Area Rug Buyer’s Guide

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 06/07/24 •  13 min read

A rug is a wonderful addition to bedrooms, living rooms, walkways and more. They add warmth, can cool down a hot patio, add style, color, and can also be just plain fun. With so many options on the market rug shopping can be overwhelming, but with a bit of planning you will be able to easily find the rug to suit your needs.

Buying the Right Size Area Rug for The Space

The first thing to do is determine which room you will be purchasing a rug for and measure out the perfect size. Check below for the room you are looking to put a rug in for information on finding the ideal size.

Dining Room Rugs

Measure the perimeter of your dining room table and add 54” to the dimension. Ideally, your rug is at least two feet away from walls and your rug is big enough for dining room chairs to fit on.

Living Room Rugs

The rug in your living room will sit neatly in the center of your main furniture such as couch, chairs and coffee table. The rug shouldn’t show out the back of your couch or chairs but will central in the living area.

To find the perfect size, measure the perimeter of your main furniture (not the entertainment center, which won’t sit under the rug) and subtract 24 inches from the length. If you don’t have a coffee table, take 24 inches of your width as well and you will have the ideal dimensions for a living room rug.

Bedroom Rugs

The best place for a rug in the bedroom is right under the bed. This way when you hop out of bed in the morning your feet don’t immediately hit cold floor. Measure the perimeter of the bed and add 24 inches to each side that isn’t up against a wall.

Kid’s Room Rugs

There are a couple different approaches to rugs in kid’s rooms. The first is putting a rug under the bed; refer to bedroom for rug how to find the best rug dimensions in this case. Another option is to put a rug in a corner which will set it off as the “play zone”. Measure the area that you want to be the “play area,” subtract 6 inches from the width and length so the rug isn’t pushed right up against the wall and you have the perfect play area.

Runners

Runners are long and narrow rugs that are ideal for front entry ways and hallways. For an entry way runner, measure the width of your door and the length of the entry way. Subtract 12 inches from the length of your entry way and you will have dimension for you runner. For a hallway, measure the length and width of the hallway. Subtract 12 inches from the width and 24 inches from the length for the dimension of the rug.

Draw Up a Budget

Next determine a budget for your area rug. Rugs are priced from low to high and every point in between. The cost difference is usually in part to the quality of materials used, the way the rug was made (by hand or machine) and the size. Rugs are usually put in high traffic areas making it important to invest in quality materials to be sure that your rug lasts and does not begin to show wear and tear soon after your purchase.

Determine Your Style

Now for the fun stuff, pick your shape, color and style. From modern to traditional and bright colored to black, a rug should enhance the interior décor of your home. If the rug is going into a particularly low key room, jazz it up with a splash of color. Alternatively if the rug is going into an already busy room, opt for something more low profile. Either way have some fun shopping for the perfect rug to keep your toes happy.

From the intricate elegance of traditional Herati and Kashan to the bold modernity of geometric patterns, the world of rug designs is incredibly diverse. Unsure what the perfect match is for your space? Explore a plethora of styles, including contemporary and playful children’s motifs, in our detailed look on rug designs.

What’s it Made Of? Area Rug Materials to Consider

The look, feel, and performance of any area rug is generally dependent on the materials used for its construction. Every Fabric and Fiber has its own distinctiveness and advantages – it is important to pick the material that fits your needs. Will the rug be in a high traffic area? Will it be underneath furniture? These are all important factors to consider when choosing an area rug.

Acrylic

Acrylic is a manmade substance, similar in appearance and feel to wool. A plastic fiber made from acrylonitrile, acrylic became a substitute for wool in a number of carpets after the 1950s. Acrylic rugs have some advantages. It is typically less expensive than wool, resistant to mold and mildew, easy to die with bright colors, fast drying, and fairly stain resistant. Acrylic Rugs do tend to wear out more quickly so it may not be the best choice if you want to put your rug in a high traffic area.

Chenille

Chenille is a tufted velvety cord or yarn. Chenille yarn is quite thick, soft, and fuzzy. Chenille area rugs are known for their softness and the range of colors that the fabric yields. However, because of its softness and gentleness, Chenille fabric is not typically recommended for high-traffic areas.

Cotton

Taken right from the cotton plant, this natural fiber is both soft and strong. Cotton area rugs can easily absorb a variety of dyes, allowing for many color options and designs. The fabric also makes a great backing material, helping the rug keep its shape and lie flat against the floor. Cotton rugs are typically easy to clean, machine-washable, and biodegradable. However, Cotton rugs have been known to attract dust more easily and are best used for lower traffic areas.

Leather

Leather Rugs come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, whether cowhide or suede.

Leather rugs are typically very durable, easy to clean, and great for high traffic areas.

Natural Grass Fibers

Jute, sisal and coir are common examples of natural grass fibers used in area rugs. Extracted from their respective plants, these fibers are generally flat-woven to produce extremely strong, durable rugs.

Since the fibers are processed without the addition of harsh chemicals, the production of these rugs is also environmentally friendly. Natural fibers are very strong and durable.

Nylon

Nylon rugs are known for their durability and range of use. Most Rugs capable of being used outside are nylon based rugs. The fabrics are able to stand up to a lot of wear and tear, meaning the nylon rugs are great for high traffic areas and for use as accent decor under furniture.

Nylon is also a common material used to make the silky shaggy rugs that are so inviting to bare toes. Nylon was designed as a cheaper, man-made alternative to silk and has since been used for a variety of purposes including musical strings, bridal veils and more.

Nylon is an inexpensive material which makes it appealing to those who are not looking exclusively for a natural fiber rug. Furthermore, Nylon Rugs are typically quite easy to clean.

