How to Shop for a Rug Like a Designer

Alaina Ralph Living Room
Photo: Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Liz Strong

An art installation for your floors is the way the Tennessee designer Rachel Fogarty, co-owner of Nashville's Woven Goods Co., which specializes in hand-woven floor coverings and other textiles from Turkey, likes to think about rugs. In other words, don't be afraid to have a little fun when making your selection. "The right rug can change the whole personality of a room," she says. "It anchors a space, making it so much warmer and cozier." At the same time, Fogarty recognizes that shopping for one can be a daunting prospect for the average homeowner: "I think it can be intimidating because there is no such thing as a cheap rug—even lower budget ones are still an investment." To help you find the right rug for your space and your budget and have fun doing it, Fogarty shares a few designer-backed tips and tricks.

Determine Size and Scale

It pays to shop smart, so before you browse the first website or showroom, be sure to carefully measure your space. Noting proper dimensions requires accounting for the scale of the room as well as the furniture, which is why Fogarty suggests selecting your furniture upfront. In the living room, the general rule of thumb is that all the furniture should fit on the rug—or at the very least, overlap the rug. "Your rug shouldn't look like a little island with nothing on it but the coffee table," Fogarty says. In the dining room, she advises leaving a buffer of two-and-a-half feet between the dining chairs and the surrounding floor.

Pro tip: Don't forget about a room's air vents. To prevent blocking them, always leave at least twelve inches between the rug and the wall.

Come Prepared

Measurements aren't the only thing to have on hand when you begin rug shopping. Pictures of the room the rug will live in, paint samples, and fabric swatches will all help make your shopping experience a more enjoyable one and ensure you find a rug that's worthy of the long-term investment.

Consider Function and Finances

"Natural rugs like jute and sisal are really accessible from a financial standpoint," Fogarty says, "but they're not great in high traffic areas like entryways and living rooms because they're so hard to clean." The same logic applies in areas frequented by children and pets. Instead, opt for a wool rug, which, although more expensive, is both more durable and easier to clean.

Don't Be Afraid of Color and Pattern

"I think people are often scared to commit to color because with this kind of investment, they want to love it forever," Fogarty says. But if you purchase a bright or patterned rug you truly love, you can always give the room a relatively inexpensive update with a fresh coat of paint or new throw pillows to pull the look together. Beautifully patterned Turkish rugs like the heirloom-quality kilims, sumaks, and oushaks Woven Goods Co. sells are experiencing a resurgence because of their timeless aesthetic but also their longevity and unexpected livability. The vintage rugs disguise dirt and spills well, but they are also incredibly easy to clean. "These are the rugs you pass down to your kids," Fogarty says.

Create Layers

But if that gorgeous twelve-by-ten antique stunner just isn't in the living room budget, consider layering a large slightly less expensive, low-pile wool or natural fiber rug with a smaller pattered piece; it's a great way to introduce a vibrant hit of color without making a huge monetary (or style) commitment. If the room is particularly large or a unique shape, you can have a local carpet showroom or flooring supplier cut you a custom neutral rug to layer underneath.

Yes, You Need a Rug Pad

A high-quality rug pad extends the life of your rug and protects the floors underneath. "At Woven, we like a felt rug pad." Fogarty says. "They come in varying thicknesses, but we recommend an eight or a quarter of inch to our clients." Ordering a felt rug pad that's slightly bigger than your rug allows you to cut it down to that just-right size.

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