Because floor covering makes such an emphatic statement, updating your rug can update the whole room. Animal prints are an easy way to add a dose of glamour—and because they tend toward a brown-black-and-white palette they go nicely with neutrals. Not sure you want to send an entire room on safari? Place a smaller faux cowhide rug next to your piano or by a bed, for just a nod to the exotic. If you prefer less pattern but still want to make an impact, consider a highly textured rug, such as a monochromatic shag or a flokati, made of fluffy sheep skin. Tibetan rugs are also in vogue, favored for their simple motifs and strong, saturated colors—they go well with mid-century modern and contemporary furniture.
Choose Your Material
Wool, wool-blend and polypropylene (also called olefin by rug manufacturers) are area rug types that wear well and resist stains, making them good choices for high-traffic areas like hallways and entryways.
Size It Up
To figure out how to buy a rug that is right for your space, keep these guidelines in mind: In a living room at least the front two legs of each piece of furniture should sit on the rug. A rug underneath a dining room table should be large enough so the chairs still rest on it when someone is seated. For bedrooms, offices, dens and other rooms, make sure that the rug covers only a portion of the floor. If the entire floor is covered, the rug will read more like wall-to-wall carpeting (and will also make the room look smaller).
While the pattern and color of your rug are important, if the backing is shoddy, it won’t last. Most area rug types have either latex or jute backing and generally you can see right away if the backing is of inferior quality. For latex backings, brush your hand along the underside of the rug. Good latex won’t shed, so if you end up with a lot white residue in your hand, the backing won’t last. For jute, flip the rug over and look at the stitching, if you see raw stitches sticking out or the weaving doesn’t look neat and tight, pass on the rug.
Examine the Weave
Fold the rug and look at the construction. A high-quality rug will be so densely woven that you will only be able to see a minimal amount of backing material in the fold. Cheaper rugs have fewer fibers woven per square inch, so the backing material will be much more visible when the rug is folded.
Understand the Construction
Rugs are made in many different ways around the world. Knotted rugs are the hardest to make, are most often done by hand and, therefore, are the most expensive. If you fall in love with a knotted rug, check out the height of the pile before you buy it: It should be a consistent thickness across the rug. Flat-weave rugs, like kilims and dhurries, are woven either by hand or on a machine; check that the weave is tight before purchasing one. Tufted rugs have loops of material pushed through the backing. Run your hand through the rug almost as if you’re petting it; there’s likely to be a little tufting that comes out, but if you end up with a handful, the rug will continue to shed until it falls apart. Braided rugs are sewn together in a spiral fashion and should be reversible; if it doesn’t look good from both sides don’t buy it. For natural-fiber rugs, eyeball the texture for consistency and tightness of weave.