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How to

Choose the Right Rug for Any Room

How to Choose the Right Rug for Any Room

When it comes to quickly updating the look of your room, it’s hard to top the power of area rugs. These multifunctional pieces fit so many roles, from providing the ideal foundation for your room’s design to adding the finishing touch that pulls the whole room together. Choosing an area rug that complements your style is easy, but choosing the rug to set the tone for your space depends on a variety of factors, including the room itself. Colors, textures and patterns offer a good starting point, but it’s helpful to go beyond that and consider size, shape and layout. With these tips, you can reinvent your favorite living spaces with the ideal rug.

Consider the Layout of Your Room

Area rugs can tie your furniture layout together to create a sense of cohesion and continuity, or they can define independent areas. Before you start shopping, assess your design goals to choose the best rug for the space. For example, if you want to anchor the furniture in the room and create an elegant, traditional look, arrange the furniture with all legs planted firmly on the rug.

For a fresh, contemporary look, consider placing your rug in the center of your furniture with no furniture legs resting on the area rug. Arrange your seating before measuring carefully to calculate the length and width of the rug that will work best in your space. If there’s a doorway nearby, consider the clearance that the door may need to swing open and shut.

Rugs work well when they’re as large as possible within the used area of the room, which is usually the seating area. Give yourself a little time to play around with the layout by marking off the floor with masking tape or laying a sheet on the floor to envision how the rug and the arrangement will look. Rooms that typically have rugs include:

      Living areas: If your living room layout features furniture backing up to a wall, place a square or rectangular rug in the center of the room and arrange chairs, sofas and other pieces around the rug’s edges.

      Hallways: Add long, narrow rugs in the center of the walkway.

      Kitchens: Use small area rugs in front of the sink, or situate narrow rugs and runners between counters.

      Dining rooms: Situate rugs with the dining table centered and 24" on all sides to accommodate chairs.

      Bedrooms: Place rugs with two-thirds of the bed on top and 36" all around.

      Study: Choose a large area rug that’s big enough fit the entire desk, chair and other essential furniture to create a comfortable work area.

      Entryway: Center round rugs under a light fixture to create a cozy entrance.

Decide on a Shape and Size

Shape and size are two key factors in choosing a rug for each space. The size helps balance the room, while the shape complements the square footage of the room or the lines of the furnishings. Get the most out of your area rug by choosing one large enough for the main furnishings to fit on or around while leaving a perimeter of 8" of bare floor for small rooms and 18" for large rooms.

Shapes are another way to set the tone of the room. Before deciding on the shape of the area rug, consider the following tips:

      Round: These area rugs work well in rounded rooms or with circular furnishings. Round rugs typically make a small space feel larger and add a cozy feeling to the room. Standard sizes range from 4' to 8' in diameter, with oversize options of 12' or larger.

      Square: Popular in square rooms or paired with square tables, these area rugs work well in living areas, dining areas and outdoors to add a modern look. Standard sizes range from 4' to 8' long and wide, with oversize options of 12' or larger.

      Rectangle: Rectangular rugs add traditional appeal to any room, and they’re particularly well suited to larger spaces, including living and dining areas, patios, bedrooms and studies. Long, narrow rectangles work well in entryways, kitchens and halls, while smaller rectangles work well as throw rugs beside beds, in front of kitchen sinks or in bathrooms. Standard sizes range from 2' by 3' to 12' by 14'. Most hallway runner rugs are 2.5' wide by 8', 9' or 10' long.

Live in a Material World

The material of your area rug impacts everything from how it feels underfoot to how well it can hold up to heavy foot traffic. Common rug materials include wool, silk, cotton, natural fibers and synthetics. Each material has its own benefits to consider:


Wool is one of the most popular rug materials. It offers a combination of softness and durability, making it a good option for high-traffic areas, living rooms and dining rooms. It doesn’t do well in direct sunlight or damp places. Although they’re relatively easy to maintain with vacuums and carpet sweepers, wool fibers absorb much more water than cotton and synthetics do. These rugs aren’t as easy to move around and dry after an at-home shampooing, which is why it’s a wise idea to entrust wool carpet-cleaning duties to a pro.


When you want luxury, this is a great option. Silk adds incomparable softness and subtle shimmer that’s ideal in low-traffic areas such as the bedroom. It requires professional cleaning, so it’s not ideal for anywhere prone to spills or dirt, like a dining room or entryway.


Soft like wool, but not as durable, this popular material provides a nice feeling underfoot and is easy to clean. It’s often used to make flat-weave rugs such as kilims and dhurries, which are ideal for casual spaces, kids’ rooms and kitchens.

Natural Fiber

Typically made from jute, sisal or sea grass, these area rugs often work well both indoors and outdoors, thanks to their durability. Natural fiber rugs are very strong, and they come in a variety of neutral colors and rich textures. Some natural fiber rugs can be coarse, which makes them difficult to clean.


Synthetics such as polypropylene, nylon and viscose mimic the feeling of natural fibers with added durability. They’re very family-friendly, easy to clean and versatile, making them ideal for indoor use in high-traffic areas such as halls and entryways. Many synthetic options are also ideal for use outdoors because they repel moisture.

Coordinate Colors

There aren’t any right or wrong choices when it comes to colors and patterns for your area rugs! This is your chance to get creative and let your area rug express your personality and flair for design, while tying together various design elements within the space. For room-by-room examples, consider the following tips:

      Bedrooms: Create your own sanctuary with light, serene colors that establish a peaceful, retreat-like atmosphere.

      Living Rooms, Studies and Dining Rooms: Choosing a rug that has a similar motif or color scheme to your wall art and furnishings creates cohesion, while bold, contrasting colors gives a room a bright, eclectic feel.

      Entryways: Set the tone for the rest of your home with area rugs that reflect your style. For example, you could add a mix of colors and intriguing patterns with an Oriental or Persian rug.

      Bathrooms: Add warmth with rich colors and subtle patterns, or keep it light and clean with a solid rug in cool shades of blue and gray.

      Outside: Go bright and bold to accent an otherwise neutral seating area. Subtler shades and geometric patterns work well for outdoor rugs that are mostly uncovered by outdoor furniture.

Accessories and Safety Features

Rug pads are the unsung heroes of your area rugs. You might be tempted to skip these extras, but they serve several important purposes. Rug pads for hardwood floors and tile floors help minimize slipping and shifting to keep the rug in place. They also prevent dirt particles and wet spills from damaging the floor beneath the area rug while extending the life of the rug itself.

When you want a little extra plushness or added sound dampening, opt for a premium rug pad, which is thicker than a standard pad and ideal for bedrooms, studies and living areas. Keep your outdoor rug fresher with an outdoor rug pad designed to withstand the elements while reducing the area rug’s drying time and preventing mold and mildew formation.

Make It Your Own

Your home, your rules! These tips are a great place to start, but it’s ultimately best to choose what’s right for you and your family. Whether you want something minimal and traditional or something brilliant and bold, rugs help you find a way to express your personality and taste. They make your home your own while enhancing each room’s functionality and comfort.