Home Decor

There's a 'Best' Rug for Your Home—Here's How to Choose

You've got this.

Wall-to-wall carpeting was on my list of “features to desperately avoid” when scouting for my last apartment. I’d been living in a San Francisco studio where the landlord had installed such a carpet in approximately 1995. On several occasions, I borrowed a steam cleaner and meticulously scoured the fabric in the hopes of getting it as close as possible to its original off-white hue, but after years of being walked upon, my efforts proved futile. (And I won’t even get into how much dirt that steam cleaner dredged up every time.)

So when I found my Los Angeles apartment, I fell in love with the 1930s architecture, the built-ins, and the flood of natural light—but most of all, I fell in love with the hardwood floors. There’d be no chance of years-in-the-making dust or stains, and plenty of opportunity to change the feel of each room with a few rugs. But where does one begin?

1. Start With A Plan

If you'd like your rug to fit with an existing motif idea, Killy Scheer of Austin-based interior design firm Scheer & Co, suggests picking out furniture, fabric, lighting, art, and paint colors all before you start.

“[This] way, the design intent and style is clear, and the rug will complement the overall concept,” says Scheer.

Tove Bormes (owner of South Dakota-based Rug & Relic) suggests preparing for your search by gathering paint samples, fabric swatches, measurements, and photos of the room to help guide sales staff to the items in their inventory that might be what you’re looking for. If you’re shopping online, study detailed photos carefully—look at the pile, weave, or pattern up close—and if there's a customer service staff available, don’t hesitate to ask questions or request samples. (Bormes’ company likes to send out paint chip references to give customers a better idea of the colors of the rug they're considering.)

2. Select the Best Size, Based on the Room's Contents

“In living rooms, we prefer to have all furniture placed on the rug,” says Scheer. “If that’s not possible, we strive for at least the front legs of a chair or sofa to sit on the rug. You never want [a rug] to look too small for the room, so having it slip under the furniture a bit helps give the illusion of scale.”

If the rug you love is on the smaller side, you also have the option to layer it over a larger rug, perhaps in a natural material like jute or sisal.

For dining rooms, both Scheer and Bormes agree that you’ll want to make sure you have enough rug to provide a smooth experience when moving your chair in and out from beneath the table. Bormes suggests the option of having the rug wide enough so that all four dining chair legs stay on the rug at all times, or narrow enough so that the back legs won’t ever go onto the rug (thus avoiding having to “jump” the rug when moving the chair).

For bedrooms, you can opt for one large rug in the center, or a smaller rug to put at the foot of the bed (which can be a more budget-friendly option). Some people opt to put runners or small area rugs on either side of the bed as well. They don’t have to match, according to Bormes, but they should have some sort of visual harmony, like a common color as a theme.

For hallways, Scheer advises leaving a margin of four to six inches between the walls and runner edges to give them some breathing room.

3. Changing Up Wall-to-Wall Carpet

Even if you have a wall-to-wall or fitted carpet, you can still transform your space with a few strategically placed area rugs.

“It works when it brings some color, pattern or texture to large swaths of neutral carpet,” says Scheer.

Layering carpet only works if the top rugs don’t move. “It's all about the rug pad—regular rug pads will not cut it,” says Bormes. “Nothing's worse than a carpet or kilim that's constantly creeping, and impossible to vacuum.” She advises finding a rug pad made with a water-soluble adhesive to hold the carpet in place.

4. How to Pick Kid & Pet-Friendly Rugs

If you’ve got kids, pets, or just have a high-traffic home, both Scheer and Bormes highly recommend 100% wool rugs. If that’s out of your budget (or you prefer not to buy wool), Tencel is another durable option. It’s a high-performing, synthetic fabric made from wood cellulose. Another consideration is color-fastness, which means the ability to spot-clean—you can test this quality in a rug test by pressing a damp paper towel onto a small area for 15 seconds to see if it bleeds.

“Outdoor rugs are (another) great solution for households with kids and dogs,” says Scheer. “ They basically absorb nothing and can be bleached, hosed down, and otherwise abused—and still look great!”

For those with pets, you’ll also want to consider the color of your fur-baby and how detectable it is, and how much they shed. Low-pile and flatweave rugs will be easiest for hair removal.


Have any tips for sourcing the best rug for your space? Let us know in the comments!

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1 Comment

Arpita October 16, 2019
Another good suggestion for a kid-friendly rug would be to purchase your rug from a manufacturer that can assure you that child labor was not used to make their products. Can you offer some suggestions for that? GoodWeave is one idea: https://goodweave.org/