How to Choose an Area Rug

I have received a few emails asking about area rugs so here are 10 guidelines to follow:

Taylor Howes Design

1. Unless you are getting one custom made, rugs usually come in standard sizes; 4 x 6, 5 x 8, 6 x 9, 8 x 10, 9 x 12, 12 x 14, I’m sure I’ve missed a few but these are pretty common in most stores.

Before you go shopping, take out your measuring tape and find out which one would be the best size for your space. Now that you know the standard sizes, it makes it easier to measure for each one to find out.

2. If your furniture is arranged in a square or your living room is a square shape, (unless you want to order one custom made) find some broadloom that you like and get it cut and bound to size. Just know that most of it comes maximum 12 ft wide (check, they do vary in width). You won’t want a seam in an area rug.

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3. I have spoken to clients that say they have brought carpets home to try for years and never found the right one. Obviously if you are starting without furniture (which in a perfect world is what you should do) it won’t be that difficult; however if you need to coordinate with your existing furniture DO NOT leave home without a cushion (or fabric) from your sofa and chairs.

Having the fabric can work well but if you have a hard time visualizing, better to bring the entire cushion or take the foam out to make it easier but this way you have a larger piece of fabric to look at in the showroom!

If the carpet is hanging up in the showroom, ask the clerk to take it down, the colour of the rug can change dramatically and you want to see what it will look like on the floor, NOT hanging up.

It’s much easier to see which one will work in your home if you have all the important coordinating fabrics with you.

Mabley Handler Interior Design

Price is not the biggest indication of whether it will look wonderful or not. I have picked out a $1,000 rug from the sale section and a $10,000 rug [which my client was prepared to buy if it worked] and it ended up the cheaper one looked the best.

However, the point I’m making is, I have rarely failed (in one trip) to select the right area rug because I had all these items with me. Being able to see the undertones in a rug certainly goes a long way to knowing whether it will work in the space as well (of course).

If you can’t take it with you, get the closest match to a paint chip and then paint up a larger sample so you have the colour with you!

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4. Which size is right for your space? This isn’t standard and depends on the arrangement of the room; however you don’t want your area rug to look like an island in the middle of the room.

It is okay to have one that is on the edge of your furniture feet or even right under them but it depends on your furniture. If you have a lot of leggy furniture and a large room than it may need to be defined with the area rug itself, like in this photo below:

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5. Some stores offer a service where they will deliver the rugs and even lay them out for you in the hopes of selling it! Check to see if that option is available in your area.
6. Never buy a rug without trying it at home first. Or at least if you are 99% sure it will work, never agree to a final sale without knowing if it will work at home. May I take this on approval? is the question and the only way designers do business (which most stores understand).

Some stores might not want to put the charge through until it is a final sale, therefore they will require your credit card and a phone call the next day to confirm that you will be keeping the rug.

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7. If you are installing one in your dining room, make sure it is a minimum of 2 feet larger than than the table going all the way around.

8. Even if you can’t see the dining room from the living room, in the interest of creating flow, the rugs should coordinate in some way. If they are right beside each other and you are doing broadloom, they should be the same, however I would not buy two matching persian rugs (in most cases) as I think that is too contrived. The dining room could have more pattern and the living room less as a guideline.

9. Sometimes you can get away with a smaller rug in the bedroom if you want to step out of bed onto cozy not cold. Just position it lengthwise underneath the bed (like this one below).

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10. Don’t forget one on the kitchen or at least right by the kitchen sink where you spend the most time!
**Tip from the comments, to determine the size lay out the room with towels, that is a good idea and using green painters tape works too! I used tape when working with a client to determine whether an area rug or cut and bound broadloom for the entire room was required.

Hopefully this helps! There are a lot of living rooms out there without a warm and cozy rug to define the space so get shopping 🙂

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  1. I've been rug shopping with Maria and it's a breathtaking experience, not to be missed. I thought I would never part with my teensy (5×7) Killam wool rug but she had different ideas and, of course, she was right! Within about 7 minutes, with my velvet couch cushion in hand, she had a great big carpet for my living room and a smaller one for my dining area. I love them both and have had so many compliments. You rock, Maria. Love Gloria

  2. Between you, me and the Fencepost

    Gloria, I agree. Shopping for area rugs with Maria is wonderful. There is nothing like shopping with an expert. While I hum and haw over every decision she knows immediately what works and what doesn't. Maria you are like Anthony the Stylist that was shopping for Charlottes' wedding dress in 'Sex in the City' but better! "Next" !

  3. Great post Maria. One thing I must add for a dining room rug. Better to choose a carpet a minimum of 3 feet larger than the table. When you get up from the table and push the chair back you need roughly a minimum of 3 feet of space around the table to do so–ergonomically speaking. If the carpet is smaller the chair legs always catch on the edge of it…irritating to struggle with and damaging to the carpet. A 2 foot radius would look good with the chairs tucked away but not so great when they are in use.
    Gorgeous photos you chose. Cheers!!

  4. I have been searching for an area rug for 8 months now and I finally decided to have one custom cut from carpet. I needed a size that I could not find stock. I have a small living room and I wanted one that almost filled the room, but left 6 inches of hardwood at the edges. The price for the custom cut and serged 100% carpet ended up cheaper than a similar sized rug from Pottery Barn.

  5. Just wondering what type of rug to choose to go over carpet. We have a dark brown carpet in our living areas up stairs, but would like to add some personality to our very long Lounge and Dining Room. We want to do this to protect the carpet flooring as well as for looks. Everything I find is about carpet over wooden floors. Any advice?

  6. Hi Wendy,
    I would chose a carpet that will not wrinkle which means it should not be just a kilim or something thin or you will be constantly straightening it out.
    Something light to coordinate with your decor is what it sounds like you need to go on top of brown broadloom.
    Hope this helps,
    Maria

  7. Hey Maria! I have a tan looking couch and a dark brown dining table with brown chairs and the same tan looking cushions. The paint color of my apartment is beige walls and the tiles are natural shades between tan and beige . So I decided to break it up with a light turquoise blue for my decorations . What color rugs should I use for both the dining and the living room ? Because they are right next to each other.

  8. I never even thought to bring a piece of fabric / cushion to the store with me when looking for a new rug. And you’re right, if I could do it all over again I’d certainly find a rug FIRST rather than trying to make it fit with the rest of the room afterwards. I’ll know for next time…

  9. I am curious about which material is best – wool vs polypropylene vs sisal. We have a husky and a 3 yr old so sisal although i love it is out. But the wool vs poly not so sure. I don’t want alot of off-gasing, I like natural materials over synthetics but is wool totally unpractical with young kids in the house?