How to Choose the Right Area Rug

Since y'all seemed to really enjoy last week's post on how to find affordable abstract art (thanks for the great feedback!), I thought I'd start covering some other common design dilemmas on the blog. This week, we'll chat all about area rugs!

One question I get a lot from clients and friends alike is how do I choose the right rug for my room? Goodness, I could write a novel on this subject since there can be many, many nuances to this decision, but I'm going to try and keep things as simple as possible so we don't get lost in the proverbial weeds. If you have questions after you finish reading the post, let me know in the comments!

Rugs can be a pretty hefty investment, but they can do a great job of pulling a room together, so you want to get it right the first time if possible! If you follow the general guidelines below, you'll be well on your way to picking one that will both look good and serve your needs well into the future. Of course, no design rule is hard and fast, but rules do exist for a reason, so if a rug isn't looking right in your home it may be because it goes against one or more of these guidelines. 

Let's get into it!

The three most important factors to think about when you're choosing a rug are:

  • Size
  • Style
  • Material

Striking a balance between these three things will help guide you toward a rug decision you'll feel good about at the end of the day. Let's talk about each one.

Choose the right size:

Read more about our living room   here  . Rug is from   here * .

Read more about our living room here. Rug is from here*.

In general, I'd say that bigger is usually better. Rugs can be expensive, so folks will sometimes buy a smaller rug in an effort to save some cash, but please don't do that! A well-sized area rug works wonders for a room - in both comfort and style. If there's a rug you absolutely love, but it only comes in a small size, or the larger sizes are cost prohibitive, try layering that one on top of a larger one. I see this a lot with vintage and one-of-a-kind rugs.

The "rules" for choosing the right size rug vary a bit from room to room, so let's talk about three main ones: living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms.

In living rooms, ideally you either have all the legs of your furniture sit on top of the rug (so that you have a "frame" around the seating arrangement), or at a minimum, place the front legs on the rug. A large rug like this helps ground the space and gives everything an anchor. As you can see in our living room above, the front legs of the accent chair are on the rug and the back legs are on the wood floor. Our sofa is completely on the rug. 

In dining rooms, a good rule of thumb is that you want to be able to slide your chair in and out without the back legs leaving the rug. This usually means you need 24-30 inches of rug extending from all sides of the table. There's nothing worse than "picking up" the edge of a rug with your chair legs when you're pulling in your chair at the dinner table, right?! :)

In bedrooms, you have some flexibility. Most commonly, you see a rug placed under a bed so that it forms a "T" with the bed. Another is to use two runners - one on either side. In either case, you want enough rug to be sticking out far enough so that when you walk on it, you can keep both feet on it comfortably (not one foot on the floor, one foot on the rug). More of a numbers person? For a queen bed, use a rug that's at least 6'x9' and for a king, at least 8'x10'.

Last hint: if you're still not sure what size rug you need, try marking out different sizes with painter's tape on the floor.

Choose the right style:

Rugs have the ability to set the tone for a room. One of the first questions to ask yourself is do I want the rug to be the star of the show or more of a supporting actor? Your answer to that will help narrow your options and keep you focused in your search. Maybe you want it to be the focal point, or maybe you want it to fade into the background so that something like a special piece of art can be be the attention-grabber.

Another great question to ask is how do I want the room to feel overall? Cozy? Playful? Formal? Casual? The rug can play a big role in giving off the right vibe for the space.

After you've answered those two questions, then it's time to decide on more specifics like solid vs. pattern, and choosing color(s).

Choose the right material:

Rugs are made from so many materials these days! Traditionally, they've been made out of wool, cotton, and other natural fibers like jute, but now you've also got manmade fibers like polypropylene and acrylic. Unfortunately, there are a lot of low quality, but very pretty rugs out there these days, and it's easy to get sucked into purchasing them. It can be hard to know what you're buying, and price doesn't always correlate with quality (ugh!).

If you want a rug that will last, your best bet is to go with a wool or other natural fiber rug. It will generally serve you well for a long time and stand up to lots of foot traffic. 100% manmade fiber rugs (especially those described as being "power loomed") typically won't last as long and can look cheap, even if they look beautiful online! I'm definitely not saying you should never purchase one of those rugs (in fact, Dash & Albert's indoor/outdoor polypropylene rugs are some of my faves), it's just that it's sometimes difficult to know what you're looking at.

To make sure you're searching for quality construction and good materials, use keywords like woven, or hand-tufted. If you stick to those, you'll be well on your way to finding the right one!

Two other things to consider when it comes to materials are texture and pile. Think about how you want it to feel on your bare feet. Sisal, for example, is quite scratchy, but very durable, while wool is typically softer, but has a coarse feel to it. Pile has to do with the height of the rug off the floor. Personally, I prefer a lower pile rug paired with a thicker rug pad. Rug pads are crucial! They will keep rugs from slipping around and provide extra padding if needed.

Lastly, I feel like I need to make one more disclaimer - I'm a big fan of the idea that sometimes "done" is better than perfect, and that budget is usually the limiting factor at the end of the day. Having a rug at all is better than no rug, so if at the end of all this you end up with an inexpensive, man-made fiber rug in your living room, that's ok! No judgement from me, I promise. My goal is to help you be able to make an informed decision so you're not surprised by something when it arrives at your door. 

So tell me, do you find choosing a rug to be challenging? What tips or tricks have you found that help you pick a good one?

If you want to remember these tips for later, Pin the graphic below! 

Rugs used in graphic from top to bottom:  Cami Tufted Rug ,  Ikat Grey/White Rug  (also used in this  Modern Farmhouse Bedroom ), and  Heirloom Wool Rug

Rugs used in graphic from top to bottom: Cami Tufted Rug, Ikat Grey/White Rug (also used in this Modern Farmhouse Bedroom), and Heirloom Wool Rug


*Affiliate links have been used in this post, which means when you shop through them, I earn a small commission at no cost to you (no markup). Thanks for supporting Mix & Match Design Company in this way!


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