Olefin

Olefin is the most stain and fain resistant material available. It won’t shed and will not fade, and is typically very easy to clean. Olefin is a petroleum byproduct and is dyed while in the liquid state, meaning the color won’t run or fade.

Polyester

Polyester fiber produces some of the most beautiful colorations available, and it is extremely fade and stain resistant. However, it is not the most resilient material and is better suited to lower traffic area.

Polypropylene Rugs

Polypropylene rugs have some great benefits. This material can create beautiful, durable rugs that don’t break the bank.

Polypropylene is a petroleum byproduct and is dyed while in the liquid state, meaning the color won’t run or fade. Polypropylene is also the most stain-resistant material available. It won’t fade or shed and is typically very easy to clean.

Many rugs made with polypropylene are so durable that they can even be used outdoors. The tough synthetic fiber is also ideal for years of vacuuming and therefore is a great option for someone with pets or children.

Rayon

Rayon has a silky appearance and feel, and also has the ability to breath in a manner similar to cotton. While Rayon has a pleasing feel and breathes like cotton, one of the big disadvantages is that it will wrinkle more easily than other fabrics, meaning that more maintenance is required.

Silk

A natural protein fiber, silk is often blended with other rug fabrics to produce a distinctive softness and sheen. The fiber’s unique structure refracts light at different angles, giving it its shimmering appearance. Because silk is created from harvested larvae cocoons of silkworms, the production process can be tricky and time-consuming. Silk Rugs are known for their softness as well as their strong and distinctive sheens. However, silk is a more difficult fabric to clean, and has been known to show footprints a little more easily than other fabrics.

Silk, as many know, is amazing to the touch and touts an appearance and feel of total luxury. With a price tag to match, silk rugs are made to impress, but will not hold up well in a regular busy household. Silk rugs require professional cleaning and are best kept in low-traffic areas.

Synthetic

“Synthetic fabric” is a catch all term for fabrics that are manmade. In area rugs, these materials are often used to mimic the characteristics of natural fibers. For example, polypropylene is often used an inexpensive, but comparably soft substitute for wool. Synthetic fibers are typically strong, stain resistant, and great for high traffic areas.

Viscose

Viscose has a silky appearance and feel, and also has the ability to breathe in a manner similar to cotton. While Viscose has a pleasing feel and breathes like cotton, one of the big disadvantages is that it will wrinkle more easily than other fabrics, meaning that more maintenance is required.

Wool

Produced from the fleece of sheep, wool is a natural fiber that is highly regarded for its strength, durability and luxurious softness. Higher-quality wools tend to come from New Zealand or Tibet, where sheep produce high levels of lanolin. This natural substance enhances the fiber’s strength and texture.

Wool is an amazing natural fiber for rugs to be made from, known for its softness, durability, and low maintenance. Wool is water repellent, fire repellent and extremely durable. However, wool fabrics have been known to shed or fade more quickly than other rug materials.

Wool also does not promote static making wool rugs perfect for using around electronics, children and more. Wool rugs take color dye nicely which allows for a wide variety of colors and beautiful designs. A great benefit of wool rugs, which it has over its manmade rug material cousins, is that it is a natural fiber, and therefore a green, Earth friendly choice for your home.

Other Fabrics You May See on Your Rug’s Materials Tag

Here are some other fabrics you may see in your search for a good area rug:

These are a good representation of the materials that rugs are made from, and a good starting point to see the differences and similarities between different rugs. It is important to understand the differences between manmade and natural materials, since both are readily available. Consider the traffic volume of the area your rug will be in as well the “feel” you are going for with your rug purchase and you will naturally lean towards one material over another and this will make your purchase decision easier.

5 Area Rug Selection Tips

  1. In selecting an area rug, the rug has to first fit the room. Consider how the room is used, how much traffic the room gets, how it will be viewed and under what light. For high-traffic areas such as hallways and entries, a durable patterned rug may work best.
  2. If you have the opportunity, you may want to start with a totally empty room. Choose a rug first, then paint or paper the walls in colors found in the rug. Choose furniture that will enhance the colors or patterns found in the rug. A rug with a bold, overall design can be the focal point of a room. In that case, you may want to choose a chair or sofa in solid or subdued patterns.
  3. If you already have furniture, choose a rug that picks up the colors found in your furnishings. Patterns can be mixed if they are coordinated by color.
  4. A light-colored rug will make a room look more spacious; darker colors can help make the room feel cozy.
  5. If the rug you like has fringe, be careful when using the vacuum cleaner as the fringe can get tangled in the vacuum.

Conclusion: A Little Planning Will Lead to the Perfect Area Rug for Your Space

Before you set out shopping, whether in store or online, take accurate measurement of the space you want a rug taking into account for all furniture you currently own or are planning on purchasing for the room in the near future.

Shopping online adds the convenience of being able to take note of the dimensions of a rug you are particularly interested in and measure out exactly how it will look before purchasing since you will be shopping at home. Rugs are a beautiful addition to any home and have many practical uses, just don’t forget that although style the most noticed element, size is important too!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a rug on carpet?

Absolutely, although not as typically as putting a rug on hardwood, there is nothing wrong with using a rug on carpet. Rugs can protect carpet, add layers of color and create a focal point for the room.

Do I need a rug pad?

Rug pads are a needed if you’re concerned about preventing your rugs from sliding, muffling sound, creating a softer area, or protecting the floor under the area rug.

Which rug material is the best?

Rugs are made from a variety of materials from wool to synthetic materials and more. There are advantages and disadvantages to each but it is usually easy to find which rug material is best for your purposes.

For example, a synthetic rug might be best in high traffic areas or kids rooms because they are often easier to clean and not as expensive if they need to be replaced. If you want a rug that will add warmth and a more artistic look, a natural wool rug might be the best option. See the full article above for details.

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.