Able to tie a room together, delineate spaces, and add warmth and texture in one fell swoop, the right area rug can instantly elevate the home. "Don’t be afraid to go for a bold pattern," says interior designer and stylist Angela Belt. "Look for texture and statement pieces for your home."
The dizzying array of options available on the market means that you’re bound to find something that suits your style and needs—though not without some research. Traditional Persian or Turkish-style, low-pile rugs bring a lot of personality and color into a room, though current trends include large, solid-color rugs made with natural fibers such as jute or sisal. "These are slightly less forgiving with stains than wool," says interior designer Ginny Macdonald, "but I like that they can make a space feel bigger."
For Cortney Bishop, it’s handmade all the way. "I love purchasing handmade rugs from around the world and will travel for rugs!" says the Charleston, South Carolina–based designer. "I buy many made by smaller artisans and craftspeople—mostly because of their larger story and knowing that we’re contributing to an artist’s livelihood and family."
Belt is currently crushing on Moroccan Azilal tribal rugs. "I know people gravitate towards the Beni Ouarain–style rugs due to their cream color palettes, but I love the unique quality of each Azilal tribal rug," she says. "They’re single-knotted, which allows the weaver to create very detailed designs. Each one looks like a work of art."
Area Rug Pile and Construction
Price and style are going to be a driving factor in your rug-buying decision—more on this later—but before you focus in on the figures and features, it’s important to consider "the fiber, the type of room it’s in, how durable it is, and of course, size," advises Gideon Mendelson, founder and creative director of the New York City–based interior design firm Mendelson Group.
When it comes to the fiber material, "wool and cotton are my go-to," says Macdonald. "Wool is really durable because it’s a natural fiber, and is easier to clean. Viscose should be avoided because it stains really easily." Mendelson agrees: "I always urge clients to stick to wool; other fibers can be cleaned, but not easily. There are a lot of synthetic materials I just won’t buy, like viscose, which is impossible to clean."
Belt recommends sourcing New Zealand wool. "It has the whitest wool fiber, it absorbs dyes, and can easily become an heirloom piece in your home," she says. "I try to source carpets with sustainable materials like wool, cotton, or sisal, and steer clear of rugs with glue backing that typically comes from toxic adhesives."
While viscose alone can be problematic, Belt likes to use it as a blend in some instances. "Certain types of viscose can imitate the same characteristics of silk," she says. "When purchasing a rug that is a blend of materials, make sure to inquire about the origins of the rug, and you may want to invest more dollars to ensure it’s good quality."
Where the rug will be placed can affect what type you choose. High-traffic areas like playrooms or kitchens—where pets, kids, and the potential for spills abound—call for less expensive, more replaceable rugs with a low pile that’s easier to clean. Low-pile rugs have shorter fibers, while high-pile rugs have a more luxurious feeling underfoot.
Rugs are constructed in a variety of ways. Hand-knotted rugs entail a highly skilled, labor-intensive process of tying knots into the rug while it’s being woven on the loom. "A higher knot count usually equates to a more beautiful rug," says Mendelson. "Multiple people are sitting in front of this, tying knots by hand to create the pattern, and how many knots are tied per inch adds to the labor," he explains. "More knots equals more people, more hands, more time—and it gives you a tighter pattern, which has a superior quality to it."
A hand-tufted rug is made with the help of a tool that punches yarns through a sheet of fabric, and a hooked rug is similar, but features looped pile. Flat-woven rugs don’t have a pile, as the fibers running vertically (warp) are woven through those running horizontally (weft). These can be made by hand or machine; in general, handmade rugs have superior quality. Another option is a broadloom rug, which is machine-made like carpet, and then finished around the edges.
"Some rugs with patterns tend to be printed on as opposed to woven with the fibers," says Macdonald. "I don’t love this kind of construction, as it tends to be a cheaper way to manufacture, and the quality isn’t as good. Hand-knotted is more expensive to produce, but the end result is higher-quality and longer-lasting."
Area Rug Sizing and Placement
"Size is crucial," says Bishop. "A larger rug adds warmth and coziness against architectural elements and surfaces in a grand space. A smaller rug can stand on its own—even in a tiny room—and still make a huge impact."
