The Complete Guide on How to Buy a Rug

updated Jun 7, 2023
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Credit: Laura Magee

There are few pieces in a home that have the decorative prowess to tie a room together as effortlessly as a rug. Whether it’s the inspiration for the space or a finishing touch, a rug can bring an incomparable layer of interest and intrigue. But buying the perfect rug has its fair share of limitations, not to mention challenges. Between the size, material, style, and make, there are a number of factors to take into consideration — and having a seemingly endless scope of options doesn’t make the process any easier. 

For instance: Purchase one that’s too small and you run the risk of instantly diminishing all the effort you put into designing said room in the first place. Run too large and the rug can envelop the space and overwhelm its existing fixtures. Finding that sweet spot in the middle is key. To help you get started, we pooled together an extensive guide to answer all your burning questions about buying the best rug based on your style and needs.

What to Consider Before Buying a Rug

First and foremost, it’s all about identifying the room the rug will live in and the purpose it’s meant to serve. Is it a statement piece to unify the aesthetic, or a functional one that prevents slips in high-traffic zones? If you have pets and little ones, a delicate vintage find is likely not advisable. Next, you’ll want to think about the rug’s size and shape; style and materials; pile; care and cleaning; and rug pad. More on all of these below.

Credit: Isabela Humphrey

1. Size and Shape

When it comes to choosing a rug for a specific room, finding one that suits it size-wise is essential. “It’s kind of like the Goldilocks rule here,” says Ben Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Revival Rugs. “You want a rug that fits, whether small or large. Something that isn’t too big — i.e., there is enough floor visible between the wall and the rug — but also something that isn’t too small, such as a postage stamp under your coffee table.” As a general rule of thumb, find a rug that can contain the major elements of a room or serve as a buffer between built-ins.

  • Living room: If your sofa is against a wall, ensure that at least its front legs and the front legs of the neighboring armchairs are on the rug. In a large living room with a floating seating area, the rug should contain all furniture, front and back legs, with space around.
  • Dining room: Use the table’s size as your point of reference. Whether circular or round, the rug should extend at least 24 inches on all sides so that even a pushed-back chair can still fit within its range.
  • Bedroom: For a spacious room, opt for a large rug that fits under the entire bed and night tables, with extra width on either side. For smaller rooms, the rug should cover roughly ⅓ of the bed’s base; alternatively, try small area rugs on either side of the bed.
  • Kitchen and entryway: Stick with a narrow runner or a smaller piece (think 2’ x 3’ or 4’ x 6’) for these areas.
  • Outdoors: Bigger is better here, and you’ll want a rug that is 12 to 24 inches shorter than the space’s perimeter.

How to Measure a Room for a Rug: Take the general measurements of a room and reduce the dimensions by 1 to 2 feet to arrive at an appropriate-sized rug for the space. Alternatively, use painter’s tape to outline the rug dimensions in its ideal location then measure the perimeter and use that as your jumping-off point.

Credit: Shutterstock

2. Materials and Style

There is a seemingly endless list of descriptors that encompass the aesthetic classification of a rug. But more often than not the material it’s made from is what informs the style of a piece. Rug specialist Lisa Wagner of says these are the most common material categories:

Natural fibers: Wool, cotton, silk, jute, sisal
Pros: Durable and long-lasting; wool rugs, specifically, are amazing at hiding soil.
Cons: Often pricier and require professional cleaning; dyed silk rugs can run if exposed to water spills.

Synthetic fibers: Acrylic, polyester, polypropylene
Pros: Affordable, easy to clean, usually stain resistant.
Cons: Can become contaminated with mildew and bacteria from repeated spills or pet accidents; may need replacing sooner than wool or natural fiber rugs.

Artificial silk: Viscose, bamboo silk, banana silk 
Pros: Very affordable; busy patterns can conceal dirt.
Cons: Viscose is like an absorbent sponge — it not only attracts moisture and oil, but even a plain water spill can ruin fibers.

Credit: Isabela Humphrey

Identifying the ideal material for your space depends a lot on your lifestyle and the room the rug will live in. Your aesthetic of choice can also be a factor, but remember that you’re never limited to one style or another. Mixing and matching is always a great way to find what’s unique to you. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Credit: Liz Calka

3. Pile

The pile of a rug is a point of reference for the density or thickness of a piece. “Rugs that are coarser will always have more pile to them than fine and intricately designed pieces,” says antique rug expert Omri Schwartz of Nazmiyal Rugs. Rug pile generally falls into two categories:

  • Low-pile rugs: These rugs have shorter fibers and loops (think flatweaves), making them best for high-traffic areas such as the kitchen.
  • High-pile rugs: These rugs have taller, looser fibers (think shag or Moroccan rugs), making them more plush and ideal for the bedroom or living room.

