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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing an Area Rug

We’ve just moved into our new house, and although we love our hardwood floors, they are kind of overwhelming.  We feel like we’re living in a showhouse, plus we’re always walking carefully since our footsteps can be heard so loudly throughout.  So we need to start thinking about rugs.  We’re looking to define specific areas, add color to some rooms, and muffle sound/bring in warmth underfoot.

Luckily, we’ve done this many times before, so we know what a change we’ll see once we add rugs.  But for those who haven’t, here’s where you start.

A rug is good for:

  • Defining a specific seating area.  The area rug brings a group of furniture together.  It could help smaller rooms look more spacious and turn larger rooms into separate, usable areas.

  • Creating a focal point in your room.  If your rug is particularly special, use more muted furnishings so you can really show it off.  Clear tables (like this acrylic coffee table) really let your floors shine.
Courtesy Williams Sonoma
  • Adding comfort and warmth underfoot, especially in bedrooms and family rooms.
  • Protecting flooring and furniture.  So next time you hear scraping noises from the constant pulling and pushing of chairs in your dining room, you’ll know how to avoid this.
  • Muffling sound.  Especially true when you have people walking on floors above you.
  • Covering imperfections.  Perfect for older homes if you just don’t love your floors.

So if you’re ready to look at some rugs, how do you tackle this?


The first thing you should look at is how the colors in the rug coordinate with the existing colors in your room. The colors don’t have to match up perfectly, but they should complement each other. Trust us, when you get the color right everything else becomes so much easier.


Usually, the architecture of your space and the type of furnishings you own will dictate whether you go with a traditional, transitional, or contemporary rug. When in doubt, transitional designs are a smart choice because they’ll work with most interiors.


Design and color may define a rug to most onlookers, but the visual effects of texure should not be underestimated. Not only are textured rugs visually intriguing in themselves, they offset the solid surface of your floor, drawing your eyes into the dimensions of the rug.

Information courtesy of Loloi Rugs.

Should I Get a Rug Pad?

Area rugs can be pricey, so many of us have wondered if we can just skip the rug pad in order to save a few dollars.  Here’s the quick answer: nope. And here’s why.

Rug pads prevent your rug from sliding, buckling, and wrinkling.  They also protect your rug from uneven wear patterns, and keep dirt and moisture trapped between the floor and the rug from damaging the rug’s underside. In a similar vein, they prevent your floors, especially wood floors, from getting bits of latex backing or thread stuck to or ground into in them. Also, vacuuming is easier with a rug pad.  And who doesn’t want to keep their floors in their best shape for years to come?

If you’re ready to take the rug-pad plunge, here’s a quick guide to explain which types work best on which floors, and which types of rugs they work best with. Note that radiant-heat floors can melt rug pads and rugs with latex or plastic backing, so you’ll want to choose a rug weave—sans rug pad—that’s compatible with these floors, or forgo the rug entirely on these surfaces.

Outdoor Floor Rug Pads

Made of tough, no-slip PVC-coated polyester, these rug pads are perfect for the porch or patio and designed to work with indoor/outdoor rugs.  Note: outdoor rug pads are not always suitable for vinyl, lacquered, acrylic, Saltillo tile, terra-cotta, and unsealed surfaces, so if you have any of these types of floors, check with the manufacturer before using.

Floor-Lock Solid Pad

These pads, made of needle-punch plastic with a latex backing, offer cushioning, insulation, and slip resistance in one washable, microbe-resistant package. Use with any type of indoor rug, especially micro-hooked cotton and wool.

Rug-Stop Rug Pad 

This thin, durable, washable pad offers support and promotes even wear. It’s ideal for low-profile rugs, like woven wool and micro-hooked wool, and works well in stair runner installations, where too much height can actually encourage stumbling on the stairs.

Solid Extra-Grip Rug Pad        

In contrast to thinner pads, like the Rug-Stop, this pad in thick and cushy and enhances the foot-feel of high-pile rugs, like hand-knotted wools and jutes. Its higher loft also prevents liquids from leaking onto the floor beneath—a plus if you have pets or small kids in the house.

Information courtesy Loloi and Dash & Albert Rugs.

Getting the Right Size

The best rugs don’t just look great — they enhance and complement the entire look of your interior space. With that said, it’s interesting how the size of a rug, not just its appearance, can influence the dynamic of a room.


