How to Choose an Area Rug

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on December 21, 2020

With the advent of online shopping—plus the usual suspects like antique stores and big-box furniture stores—there are so. Many. Rugs. Out there. How do you even begin choosing an area rug? We’re sharing five key factors to consider that will help ensure you roll out the perfect rug for your space.

Start with Style

If you’re adding a rug to an already-designed room, ask yourself, what’s the vibe of your space? You may love the look of Turkish Oriental rugs, for example, but if your room is currently sleek and modern, this style won’t mesh (instead, you might be better off with a simple wool or shag rug in a neutral shade). By taking stock of what you have and the design style you’re trying to cultivate, you can narrow down what rug styles will work—and which ones just won’t. That said, if you’re starting a room from scratch, you might decide to start with the rug as an inspirational piece that the whole room will revolve around. You’ll be free to select the style of rug you like best—but make sure the rest of the room complements it as your plans come together!

Consider Color

Once you’ve identified a rooms style, take stock of the overall color palette and whether it leans cool, warm or neutral. You guessed it: you’ll want your rug to fit in with the color palette. Luckily, you do have a few options that go with any color scheme. Natural-fiber rugs like jute and sisal tend to work in just about any space; you can also opt for rugs in simple, neutral colors like ivory and beige.

Pattern vs. Texture

Area rugs tend to fall into two broad categories: ones that have pattern, and ones that have texture. Think about it—have you ever seen a heavily patterned jute rug? Probably not. So, if you’re big on patterned rugs, expect to find such patterns in a synthetic or wool weave, or even a cotton kilim. Texture more your thing? Remember those natural fiber rugs, as well as shag and faux fur rugs. One notable exception is a cowhide rug, which offers pattern and texture in spades!

Size Matters

Measure twice, click “purchase” once. A common mistake we see at Havenly is people purchasing area rugs that are too small. In general, most living rooms will benefit from rugs that are either 8×10 or 9×12, while bedrooms will depend more from space to space. Another good rule of thumb is to make sure the rug is large enough that the front legs of any furniture (be it a bed or a sofa) are on the rug. Not all the legs need to get in on the action, but having the furniture partially on the rug will create a grounding, intentional, just-the-right-size look. Bonus: Check out Emily Henderson’s guide on how to choose the right size for your area rug

Pile On

You may have already selected a particular pile based on the other factors above, but if you’re still weighing high- vs. low-pile rugs, it might be helpful to think about your lifestyle. Do you have kids or pets? A low-pile rug may make for easier maintenance. Same goes if the rug will be in a highly trafficked area. If you’re looking to make over a master or guest bedroom, a high-pile rug can add a sense of luxury and drama—and will likely hold up better in these types of rooms compared with a living or family room.

Guarantee you’re snug as a bug in a … you know… by enlisting one of our interior designers to help plan your space. It starts with our interactive interior design quiz.

Words by Sara Watson