At first it may feel like just a rug. Then you slide your hand up and over the patterns etched in an area rug drenched in blues, grays, and ivories and wonder: Should I get one?
Of course you should, say Charles Snider and Dawn Rezai, two local rug vendors.
Rugs can accent what you already have or serve as a focal point, they say. Regardless of how you use them, area rugs bring warmth and a bit of respite from the noise that accompanies hardwood floors.
Generally speaking, the most popular types of rugs available are Oriental, wool and synthetic. All have their place and come in countless varieties.
When it comes to buying a true Oriental rug, Rezai, co-owner of Persian Rugs & More in Lynchburg, suggests that rugs “should be the focal point” of the room. These rugs are pieces of art and shouldn’t be covered up by or hidden beneath furniture, she says. As with all rugs, the cost and value is determined by the knot count and the material.
Hand-knotted or hand-woven Oriental rugs will last for several generations. Both sides display the same pattern. A hand-tufted Oriental rug is one where the design has been punched through the rug and a burlap mat glued to the back. These rugs cost significantly less. A hand-hooked rug is nontraditional and often offers whimsical designs such as flowers.
You will know that the knot count is high, and the rug worth more money, when the fibers feel stiffer to the touch. A rug that feels softer and more pliable has a lower knot count and costs less. A wool rug is thick while a true silk rug is very, very thin regardless of the country it is from, says Rezai.
“Persian rugs in particular are a great investment because they appreciate in value if they are cared for,” says Rezai.
If shopping in a traditional wool rug store, you’ll likely see area rugs made of wool, nylon, polyester and polypropylene (also called olefin). Some wool rugs now even feature just a slip of silk that adds a beautiful vibrance to the edges of flowers and dynamic patterns. The most durable area rugs are made of wool, a fiber that is inherently stain-resistant and naturally cleanable. It also is flame retardant.
Most synthetic area rugs are treated with some type of stain protectant. If you’re the type that changes your decor frequently, these more disposable, less costly rugs may be the best choice.
Sizing Things Up
So just how do you shop for an area rug? First, figure out what the rug is for: To provide a focus for a room, bring warmth, or accent furniture or art that is already there? If you know you want an Oriental rug, then there are three additional questions: Are you a collector, what price range are you working with, and what colors are you looking for?
Next you must consider size, which even experts agree isn’t easy. The simplest method is to measure and sketch the rooms. Make sure you show things like fireplaces, air vents and returns, furniture placement and any oddly placed walls. Most of the time you should select a rug that leaves about a 1-foot border between the rug and wall. Consider it carefully; the wrong size rug can visually throw everything off in the room, say the pros at HomeDesignFind.com. One way to avoid this is to either place all of your furniture on the rug, or place none of it on the rug, setting it up along the edges.
According to the makers of Karastan rugs, there are numerous ways to incorporate rugs into your home decor. In a large family room, for example, consider placing one large rug in the room, or using several smaller rugs to create a sense of separation between different areas of the room. You can do this too with rugs placed over wall-to-wall carpet. For example, you may want to set off a play area in a child’s room or a reading area in the rec room with an area rug.
Once you know the size you need, you should determine what kind of fiber works best for your home.
“Wool wears extremely well. Wool rugs tend to become family heirlooms,” says Snider, president of Piedmont Floors. For high-traffic areas, resilient fibers like wool are a must, he says. Homes with less traffic may opt for a Persian. Pet owners should choose carefully though. While Persian rugs will appreciate in value, one pet mess will ruin the value.
Area rug sizes can range from 2 ½ feet by 4 feet 3 inches, up to 11 ½ feet by 16 feet in specialty stores. You will find round rugs, runners, rectangles and even some squares. You will also discover that vendors will custom-make rugs using some of the beautiful new carpet patterns from companies like Shaw, Mohawk and Sphinx.
Multicolored rugs are good for high-traffic areas because they mask wear and dinginess. When it comes to color, grays, beiges, salmon, tans, greens, traditional blues and burgundies have proven to be timeless.
If you have a lot of patterns in your home—say a busy couch and drapes—a softer-patterned rug is needed. Select one that has a lot of white space between elements. A rug with a busy pattern on the other hand will bring some pizzazz to a room.
If your furniture always seems to be just a bit askew, a rug with a repeating or patchwork pattern can hide that. Of course if you live for symmetry you will love the rugs with one focal point in the center, often called medallions, which will highlight your attention to detail.
Then the only thing left to do is grab your room measurements, paint chips and fabric swatches and race to your local rug store.
Quick facts about area rugs
- What are you paying for? The type and amount of fiber, the colors and design, and craftsmanship.
- A 5 by 8-foot synthetic fiber area rug can be as little as $250. An Original Karastan (wool) rug approximately 6 by 9 feet is about $1,500. A typical 8 by 10 foot Oriental rug runs anywhere from $1,200 to $20,000. The highest-quality and most costly wool comes from Australia and New Zealand.
- To extend the life of your rug, make sure you rotate it each year. This prevents uneven wear and sun damage.