5 Tips to Choose the Best Rug for Your Life

An area rug can take a room from drab to fab. But before you buy, consider these five tips to choose the best rug for your space and lifestyle.
Dramatic living room with two contemporary beige sofas facing across a colorful Oriental rug.

Designers will often select an area rug based upon its color, texture or style. And while homeowners may consider these traits too, even more important is how they intend to live on their purchase. If a rug is going to be exposed to family traffic, kid crafting and fur friends, this usage will demand a very different rug than one selected for a rarely occupied guest bedroom or formal living room.

The great thing about rugs is that they are often replaceable. So the rug you choose for one phase of life doesn’t have to be the only rug you’ll ever enjoy. The following 5 tips will help choose the best rug for your home – and your needs – right now. It will also help you consider the pros and cons for rugs you might consider for the future.

Tip 1 – Consider cost and maintenance when choosing your rug’s materials.

At the most basic level, rugs are made from either natural or synthetic fibers. Natural fibers include wool, cotton, silk and grasses (like jute or sisal). Synthetc fibers include nylon, olefin or polypropylene and polyester. It is great to do a little research about rug materials before narrowing down your options. And when it comes to standing up to every day wear and tear, every fiber type has pros and cons.

Close up of blue rug fibers in a woven rug.

When people choose synthetic rugs, they usually want something that is both low in cost and easy to maintain. Synthetic or man-made items are going to be priced much lower by square foot than say wool or silk. However, while many man-made fibers are stain-resistant, that resistance does not extend to oil and oil-based substances. Beware using synthetic rugs where oily food like sauces or dressings are likely to spill. In areas where oil and grease may be tracked in from a garage or carport, a synthetic item is not the best rug for the job. Most synthetic rugs will be permanently stained when their surface comes in contact with oil. That general concern aside, each synthetic fiber has its particular strengths.

A dramatic navy blue dining room with a vibrant patterned rug.  Synthetic rugs are easily damaged by oil - whether food-based or automotive, but nylon may be the best rug material for a dining room rug.

A nylon rug is hardy and can sometimes be rescued from an oily spill. Nylon stands up well to the punishment of high-traffic zones. It resists mildew growth and responds well to professional cleaning. On the other hand, nylon can be permanently damaged by bleaching, fading and pet accidents. Another option, olefin (also called polypropylene), is resistant to moisture and fading. Olefin is usually the best rug for outdoor applications. It is also budget-friendly and well-matched to utility areas as most chemicals or bleaches do not damage this fiber. However, olefin is quick to show wear. It can be damaged by oil, by friction (dragging a heavy item across its surface) or by heat.

Designer living room with yellow sectional and black and white shag rug.   A fluffy, plush polyester piece is the best rug for quiet spaces like formal living rooms or bedrooms.

A third choice, polyester, does not easily bleach, fade or stain (except in oil-based accidents) but it does lose its texture and softness over time. A polyester item is not the best rug for a high-traffic zone. Lastly, a fiber that straddles the synthetic category is viscose. Though made from hardy bamboo, the chemical ingredients and processing of viscose make this fiber very vulnerable to staining and structural failure. Viscose is beautiful but it is not particularly resilient. For that reason, viscose rugs are best used in formal rooms with minimal traffic and little exposure to food, liquids or pets.

A note here about environmentally friendly rugs: There are rug manufacturers who source non-toxic materials and use sustainable, safe production methods. See, for example, https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/choosing-a-non-toxic-area-rug/ . If you are searching for an earth-friendly option, consider recycling. Re-homing an old or gently-used rug of any fiber type is a sustainable choice. But whether you have a family heirloom or a second-hand find, start by getting a professional estimate for cleaning the rug. No matter the type, all but the newest rugs are likely to need a deep cleaning to remove dust, dirt, pet hair and the spots or spills in its history. It is amazing how much dry dust and dirt comes out of even a 5×8 rug!

Rug Specialist shows off dust pan filled with soil removed from an area rug.

