I have hardwood flooring in nearly every room of my old home. While I love the charm of wood floors, I confess that I think of them as a blank canvas just waiting to be dressed up with the right area rug.

Areas rugs are a key component of a well designed room. They must be the right size to anchor the room’s furnishings and the right style to complement the room’s décor. Plus they must be tough enough to withstand lots of abuse and still look lovely. Picking a rug that can accomplish all that is not an easy feat.

If you’re on a quest for a new rug, read on for tips on how to pick a rug you’ll love. Then, plan a trip to Nell Hill’s Briarcliff because during the entire month of September, all our area rugs are 20% off.

Hold Out for True Love

I think of area rugs as artwork. They bring loads of color, texture, style and personality to a space. So when I’m on the hunt for a new area rug, I only consider those that capture my heart. Don’t ever purchase an area rug just because it has the right colors for your room or is the right size. Rugs can be very expensive, so chances are, you’ll be living with your choice for many years. Hold out for a rug that captivates you and complements the room.

Right now I have two favorite styles. The first is a Persian rug reproduction by Kalaty Rug Corp., which is located in the heart of the rug district in New York City. I’m head over heels in love with their Soumak collection because these classic beauties look just like the old Persian rugs I fawn over in antique stores but can’t afford.

I stock several of the Soumak patterns in my stores, and each one looks like it has a history, a story to tell. I’ve also been impressed by the workmanship and affordability of the Kalaty rugs.

Each rug is made with high quality wool and features a harder, thinner weave that doesn’t easily crush or show wear.

My other top pick? Natural fiber rugs. They look great with just about any decorating style, from traditional to modern. Their subtle texture and subdued color work with any color scheme. They wear like iron so they are family friendly. And they are so affordable you don’t feel like you’re making a lifetime commitment when you purchase one.

For my living room, I picked a large sisal that covered most of the floor. In the winter, I layer Persian rugs on top to warm up the two distinct sitting areas. But during the summer, I roll up the wool rugs so I could enjoy the crisp look of the sisal. I’m so crazy about the effect I may install wall-to-wall sisal in my bedroom.

If you’re considering a natural fiber rug for your home, here’s a quick look at three popular types:

Sisal, my favorite, is made from the same cactus plant used to make tequila. The pulp is spun into ropes, which are then woven into mats. With its clean, bright appearance, sisal is a great choice for those who want a transitional or contemporary feel.

Seagrass rugs are made from a reed that grows in marshy areas. As a result, the grass has a natural coating that allows it to more easily repel moisture. A friend of mine swears by seagrass rugs after her teen boys spilled a cola on one and the morning after, the liquid was still beaded on top of the rug and wiped up easily.

Dragon grass is simply seagrass that’s grown in more arid soil, giving it a slightly darker color. Often, dragon grass rugs are available in a wider variety of patterns, some of which have a more refined appearance, making them a better pick for formal rooms.

Coir rugs are made from coconut husks and are the roughest of the vegetable fiber rugs. It’s best to use them for walk-off mats by your door or on a screened porch. While these are some of the most common vegetable fiber rugs, you can also find rugs made of hemp, jute, bamboo and even woven paper.

You’ll also need to pick how the edges of your new rug will be finished: surged or bound in cotton tape. I’m a fan of cotton tape, but picking the right color can be tricky. Light colored tapes look marvelous and are so versatile you can move them from room to room. However, they will show dirt more readily. Dark colored tape hides dirt, but when you pick a distinct color, like navy or red, you limit your design options.

Get the Right Size

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to purchase an area rug that is too small for the space. This cost-saving measure usually doesn’t pay off in the long run because an incorrectly sized rug can throw off the look of the entire room, even if the furnishings are fabulous.

To determine what size rug you’ll need, decide where your furnishings will be placed. If the furniture will rim the room, your area rug should measure a foot or two smaller than the room’s perimeter. If your furniture grouping will float in the center of the room, perhaps in front of a fireplace, your area rug should be large enough so that the front legs of your furniture can rest upon it.

Similarly, in your dining room, don’t make the common mistake of getting a rug that’s the same size as your table top. Add 18 inches to each side to accommodate your chairs.

Give Your Rugs Lots of TLC

Once you invest in a gorgeous rug, treat it right so it will look lovely for years to come. Start by putting a high-quality pad under the rug because the right pad can double the lifespan of a rug, especially if the rug is in a high traffic area.

Sunlight can slowly leach the color out of a rug, so if your rug is in a sunny room, close the window shades when the sun is beating down directly on the rug. In addition, be sure to rotate your rug on a regular basis to even out factors like sun exposure and wear.

When cleaning a wool rug, sweep or vacuum on low suction and never vacuum against the nap of the rug. Check with the manufacturer for recommendations on how to treat stains. But when accidents happen, you should clean the stain immediately, before it has a chance to set in, working from the outside of the stain in to avoid the stain spreading.

While vegetable fiber rugs are very durable, they are not indestructible. Like any natural product, they can break down under wear and weathering. Keep the rugs away from moisture and treat them with stain protector to prevent spills and dirt from absorbing into the fibers. For day-to-day maintenance, use a high-suction vacuum cleaner, but don’t ever engage the beater bars as they can tear up the fibers.

Next Week …Looking for fun ideas for fall tabletop displays? You’ll find them here, in next week’s blog.