“The height of a rug’s pile is really more of an aesthetic and performance consideration,” says Haynes Robinson, SVP of product development at abc carpet & home. Regardless of the pile height, a rug will always provide sound buffering, but the thicker the rug, the better the insulation. “Added pile also increases the life and performance of the carpet over time,” says Robinson. 

Credit: Shutterstock

4. Care and Cleaning

It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll find yourself with a soiled rug, so you’ll want to think about care and maintenance before you buy. Ironically, older or vintage pieces tend to be more durable versus newer, budget ones that may not have the same structural integrity. “Sometimes that newer rug will have more structural problems than the antique one because quite a few corners must be cut to make that rug such a great deal,” says’s Wagner. Here’s how to care for and clean different materials:

  • Synthetics: Spot-clean, steam-clean, or vacuum. They may appear dirtier since they absorb dirt and oil, though most (such as acrylics) will be stain resistant.
  • Wool: Natural oils (lanolin) keep spills from penetrating the fibers, notes Revival Rugs’ Hyman. “For hand-knotted rugs, you can blot the stain to soak up any excess, then use a toothbrush with dish soap and water to tease it out. Resist the urge to scrub, which can damage the fibers.” 
  • Cotton and silk: Enlist the help of a professional to prevent making stains worse by trapping them deeper within the fibers.

5. Getting a Rug Pad

Once you’ve secured your dream piece, it’s all about ensuring that the rug can withstand the test of time. That means getting a rug pad. Not only do they protect you from slipping on a bunched crease, they also prevent dents by cushioning heavy furniture and preventing it from damaging the floor. For high-traffic areas such as the bathroom or kitchen, opt for a rug pad that comes with a solid grip. In the bedroom or living room, a cushioned rug pad will contribute an extra layer of plush comfort. 

Choosing the Right Rug by Room

Living Room

The magic formula: Mid-to-high-pile area rug, larger in size.
Standard dimensions: 8′ x 10′, 9′ x 12′, 10′ x 14.’

A living room feels almost incomplete without a rug. Besides an added layer of comfort, it contributes a rich tonal element that can take your design to the next level. “We are typically looking for more of a conversation piece, from a design perspective,” says abc carpet’s Robinson, “where the material can vary from shiny to matte. People often are concerned about using silk in a living room, but real silk is extremely strong and durable, and it cleans well.” Craving something more plush? A shag or Moroccan rug is the way to go. Invest in an enduring wool piece that can withstand constant foot traffic or a wool-cotton blend if you’re seeking a more affordable alternative. For a casual, layered look, pair a low-pile dhurrie with a natural jute rug


The magic formula: Mid-to high-pile area or mid-size rugs, silk or wool composition.
Standard dimensions: 8′ x 10′, 9′ x 12′ or 2′ x 6′, 4′ x 6.’

The bedroom serves as yet another spot in which you can get creative. “Generally we like simple textures and designs in softer, more exotic materials for the bedroom,” says Robinson. “A bedroom is a place of rest and comfort, so rugs that are not visually over-stimulating and are made from luxurious material, such as silk, are ideal.” Given the probability that you’ll be barefoot more often here, a high-pile rug is a good choice. 

Dining Room

The magic formula: Flatweave or mid-pile rug, cotton or wool composition.
Standard dimensions: 9′ x 12′, 10′ x 14′, 8′ round.

Not only does a rug make a space feel more composed, but placing one underneath the dining table can help visually distinguish the area from others in an open-layout home. The main thing to consider when choosing a dining room rug is its thickness. “You would not want a very thin rug under a dining room table that gets a ton of use,” says Nazmiyal Rugs’ Schwartz. Not only will it bunch every time you slide the chairs out, but the repeated process will perpetuate wear and tear. An overly thick rug, on the other hand, can make moving your chair difficult. Stick with a flatweave or mid-pile piece for this space.

Credit: Julia Steele


The magic formula: Low-pile, patterned rug that has a natural fiber composition or is easily washable.
Standard dimensions: 2.5′ x 8′, 2′ x 3′, 3′ x 5′, 6′ x 9.’

When it comes to this high-traffic area, a performance-based option should be top of mind. Avoid high-pile rugs or anything overly textured that’s likely to trap dirt and debris, since cleanup can be a mess. A flatweave, low-pile area rug or a mat underneath the sink can help prevent falls by soaking up water spills. A lengthy runner will bring texture and color to an otherwise streamlined scheme; bonus points for the visual warmth it produces as well. 


The magic formula: Low-pile rug, preferably natural fiber composition (think wool or jute).
Standard dimensions: 2′ x 3′, 2′ x 8′, 4′ x 6.’

Making a good first impression counts, and this floor piece should set the tone for what lies ahead. Whether you have a round foyer or an an elongated hallway, a runner or area rug is your best bet for the entry. Stick to a compact or narrow landing pad and avoid overly large pieces that will innately feel like an intrusion. A simple 2’ x 3’ rug can have a major impact by setting the tone and defining the space’s essence. The material is just as important — bear in mind that this high-traffic area will require a durable rug and a solid-grip pad beneath it. 


