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How to Choose The Right Area Rug


Imagine moving to a new home or redesigning your current space. You have the style and furniture all figured out and everything is in place. Except that your floors are bare. An area rug brings together a space just like a frame completes a photograph. A rug defines the space you sit and eat. It outlines the area you mingle and entertain your guests. It is where you play with your kids or four-legged friends (before things get out of hand). The area rug can also bring some design inspiration. It can soften hardwood floors or an industrial design. The right color and pattern could tone down or jazz up your room. Choosing the right area rug can make a huge difference in a space. If you are hunting for a new rug, you don’t have to be an interior designer to select the right one. If finding a rug feels overwhelming to you, we’ll break it down into simple steps to help you choose the right area rug. 

1. Pick the room for an area rug


Before you start browsing online and getting lost into thousands of rug options, start with the room that needs an area rug. Below are some tips to keep in mind for each room.

  • Living rooms: Standard sizes such as 9x12, 10x14, 12x15 work well for most living rooms.
  • Bedrooms: For your bedroom, make sure your rug extends 36 inches around your bed. This applies to most King or Queen-sized beds. Keep in mind that your rug should not touch the walls of your bedroom. This just does not look good from a design point of view. For a better look in your bedroom, just keep 5 inches clear between the walls and the edge of the rug.
  • Hallways: Hallways are great for an area rug. If your hallway is hardwood floors or tiles, an area rug will soften it well. It’s easiest to browse through any runners collection to pick a rug for your hallway. Since this is a high-traffic area in your home, you’ll need to shake an entryway rug frequently. Make sure you pick something light weight. Your back will thank me later.  

2. Measure your space for an area rug


Now that you picked the room, it’s time to measure it. Think of an area rug as a country map. It defines a space by showing where it begins and where it ends. The area rug grounds the space, which is why getting the right size is super important. Rugs come in many different sizes. At first you might feel you are way over your head finding the right rug size and that’s okay. Here are a few suggestions for picking the right rug size:

  • When measuring your space, take into account not only the actual measurements but also your furniture configuration and how you envision the placement of your rug. The best rug for your space will be the one that considers the room type, size and furniture placement. More specifically, how much area you would like to keep covered versus how much area you’d like to stay exposed. Below we give specific examples of covering areas versus keeping them exposed. For areas with no furniture like hallways, we give some suggestions below as well.
  • Make sure you measure 4 to 6 inches from the end or legs of your furniture to include that extra space into your overall room measurements. 
  • If you are placing a rug under a dining room table, you’ll need 36 inches from the table edge to the edge of the rug.
  • For hallways, pick an area rug that is almost as long as your hallway. As for the rug width, there is no standard. Just keep 3 to 6 inches on the sides visible in your hallway.
  • You can always get a custom size rug based on your measurements but if you’re on a budget, stick to the industry standards for rug sizes. 

3. Pick the right material for an area rug


This depends on how you will use the rug as well as the area it will be placed. What you need to consider here is whether the area rug will have to endure high traffic (kids, pets, work spaces) or low traffic (your bedroom area).

There are different types of rug materials but the two main choices are: 

  • Synthetics (polyester, nylon, olefins / manmade fibers)  
  • Natural materials/fibers (wool, silk, jute, cotton, rayon and silk blends).

Wool rugs are the premium choice but for that reason they tend to be pricey.

Silk is much more affordable but it is usually disposable. This makes it a good choice for kitchens and similar high traffic areas where accidents can happen.

Natural materials such as jute are relatively well priced. While they stain more, they are easy to clean and they actually require less maintenance.  Given their wearability, rugs made of natural materials are a great option for high traffic areas. Here is what you need to know about jute rugs if you decide to pick one for your space. 

4. Choose the right construction for an area rug


This boils down to what you will use the area rug for. But first, here are the main options you get to pick from:

  • Flat weaves
  • Low piles
  • Medium piles
  • Berbers - loop construction
  • Cut and loop - Tufted and loop construction
  • Carved carpets
  • Woven
  • Animal hides
  • Carpet tiles
  • Shags 


Flat weaves and low piles are great for high traffic areas simply because they’ll be much easier to clean. Medium and high pile rugs will be good for low traffic areas for the opposite reason.

For example, low pile or flat weave works great for performance oriented areas like your entryway.

On the other hand, shags are super long-pile, so you can only use them in specific low traffic areas such as your bedroom. Speaking of bedrooms, wool and silk shags are an excellent choice for a master bedroom - a room that can get the extra glam without you stressing over high traffic damage.

Carpet tiles are another option you have for high traffic areas. They are made of synthetic materials and they are very durable. Squares can be easily replaced when damaged, which makes them perfect for children’s play rooms, garages, and work spaces. 

Synthetic materials also work best for dining rooms given the expected wear and tear.

Now that you have the basics (and your floors) covered (all pun intended), below are a few additional recommendations to keep in mind.  

Additional Recommendations:


  • Special home areas - if you have an area in your home for an instrument like a piano, for example, an area rug would be an excellent choice. A rug underneath big instruments helps tremendously with acoustics and keeping the floors intact.
  • Rug pads - Except for deep pile or shag rugs, almost all area rugs need a non-skid or slip-proof rug pad underneath it to keep the rug in place and add extra softness.  


  • Pick the room that needs an area rug
  • Measure it
  • Select the right material 
  • Pick the right construction 

These are some of the fundamentals in choosing the right area rug. Use this guidance as a simple Rug Buying Guide when choosing the right area rug for your home. 


Now I want to hear from you. Have you ever purchased an area rug that was not the right choice for your space? What went wrong? Was it the wrong rug size, different color or something else? Let me know in the comments. I will read every single one of them.

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