Zealand and India, Nepalese rugs can often be recognized for their course, thick texture and natural colors made from vegetable-derived dyes.
Rug Sizes & Shapes
In every case, rug size and shape are important factors to consider when purchasing a rug to fill your space. Once you’ve chosen the right size and dimensions, you can narrow down your search and avoid browsing for rugs that aren’t the right size or shape for your room.
In many cases, the shape and size of rug you need is dependent on the dimensions, orientation, and design of the room you're working with. While rugs vary significantly in size, standardized terms like “small,” “medium” and “large” aren’t used frequently. Instead, when we discuss the size of a rug, the primary consideration is how the rug will fit in your space and work with your other furnishings.
Standard rug sizes give you a range of options, but if you’re looking for a unique size, you might consider buying a custom rug or one that doesn’t have a border and having it cut down to your desired size.
An area rug essentially refers to a rug that fills an “area” in a room, such as a dining or living space or an entryway. Unlike wall-to-wall carpeting, an area rug is generally much smaller than the dimensions of a room. These rugs provide warmth, comfort, and decorative value to a space in addition to sound absorption and floor protection. Area rugs come in a range of styles, shapes, and sizes.
Small or “Scatter” Rug
Small rugs generally have measurements between 3’ and 8’ and may come in any shape. Common dimensions for small rectangular rugs include:
- 2’ x 3’
- 3’ x 5’
- 4’ x 6’
- 5’ x 7’
Medium or “Room Size” Rug
Like small rugs, medium rugs may come in any shape; however, rectangular rugs are by far most common. Popular dimensions for medium rugs include:
- 6’ x 9’
- 8’ x 10’
- 9’ x 12’
- 10’ x 14’
Large or “Oversized” Rugs
Anything that measures over 11’ is typically considered a large rug or “oversized” rug. Large rugs vary quite a bit in terms of their dimensions, but common measurements include:
- 12’ x 15’
- 12’ x 18’
- 14’ x 19’
Rug runners are essentially long rugs that are designed to fill hallways, while “gallery rugs” are oversized rug runners that work in larger hallways or passageways. Common rug runner and gallery rug dimensions include:
- 2’ x 7’
- 2’ x’ 9’
- 6’ x 15’
Most rugs are rectangular, but circular and square rugs are common as well. If none of the standard rug shapes or sizes suit your purposes, or if you’re looking for something particularly unique, consider instead buying a freeform/custom rug.
The shape you choose will likely depend on the size, shape, and style of the room as well as the aesthetic effect you want it to have on the space. Let the layout of your room and your furniture arrangement guide you. A small circular table looks great sitting on a larger circular rug, for example, while a standard living room arrangement often calls for a rectangular rug.
Pile refers to the density and position of the fibers in the surface of a rug. Piles vary in height from low, to medium, to high, and a rug may be “cut pile” or “loop pile.” A rug’s pile height and type can affect how the rug feels under your feet and how easy it is to clean and vacuum.
The length of fibers in a rug and their density determine its pile height. In general, pile heights vary from low (less than 0.25”) to medium (0.25” to 0.5”) to high or “plush” (0.5” to 0.75”), although some shag rugs have piles exceeding 0.75”. The thickness of the pile doesn’t necessarily indicate its quality. However, in general, higher-traffic areas benefit from additional density and a shorter pile, which can be a bit easier to care for and clean.
Cut-pile rugs are created when the yarn loops are sheared. This creates an upright pile that looks more plush, formal, and luxurious than a loop-pile rug. Cut-pile rugs vary in terms of pile height, thickness, and style.
Loop-pile rugs are those wherein the fibers do not sit straight up and the yarn loops remain intact (like in hooked rugs), so when you look at the surface of the rug you’re seeing the loops of the fibers rather than their tips.
No matter the size, shape, style, and weave of the rug you’ve chosen, you should always use a rug pad. There are a variety of benefits to using them. First and foremost, rug pads prevent your rug from slipping when you walk on it, improving overall safety. Using a rug pad also reduces friction on the rug, preventing wear and tear and ensuring your rug will last longer.