The magic formula: Large area rug, stain- and UV-resistant polypropylene composition.
Standard dimensions: 8′ x 10′, 9′ x 12′, 10′ x 14.’

A furnished deck or porch feels more complete when paired with an outdoor rug — even a neutral, non-patterned option can make a big difference. When choosing one, durability should be at the top of your list, and weatherproof goes without saying. These days, most outdoor rugs are performance or stain resistant, though you can still get away with a handful of natural fiber options. But take note: “Jute is absorbent, and it does tend to rot when areas are kept damp too long,” says’s Wagner. “Many outdoor rugs that state they are mildew resistant are referring to the outer polypropylene plastic fibers. However, the interior often incorporates jute and/or cotton, which will mildew when left damp for too long.” She suggests frequently checking the backside for signs of mold. 

Credit: Abe Martinez

The Best Places to Shop for Rugs

Ready to find your dream piece? Here are just some of our favorite spots to help you get started. 

If You’re Down for a Treasure Hunt

  • Wayfair: Known for flash sales, Wayfair has the rug shopping process down pat. Browse their exhaustive selection by size, color, shape, material, and even weaving techniques. You’re guaranteed to find a piece you’ll love. 
  • Joss & Main: A sister company of Wayfair’s, Joss & Main is a trendier alternative and a great place to snag the best possible deal.
  • AllModern: AllModern will serve all your contemporary decor needs. Their styles range from Scandi-chic to modern farmhouse, and they also have an impressive array of smaller area rugs and mats. 

If You’re Seeking Curation

  • One Kings Lane: While OKL predominantly offers traditional, contemporary, and natural fiber pieces, it’s also a great resource for vintage rugs as well as design-forward outdoor ones, which can be otherwise tough to find.
  • abc carpet & home: If you’re looking for impeccable curation and have a little more to spend, this iconic NYC retailer is for you. They offer the full gamut of styles, including contemporary, vintage, Moroccan, transitional, antique, and so much more. 

If You’re Looking for a Deal

  • Overstock: With frequent sales and an extensive collection to shop from, Overstock is a great resource for deals. The site is conveniently categorized by style, price, and color to make sure the process is as seamless as possible. 
  • Rugs USA: Affordable decor and fast shipping are the pillars of Rugs USA. Shop by style (they have over 12 categories), color, or size — and if you’re feeling bold, snag a bestseller at a steep discount.
  • Walmart: Another go-to for home essentials, Walmart has a huge selection of rugs that can be searched by category, size, and color.
  • This retailer is a hub for discount rugs where you can source pieces based on style, room, size, and color. Head here for modern, outdoor, and Persian-inspired finds. 
  • The Home Depot: Usually associated with tools and DIY basics, The Home Depot also has a great selection of affordable rugs, which you can shop by size, color, shape, style, pattern, pile, construction, weave, brand, and price. Whew!
  • Target: We turn to Target for most of our lifestyle needs so it should come as no surprise that it reigns supreme on the rug front. They offer an extensive range of options for every style, space, and budget.

If You Want Something One-of-a-Kind

  • Revival Rugs: Revival Rugs is all about serving you with timeless, quality pieces that don’t cost an arm and a leg. They primarily feature vintage pieces with a mix of newer, contemporary ones that come fresh off the loom. Needless to say, there are no compromises on style. 
  • Etsy: If you’re in the market for something entirely unique or vintage, consider Etsy your one-stop shop. With access to sellers and brands from all over the globe, the site is essentially your passport to the most far-flung locales and bazaars. 
  • The Perfect Rug: If you’ve dreamed of designing your own rug, this is the place to go. Select a pattern or color and personalize the piece based on where it will live. This is a great option for oddly-shaped rooms. 
  • eCarpet Gallery: Persian, Moroccan, Serapi, Kilim — eCarpet Gallery has it all. The legendary rug purveyor sources exclusive pieces from all corners of the globe, offering luxurious finds at relatively affordable prices. 
  • West Elm: Think of West Elm as a go-to for all sorts of contemporary rugs. Whether you’re looking for something trendy or vintage or colorfully abstract, they have it all. 
  • Lulu and Georgia: If designer Sarah Sherman Samuel’s collaboration isn’t enough of an incentive to shop Lulu and Georgia, we don’t know what is. From Boho-chic to vintage, this site is a Pandora’s box of good design. 
  • Urban Outfitters: With a slew of options that encapsulate the trendiest styles, modern minimalism, and even a handful of antique-inspired finds, Urban Outfitters is a great source for snagging a design-forward piece on a budget.
  • Anthropologie: The whimsical retailer sells rugs of all sizes and styles, many from popular names such as Rifle Paper Co.

If You’re Looking for Something Niche