Tip 2 – Assess what wear the rug will face to determine what construction will hold up best.

A rug’s structure can have a big impact on its reponse to wear and tear. So it’s good to know a little about a rug’s pile and construction when you are choosing the best rug for your home. The “pile” of a rug refers to the thickness or density of the item. Rugs described as “low-pile” have more compact fibers and shorter, tighter loops. Low-pile rugs are a great match for entries, hallways, kitchens and other high-traffic zones. Common rugs in this category include flatweaves like needlepoint, hooked, dhurries and kilims. All of these rug types are made without knots. Other flatweaves include natural fiber rugs made from wool, cotton or jute. If a low-pile option is best suited for your lifestyle, there are many colors, styles, and fibers to choose from https://plushrugs.com/blog/flatweave-rugs-everything-you-need-to-know/

Close up of a light blue shag rug. A shag rug is an example of a high-pile rug that is soft and fluffy but vulnerable to high-traffic damage.In contrast to flateaves, the fibers of high-pile rugs are looser and taller. This construction makes them softer and thicker, but also more vulnerable to heavy traffic. High-pile rugs are often chosen more for their look and feel than their utility. Examples include shag rugs and Moroccan rugs. These items tend to be fluffier to the touch and softer under foot, especially when they are new. Both qualities enhance their ability to insulate and to buffer the sound in a room. A high-pile option is usually the best rug for a bedroom or living room seating area where walk-through traffic is limited. A comparison of the pros and cons of high-pile versus low-pile rugs will give you the confidence you need for choosing the best rug for your space.

Tip 3- Let your budget help you choose the best rug for your needs.

Buyers often wonder why rugs are so expensive. Depending on the type, a rug can certainly be a big investment. For this reason, a buyer should always consider what characteristics will make a rug worth the expense. For young families or people with pets, it may not make sense to put down luxury rugs in every room. Accidents will happen and some will be beyond the skill of even trained professionals to fix. That said, less expensive, hard-working rugs may be a great short-term choice for an active household. The time will come when pets are housetrained and children are old enough to manage food, drinks and projects. That may be the time to replace a 2 to 3-year-rug with something of higher quality that is meant to last longer.

Multicultural Famity sits on rug.  We live on our rugs so it is best to choose a rug that can stand up to the wear and tear of the household or that is affordable to replace when worn out.

Of course, the higher the quality of materials and worksmanship, the more expensive the product. The trade off is that this up-front expenditure is likely to provide years of enjoyment. A wool rug is a great investment both for its ease of maintenance and its longevity. Wool rugs come in a variety of colors, patterns, piles and styles. They are also available from a broad range of retailers. Granted, wool rugs are known to shed during their first year in a home. However that is due to the nature of the fiber. Otherwise, the price per ft2 of a wool rug pays for itself many times over. To get the best out of a wool rug purchase, ask yourself if you will be happy with the colors, pattern, size and shape for the foreseeable future. Then buy knowing, no matter where you move or how your decor changes, your rug will always be a welcome accessory in your household.

Tip 4 – Follow basic pointers to select the size of rug your space requires.

There is a lot of information about choosing the best sized rug for your room. There are certain rules of thumb. In some living rooms, all the furniture is pulled away from the walls in a ‘floating’ layout. In that case, the best rug will be large enough to stretch under all the feet of your furniture in the main sitting area. If you have a sofa or sectional pushed up to a wall, a rug can be smaller and can allow just the front feet of all upholstery to be set on the rug. The smallest rug that is likely to work in a living room is a 6×9 though many sources suggest no smaller than an 8×10.

Rug buyers often ask what size of rug thier room requires.  Whether it is a bedroom, dining room or living room, the layout of the room and the furniture in it will help narrow down the size that will best suit your space.

