5 Foolproof steps for buying a rug

Never buy the wrong rug again with these helpful shopping tips.

t Shopping for a rug can be challenging and confusing especially if you have an awkwardly-shaped room or an unusual mix of furniture. Without the right information, you might end up purchasing a rug that does not fit your space. A rug that is too big will make a room feel cluttered, whereas a rug that is too small will make the furniture seem like it’s floating. Challenges aside, a rug is the finishing touch for almost any room. It ties a space together, adds coziness, and brings in a new color, texture or pattern.

Step 1: Measure your space

t The first step in shopping for a rug is to measure the entire perimeter of the room and write this number down. Let us say that you have a room measuring 12 feet by 16 feet. For a larger space like this, you want the rug to fill up most of the room, otherwise your furniture won’t feel grounded. So here is your rule of thumb: A rug should be about 1 to 2 feet from the wall on every side, consistently. The ideal number is 18 inches from the wall, but there’s a bit of flexibility here if you’re shopping for standard rug sizes. So with a 12-by-16 room, you would want to look for a rug that is 10-by-14. It’s easy math: Subtract 2 feet from both 12 feet and 16 feet and you end up with a rug size of 10 feet by 14 feet. If you’re looking for a custom-size rug, then opt for the 18-inch subtraction method. So your ideal rug size would then be 10.5 feet by 14.5 feet.

t The one exception to this rule is if you have a very small space, and the length of your space is 12 feet or less. In this case, you should look for a rug that is 5 feet by 7 feet or 6 feet by 8 feet. With this type of rug and space, your furniture (except for a coffee table) is either placed outside the perimeter of the rug or placed half on the rug.

tSmall Space Rug

t A 6-by-8-foot rug in a smaller space

Image credit: Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

Step 2: Understanding rug construction

t Once you have your room measured, it is time to begin thinking about the type of rug construction that you want. There are many different types of rugs, and it is important to understand the different construction types, especially if you are purchasing online. There are five rug types: hand-knotted, tufted, hooked, flat-woven, and braided.


  • Hand-knotted rugs are made from a labor-intensive technique in which individual knots are tied together to make up the length of the rug. As more knots are added, the rug becomes more durable (and valuable). When shopping, keep in mind that no two hand-knotted rugs are exactly the same.
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  • Tufted rugs are created with loops of yarn that are pulled through the rug backing. These loops are then cut evenly to create a smooth cut-pile rug. These rugs do tend to shed more, but they are also less expensive due to a faster construction process.
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  • Hooked rugs are made in the same way that tufted rugs are created; the only difference is that the loops are kept intact as opposed to being cut.
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  • Flat-weave rugs do not have a pile or a height to them; these rugs tend to be more durable and less soft. For example, a dhurrie is a flat-weave rug.
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  • Braided rugs are very similar to flat-weave rugs in that they don’t have a pile and are extremely durable due to the braiding process. These rugs are also reversible. Yarn is braided into one continuous rope that is sewn together in a spiral.

tSilk Wool Rug

t A silk and wool patterned rug

Image credit: Victoria Elizabeth Design

Step 3: Choosing a material

t It’s important to choose the right kind of material for your rug to make sure it will work well with your lifestyle. Certain rug materials work best for kids and pets; others work well for frequent furniture rearranging.


  • Wool rugs tend to be stronger and more durable while being soft to touch. However, these rugs are prone to shedding and color fading. Over time the shedding will subside.
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  • Silk is often combined with other rug materials to add sheen and softness. For example, wool and silk are often brought together in rugs. A silk rug combination is great for a more elegant room, such as a dining room. Just beware of stains and footprints, as silk rugs can be harder to clean.
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  • Cotton easily absorbs dyes, which makes cotton great for patterned and colorful rugs. However, cotton rugs can attract dust easily, and they wear quickly since they’re not the most durable.
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  • Natural grass rugs such as jute or sisal are extremely durable and flat-woven. Just keep in mind that since they’re flat-woven, they have a coarser feel and are more prone to stains.
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  • Synthetic rugs include those made with nylon, polypropylene, acrylic and viscose. These rugs are strong, stain-resistant and great for high-traffic areas. Avoid heavier furniture items with these rugs as they can be compressed easily.

tJute Rug

t A jute rug fills a living room, with some spacing between the walls

Image credit: Amy Studebaker

Step 4: Choosing a color and pattern

t If your room needs a burst of color, then a rug is a great way to add it. If you have different colored pieces in your space, a rug can help tie all of these colors together or tone them down. For example, let’s say you have a brown leather sofa, and two green chairs, with navy and green accent pillows. You can look for a rug that has these colors in it. If the furniture colors are more saturated, a neutral rug can be a great way to make them seem less intense.

t Rugs come in a variety of different and fun patterns. If your room has a lot of solid colored pieces in it, then a fun, patterned rug is a great way to spice things up. Or, if you already have a lot of patterns on accent chairs and pillows, for example, look for a rug with less pattern.

tPatterned Rug

t A cut-pile patterned rug adds some depth to a living room

Image credit: Dufner Heighes.


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