How To Choose the Perfect Rug and Area Rug
for every single room


Rugs are much more than utilitarian accessories in modern homes–the right rug can help define a space and add a brilliant focal point to any room. There’s a lot to consider when making this purchase, from size and style to color and material. To help you find the perfect rug for every space in your home, we’ve collected tips and tricks from some of our favorite design experts who know all about the importance of setting a good foundation.

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RUGS 101:

From the Ground Up

Mark Williams area rugs

When Mark Williams of Mark Williams Design Associates helps clients search for area rugs, he advises them to consider their lifestyles and existing decor choices before making a purchase. “Rugs are the foundation for any space, and they are a big part of the overall composition,” Williams says. When beginning your rug-buying adventure, it helps to break down your search into three basic categories: Style, Materials and Size/Shape.


There are countless styles of area rugs to choose from. Knowing a few general categories can help narrow your search.

traditional rugs

This classic and elegant style can add a formal feel to a room.

  • •  The most common designs include Old European, Oriental and Persian styles and patterns.
  • •  May be made of wool, synthetic or blended fibers.
  • •  Available in a wide range of colors and design detail options.
  • •  Often features a border.
contemporary rugs

Contemporary styles tend to reflect modern trends.

  • •  Most contemporary rugs feature vibrant colors and bold patterns.
  • •  Designs range from tailored and architectural to free–form asymmetrical.
  • •  May be made using wool, cotton, synthetic or blended materials.
transitional rugs

Transitional styles blend contemporary and traditional designs, adding elegance to fresh, modern and informal styles.

  • •  Typically made of wool, synthetic or blended fibers.
  • •  Designs often feature floral and leaf patterns.
novelty rugs

From funky designs to artistic patterns, and animal prints, there’s a novelty rug to suit every personality.

  • •  Novelty rug designs often incorporate playful themes and bold colors.
  • •  This style brings a fun, light–hearted feel to your space.
natural fiber rugs

Often neutral, these rugs add texture and an organic feel to a room.

  • •  Traditionally made with eco–friendly fibers, including jute, sisal, cotton, coir and seagrass.
  • •  Available in a wide range of designs.
  • •  Compared to hand–tufted varieties, natural fiber rugs are typically affordable.
shag rugs

These ultra–soft rugs are available in a variety of styles, colors and textures. Ranging from high pile and fluffy to low pile and practical.

  • •  Shag rugs are made of durable wool or synthetic fibers.
  • •  Flokati rugs are made in Greece from 100% New Zealand wool, using age–old techniques.
  • •  Popular styles include Moroccan shag rugs.
outdoor rugs

Built to withstand the elements, outdoor rugs come in a wide range of shapes and styles.

  • •  These durable rugs resist fading, mold and mildew.
  • •  They can easily be cleaned with a water hose.
  • •  Can be used inside and out.
braided rugs

Add warmth, texture and a touch of country style with these rustic rugs.

  • •  Featuring a soft pile and superior durability.
  • •  Braided rugs are often reversible for twice the wear.
kids rugs

There are no limits to the creative leaps and bounds you can make with rugs for kids.

  • •  Kids rugs are often fun for the whole family, adding fun colors and shapes to playrooms, and kids craft areas.
  • •  They can be both enjoyable and educational with rugs that come in the shapes of their favorite animal and more.


It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the variety of materials on the market, but there are three main categories:

Rug Material

WOOL: The most common rug material is used in wool tufted, hand–knotted, hand–loomed and hand–hooked rugs. It is naturally fire-resistant, reduces static electricity and resists stains. And since it protects against lint and dust, it’s naturally allergy resistant. Wool’s elasticity helps keep the rug’s pile height plush under the weight of heavy furniture.

Wool Rugs

SYNTHETIC: In the last two to three years, synthetic rugs have grown in the marketplace with new construction, fiber and color options. Family–friendly and extremely durable, synthetic rugs are ideal for high–traffic areas. Materials include derclon, nylon, polypropylene, polyester, acrylic and blends.

natural fiber rugs

NATURAL FIBERS: These environmentally friendly rugs can be machine or hand–woven. They’re typically anti–static and often reversible. Materials include sisal, seagrass, jute, coir and bamboo.