The dimensions and furnishings of the room where your rug will live, whether a living room, bedroom or dining room, will help determine the best rug size for your layout. In bedrooms, the size of rug needs to allow for the width of the bed plus a few feet to either side, to guarantee a soft landing. In some instances, smaller rugs to either side of a bed meet the same needs. And for a dining room, a rug should take into account the shape and size of the table, with enough added width that chairs will not push off the rug or catch its edge when scooting out or in. As for small rugs in big rooms, experts say that when you have a smaller rug that can’t stretch to meet decor guidelines, you still have options. You can layer your piece over a larger neutral rug, like a sisal. That way you can cover the necessary floor space and still feature your favorite textile.

For all these pointers on the best rug size for your room, one additional factor should be kept in mind. Make sure you take the heaviest traffic through the room into account when deciding upon your rug’s dimensions. If the rug is large enough that it will be crossed by lots of feet, big and small, it may be necessary to downsize the rug to protect it from the worst of that wear and tear. If downsizing is not possible, then choose a rug that can handle that heavy use and turn it regularly to even out the damage.

Tip 5 – In terms of style, think first of ‘life’-style when narrowing down the best color, texture, pattern or shape.

Entry with a bench and runner.  The best rug for an entry or hall is one that can stand up to high traffic and tracked in soils.

The setting in which a rug will be used is shaped by a combination of factors. The type of troom, the size and placement of the furniture in the room, and the level of use and abuse the room is likely to get (think family room versus guest bedroom) all effect the choice of best rug. Add to that the style and color of the walls, window dressings, and upholstery and you have a somewhat complicated equation to solve. But it doesn’t have to be. It all boils down to one question. How do you want to live in the room where the rug will be placed? Do you want to have carefree family movie nights? A serene environment for sleeping, working or reading? A place to host special guests and occasions? An active space for baking and crafting? Are you more concerned about the rug’s look and feel than its longevity?

Designer living room with an area rug that coordinates with wall art and lamp shades.  If you like drama in your space, the best rug may be one that coordinates with wall art or introduces strong color or pattern to your space.

As for the somewhat slippery question of rug style, that has to do with the combination of color, pattern and construction that best complements the rest of the space where the rug will be used. If you have lots of pattern on walls or furniture, a solid or neutral colored rug will give the eye a place to rest. If you have solid furniture, simple walls and window treatments and a messy family, patterned and multi-colored rugs can be very forgiving. If you want decor drama in your room but dislike patterned wallpaper or attention-grabbing wall art, a vibrant rug can provide just enough pizazz to meet your needs. And if you are aiming for an heirloom-quality item, the best rug will be made of quality of materials and will have a look and feel that you will be in love with for years to come. When it comes to ‘style,’ a timeless Turkish rug can complement a midcentury armchair just as well as it does a curvaceous antique bed or a contemporary leather sectional. Invest for the life that you are living now but remember that life is ever-changing and the fall-in-love rug of your future may be just a few years away.

Rugs are an investment so play the long game.

So you’ve determined the fiber and pile of rug that will stand up to your room’s use. You’ve set aside the budget necessary and have an idea of how long you need the rug to last. Added to all this, you’ve found the best rug to meet all your criteria for the room’s decor, in terms of color, pattern (or solid), texture and size. After all this work, you probably want to ‘drop the other shoe’ and enjoy your purchase. The only thing left to consider is your rug-care plan going forward.

There are a few tricks to extending your rug’s lifetime. Rule one is to be sure your rug is laid over a quality rug pad. Rule two is to make time for regular vacuuming to remove the sharp particles that we all track over our rugs. Over time, this soil will cause damage and discoloration to a rug. Third, set aside the budget for regular professional cleanings. Some companies even have a rug plant where they can offer your textile personalized care. Fourth, for every day accidents, you’ll want to respond to spots and spills as quickly and gently as possible. If you are unsure whether it is time for a deep clean, try these cleanliness tests on your rug to detect soil and dust levels. Finally, remember to turn the rug seasonally to help distribute wear more evenly.

Now kick off those shoes and get ready to enjoy the newest addition to your household. You are ready to find the best rug for your home!

Red and blue sneakers on a formal Oriental Rug - there is a rug for every phase of life and life-style!

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