The perfect rug is a definite must-have for a cozy, grounded room, but finding the perfect rug can mean riding the struggle bus. I’m here to help you get off that bus and choose the rug that is right for your style and space.
When choosing a rug, I think about 4 things, in this particular order:
When I’m picking a rug for a space, the first thing I consider is if it should be a new rug or a vintage rug.
In any given room, I almost always want to be able to use a vintage or antique rug. That’s just me, though. If you’re into contemporary design (and if you are, you might be reading the wrong blog), then you’re probably not into vintage Persian, Turkish, or Moroccan rugs, and you’re going to want something new. Even if you are into those, they might not be realistic for a number of reasons. First, these can get expensive, and second, they are hard to find in larger sizes. And of course, the larger the size, the greater the expense is going to be. Some rugs just don’t exist in larger sizes where the limiting factor is the width of the loom. Beni Ourain rugs, for instance, are pretty much impossible to find any wider than 5’.
As much as I love an older rug, it’s not always practical. The price isn’t worth it in a living room with kids or pets. GUYS, THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!
What do you want your rug to do for the room, style-wise? What’s your overall vibe? There are a few directions you can go. You can go for a contrast color that injects some life into your color palette, you can go for complimentary colors that pull in similar colors and tones that are used throughout the space, or you can go totally neutral. All of these directions are perfectly valid, depending on your preference for color or your goal for the room.
In rugs, as with pretty much all textiles, it’s difficult to separate color and pattern, unless you are going for a solid color. I do not recommend a rug that is one solid color, except in the case of neutral rugs. It’s going to be both overwhelming and boring at the same time. Not a good look for your space. I’m also going to just say that you should avoid overly trendy patterns that quickly look dated like chevrons and arabesques.
Material becomes important for a couple of reasons. One reason is: how do you want your rug to feel? Probably soft, but other than that, do you want it to be thick and plush? Or do you want it to be low pile so you can clean it and/or roll over it more easily? The other reason is texture. You can add a lot of texture with a shag, or a more subtle texture with a low-pile woven rug.
If we’re talking natural fibers, there are two main categories. You’ve got wool (or some kind of blend of wool with silk or polyester) and you’ve got plant fibers like sisal and jute. These are both pretty different in terms of feel and texture. Wool can be dyed and spun and let you have a rug with a lot more detailed pattern. Jute is very natural and earthy looking, but will be more stiff, less soft, and can’t be woven into an intricate pattern.
This is where it’s good to think about practicality, which is admittedly a total bummer. How durable do you need it to be? How easy to clean does it need to be? How often do you/your kids/your drunk friends spill on things? If you’re answering very, very, and all the damn time, then you should definitely go low pile or flat woven.
The final factor is the size of the rug, and you really have to be realistic about the size of your space. The biggest fail here is going for a rug that is too small. The most common size you will see on display/in a catalog/wherever you are looking is going to be 5’x7’, but 99% of the time, this is too small. I’ve fallen into this trap myself. I think of it is as the second wine on the wine list trap. Most people think that if they pick the first wine on the list, they will look cheap, so they go with the second option because it is slightly more. In this case, you think, well I’m not getting the tiny 3’x5’ rug, so 5’x7’ must be a normal size to get. And it’s pricey, but not, like, crazy expensive. I’m here to tell you that if you do that, you will probably end up with a rug that looks like this:
See how this is just sort of floating? The sofa looks like it's making a grab at the rug, like it's about to get away from it completely. You want it to anchor the space, not just float, and you want your sofa to be entirely on the rug, as well as any accent chairs.
So what does this mean? It means you probably are going to spend more money than you thought you would have to. It means that the price you prepared yourself for at 5’x7’ has gone waaaaay up, because you at least need it to be 8’x10’. Maybe even bigger. I’m sorry, but you just need to readjust at this point.
Now, let’s go back to the size limitations of vintage rugs. There’s a way to make these work when they are technically too small for the space—you can (and should) layer them on a neutral rug that fits the space. This also works for other size-limited rugs, like cowhides.