Rug pads are always recommended, but they’re especially important if you’re buying a flatweave rug, which is more prone to slipping. Rug pads also come in different levels of thickness. Opt for a thicker pad when possible, but keep door-clearance issues in mind.
Choosing a Rug by Room
The best way to narrow down your search for the perfect rug is to start with the room. Certain shapes, sizes, styles, materials, colors/patterns, and piles are better suited to different rooms and spaces in your home. Consider how much foot traffic the rug will be exposed to, whether or not it’s likely to be spilled on, and how it will complement (or contrast) the rest of the furnishings and decor in the space.
When it comes to choosing a rug for your living room, it’s especially important to consider how the rug works with the rest of your space. That’s because living room rugs tend to be focal points, with pieces of furniture positioned around and on or partially on the rug. Think about the size and shape of the room, the style of your furniture, and what design elements you want to stand out most prominently.
If your room is relatively small or medium-sized, a tried-and-true technique is to frame your rug with your furniture half-on and half-off the rug. In a larger room, you may want to opt for a bigger rug that truly fills the space. That said, there are no hard and fast rules to follow. The most important thing is to choose a rug you love that works well in your room.
Cut-pile wool rugs are generally your best option when it comes to choosing a rug for your dining room. That’s because they’re durable and easy to clean. Whatever rug you choose, it will need to stand up to chairs being dragged across it and it’s also likely to be spilled on.
You may also want to choose a dark-colored rug or a rug with a pattern. A patterned rug with brown and red is perfect for disguising wine spills, for example. It’s always a good idea to measure your dining room table, as that will help determine what size rug you need. Generally, dining room rugs should be 4’ longer and wider than your table (2’ on either side).
It’s important to make sure you love any rug you buy, but choosing a rug for your bedroom is really all about personal taste, since guests won’t generally be seeing it the way they would your living room rug, for example. You may also choose not to splurge too heavily on a bedroom rug, because a fair amount of it might be hidden under your bed.
Really bright colors and loud patterns aren’t generally the best option for bedrooms because you want to keep your sleeping space calm and peaceful. It’s also a good idea to buy a rug that’s on the larger side for your bedroom, as this will help control outside noise.
There are some unique factors to consider when choosing a rug or mat for your kitchen. How you use your kitchen is an especially important thing to think about. Do you cook a lot with messy ingredients? Drink red wine while you cook? Consider a patterned, low-pile rug in a darker color to make spills less problematic. Do you end up standing for hours on hard floors while you cook? Choose a small, plush, and durable rug and place it in front of your range.
Note that hand-woven wool rugs are surprisingly durable in heavily used kitchen spaces, and they offer excellent cushioning for when you’re standing up for long periods of time.
In hallways and entryways, the right size for your space really depends on how much floor you want to show (generally, about 3” to 6” of floor on either side is a good rule of thumb). It’s also important to consider pile height and the thickness of your rug pad(s), since hall and entry rugs tend to be placed near doors.
While wool is almost always the best rug material, outdoor rugs are an exception to this rule. Synthetic polypropylene (also known as olefin) is usually your best bet when it comes to choosing a rug for your outdoor space. Polypropylene is extremely durable and colorfast and holds up well to moisture.
How to Measure a Room for a Rug
There is no steadfast rule for sizing a rug to fit your space. The size and arrangement of your furniture will play an important role in how big your rug should be. For example, if you have a large sectional couch, the correct size depends on if you want your sofa legs on or off the rug.
Generally, the larger your furniture grouping, the larger the rug you’ll need. Keep in mind that if your room is segmented (like a great room with a seating area and a dining table), you’ll almost certainly want to buy two rugs rather than one large one.
Pro Tip: Consider using painter’s tape on your floor to help you visualize what a certain rug size would look like in your space.