Durability is an essential aspect to consider when choosing your rug’s material. Areas with a lot of foot traffic or that are prone to spills benefit from sturdy fabric like an easy–to–clean synthetic rug or indoor/outdoor rug. Machine-made rugs with dyed nylon fiber are another great option for busy households; they tend to retain their color and are generally cheaper, making them easier to replace in a few years. Polypropylene, the foundation for many outdoor rugs, is a good option for kids’ rooms, basements and hallways. For a more luxurious look, viscose (also called art silk), chenille, shag and sheepskin are soft and sumptuous options for bedrooms and cozy reading nooks.

Cost is another important factor for many shoppers. Antique Persian or Oriental rugs can add incredible style to a space, but if they don’t fit into your budget, consider new hand–knotted constructions. These rugs reflect antique designs but are far more affordable. Many are also now available in updated colors. There are also machine–made updates of classic styles that offer modern colorations of old Persian and European designs. Jeff Lewis, the Los Angeles-based interior designer and star of Bravo TV’s Flipping Out, advises: “Most of my clients have kids and/or pets, so I never recommend breaking the bank on a rug purchase.”

Rug Rules

“In a room that has a specific traffic pattern in a limited area, choose a rug that can be turned every year or so to create more even wear.”

— Mark Williams


Start your search with an assessment of the space you’re working with, taking into account furniture placement and traffic flow. For rooms that are already filled with furniture, arrange pieces beforehand to get the dimensions needed to create a fluid setting. “When it comes to placing the rugs, we always tape out what the rug size will actually look like in the space, especially when you’re looking at larger sizes,” Lewis says. “Take painter’s tape and see what works best for your furniture configuration.”

Kerrie Kelly of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab recommends this hack for creating the illusion of more space: “It’s best to have at least the front legs of furniture comfortably sitting on the rug. This trick makes the rug seem larger than it is, and the room’s proportions don’t get thrown out of whack.”

area rugs

Kelly will be the first to tell you that design rules are meant to be broken, but here are a few suggestions for choosing a rug that works for your space:

BEDROOMS: Shoot for at least 1 to 2 feet of rug space on either side of a bed. You can place runners between twins, for example, or a 5x8 foot rug or round rug at the end of a bed.

LIVING ROOMS: Furniture should sit comfortably on the rug, with at least 6 inches extending past the sides of a couch. You can also create conversation areas with smaller rugs. Popular rug sizes for living rooms include 5x8, 8x10 and 9x12 feet.

DINING ROOMS: Dining tables should be centered, with enough space for the chairs to be pulled all the way out without leaving the rug. Between 18 and 24 inches of rug should be enough to keep your chairs from the bare floor. A classic choice for dining spaces is an 8x10 foot rug.

HALLWAYS AND FOYERS: The width of the rug should match the width of the door or be a few inches narrower. The length of the rug should cover the full length of the space. Pair a 5x8 foot rug in the foyer with a runner down the hall. For longer hallways, use two runners.

Rug Rules

“In terms of placement, it’s OK for the back of your sofa legs to be off the rug. The same thing goes for your accent chairs–they don’t need to rest completely on the rug. For a bedroom, float the rug off the wall and a few (or even several) inches in front of your nightstands. If there’s excess space for the rug at the foot of the bed, it’s a great place for a bench seat. I am always amazed at how much warmer and inviting the room feels with a rug.”

— Jeff Lewis

Skimping on size can be tempting when looking at price tags, but area rugs that are too small can make a space look cramped. However, smaller rugs can be used to set boundaries inside a room. For example, placing a desk and chair on a rug in the corner of a bedroom or living room can help set it apart from the rest of the room. Two rugs can also be used to create separate gathering areas with different groups of furniture in a living room.

Shape is also an important consideration. While a large rug can define a space, squares, rounds and octagons can add interest in an open concept. Square rooms are generally best matched with square or round rugs, while rectangular rooms should have rectangular rugs oriented in the same direction.

Rug Rules

“Measure once and when you are done measuring, measure again. You want to make sure the rug you are ordering will fit in your space.”

— KariAnne Wood

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