How to Choose the Best Area Rugs for Your Home

Written By: Jen Chinburg

When deployed creatively, the humble area rug has the power to transform any room in your home. In the living room, for example, the best area rugs can serve as a grounding centerpiece to the space or as a complement to the surrounding décor — or both! In this article, we’ll cover how to arrange multiple rugs in one room, how to choose a rug color and some unexpected benefits of decorative rugs (they’re more than just a pretty face!).

We’re also rolling out some area rug ideas and sharing some of the major area rug trends you’ll be seeing in 2021.

The Importance of Area Rugs in Interior Design

First, we’ll dive into what makes area rugs such key commodities for any space in your home.

They divide rooms into sections.

Area rugs define a space and can break up a room into distinct sections. In an open concept home or studio apartment, multiple rugs in one room can separate open spaces into visual “rooms.”

In a large room, you can designate conversation areas by using a different area rug for each space. Feel free to mix and match your rugs here, but make sure they complement each other in color or pattern.

They can complement other colors and materials in the room.

Area rugs are a great way to complement the other colors and textures used in your home. Vibrant or dynamic patterned upholstery plays well with a neutral rug, which will create visual balance. A room with a single color theme calls for a tonal hued rug that may contain different shades falling within the same color family.

They add warmth and texture to a space.

You can easily turn a room cozier with a strategically placed area rug. Rugs with a lot of texture — think farmhouse style rugs like rag rugs — are especially inviting. Not only will the rug lend warmth to the space, but it may even have a grounding effect. An area rug can also act as the textual anchor to the surrounding décor in a room — providing a soft foil to a smooth glass coffee table, for instance.

They’re artwork for the floor.

Who says artwork needs to be limited to the walls? We often see rugs that serve as the main piece of art in a neutral space.

A bold area rug can also elevate the feel of a space. If there’s a room in your house that lacks energy and excitement, don’t be afraid to branch out into bright colors and patterns when selecting a rug.

They absorb sound.

Area rugs are an effective way to reduce sound in any room. Not only are footsteps quieter on carpet, but area rugs will also absorb sound from the air in a way that hard surface floors are not capable of, as sound tends to bounce off hard surfaces. Adding a rug to your space will instantly reduce any echoes or reverberations.

How to Choose & Shop For an Area Rug

Next, we’ll cover some important considerations to take into account when shopping for area rugs.

How much space do you have?  

A common mistake when shopping for area rugs is choosing a rug that is the wrong size for your space. A rug that is too small can make a room feel uninviting, whereas a rug that is too large can make a room feel crowded.

Regardless of the size of the room, there should be approximately four to eight inches of bare floor around all sides of the rug. Make sure the rug is centered and that the distance between the rug and the wall is equivalent on all four sides.

In the living room, a rug should be large enough so that the main pieces of furniture are either all sitting on the rug or at least have their front legs on the rug. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least 24 inches of space between the rug and the edge of the coffee table.

What other colors are in the room?

When shopping for an area rug, consider the other colors present in the room. If a room has neutral walls and furniture, a patterned rug will be a nice touch to add some spark. On the other hand, a solid rug can bring tranquility to a busy, multi-colored room.

How much maintenance can you commit to?

Cleaning and maintenance can be time consuming. It is vital to consider your budget and time for cleaning and maintenance before buying an area rug that requires a significant amount of care.

When shopping for rugs, be sure to check the cleaning instructions. Remember that a solid rug is more likely to show stains while a patterned rug will better mask dirt and damage over time.

What’s the area foot traffic like?

Some rooms may be highways for children, pets and visitors, while others might see less foot traffic. The best carpet for high traffic areas should cover the entire space, as you don’t want to be walking on an uneven surface. The living room is one of the busiest, high-traffic rooms in the home; for this reason, durability should be a priority when selecting an area rug.

Fiber type

We can’t send you off to choose your rug without mentioning the two categories of fibers: natural and synthetic. Natural rug fibers (those that grow in nature) include wool, sisal, cotton, seagrass, jute, silk and coir. Synthetic fibers are those not found in nature. The major types of synthetic fibers in rugs include nylon, polyester, polypropylene (olefin) and triexta.

Natural fibers are typically more environmentally friendly than synthetics, but synthetics take the crown in terms of stain resistance. Synthetic fibers are also easier to maintain, so the busy homeowner may want to take this route for practical reasons.

Fabric weight and pile depth

Carpet face weight refers to the weight of the carpet fibers only, excluding the backing material. A higher face weight will usually indicate higher quality when all other aspects of the carpet are equal (made from the same fiber, constructed in same style, have the same twist, etc.)

Pile is the term used for the density of the fibers and is either flat (short pile) or shaggy (long pile). The pile depth will determine the comfort of the carpet, how it feels on the feet and its risk of wear and tear. Short pile rugs are easy to vacuum and will last a longer, whereas long pile rugs will feel softer and more luxurious but are tough to clean and are more likely to show indentations from furniture.

Area Rug Design Ideas by Room

Time for the fun part – designing! Here we will take you room by room and explain the best ways to integrate rugs into your space.

Living Room Rug Ideas

In the living room, an area rug can either be the starting point or the final piece that brings everything together. To unify your space, have the front legs of your couch or chairs sit on the rug and overlap by a minimum of eight to twelve inches.

