Home Decor

How to Buy a Rug: Expert Guide to Sizes, Styles, Shapes and Stores

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There are few pieces in a home that have the decorative prowess to tie a room together as effortlessly as a rug. Whether it’s the inspiration for the space or a finishing touch, a rug can bring an incomparable layer of interest and intrigue. But finding the perfect rug has its fair share of limitations, not to mention challenges. Between the size, material, style, and make, there are a number of factors to take into consideration—and having a seemingly endless scope of options doesn’t make the process any easier. 

For instance: Purchase one that’s too small, and you run the risk of instantly diminishing all the effort you put into designing said room in the first place. Run too large, and the rug can envelop the space and overwhelm its existing fixtures. Finding that sweet spot in the middle is key. To help you get started, we pooled together an extensive guide to answer all your burning questions about buying the best piece, based on your style and needs.

In this article:
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING A RUG | CHOOSING THE RIGHT RUG BY ROOM | THE BEST PLACES TO SHOP FOR RUGS

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What to Consider Before Buying a Rug

When it comes to choosing a rug for a specific room, finding one that suits it, size-wise, is essential. “It’s kind of like the Goldilocks rule here,” says Ben Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Revival Rugs. “You want a rug that fits, whether small or large. Something that isn’t too big—i.e., there is enough floor visible between the wall and the rug—but also something that isn’t too small, such as a postage stamp under your coffee table.” 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.

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.

There is a seemingly endless list of descriptors that encompass the aesthetic classification of a rug. But more often than not, the material it’s made from is what informs the style of a piece. Rug specialist Lisa Wagner, of RugChick.com, says these are the most common material categories:

Natural fibers: Wool, cotton, silk, jute, sisal
Pros: Durable and long-lasting; wool rugs, specifically, are amazing at hiding soil.
Cons: Often pricier and require professional cleaning; dyed silk rugs can run if exposed to water spills.

Synthetic fibers: Acrylic, polyester, polypropylene
Pros: Affordable, easy to clean, usually stain-resistant.
Cons: Can become contaminated with mildew and bacteria from repeated spills or pet accidents; may need replacing sooner than wool or natural fiber rugs.

Artificial silk: Viscose, bamboo silk, banana silk 
Pros: Very affordable; busy patterns can conceal dirt.
Cons: Viscose is like an absorbent sponge—it not only attracts moisture and oil but even a plain water spill can ruin fibers.

Identifying the ideal material for your space depends a lot on your lifestyle and the room the rug will live in. Your aesthetic of choice can also be a factor, but remember, you’re never limited to one style or another, and mixing and matching is always a great way to find what’s unique to you. Here’s a quick breakdown:

The “pile” of a rug is a point of reference for the density, or thickness, of a piece. “Rugs that are coarser will always have more pile to them than fine and intricately designed pieces,” says antique rug expert Omri Schwartz of Nazmiyal Rugs. Rug pile generally falls into two categories:

“The height of a rug’s pile is really more of an aesthetic and performance consideration,” says Haynes Robinson, SVP of product development at abc carpet & home. Regardless of the pile height, a rug will always provide sound buffering, but the thicker the rug, the better the insulation. “Added pile also increases the life and performance of the carpet over time.” 

It’s inevitable that, at some point, you’ll find yourself with a soiled rug, so you’ll want to <a rel=”noreferrer noopener” href=”think about care and maintenance before you buy. Ironically, older or vintage pieces tend to be more durable versus newer, budget ones that may not have the same structural integrity. “Sometimes that newer rug will have more structural problems than the antique one because quite a few corners must be cut to make that rug such a great deal,” says RugChick.com’s Wagner. Here’s how to care for and clean different materials:

Choosing the Right Rug by Room

The magic formula: Mid-to-high-pile area rug, larger in size.
Standard dimensions: 8′ x 10′, 9′ x 12′, 10′ x 14′

A living room feels almost incomplete without a rug. Besides an added layer of comfort, it contributes a rich tonal element that can take your design to the next level. “We are typically looking for more of a conversation piece, from a design perspective,” says Robinson, “where the material can vary from shiny to matte. People often are concerned about using silk in a living room, but real silk is extremely strong and durable, and it cleans as well.” Craving something more plush? A shag or Moroccan rug is the way to go. Invest in an enduring wool piece that can withstand constant foot traffic, or a wool-cotton blend if you’re seeking a more affordable alternative. For a casual, layered look, pair a low-pile dhurrie with a natural jute rug. 