Deciding on a Rug
When you’re buying a rug, you’re looking at its dimensions and aesthetic features and considering how it will work in your room and with your furniture. It’s also important to take a step back from these details and think about the bigger picture.
We don’t tend to buy new rugs every year. A rug is an important long-term investment that you’re likely to have in your home for years, and potentially decades, to come. In addition to the above factors, you’ll want to consider pricing, quality, durability, and long-term care.
A high-quality rug isn’t cheap, but it can last you a lifetime. There’s a wide range of prices out there. The size, shape, and pattern of a rug and the techniques used to make it impact its price, quality, and how it should be cared for.
Why Are Rugs Expensive?
Rug prices vary substantially. In general, the longer it takes to make a rug, the more expensive it tends to be. The material used to make the rug also impacts cost. Antique, handmade, and custom rugs tend to be more expensive.
High-quality, handmade rugs are much more expensive than machine-produced ones. That’s because of the labor and time that goes into making them. Hand-knotted and fine-weaved rugs take a long time to make and involve delicate work. In general, you’re paying for quality.
When you’re making a final decision on a rug you love, think about how — and for how long — you want to use it. Is it a temporary purchase? Is it primarily aesthetic? Is it for comfort? Do you picture yourself keeping your rug for decades to come? A high-quality rug that you love is a rare investment. A rug made using proper materials and techniques that has been cared for properly can last a lifetime.
Think carefully about the quality and price of your rug, how you want to use it, and how long you want it to last before you make a final decision.
How Long Will a Rug Last?
How long you can expect your rug to last varies significantly and depends entirely on how it’s made and the quality of the material. A hand-knotted artisan wool rug can easily last you a lifetime, whereas a cheaply-made synthetic rug may only last a few years. Quality rugs can be expensive, but it’s usually well worth the investment in the long run.
Rug Care and Cleaning
Proper cleaning and regular maintenance of your rug will prolong its life and ensure it stays beautiful for years to come. The basic care and maintenance of your rug is surprisingly simple, and professional cleaning and repair services are available for serious stains or rugs in need of restoration.
Vacuuming: regular vacuuming is an important part of rug care, but never use a beater bar on the fringes of your rug; its recommended that you occasionally vacuum the back of your rug in addition to the face.
Spot cleaning: when a spill happens, clean it as quickly as possible before the stain sets; scrape up solids and blot (don’t rub) liquids with a clean rag or paper towel.
Check out our Stain Removal Guide for tips on removing just about any stain you can think of!
Rotating: you can prolong the life of your rug by rotating it once a year (or more frequently for high-traffic areas or areas that get a lot of sun); this ensures your rug will wear more evenly over time.
Rug Cleaning & Repair Services
While there’s a lot you can do to maintain the quality of your rug yourself, there are times when it may be necessary to take your rug to be professionally cleaned and/or repaired. It’s best to do this as soon as you notice signs of wear or tear. The longer you wait, the worse the problem will become and the more complicated and expensive it will be to fix.
Choose The Rug That Makes You Smile
There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re buying a rug. A high-quality rug that’s properly cared for can last decades, and may even be passed from one generation to the next. Here are just a few of the main takeaways we hope you’ll keep in mind in your search for the perfect rug to fill your space:
- In most cases, a hand-knotted wool rug is the highest-quality, most durable and long lasting choice you can make.
- You want your rug to fit your space and complement the room. One rug might be perfect for one room and completely wrong for another, so make sure you’re shopping with your furniture, decor, and the size and layout of the room in mind.
- Quality handmade rugs are investments, collector’s items, and potential family heirlooms. A lot of time, effort, skill, and craftsmanship has been put into their creation and the result is a lifetime of enjoyment for you, your family, and your guests.
- The style, pattern, weave, and pile height of a rug are all important considerations, but at the end of the day, the single most important question to ask yourself is “Does the rug make you smile?”
We love helping our customers choose the right rug for them. We’re here to listen to your requirements, preferences, and concerns and we’ll go the extra mile to ensure you have the chance to see a range of options before you make a final decision.