The living room generally sees a lot of foot traffic, so choosing the right rug for your space is essential. A high pile makes for the best living room rugs, as it lends a plush and fluffy look while adding extra cushion under your feet. (Just be prepared for maintenance.)

As the seasons change, so might your living room rug. You may want to try a warm-toned Oriental area rug in the fall and winter and switch out for a lighter cotton dhurrie when the summertime rolls around.

Study/Office Rug Ideas

Did you know that color can influence productivity, concentration and creativity? It is for this reason that a study or office space calls for patterns and colors that are conducive to concentration. Rugs containing low wavelength colors like green are shown to promote restfulness and calm and thus improve efficiency and focus.

As for size, make sure that the area rug covers the floor beneath both the desk and your chair’s typical range of motion. This will prevent tripping and minimize any wear from your chair repeatedly rolling over the edges of the rug.

Dining Room Rug Ideas

The best design strategy for a dining room rug is to match the shape of the rug to the shape of the room. The rug should be centered directly underneath the dining room table, typically with 30 inches of excess on all sides. Try to leave enough room so that dining chairs are easily pulled out while remaining on the rug. It also helps to have a low pile rug in this room to aid in easy clean-up.

Rugs.com suggests using patterns of any kind (in the texture of the weave or in the design itself) in the dining room for both practical (i.e., hiding small stains) and decorative purposes.

Bedroom Rug Ideas

In the bedroom, centering the rug underneath the bed will create a sense of calm. The bedroom rug should either stop short of the main paths of travel or extend past them to ensure that you are never walking on the edge. Also, don’t forget to make sure your door can swing easily over the rug!

We recommend a high pile, plush rug in the bedroom so that your first morning footsteps always land softly. As for style, the same rules apply – read the room and decide if the rug needs to ease back the busy surroundings or add a bold pop.

Bathroom Rug Ideas

A typical bathroom is smaller with a unique layout compared to other rooms in your home, so we suggest that you opt for an area rug of smaller dimensions that is easy to clean. Synthetic materials are best here for their strength, durability and stain resistance.

Area Rug Trends for 2021

Looking for the best living room rugs? Here are some trends that we predict will be popular in 2021.

Ruggable

Ruggable has taken area rug innovation to new heights. Their patented rug system comes in two pieces. The top piece is the lightweight rug cover which is attached by Velcro to a thicker nonslip rug pad. Their low-pile and lightweight Rug Cover is stain-resistant, water-resistant and engineered to fit in any home washing machine. If you want to switch up your rug style, it’s as easy as peeling the Rug Cover from the nonslip Rug Pad and reattaching another cover. The design options are endless! Ruggable has recently introduced a line of high pile rugs as well, so you can have luxurious softness and durability in one great package.

Carpet Tiles

As rug designs trend toward a more modern look, carpet tiles are stealing the show in many spaces. Carpet tiles give you the freedom to build the perfect area rug for your particular space. They are a great option to fit unusually shaped spaces such as under a desk. Believe it or not, carpet tiles are actually more durable than many traditional carpets.

Carpet tiles also allow you to easily replace specific areas that become damaged by spills and stains. Spill a glass of wine that splashes onto just a few tiles? Just swap out the tarnished carpet tiles for new ones!

Plush Rugs

The COVID-19 pandemic opened the door for plush rugs to make a major comeback, as people have been spending more time at home and want their spaces to be cozy and comforting. We expect to see a ton of new plush rugs options and designs in the coming year.

How to Clean & Maintain Your Area Rug

Cleaning and maintenance are crucial for your rugs’ appearance and longevity. Here are some basic cleaning and maintenance tips to extend the lifespan of your rugs, as recommended by The Spruce.

Protect your rugs from insects.

Moths and carpet beetles are common and can cause severe damage to rugs. To prevent insect damage, take a vacuum to your area rugs at least once every week. Every few months flip the rug and vacuum the underside. Make sure to also sweep or mop the floor beneath the rug completely clean before placing it back down.

Choose stain-resistant materials.

If you know that your rug will be in an ongoing battle against pets, children and spills, you may want to choose a stain-resistant material. Polypropylene, wool, nylon, cotton and seagrass are the most stain-resistant materials that you can find for area rugs.

Treat pet stains effectively.

Accidents happen! To treat pet stains, start by lightly sprinkling the damaged area with club soda and a white vinegar solution. Blot until dry and repeat these steps until both odor and residue are completely eliminated.

Protect your rugs from direct light.

Ultraviolet light that shines directly on your rug can lead fade the color over time. To reduce the strength of UV rays striking your rug, try applying a UV reduction film over your windows or replacing glass windows with UV protective panels. A lower-cost option is to use sheer curtains to soften direct sunlight.

Act fast to treat everyday spills.

Time is of the essence when it comes to treating everyday spills. Even if it’s just plain water, you should still take action quickly! The best method is to simply blot the spill with a dry cloth until the liquid is completely soaked up.

For more harmful spills such as coffee or wine, sprinkle the area with room temperature club soda and then blot with a dry cloth. If you don’t have club soda, mix a cup of warm water with a capful of white vinegar to use instead. It’s important to avoid rubbing the stain, as this could push the stain even deeper into the rug fibers.

Unfortunately, sometimes stickier things like chewing gum, wax or lipstick get stuck in your rug. To remove something adhesive, start by applying an ice cube and then scrape with a spoon once the substance hardens. In some cases, an acetone such as nail polish remover can be used, but first test a small area of the carpet to ensure that you won’t damage the color.