Area Rugs Informational Guide

Area Rugs Informational Guide

Change a room’s complexion with a simple addition
Area rugs do much more than simply cover your floors. They offer both comfort and style, and with the right positioning, can alter the entire appearance of a room. Standard rectangular rugs provide both utility and elegance while circular and octagonal rugs add a unique look. There are a wide range of sizes and styles available in a variety of colors and patterns, so you’re sure to find one perfectly suited to any room or living space in your home. Area rugs can be constructed from a number of different materials as well, giving you even more choices. Selecting the perfect area rug can be simple with the following questions:

  • How large should your area rug be?
  • What style is best suited to the room?
  • What colors and patterns will help you achieve desired effects?
  • What purpose will the area rug serve?
  • What type of fiber is best?

Size, Style, Fiber and Care

When purchasing a large, room-sized rug, it’s a good idea to select the rug first and then the furniture, drapes and other features. Large rugs can dominate your room, so it’s important that the rest of the room match accordingly to avoid discordance. Smaller rugs should be selected to match existing décor as much as possible. When choosing a color, darker hues help create a cozy, more intimate feel while lighter colors complement open spaces and make smaller rooms feel more spacious. Rugs are available in a wide range of prices, offering decorative and utilitarian flooring solutions for all budget levels. Cost is largely determined by the materials used and the manner in which it was constructed and how large it is. Rugs made of synthetic materials are normally less expensive than those constructed of natural fibers. Similarly, handmade rugs are more expensive than those made via machine. Remember, the larger the carpet, the higher the price, so determine what your price range is, and then purchase the highest-quality rug you can afford. Consider such factors as durability, stain resistance and other important features when making your selection.

Size: It’s important to choose a rug that’s neither too large nor too small for a room. Scatter rugs are typically 2? x 4? and are used in bathrooms and kitchens as well as entryways. Runners are long, narrow rugs that are perfect for hallways and areas such as foyers and kitchens where you want to define traffic flow. Use 3? x 5? or 4? x 6? accent rugs to define nooks or other special areas. Room-size, or room-fit, rugs are most commonly found in 5? x 8? or 6? x 9? sizes. These and are ideal for general decorating purposes in dens, living rooms and family rooms. to provide a stylish accent or to add comfort and warmth to the floor.

  • Scatter rugs can be used to accent chairs, small tables and shelving
  • Runners often measure 2? x 8? and can be used to hide worn paths
  • Place accent rugs in foyers and entryways to help protect floors from dirt and moisture
  • Look for rugs that are 8? x 11?, 9? x 12?, 10? x 13? or bigger for large and oversized rooms
  • Measure the size of the room before making your purchase to avoid a poor fit

Style: Area rugs come in a variety of styles, with options to match any décor. Traditional rugs, which are often mistaken for true Oriental rugs, are most often rectangular, but can be found in other shapes, such as ovals or octagons. They typically have a fringed edge and come in numerous colors, patterns and designs. True Oriental rugs are woven or knotted by hand using wool or silk fibers. They feature unique and ornate patterns that can serve as a showpiece for any room. Persian rugs usually have a central medallion framed by an intricate border. Both Oriental and Persian rugs are ideal for formal areas such as dining rooms, living rooms and sitting areas. American rugs feature patterns based on colonial styles and work well with traditional, country and casual décor. Dhurrie rugs are economical and are available in a wide range of colors, particularly pastels. Border rugs are rectangular and feature large, solid fields surrounded by textured or patterned borders. They don’t usually have fringe and are well suited for use under a dining room table or in a foyer.

  • Each style is available in a wide range of prices, from machine-made synthetics to hand-knotted wool
  • Handmade rugs usually require a larger up-front investment but they offer a unique design and are heirlooms
  • Machine-made rugs are economical and stylish with precise patterns
  • Oriental rugs are made from wool or silk and add a beautiful focal point in any room
  • Southwest-style rugs work well with casual, rustic and contemporary furnishings
  • Contemporary-style rugs are ideal for complementing modern or eclectic décor


Fiber: Choosing either a natural or synthetic fiber depends on the style of the rug and how much traffic you expect to have in the area. Cost will be a factor as well, as some materials are more expensive than others. Fibers may be either staple fibers, which use short lengths of fiber and may shed initially, or bulk continuous filament (BCF), which uses continuous strands of fiber and does not shed or fuzz. Use the chart below to learn about the different fibers available to you and their defining characteristics.


Fiber Type Composition Benefits, Uses and Points to Consider
Cotton Natural
  • Durable
  • Soft feel
  • Wide range of colors
  • Ideal for high-traffic areas
Jute Natural
  • Beautiful natural coloring
  • Suited for low-traffic areas
  • Soft feel
  • Should not be placed under furniture
Nylon Synthetic
  • Strong and resilient
  • Ideal for high-traffic areas
  • Stands up to heavy furniture
  • Conceals and resists stains and soil
  • Available in many colors
Polyester Synthetic
  • Retains color clarity
  • Easy to clean
  • Provides a plush feel
  • Ideal for living areas
Polypropylene (Olefin) Synthetic
  • Easy to clean
  • Resists moisture and mildew
  • Best for low-traffic areas
  • Colorfast
  • May be used outdoors
Sea Grass Natural
  • Easy to clean
  • Should not be placed under furniture
  • Natural coloring provides a rustic look
  • Well suited to high-traffic areas
Silk Natural
  • May provide highlights in wool rugs
  • High luster
  • Soft feel
  • Best for low-traffic areas
Sisal Natural
  • Strong
  • Ideal for high-traffic areas
  • Best for indoor use
  • Coarse texture
Wool Natural
  • Provides a luxurious feel
  • Soft and thick
  • Strong, resilient and static-resistant
  • Perfect for high-traffic areas
  • May shed when new

Care: Area rugs can be a big investment, so it’s important to properly care for them to ensure long life. Vacuum high-traffic areas frequently, and don’t forget to vacuum less frequently used areas on occasion as well. Clean spills quickly by blotting rather than rubbing and scrubbing. If you have a particularly expensive rug, consider a professional cleaning periodically. Use a pad underneath, particularly on hard floors. This will help prevent slipping as well as provide greater comfort. If you don’t use a pad, be sure that rug corners are out of the way in high-traffic areas.

  • Rotate rugs every 6-12 months to prevent uneven wear
  • Check the back of rugs periodically to prevent damage from moths and carpet beetles
  • Pads help prevent dyes and colors from rugs bleeding through to the floor below


Nonskid Backing: This is a particularly important feature for scatter rugs placed in the bathroom. Rugs with nonskid backing won’t slide out from underneath you when you step on them, even if the floor beneath them is very smooth.

Rug Pad: Each rug should be purchased with a corresponding rug pad. Just like carpet padding, rug pads help extend the life of your rug by keeping it in place while providing extra cushion and insulation. They also prevent moisture and spills from seeping through the carpet to the surface below and staining the floor.

Resilience: Resilience measures how well fibers bounce back from crushing and the weight of heavy furniture. Look for rugs with high resilience if you plan to place them underneath furniture or in high-traffic areas.

Stain Resistance: Some rugs are specially treated to prevent stains, an important characteristic for rugs in frequently used rooms or if you have children in the house.

Soiling: If you’re placing a rug in a high-traffic area, choose one that hides soil well. Darker colors and stain-resistant fibers are best at hiding and resisting soil and dirt.

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