Choosing the perfect area rug to anchor your living room, bedroom, or other space can seem daunting. With so many sizes, shapes, colors and materials to pick from, it’s tough to know where to start. But armed with the right information, you can confidently select an area rug that pulls your entire room together.

Do You Really Need an Area Rug?

An area rug can completely transform the look and feel of any room. Here are some of the benefits of using one:

  • Defines Spaces: Area rugs help delineate different zones within an open floor plan. They instantly differentiate a living room from a dining area for example.
  • Adds Warmth: Bare floors can feel cold and echoey. An area rug makes rooms feel cozier and more inviting. The padding also helps absorb sound.
  • Protects Floors: Rugs protect hardwood, laminate and other flooring from scratches, scuffs and everyday wear and tear.
  • Finishes a Room: The right area rug can pull together a room’s decor and serve as a focal point. It helps anchor and unify your furnishings.

So unless you have wall-to-wall carpeting, an area rug is a great way to add color, texture and personality to your space.

Determine the Right Size Rug

One of the most important factors in choosing an area rug is getting the size right. Here are some general size guidelines:

  • For living rooms, go for an area rug that is big enough so that the front legs of major seating rest on the rug. Make sure there is at least 18-24 inches of bare floor showing on all sides.
  • For dining rooms, choose a rug that can fit under the table and allow chairs to be pushed back from the table while remaining on the rug. There should be at least 18-24 inches bare floor on all sides.
  • For bedrooms, you want at least 18-24 inches of bare floor showing on either side of the bed. Make sure there is enough rug on both sides for your feet to touch when getting out of bed.
  • For entries, hallways and high-traffic paths, make sure the rug is big enough to contain the full swing of any doors and allow adequate furniture clearance.

Take exact room measurements before rug shopping so you can visualize sizes and layouts. Many retailers also offer sizing guides and tools online.

Select the Right Shape

Beyond traditional rectangles, there are no hard and fast rules on rug shapes. Feel free to get creative! Here are some popular options:

  • Rectangular: The most common and versatile shape that works well in hallway spaces or areas with minimal furnishings.
  • Round: A round rug softens the edges of a room and adds a traditional, elegant look.
  • Oval: Perfect for defining sitting areas or bringing visual interest to a boring square room.
  • Octagon: Adds a contemporary vibe and can be rotated to fit a space. Great for large rooms.
  • Runner: Long and narrow, ideal for hallways, stairs and galley kitchens.

Consider the room’s dimensions, traffic patterns and arrangement of furniture when selecting a shape. Be sure to give yourself enough bare floor border on all sides.

Determine Which Fibers Work Best

With so many rug materials available, deciding on the right fibers comes down to the rug’s intended use and your own lifestyle. Here’s an overview of popular options:

  • Wool – Naturally stain resistant, durable and comfortable underfoot. Best for high traffic areas.
  • Cotton – Provides a soft, flat woven surface. Prone to staining so best for low-traffic rooms.
  • Jute – Eco-friendly, woven material with a casual, rustic vibe. Not as durable as other fibers.
  • Silk – Luxurious and delicate. Adds elegance but requires special care.
  • Sisal – Natural fiber made from agave plants. Has an organic, beachy look but can be scratchy.
  • Synthetic – Rugs made from polyester, nylon, acrylic or viscose are budget-friendly. Watch for pilling.

Take into account your home’s needs, color scheme and style when choosing rug fibers. A combination of natural and synthetic fibers can provide the best of both worlds.

Factor in Your Rug’s Pile Height

The pile of an area rug refers to the length of the fibers that stand up from the rug’s backing. Pile height dramatically affects the look and feel of a rug. Consider these general guidelines:

  • Low pile (1/4″ or less) – Best for high-traffic areas since they won’t show footprints. Easy to clean.
  • Medium pile (1/2″–3/4″) – Provides cushioning underfoot. Durable and versatile for most spaces.
  • High pile (over 1″) – Plush and indulgent feel. Not ideal for dining rooms or busy areas since fibers can crush.
  • Shag or long pile – Makes a bold, retro statement. Requires frequent vacuuming.

The right pile height depends on your home’s needs and style. Make sure to touch and feel rug samples before purchasing.

Shop For the Best Quality Within Your Budget

Since area rugs receive so much wear, it pays to invest in the highest quality you can afford. Telltale signs of quality include:

  • Tightly woven fibers that won’t shed or pill
  • Durable backing material that lays flat
  • Even dyeing without color variations
  • Finished edges that won’t fray
  • A rug pad for hard floors

Well-made rugs last for years and become more beautiful as they age. Set a budget upfront and look for retailers with a wide selection of styles and price points. Watch for sales to get quality rugs at a discount.

Pull It All Together with the Right Style

Choosing a rug style that aligns with your home’s aesthetic is key to tying a room together. Consider these tips:

  • Modern spaces – Graphic monochromatic patterns, colorful abstract designs, geometric motifs
  • Rustic/farmhouse rooms – Woven jute, braided textures, tribal patterns, distressed appearance
  • Traditional décor –Global/oriental themes, intricate patterns, carved effects, rich jewel tones
  • Eclectic rooms – Vintage motifs, bold abstract prints, playful colors and textures
  • Minimalist style – Solid colored shag, tone-on-tone patterns, subtle abstracts

View rug samples in your space and experiment with different looks. The rug should complement your furnishings without overpowering the room.

Read the Rug’s Care Instructions

To keep your area rug looking fabulous, pay attention to the manufacturer’s care guidelines which are usually affixed to the back of the rug. Here are some common cleaning tips:

  • Vacuum regularly, at least weekly, to prevent dirt buildup. Use an attachment to reach deep into the fibers.
  • Spot clean stains immediately with a damp cloth and mild detergent. Don’t over-saturate.
  • Professionally clean every 1-2 years based on traffic. Pet-friendly cleaners help remove odors.
  • Rotate occasionally to evenly distribute wear. This adds years to your rug’s lifespan.

With proper care, an area rug can stay beautiful for well over a decade. Keeping it clean is the best way to protect your investment.


How much should I spend on an area rug?

This depends on your budget, but expect to spend at least 5-10% of a room’s total furnishings cost on the rug. High-traffic rooms and special-order sizes warrant a higher investment.

Should I get a rug pad?

Yes, a pad helps the rug lay flat, prevents slipping, and protects floors from scratches. Opt for a natural fiber pad for hardwoods and a thicker, synthetic pad for carpets.

What size rug should I use in a bedroom?

For most bedrooms, an 8×10 or 9×12 foot rug provides enough space under the bed while leaving 18-24 inches of bare floor on all sides. Measure to be sure.

How do I clean an outdoor area rug?

You can hose synthetic outdoor rugs down with water and mild detergent. For stubborn stains, use a pressure washer. Allow to fully air dry. Vacuum natural fiber outdoor rugs and spot clean.

What’s the best area rug for pets?

Tightly woven or low pile rugs hide traces of pet fur and paw prints. Natural fibers like wool resist stains. Washable synthetic rugs are ideal for inevitable accidents.


Finding the perfect area rug comes down to getting the right size and shape for your space, choosing quality materials that fit your lifestyle, and selecting a style that works with your room’s design aesthetic. Take exact measurements, feel rug samples in person and read care instructions. With some savvy shopping, you’ll discover an area rug that literally grounds your room and pulls it all together.