Area rugs are more than just a tool for covering the floor. A rug provides a focal point for a room, clinches its tone and look, and warms up the decor while adding softness to otherwise cold, bare tile, or wood floors. When choosing a rug, it helps to know that area rugs come in a variety of sizes to fit almost any room in the house. From the entryway to the living room, bedroom, or den, an area rug can break up the monotony of a bare floor while bringing together the overall style of the room.
What is an area rug, and what is its function?
An area rug, as the name implies, is a rug that covers part of the floor area of a room, unlike wall-to-wall carpeting, which covers the entire floor. No matter the actual temperature, an area rug can always be counted upon to provide a warm feeling in your home.
There are other useful functions of an area rug. It can help protect hardwood flooring from scratches made by chairs and other furniture. In higher traffic areas, or any place where someone may stand for long periods of time (such as the kitchen), an area rug also will help avoid leg fatigue. And of course, an area rug near an outside door can provide a warm welcome; or in the case of a welcome mat, a place to wipe your feet.
Does size matter?
If you’re looking for a rug to fill the room, some designers will follow a guideline of approximately 18″ of exposed floor space from the end of the rug to the wall of the room. Having the rug placed any closer to the walls may make a room look too crowded. On the other hand, going smaller, and allowing more floor space around the rug, creates a lot of opportunity to create a unique look and feel, depending on your room layout and furniture.
Look for traditional sizes: from smaller 3×5 feet, 4×6 feet, and 5×8 feet rugs, to medium 8×10 feet area rugs, to 9×12 feet and larger.
Smaller rugs are perfect for a baby or children’s room, alongside a crib, changing table, or twin bed. They are also great when placed in a bedroom to secure a work area with a desk, or in a reading area next to the window.
Medium-sized area rugs work great in the dining area or dining room. Make sure the rug extends far enough out for when chairs are pulled back away from the table. This size is also useful in the bedroom as a footing for the end of a full or queen bed. Have a smaller living room? Consider a medium-sized rug to visually connect the sofa to the coffee table.
The use of a larger rug makes sense in a larger room, or it can create a larger feeling in a smaller room. Generally, a living room or a den can hold an 8×10 rug or larger, connecting the sofa to compatible chairs, coffee table, and end tables.
If your house has a large living room, den, or game room, two area rugs may be preferable to one. Having two area rugs provides a room with two distinct areas. Two rugs can afford the room two different seating areas or break up a room with a library/reading area and a separate entertainment center. This works well in an elongated horizontal room. Don’t forget the use of runners. Traditionally used down a long hallway, runners can also warm up a long bathroom or add comfort to a galley kitchen. Runners generally come in 6-, 8-, and 10-foot lengths, though some are even longer!
Understanding color and pattern
Unless you are going to make a bold statement with your area rug, think about using one with more subtle hues of ivories and tans, grays, blues, or greens.
The busyness of your rug pattern depends a lot on your walls and furnishings. If you have solid-color painted walls, and quiet furniture also mostly in solids, you could liven up your digs with a busier patterned or multicolored rug. This is one of those times when the rug becomes the focal point of the room. Consider the Bohemian style, with its rich, vivid hues. But, if you have a busy wallpaper, even on just one wall of the room, you are going to have to tone down your rug to a solid or braided style. Similarly, if you’ve made a statement with the upholstery of your furnishings, the rug will need to be quieter.
What’s your style?
While considering rug size and color, don’t forget to think about the style of your furnishings. You’ll need to choose carefully if you want to place a farmhouse-style rug in the same room as modern furnishings, or vice versa. Outdoor rugs can be used indoors, but proceed with caution—some outdoor styles, such as braided rugs, go beautifully with classic furnishings, but other outdoor patterns (think tropical) may be best left on the pool deck. Area rugs are available in every style from rustic to geometric, classic to modern, and vintage to contemporary.
Consider your lifestyle and rug maintenance
If you have a growing family of two- and four-legged beings, you probably have a more laid-back style. You definitely need easy maintenance. Most synthetic rugs are super easy to maintain by vacuuming and spot cleaning. The materials that may be more challenging in terms of upkeep are silk, polyester, and natural fibers such as jute and sisal.
Consider choosing an area rug that is machine washable. Smaller washable rugs will fit in almost any machine. The larger washing machines created today can handle some medium-sized rugs as well. Larger area rugs may need to go to the laundromat where industrial-size machines are available. Most should only be washed in cold water and on a gentle cycle. But what a revolution this is in home cleaning! No more calling the carpet cleaners when things get out of hand.
Of course, some area rugs can’t be thrown in the wash, but many of those can be spot cleaned and occasionally deep cleaned with your rug cleaning machine of choice: a powerful vacuum or rug steamer, such as those made by Bissel, Hoover, Rug Doctor, and others.
Ready to shop?
Once you have gathered up all the facts, weighed your decision, and come up with the area rug best suited for your needs, you are ready to order. Don’t forget to pair your rug with an appropriate rug pad and order it at the same time.
When your rug arrives, you will want to unwrap it carefully. There are a few things to remember including that your new area rug may need some airing out. Depending upon the fabric, it could temporarily shed a bit. You won’t want to pull any longer fibers, but simply trim them down.
Given a few days to settle in, your new area rug will surely give its new home a new look and feel and provide a cozy spot you’ll want to spend more time in. Enjoy!