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9 Expert Tips for Choosing the Perfect Rug

Mar 8, 2016

by Diana Keeler handmade and vintage goods

It’s Home Design 101: Rugs transform a room. “Depending on its style, material, and shape, a rug determines a room’s mood and ambience,” says interior designer Céline Alata of the blog FrenchyFancy. “Even if you have super-standard furniture, a beautiful rug will do the job of making a room feel personal and unique.”

But the reality of selecting a rug is often far more complicated than the platitudes suggest, and prospective buyers need to carefully consider the size, materials, and accessories (rug pad: yes or no?) before making the investment. To demystify the process, we spoke with some of our favorite Etsy rug sellers, along with two interiors bloggers, about everything you need to know before bringing home your new (or vintage) — and, yes, room-transforming — rug.


Shop vintage rugs from Loom + Field


Shop hand-woven rugs from Post Diem

What’s the first thing to consider when choosing a rug?

First, think about the rug’s function. What space will it be in? How will you use it? Are you looking for a bold statement rug or a neutral piece to tie everything together? In high-traffic areas like a hallway or entryway, you’ll want to choose a flat-weave rug, which is more durable. A patterned rug is also a great choice for this area, because it will hide dirt and wear. For the bedroom, opt for a cozy, textured rug that will feel luxurious underfoot. In the dining room, avoid high-pile, shaggy rugs, which are more difficult to clean. — Christine Kim of Loom + Field, Moroccan and Turkish rug specialist

Flat-weave, tufted, hand-knotted — what’s the difference, anyway?

Tufted rugs are created by gluing fibers to a backing; it’s one of the quickest ways to make a rug. Some tufted rugs are hand-tufted, but most are made by machines. Tufted rugs are the lowest-quality type of area rug, because with use, the tufting eventually lifts and the backing begins to break down; these rugs tend to require replacement every two to three years. Flat-weave rugs are the product of a specific knotting system that is used to achieve a flat, thin rug; still, flat-weave rugs can be very dense and durable, as with kilims. Hand-knotted area rugs are generally made according to one of the many Persian or Turkish knotting systems, and have a pile that can vary from low (like a Kazak rug) to very long (like a shaggy rug). Most hand-knotted Oriental rugs have a medium pile (about ¼ inch to 1 inch), which gives them a plush look and feel. — Leslie Tunstall of Main Street Rugs, antique rug expert


Shop vintage rugs from Homegirl Collection


Shop vintage rugs from Shopshop Modern

What should pet owners look for in a rug?

Wool rugs are the best for pet owners, because wool is a natural fiber that can be thoroughly cleaned. If the rug has pet stains, it will require a special enzyme treatment. — Leslie Tunstall

How do I figure out what size rug I need?

Break out the measuring tape! In the living room, all furniture legs should fit on top of the rug — or at a minimum, the front legs — and the rug should be longer than the sofa by at least six inches on either side. In a smaller room, however, with the sofa backed up against a wall, you can get away with positioning a rug in front of, instead of underneath, the furniture. For a dining area, measure the dining table and add 20 to 30 inches on each side; the goal is to ensure that all four legs of each dining chair will remain on the rug, even when pulled out from the table. A bedroom rug should extend at least two feet beyond either side of the bed; as an alternative, try a pair of runners, with one on each side of the bed.

Expert tip: Lay out sheets of newspaper on the floor to help you visualize the shapes and sizes of rugs that would best fit your space. — Christine Kim 



Shop vintage rugs from Mighty Vintage


 Shop handmade, upcycled-fiber rugs from Spinning Shreds

What if I can’t afford the size of rug I want?

Layering rugs is the perfect trick if you happen to fall in love with a smaller statement piece. A colorful, bohemian piece layered atop a neutral (and budget-friendly) jute or sisal rug is a no-fail solution. You can have fun experimenting with contrasting colors and textures here, too. — Christine Kim

Which rug styles are trending now?

These four categories are on the rise: brightly colored pieces with abstract patterns; over-dyed, distressed rugs in muted colors; bold, geometric patterns; and faded pastels. — Christine Kim


Shop vintage rugs from 01Jackson


Shop vintage rugs from Gallivanting Girls

Do I really need a rug pad?

Rug pads are definitely recommended. They extend the life of your rug by preventing the fibers from being crushed, protect your floors from scratches and staining, and add another layer of comfort underfoot. Thin, flat-weave rugs are more prone to slipping and sliding, so rug pads are also recommended under those styles for safety reasons. For best results, choose a felt rug pad with a natural rubber grip, in a size that’s one to two inches smaller than the rug, so the edges will lie flat. — Christine Kim

What’s the best approach to cleaning a rug?

Handmade rugs should be cleaned professionally between once a year and every five years, depending on the amount of foot traffic the rug receives. Be extra-careful when choosing a cleaner — you want to find a professional who will take the extra care required to avoid dye-run and preserve the integrity of your rugs. For smaller spills or spots between cleanings, try blotting with a little water and Woolite. — Leslie Tunstall


Shop vintage rugs at Old New House

What do I need to know about shipping?

If this is a significant purchase and it’s coming from overseas, ask the seller about trackable, expedited shipping services like UPS, DHL, or FedEx (UPS and DHL express packages are delivered in two to six business days, worldwide). They may cost more, but receiving your package quickly and being able to track it along the way will give you peace of mind; you may also want to inquire about shipping insurance options. And keep in mind that customs duties may apply if you’re purchasing internationally. It’s hard to estimate the exact amount of taxes that will be charged, but in the past we’ve had clients pay anywhere from zero to seven percent of the combined value of the rug and its shipping cost. But from our experience, American buyers generally end up paying far less in taxes than buyers in other countries. — Christine Kim



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