What to Consider Before Buying a Rug

First and foremost, it’s all about identifying the room the rug will live in and the purpose it’s meant to serve. Is it a statement piece to unify the aesthetic, or a functional one that prevents slips in high-traffic zones? If you have pets and little ones, a delicate vintage find is likely not advisable. Next, you’ll want to think about the rug’s size and shape; style and materials; pile; care and cleaning; and rug pad. More on all of these below.

Size and Shape

When it comes to choosing a rug for a specific room, finding one that suits it, size-wise, is essential. As a general rule of thumb, find a rug that can contain the major elements of a room or serve as a buffer between built-ins.

Living room: If your sofa is against a wall, ensure that at least its front legs and the front legs of the neighboring armchairs are on the rug. In a large living room with a floating seating area, the rug should contain all furniture, front and back legs, with space around.

Dining room: Use the table’s size as your point of reference. Whether circular or round, the rug should extend at least 24 inches on all sides so even a pushed-back chair can still fit within its range.

Bedroom: For a spacious room, opt for a large rug that fits under the entire bed and night tables, with extra width on either side. For smaller rooms, the rug should cover roughly ⅓ of the bed’s base; alternatively, try small area rugs on either side of the bed.

Kitchen, entryway: Stick with a narrow runner or smaller piece (think 2’ x 3’ or 4’ x 6’) for these areas.

Outdoors: Bigger is better here, and you’ll want a rug that is 12-24 inches shorter than the space’s perimeter.

How to Measure a Room for a Rug: Take the general measurements of a room and reduce the dimensions by 1-2 feet to arrive at an appropriate-sized rug for the space. Alternatively, use painter’s tape to outline the rug dimensions in its ideal location, then measure the perimeter, and use that as your jumping-off point.

Material Matters

One of the most important things to consider when you're shopping for a rug is the material it's made from. Rugs can be made from natural fibers or synthetic, man-made fibers, and there are several popular options in each category. The material you choose affects the feel, the price, the durability, and how easy it is to clean. 

Wool: Wool is an all-around, designer-favorite natural material. Why? It's not just because it's super cozy—it's durable and has scales on the fibers that hide dirt, making it clean easily, and it's naturally fire-retardant. For these reasons, wool rugs can be placed just about anywhere.

Sisal: Sisal rugs have a beautifully beachy, boho look, but they're also quite durable. The only issue to note: since sisal rugs absorb liquids, they tend to stain easily when spills occur, so keep that in mind when you're considering placement—e.g., you might want to avoid the dining room or the kids' room.

Silk: If you want luxury, go with a silk rug. It's quite soft, and shiny—which makes it great for detailed designs. Not to mention, it's the strongest natural fiber out there. A silk rug is a better investment for, say, the main bedroom or a formal living room, and should be avoided in areas where spills are a concern. It's also likely to be the most expensive option.

Cotton: Cotton rugs are another soft option. They're also easy to clean and affordable. So, if you're looking for a more budget-friendly natural fiber that can stand up to stains, cotton might be a good bet for you. The downside? Cotton doesn't hold up quite as well as the others, so you'll probably experience more wear over time than with other natural materials. And since cotton is moisture-absorbent, you'll still want to take care of spills quickly.

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