  • Get a measuring tape and measure your room.  Then, outline the area where you want your rug (try this with blue painter’s tape).  Don’t forget to check every door and see how it opens.  If you’re in between sizes, go for the larger rug.
  • Keep at least 18 inches of bare floor exposed around the rug. This is a classic rule that works for most rooms. If your room is smaller, you can leave less space. The key is to get the proportions right.
  • Legs on or off?  It can work both ways, but you should be consistent.  Ideally, all legs should be on the rug, but you may want to think carefully before buying a huge rug that will only fit in one space.  We like going with more standard sizes (8′ x 10′ and 9′ x 12′) as they will fit in most rooms.
  • Rugs can create an optical illusion — make this work in your favor. An undersized rug makes the room appear small and disconnected. When in doubt, go for a bigger size. It’ll unify the furniture and make the room appear bigger than it actually is.
  • If you have a small rug that you love, lay it as an accent on top of a more neutral sisal/jute rug that’s the right size for your seating area.  And as an added bonus, your room will look more collected that way.
Courtesy Surya Rugs

Hides work particularly well this way.

Courtesy Shelby Girard/Domaine


Living Room (common sizes: 5′ x 8′, 8′ x 10′, 9′ x 12′, 11′ x 14′)

In a living room, rugs help to pull a space together, add warmth and comfort, and muffle noise. Selecting a rug size for your living room depends on the size of your room as well as your furniture arrangement.


  • Any rug you choose should be longer than your largest piece of furniture (like your sofa).
  • Whenever possible, choose a rug that is at least 8′ x 10′; your room will feel more pulled together.
Courtesy Loloi Rugs

Dining Room (common sizes: 5′ x 8′, 8′ x 10′, 7′ round, 8′ round)

In the dining room, make sure the rug you select is big enough for the legs of the chair to sit comfortably on the rug — even when they’re pulled out for people to sit at the table. To make this easy, look for a rug that extends at least 24 inches around the table. And remember to keep at least 18 inches of floor exposed around all sides between the rug’s edge and the wall.

Courtesy Loloi Rugs

Kitchen (common sizes: 2′ x 3′, runners)

Many people prefer a small 2′ x 3′ area rug in front of the sink, which looks fine.  But if you can, a longer runner will look even better, especially in larger kitchens.

Courtesy Venegas & Co.

Hallways (common sizes: runners)

Rugs are great for warming up hallways.  Used near console tables and beautiful artwork; they will create small resting areas and unify the space.

Bedroom (common sizes: 5′ x 8′, 8′ x 10′, 9′ x 12′)

In a bedroom, the size of your bed and the floor area that surrounds it will dictate what size you should select.  Place a large rug under two legs of the bed and make sure the floor is visible all around the bed.  The rug should extend at least 24″ in length and width from the edges of the bed.  That way, when you get up in the morning, your feet will be on the rug.

Courtesy Loloi Rugs

In nurseries, don’t worry if the bed is pushed up against the wall: if you use a rug that’s large enough to fit under the front legs of the bed, you’ll be left with a nice-sized play area for the kids on the floor.

Courtesy Jute Interior Design

Patio (common sizes: 2′ x 3′, 5′ x 8′, 8′ x 10′)

Just like selecting a rug for your living room, you must consider the scale of your patio furniture arrangement before selecting a rug. One of the most underrated benefits of indoor/outdoor rugs is their ability to unify an outdoor furniture arrangement, which allows us to create a cohesive look in an open space.

Courtesy Loloi Rugs


The shape of a rug usually follows the architecture and the furniture arrangement in a room.

Rectangle – these are the most common shape, and they work in most rooms

Runners – great for hallways, kitchens, staircases, or next to beds

Round – these look great under round tables, either in the entryway or in the dining room

Square – generally work best in square rooms under square tables, either in the entryway or in the dining room

Half-circle or hearth – for entryways or fireplaces

Information courtesy Loloi, Safavieh, and Surya Rugs.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out our Rugs section here.


While hand knotted rugs are the most prestigious and best known, the majority of rugs in people’s homes are less expensive constructions, like hand tufted or machine-made rugs.  This will help you understand more about the main construction types, including their durability, defining characteristics, and how they’re made.

