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4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Shopping for a Rug

Words by Olivia Lidbury
a living room filled with furniture and a dining room table

Photo by Michael Clifford; Design by Jake Arnold

A floor without a rug is like a room without art.

Decorative, tactile, colorful (or not), rugs provide the ultimate finishing touch. Bringing joy to bare feet, our Experts love the way they soften a room both visually and audibly.

In open-plan rooms, floor coverings are an invaluable tool to define zones: used subtly to define a dining area from a lounge, furniture appears anchored rather than floating around.

But while there are limitless reasons to add a rug to your floors, it feels like there are just as many options to choose from—from thick-pile shags to Persian-style flatweaves. In this guide, we demystify exactly what style works where, in order to set you on your way to finding the rug of your dreams.

Which sort of rugs are right for my space?

a bedroom with a large bed and two chairs

Photo by Michael Clifford; Design by Jake Arnold

Sourcing the perfect rug is entirely subjective, but it can be defined by two main factors: where the rug will live, and how durable it needs to be. A hallway welcoming kids, strollers, and dogs will benefit from a hard-wearing wool style, while kitchen runners skew towards patterned, vintage styles for their low pile (and the way the motifs ingeniously hide spillages).

a beige rug with a design on it
District LoomLavinia Vintage Persian Heriz RunnerSHOP NOW

Be sure to consider natural light: if you’re after color or print, will the sun hit and potentially bleach it? And do you need a style that lends itself to washing? All of these factors are largely determined by what the rug is composed of, which leads us to a round-up on the key materials to know…

a white rug on a white background
Nordic KnotsGrand RugSHOP NOW

What sort of material should I choose?

The materiality of a rug will not just inform its overall look and feel, but also how it performs.

Wool, for example, is a natural fiber lauded for high-traffic areas such as living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms, but longer piles like Moroccan and Berber styles can shed.

a wooden floor with a white background
Nordic KnotsLux 2 RugSHOP NOW

Silk is a super-fine yet strong fiber with a large number of knots per square inch which increases its longevity. Often found in vintage oriental and Persian rugs, these styles are known for holding their shape and boast a timeless elegance which is reflected in their price tag.

a gray area rug with a white border
WovenDistressed Banana Silk RugSHOP NOW

Sisal, jute, and seagrass rugs are popular choices with our Experts thanks to their earthy, warm charm and unrivaled versatility. The only caveat is that they can collect dirt easily, making them less suited to busy areas.

a brown rug with fringes on top of it
ArmadilloTerra RugSHOP NOW

What’s the deal with ‘pile’?

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photo by Yoshihiro Makino; Design by Brigette Romanek

This term applies to the density of the fibers in the rug; the pile height indicates the thickness from the surface of the rug to the lowest point of the backing.

Low-pile rugs (less than 1/4”) like flatweaves are better for high-traffic areas and don’t impose themselves in terms of profile, so if you have a door which needs to clear a rug, this a smart choice.

a beige and brown striped rug on a white background
Nordic KnotsElder 04 RugSHOP NOW

Medium piles vary between 1/4” and 1/2”, and offer more insulation. Also, the higher the pile, the higher the performance and lifespan of the rug.

a brown rug with fringes on top of it
ArmadilloMalawi RugSHOP NOW

Thick-pile rugs are often called ‘plush’ or ‘shag’, and have the tallest and loosest fibers. These are ideal for living rooms, or around a bed for that cozy feel underfoot.

a red rug with fringes on top of it
Beni RugsReplete RugSHOP NOW

What size rug should I buy?

While you can’t trial-run a rug like you can paint colors, a smart way to visualize its scale is by using decorator’s tape to mark out the dimensions on the floor where it will live.

For sizing success, it pays to think generously—we’ve all regretted ordering what turns out to be a comically small rug. For dining tables, pushed-out chairs should still be contained by the rug (think about three feet outside the table’s perimeter). In a living room, the ideal scenario is to have all the furniture’s legs rest on the rug. If that’s not an option, a sofa’s front feet should at least rest on the rug and it should extend well past the coffee table, as well as making contact with any additional armchairs.

a white rug with fringes on top of it
Beni RugsConfine RugSHOP NOW

A foolproof placement in bedrooms is to lay the rug perpendicular to the bed, so that there is a small gap between the nightstand and ample coverage around the base to the bottom but if you can go even bigger, having the bed and nightstands resting on the rug with a few feet at the foot of the bed is ideal.

For hallways and runners, as a rule there should always be a run of flooring exposed between your rug and the skirting board. The same goes for any rug—about half a foot of flooring should border between the rug and the walls.

a beige rug with a white stripe on it
Beni RugsRestraint RunnerSHOP NOW

And for happy rugs…

a living room filled with furniture and lots of windows
a bedroom with two beds and a balcony

Photo by Michael Clifford; Design by Jake Arnold

Photo by Michael Clifford; Design by Jake Arnold

Don’t forget rug pads! These discreet heroes help secure your rug in place (and prevent slipping) while extending its lifespan and preserving the floor underneath. It also provides extra cushioning and there are plentiful options too, from eco-friendly rubber styles, to felted friends.

Shop more rugs on Showroom.