4 Big Rug Buying Mistakes You Might be Making — and How to Avoid Them

updated Apr 27, 2021
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Living room with orange velvet sofa, mid-century tables, colorful rug, and concert artwork on wall
Credit: Nancy Elliott

Never underestimate the power of a great rug. It doesn’t matter if you want to warm up a hardwood floor or disguise that old tile in your apartment, a great area rug has the power to make or break your space. “The right rug can transform a room and also transform your experience of that room,” adds Ben Hyman, CEO and co-founder of the rug company Revival. “You’ll want to spend more time there; you like how it feels on your feet. It’s the same reason you want to find any decor or art that works with your space — you feel good every time you look at it.”

With great decorating power comes great responsibility… and, yes, the potential to mess up your entire room. Since a rug anchors whatever area it’s placed in, choosing the wrong size, style, or material can throw off your space’s vibe. And, nobody wants that. To help you in this endeavor, Hyman is breaking down the common mistakes people make when buying rugs — and how to avoid them.

Credit: @Shalaco

Buying the Wrong Size

When buying a new rug, most people give lots of thought to size, and rightfully so. A rug that’s too small will throw off the entire flow of a room, while one that’s too big will almost look like wall-to-wall carpet, which is fine if that’s the look you’re going for. But if you want your floors to peek through, how big should your rug be then? Well, it’s not always a simple answer. “The rules of rug sizing are malleable; they vary based on the space and the furniture,” Hyman explains. “But you do want something that complements the dimensions it’s living within.”

The good news is there’s a general rule of thumb that you can follow when shopping for a rug for a given room. Hyman suggests that the end of the rug, when placed in the room, should be about one to two feet from the walls on each side. “We aim for a foot-and-a-half, so it can breathe, and you want the majority of your furniture to fit on it — at least partially,” he says.

Credit: Max Maloney

Splurging on a Rug

Contrary to popular belief, a good rug doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. Not to knock fancy, pricier brands, but budget-friendly options will get the job done just as well. “Rugs can be expensive and should be on some level because of all the resources which go into creating them,” Hyman says. “Make sure you’re paying a price that feels fair to you.”

To get the best bang for your buck, browse different retailers and direct-to-consumer brands. You can also double up two of the same style (use rug tape to hold ’em together) or layer a smaller, more elaborate rug on top of a larger solid one, too, if you want to cut costs a bit. In need of some shopping inspiration? Check out some of AT’s favorite places to buy affordable rugs.

Getting a Low-Quality Rug

Just because you want to spend less on your rug doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. “Buying something that’s poorly made, that will fall apart quickly, or something that’s made of low-quality materials is bad for you, your home, and your environment,” Hyman explains.

It doesn’t matter how much you spend on a rug, you want something that you’re going to get good use out of. When it comes to materials, rugs made of natural fibers are consistent crowd-pleasers and built to last. Specifically, “jute is a flexible material and when finely-woven enough, it can look both elegant and casual: soft enough in a bedroom but tough enough to withstand a playroom,” Hyman says.”Wool also is a wonder-fiber; [it has antibacterial properties] and protected by its natural lanolin. There’s a reason it’s been used for centuries in rug production and is still used today.” Another go-to material? Cotton. In fact, Revival is about to launch its first line of washable rugs made with 100 percent cotton dhurries.

When you see a style you like — cotton, wool, jute, or otherwise — do your research. “Read about the material and construction; ask for clarification if the language is obtuse,” Hyman recommends. “If you’re buying vintage, ask about provenance and age. If you know your rug is going into a high-traffic area, go for something sturdier that will be able to last.” Your lifestyle also plays a big part in what kind of rug you should buy as does your tolerance for things like shedding. Often fuzzier rugs will continue to lose fibers — even after the first six months — so make sure you’re okay with constantly vacuuming to keep up your rug’s look.

Credit: Melanie Rieders

Buying a Rug You Just Don’t Love

Sure, trends might come and go, but you’re not going to replace an area rug as quickly as you would a lampshade of vase. For Hyman, the secret to rug shopping is to forget about trends and find something you truly love.

“Design-wise, people are often in a hurry to make their homes exactly as they want, and fast,” he says. “But the thing about rugs — and all decor — is you want to love it.”

Instead of buying a rug just to “complete” the room, Hyman encourages you to take your time and buy something that speaks to your aesthetic. Even if you have to wait a bit, the final product will be so worth it.

Want to find a rug you love, but don’t know where to start? Take a gander at our favorite rugs for your living room.