Hand Knotted

  • Price: $$$$
  • Durability: Longest lasting construction. Good ones can last 10 to 25 years; great ones can last 100+ years.
  • Manufacturing time: 5-12 months
  • Shedding: Minimal
  • Hand-knotting is the most intricate, labor-intensive rug weaving process in use today.  A higher number of knots per square inch typically translates to better quality.  An average weaver can tie about 3,000 knots per day.
  • Process:  Hand knotted rugs are made on a vertical frame called a hand knotting loom. Columns of threads are stretched from the top to the bottom of the loom; these threads form the foundation and the fringe ends of the rug.  Once this has been done, a weaver sits behind the loom and hand ties individual knots onto the vertical strings. Once completed, the rug is then “sheared” to produce a uniform surface, hand washed for luster, and dried.  Some rugs are dried in the sun for authenticity.
Courtesy Safavieh
Courtesy Surya
Courtesy Loloi
  • How to Identify: Individual knots are visible on the back of hand-knotted rugs, making it possible to see the overall pattern and colors used on the rug’s surface. Weaving and knots will be slightly uneven. The fringe of a hand-knotted rug is an extension of the rug’s foundation.
  • Best for living rooms, libraries, and bedrooms.

Hand Tufted

  • Price: $$
  • Durability: 3-6 years for standard rugs; 5-10 years for premium rugs
  • Manufacturing time: 4-6 months
  • Shedding: Sheds initially, subsiding over time.
  • Compared to hand-knotted rugs, tufted rugs are less time consuming to produce, so they are more affordable.  Tufted rugs tend to have a thicker pile height, so they’ll have a more cushiony feel.
  • Process: Hand-tufted rugs are produced by pulling yarns through the rug’s backing material using a tufting gun.  When the rug design is completed, the loops are cut to form a smooth cut-pile surface.  The rug is then removed from the frame and a second fabric is glued to the back to hold the yarns in place.
Courtesy Surya
Courtesy Loloi
  • How to identify: On the back of hand-tufted rugs, you’ll see a canvas backing applied with an adhesive to hold the yarns together.
  • Ideal for family rooms, bedrooms, and living rooms.

Hand Hooked

  • Price: $$
  • Durability: 3-10 years
  • Manufacturing time: 4-6 months
  • Shedding:  Sheds less than hand-tufted rugs, subsiding over time.
  • Compared to hand-knotted rugs, hooked rugs are less time consuming to produce, so they are more affordable.
  • Process: Hooked rugs are made like tufted rugs, but instead of shearing the yarns to create a smooth-cut pile, the loops are left uncut, so the finished product will feel more like embroidery.  After the design is completed, the rug is removed from the frame and a second fabric is glued to the back to hold the yarns in place.
Courtesy Surya
Courtesy Surya
  • How to identify: A canvas backing is applied to hand hooked rugs with an adhesive to hold the yarns together — similar to hand-tufted rugs.   The surface pile of a hand-hooked rug will appear looped (rounded).
  • Ideal for family rooms, bedrooms, and living rooms.

Hand Woven Shag

  • Price: $$
  • Durability: 2-8 years
  • Manufacturing time: 4 to 6 months
    Shedding: wool – moderate for an extended period, subsiding over time; polyester – minimal shedding.
  • Process: Hand-woven shag rugs are made on hand-operated looms with hundreds of plush, twisted and slightly felted yarns. A team of weavers uses a long steel rod to shoot the fibers across vertical strings that run the length of the rug. 
Courtesy Surya
Courtesy Surya
  • How to identify: Unusually deep pile, giving it a shaggy appearance. May or may not have a canvas backing.

Power Loomed/Machine-Made

  • Price: $$
  • Durability: 2-6 years
  • Manufacturing time: 2-3 months
  • Shedding: Minimal shedding. Since most rugs of this type are made from synthetic fibers, the pile will crush with heavy traffic.
  • Usually the most affordable rug construction.   Typically made out of synthetic materials like polyester, polypropylene, and nylon, which are great for high-traffic areas.
  • Process: Produced by large machines with hundreds of spindles of fiber that are mechanically woven into a thin mesh backing.  A computer dictates the pattern, so the chances for error are minimal.
  • How to identify: As with hand-knotted rugs, the rug pattern and colors are visible on the back of these rugs. However, a coarse latex backing is used to secure the fibers in place. The back of a machine-made rug will look very uniform and even (in contrast to the back of a hand-knotted rug, which will have slightly uneven knots).
  • Ideal in high-traffic areas like entryways, family rooms, kid bedrooms.
Courtesy Surya

Flat Weave

  • Price: $$
  • Durability: 3-10 years
  • Manufacturing time: 4-6 months
  • Shedding: Moderate, subsiding over time.
  • Often referred to as dhurries or kilims, flatweave rugs are woven on a loom rather than knotted. They are typically constructed from wool, cotton or synthetic materials. In most cases, the pattern on the front of the rug can be viewed clearly from both sides, making these rugs reversible.
  • Process: The material used to make flat-weave rugs is braided onto a loom to create the structure of the rug.  No base material is used , so these rugs are thinner (hence the name “flat weave”).
Courtesy Surya
Courtesy Surya
  • Tip: Flat weave rugs are reversible, so you can extend their life by flipping the rug.
  • Ideal for high-traffic rooms like kitchens, playrooms, and entryways.