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21 Responses to “Pick a Rug that Will Floor You”

  1. Kristin@ Bringing Pretty Back Says:

    Thank you for all of the rug info! We are building a new little home and I am putting hard wood floors throughout, and will need a rug for the living room. I needede info on what size and look. Thank you!
    Have a pretty day!

  2. Monica Says:

    This is great information. I would like to hear about using area rugs in the bedroom. I have seen them used at the foot of a bed and also beside the side of a bed on tv programs. How do you determine the right size so that it doesn’t appear to be floating in space?

  3. maureen Says:

    Thanks for the info on the rugs. I have a very formal dining room. Would a sisal rug be too casual for a formal dining room? I have an oriental now but it is about 35 years old and looking a bit tired and I would like to modernize the rug.

    Love all the info on your blogs.

  4. Jen Says:

    I would love to put a rug in my entry but not sure about the size or shape. The stairs are 4 1/2 feet from door however that is just half the door from the other half the basement stair railing is 7 1/2 feet from door. The length across is a good 10 feet. Any suggestions?

  5. Linda Says:

    Thanks for the useful info…

    I have a blue oriental rug in my living room. It has no touches of red in it. I need an oriental rug for my DR that is just off the LR. I have vintage red and white transfer dishes showing in my china cabinet and would like to capitalize on that red.

    What would you suggest I do for a rug? I would like to pick up on the red through a carpet, but didn’t know if I need to have it primarily blue (as in my LR) with small touches of red or if I can have red as a more prominent color with touches of blue. I do have one red chair in the LR with a couple of other small items in red.

    I would appreciate your input and am anxious to hear from you.

  6. Mary Says:

    Love this blog. Thanks so much for sharing your incredible knowledge and talent.

  7. Linda Foster Says:

    Hi Mary Carol,

    I have had 2 natural fiber rugs here in Fl, both unsatisfactory. The coir and sisal rugs both had permanent stains from slight spills which I could not clean up. Both also showed tracking and discoloration from normal wear. I would not buy either of these products again.
    Thanks for your blog, I enjoy it.
    Linda Foster

  8. Anna Says:

    Thanks for the info! How perfectly timed for me! I am in need of an area rug for my dining room and have hesitated buying one because I didn’t know what would strike my fancy, but the Soumak patterns are awesome! I guess I’ll be planning a trip to Briarcliff in the near future :-)

  9. Patti Says:

    I love area rugs – the statement they make for me is essentially the same as one awesome throw pillow! Its just placed on the floor, and its, well – flat.
    They hug up the room putting focus on that special area for conversation or to outline a bed or dining table. Kind of like eyebrows – you have to have it or feel
    “neked so”. best wishes on your open houses.

  10. Jean Bowers Says:

    Mary Carol, I so enjoy these weekly blogs; super information with lovely photos. You have a very beautiful home and thank you so much for sharing. I especially love to see the seasonal changes you make. I also do this and love to make variations from the previous years. Jean Bowers

  11. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Monica–I personally love a larger rug vs-a lot of small rugs. A large one under the bed on the angle or straight on so you see the same rug on all sides of the bed–beautiful!

  12. Mary Carol Says:

    Well Maureen—it sure wasn’t for me—that is exactly what I did in my dining room. But of course you all know I love to mix the casual with the formal.

  13. Mary Carol Says:

    Either-or–Linda–red and blue are great together. A rug is kind of like a painting, you can put together the colors you want to emphasize or highlight. I really like the idea of combining both colors together in a rug to pull your red and blue together—and bring the rooms together.

  14. Mary Carol Says:

    Anna–Can’t wait to see you!

  15. Mary Carol Says:

    Patti–Absolutely beautiful!

  16. Mary Carol Says:

    Those rugs Linda are certainly not for everyone–fortunately, in the stores we have many other choices–I have absolutely loved mine!

  17. Dorothy Emery Says:

    Hello, I recently purchased a large, bookcase with glass doors for our library.
    It is ten feet tall but since our ceilings are twelve it looks magnificant. I didn’t realize I would have the added advantage of reading your blog. The library also has a pair of reading chairs and a tiny pink velvet loveseat. Should I worry that the loveseat is overpowered by the bookcase? Short people love it! Dorothy Weston Bed and Breakfast

  18. Victoria Lynn Says:

    Thank you for the wise information and your beautiful blog. I wish I could tear up all my carpets and put down hardwood floors because I LOVE area rugs! Victoria Lynn@Sweet Victoria Antiques

  19. Mary Carol Says:

    Dorothy–Sorry about the delay–it is getting crazy busy. Your loveseat should be fine where it is–especially if it is serving your customers. Maybe an idea to give it better scale next to your bookcase would be to add a large floor plant behind it—Even better, two floor lamps behind the loveseat, to give your customers light and scale. Happy decorating!

  20. Led Spots · Says:

    LED floor lamps are the newest design when it comes to lighting the floor area. they do not run as hot as traditional floor lamps .”"

  21. Beth Thomas Says:

    I purchased a very nice wool and silk persian rug for our dining room when I was in Dubai. Unfortunately, it is too small ( the rug isn’t the right size– the chairs do sit on the rug when they are pushed against the table but do not when actually seating someone ). The rug has a ivory/cream background with varying color of blue and some goldish/yellow mixed in. I saw that you purchased a sisal rug and placed the persian rug on top. I am thinking this is what I need to do. Would you recommend a cream sisal or jute rug to solve my problem? This persian rug was expensive and I really want to be able to use it. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know. Thank you so much!

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