The magic formula: Mid-to high-pile area or mid-size rugs, silk or wool composition.
Standard dimensions: 8′ x 10′, 9′ x 12′ or 2′ x 6′, 4′ x 6′

The bedroom serves as yet another spot in which you can get creative. “Generally we like simple textures and designs in softer, more exotic materials for the bedroom,” says Robinson. “A bedroom is a place of rest and comfort, so rugs that are not visually over-stimulating and are made from luxurious material, such as silk, are ideal.” Given the probability that you’ll be barefoot more often here, a high-pile rug is a good choice. 

The magic formula: Flatweave or mid-pile rug, cotton or wool composition.
Standard dimensions: 9′ x 12′, 10′ x 14′, 8′ round

Not only does a rug make a space feel more composed, but placing one underneath the dining table can help visually distinguish the area from others in an open-layout home. The main thing to consider when choosing a dining room rug is its thickness. “You would not want a very thin rug under a dining room table that gets a ton of use,” says Nazmiyal Rugs’ Schwartz. Not only will it bunch every time you slide the chairs out, but the repeated process will perpetuate wear and tear. An overly thick rug, on the other hand, can make moving your chair difficult. Stick with a flatweave or mid-pile piece for this space.

The magic formula: Low-pile, patterned rug that has a natural fiber composition or is easily washable.
Standard dimensions: 2.5′ x 8′, 2′ x 3′, 3′ x 5′, 6′ x 9′

When it comes to this high-traffic area, a performance-based option should be top of mind. Avoid high-pile rugs or anything overly textured that’s likely to trap dirt and debris, since cleanup can be a mess. A flatweave, low-pile area rug or a mat underneath the sink can help prevent falls by soaking up water spills. A lengthy runner will bring texture and color to an otherwise streamlined scheme; bonus points for the visual warmth it produces as well. 

The magic formula: Low-pile rug, preferably natural fiber composition (think wool or jute).
Standard dimensions: 2′ x 3′, 2′ x 8′, 4′ x 6′

Making a good first impression counts, and this floor piece should set the tone for what lies ahead. Whether you have a round foyer or an an elongated hallway, a runner or area rug is your best bet for the entry. Stick to a compact or narrow landing pad, and avoid overly large pieces that will innately feel like an intrusion. A simple 2’ x 3’ can have a major impact by setting the tone and defining the space’s essence. The material is just as important—bear in mind that this high-traffic area will require a durable rug and a solid-grip pad beneath it. 

The magic formula: Large area rug, stain- and UV-resistant polypropylene composition.
Standard dimensions: 8′ x 10′, 9′ x 12′, 10′ x 14′

A furnished deck or porch feels more complete when paired with an outdoor rug—even a neutral, non-patterned option can make a big difference. When choosing one, durability should be at the top of your list—weatherproof goes without saying. These days, most outdoor rugs are performance or stain-resistant, though you can still get away with a handful of natural fiber options. But take note: “Jute is absorbent, and it does tend to rot when areas are kept damp too long,” says Wagner. “Many outdoor rugs that state they are mildew-resistant are referring to the outer polypropylene plastic fibers, however, the interior often incorporates jute and/or cotton, which will mildew when left damp for too long.” She suggests frequently checking the backside for signs of mold. 

The Best Places to Shop for Rugs

Ready to find your dream piece? Here are just some of our favorite spots to help you get started. 

If You’re Down for a Treasure Hunt

If You’re Seeking Curation

If You’re Looking for a Deal

If You Want Something One-of-a-Kind

If You’re All About Trends

If You’re Looking for Something Niche

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