Natural Fiber

  • Price: $
  • Durability: 2-6 years
  • Manufacturing time: 4-5 months
  • Shedding: Minimal
  • Static resistant, naturally insulating, eco-friendly/biodegradable.
  • Process: While not a true construction, natural (plant-based) fiber rugs possess their own unique characteristics. They are constructed of tightly woven fibers such as bamboo, cotton, jute, linen, seagrass and sisal to create a casual and relaxed look and feel. The fibers are often bleached or dyed to increase design options and aesthetic appeal. It is important to keep in mind that, as with other rugs, placing natural fiber rugs in direct sunlight several hours a day can result in the fading of dyed materials and gradual darkening of undyed fibers.
Courtesy Surya


  • Price: $$
  • Durability: 5-10 years
  • Manufacturing time: 3-6 months
  • Shedding: Minimal
  • Process: Hair-on-hide rugs are handcrafted of natural hides to create a myriad of designs. They may be dyed, or left with their natural colors. Due to the innate differences among hides, variations in dye lot, color and pattern can be expected. Brands and other markings add character to hide rugs—making each a one-of-a-kind piece to create a truly authentic look.
Courtesy Surya
  • How to identify:  These rugs typically have a felted backing.


  • Price: $
  • Durability: 1-5 years outdoor; 2-8 years indoor.   Leaving the rug in direct sunlight or standing water will significantly limit its life.
  • Manufacturing time: 3-4 months
  • Shedding: None
  • Great durability and toughness.
  • Process: Indoor/outdoor rugs are made of synthetic fibers (including olefin, polyester, polypropylene and PVC) that have been infused with UV inhibitors to minimize fading. These rugs are mold- and mildew-resistant and can withstand up to 500 hours of direct sunlight.
  • Indoor/outdoor rugs can be hand-hooked  or machine-made and typically have a latex, rubber or  vinyl backing, which enables them to withstand the elements
  • Ideal for patios, outdoor dining areas
Courtesy Dash & Albert

Information courtesy Dash & Albert, Loloi, Safavieh, Surya Rugs.

To shop our entire selection of rugs, click here.


When picking the right fiber, you have to consider things like cleanability, durability, softness, shedding, color retention, and more. In fact, sometimes synthetic fibers like polypropylene or polyester are better choices than natural fibers because they’re stain-resistant, fade-resistant, and soft.

Understanding the fibers below will help you determine what you should choose based on your needs.



  • Texture: soft and smooth
  • Durability: moderate
  • Minimal shedding
  • Sustainable/biodegradable
  • Easy to clean and maintain


  • Natural fiber from the agave plant
  • Texture: coarse
  • Durability: high
  • Minimal shedding
  • Sustainable/biodegradable
  • Does not attract dust and is static free


  • Natural fiber from the agave plant
  • Texture: soft, reed-like
  • Durability: high
  • Minimal shedding
  • Sustainable/biodegradable
  • Does not attract dust and is static free


  • Shiny, vegetable fiber
  • Texture: rough, with natural variations in color
  • Durability: moderate
  • Sustainable/biodegradable


  • Most commonly used natural fiber in rugs (usually sheep’s wool)
  • Texture: mildly coarse, very resilient
  • Durability: high
  • Sustainable/biodegradable



  • Texture: smooth, shiny
  • Durability: high
  • Minimal shedding
  • Most commonly blended with other fibers like polyester (this is called a poly-acrylic blend)


  • Texture: slightly less smooth than most synthetic fibers
  • Durability: high
  • Minimal shedding
  • Bold, fade-resistant color
  • Commonly used in indoor/outdoor rugs for its UV, mildew, and water resistant qualities


  • Synthetic, shiny fiber (also known as “art silk”) commonly used as a more affordable substitute for silk
  • Texture: soft, smooth, silky sheen
  • Durability: low
  • Some rugs are made of 100% viscose, but most rugs use viscose to accent a pattern


  • Texture: smooth, shiny
  • Durability: high
  • Wears well and feels very soft, especially when used for rugs with a thick pile
  • Moisture, stain, and abrasion resistant
  • Retains color over time, easy to clean

Information courtesy Loloi and Surya Rugs.

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