Selecting the Right Area Rug

27 07 2010

Selecting the right area rug for your room can be a very confusing purchase.  A beautiful area rug can help set the overall scheme, color and texture of your room and most work as a decorative centerpiece.  From a practical standpoint, they also protect your floors, retain warmth, insulate against heat, absorb sound to help minimize noise and provide a stable, non-slick walking surface.

As with every household decision, there isn’t a perfect answer.  I don’t feel there are right or wrongs in selecting something you like, however for some of us, we like guidelines to live within.  Whether you want an energy saving insulator, neutral foundation or vibrant focal point, here are some suggestions and knowledge for helping you to make the selection:

Popular Materials

Wool Rugs: Naturally durable and soft, these are a great choice for active homes. Many are innately stain-resistant and easy to maintain, featuring high-quality wool.

Cotton: Is soft, casual and offer high-quality performance. Cotton tends to be durable and easy to maintain, not to mention it comes in a wide array of vivid colors and styles. Be sure to look for colorfast rugs that won’t fade or transfer onto your floor.  Cotton is not as durable as wool in most cases, but is considered a good substitute.

Silk Blend Rugs: Silk rugs have a beautiful texture but don’t have the wear and tear that many other materials provide.  By having a silk blend it not only adds a bit more durability but you also get the soft, supple feeling of silk.  Higher-quality rugs, such as Persian and Oriental Rugs, often include silk for luster and shine. Handle silk area rugs with special care and only have them cleaned by professionals.

Synthetic Materials: Are made of heavy duty materials like Derclon and polypropylene that are stain-resistant and easy to clean. Perfect for high-traffic areas, synthetic rugs stand up to everyday wear and resist fading for beautiful color retention.

Blended Rugs: These tend to be the best of all the world combined.  Since they blend with wool, silk, cotton or synthetic materials you get a soft texture you’ll love to sink your feet into while getting first-class quality.

Unusual Materials

Natural-Fiber Rugs: are easy to care for and add beauty to any decor. These are materials include: sisal, sea grass, jute, coir and bamboo. These fibers are perfect for indoor use as well as outdoor use and often add a unexpected element to the space.

Bamboo Rugs: are somewhat new to the rug game, but are especially prized for their smooth, glossy texture and visual appeal. They look and feel like wood with a similar wear-resistance and natural warmth that will revitalize any floor.

Chenille Rugs: are often made of a lush cotton or synthetic fibers, creating comfortable durability. An excellent choice for active lifestyles since many chenille rugs are reversible. Chenille comes in a wide array of colors and a variety of styles ranging from braided to shag.

Leather Rugs: deliver a unique texture, and eclectic signature to your decor. The hand woven strands of soft, suede leather add a modern style in several warm colors. Leather area rugs are handsome accents for low-traffic areas.

Animal Hides: also for low traffic areas, these rugs can certainly make an impact to any décor.


Area Rug Pads: prevent rugs from slipping on hardwood or tile surfaces and protect wood floors from abrasions. They also provide added cushion to the area rug, giving it a nicer feel.

Vacuums: Regular, simple care maintains the good looks of your area rug. You may want to vacuum rugs that get a lot of foot traffic, such as those in the family room, frequently. Area rugs in rooms used less often, such as the guest bedroom, may only need vacuuming once a week.

Spot cleaners: Even stain-resistant area rugs need help looking their best. Invest in spot treatments that come either in powder or liquid form. Before using anything on your area rug, make sure to spot test the product on a small area on the back of the rug.

Always have high-quality area rugs, hand-made Persian area rugs, Oriental area rugs, and antique area rugs professionally cleaned.

Size and Placement matter

Ideally all your furniture in the cluster should be able to sit on an area rug leaving no more than 2’ from the back of the furniture to the edge of the rug and an equal amount of bare floor around the rug on all sides.

Another option is to ensure that all the front legs go on the rug.  This helps unify the space.

In a dining area the rug should extend beyond the edge of the table by 18-24” on each side.  The chairs should sit on the rug even when pulled from the table.

If you can’t find a rug to fit your space you can have a remnant bound.  3.5”-5” wide binding is most popular today.  This way you can match existing rugs with the same binding if you wish.

Other Notes

One test of authenticity of a quality handmade Oriental or Persian rug is to flip the rug over and look at the pattern on the back. Good quality rugs have a vivid and almost identical image on the back as on the front.

Good quality carpets should never have a dry feel. The wool should have a springy resilience to it. When pressed on with your thumb, the depressed area should rebound to its original shape.

When shopping for a good quality area rug, look for the number of knots per square inch, the material it’s made of (whether wool, silk or synthetic) the uniqueness of its design and the level of workmanship that went into creating it.