"The biggest mistake people make is getting the size wrong," says Macdonald. "They often go too small versus too large." You should take into consideration the size of the room, door openings, and architectural features such as fireplaces. "You want the rug at least 18 inches away from the wall so that it doesn’t cover the whole floor underneath," she says.
If you’ve purchased a rug that’s too small and don’t have the budget to upgrade, a quick fix is to pick up an inexpensive 8’ x 10’ jute or sisal rug to layer on top, advises Belt.
Alone, small rugs also have a place in your decor. "Smaller rugs are typically more statement pieces, says Bishop, "while larger rugs are truly grounding, foundational elements for an entire room."
While Mendelson says there’s no right answer to exactly how to configure your rug in relation to furniture, "there are different tricks and ways you can fool the eye to make your room feel bigger or draw attention to a certain area of a room."
To make the room feel as large as possible, extend an area rug to the perimeter of the room to draw your eye to the border. "In a very large room, if you want to emphasize a smaller seating area, we often will layer multiple rugs over one large one," he says. If you’re not sure how large a rug you really need, try using some blue tape on the floor to tinker with the layout.
How Much Should You Spend on an Area Rug?
"I do believe rugs are investments, and quality will stand the test of time," says Bishop. "If there are two pieces in a room that I encourage clients to invest in, they are rugs and sofas."
Rugs run the gamut when it comes to price, but so does their use. If you’re choosing a rug for your living room and plan to have it for 20 to 30 years, it’s worth investing in quality. However, a runner for a kitchen that you will swap seasonally isn’t worth remortgaging your house for. "You can find an IKEA rug for $200, but then a vintage one could start off at $5,000," says Macdonald. "In the 8’ x 10’ range we normally source rugs around $3,000 to $4,000."
Save ($100 to $1,000)
A new, 8’ x 10’ area rug can be had for as little as $100 from retailers such as Target and IKEA, but buyer beware. "With a rug below $1,000, expect to put it in low-traffic areas, or prepare to upgrade every few years or more due to wear and tear," says Belt, whose budget choices include RugUSA. Mendelson has selected rugs from retailers such as West Elm for this price point and often uses them in playrooms and similarly family-focused spaces.
Shop Our Save Picks
Spend ($1,000 to $10,000)
In the mid-range, prices start high—and go higher quickly. Lulu & Georgia’s in-house designs, The Vintage Rug Shop, and Armadillo & Co are some of Macdonald’s favorite manufacturers at this price point. "I think for a quality 8’ x 10’ rug, you should expect to spend between $2,000 and $8,000," says Belt. And for vintage rugs, expect to double or even triple that estimate. "These are investment pieces, so you need to be comfortable with those price points," she says.
Both Belt and Bishop selected Pampa rugs, handmade in Argentina, as a favorite option. The company, based in Australia, offers made-to-order rugs so you can choose your own design, size, and colorway. Belt also recommends Anthropologie, Design Within Reach, and Chilewich.
Amadi Carpets in Los Angeles, which was founded by an Afghanistani family fleeing the Soviet War, and Moattar Inc., the largest rug dealer in the South based in Atlanta, Georgia, are Bishop’s other favorite choices.
Shop Our Spend Picks
At the high end, Macdonald loves The Rug Company and Woven for new rugs. While manufacturers like these offer ample customization choices to create your ideal rug, Mendelson often opts to design rugs for his client completely from scratch.
"For a recent project in Westchester, New York, we drew the pattern in AutoCAD, we selected the yarns—silk and New Zealand wool—chose the construction—a flat weave—and had it made in Tibet," he says. This process is lengthy, taking up to nine months from start to finish, and costly, starting at $10,000 for an 8’ x 10’ rug, but the result is an absolutely perfect piece for your home.
Finally, if you’re thinking vintage, there are bargains to be had if you’re willing to travel, but you can also easily spend a small fortune. Essentially, vintage rugs are like real estate, and may be priced based on location, age, and condition—as well as how many other people want to move in with it.
How Much Should You Spend on...
Get the Dwell Newsletter
Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.