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Choosing an Area Rug by Size, Shape, Texture, Color and Pattern

Updated on May 7, 2021
lindacee profile image

Linda is a seasoned writer and bedroom authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.


Your room is lacking pizzazz and you can’t quite put your finger on the problem. Before you start painting and buying new furniture, the simple solution to your dilemma might be right under your feet. Area rugs add that final decorative layer to your rooms. They are an integral part of room design and should be high on the list when shopping for home furnishings.

Rugs can set a mood, serve as a focal point or provide much needed contrast in a neutral room. Whether you have been blessed with stunning hardwood, gorgeous tile or ordinary builder grade carpeting a rug will add instant warmth and character. The components of size, shape, color and pattern define an area, unify a space, add color, soften hard surfaces and enhance any type of decor. With so much riding on the choice of an area rug here are a few guidelines to help you pick the perfect rug for your room.

Determine the Size

When selecting an area rug—size matters. Before hopping in the car to hit the stores, take time to measure the room. That way you won’t waste your time buying the wrong size. The proper size rug means the difference between good design and throwing off the room's proportions.

Note the placement of the furniture and measure the length and width of the area it occupies. For instance, in an open concept living area,make sure your rug extends beyond the front legs of your furniture. This will ensure the it is large enough to anchor the furniture grouping. You can also take the rug just beyond the outside boundary of your furniture to encompass an entire seating or entertaining area. If you're still unsure of the size use painter’s tape to mark an outline directly on the floor. The will not only give you an idea how the rug will look in the room it will also indicate the approximate size you'll need.

In the dining room, your rug should accommodate chairs positioned at and away from the table. Measure the table and add at least two feet to those dimensions. Better yet, take your table measurements, pull out a chair and sit down—measure just beyond the chair to compensate for those additional inches.

To keep your tootsies toasty in the bedroom make sure your area rug extends at least a couple of feet past the sides and foot of the bed. Another cheaper solution is to purchase small area for each side of the bed. This not only adds color and interest to your bedroom it warms up those cold floors.

An area rug in the bedroom gives it a warm, cozy feel.
An area rug in the bedroom gives it a warm, cozy feel. | Source

Choose a Shape That Works

Standard rug shapes include round, square, rectangular and oval. Choosing the right shape can make or break the room design. Round or octagonal rugs take a boxy living room from mundane to marvelous.

Create balance in a rectangular bedroom by adding a square rug. Soften the hard lines and angles of furniture with an oval or round rug. A round dining room table doesn’t necessarily demand a round rug. The juxtaposition of a round table and a square rug may provide just the right asymmetrical look for your dining room. Don't forget to use long runners for narrow hallways, in the bathroom, beside the bed or along the kitchen counters.

A runner even works in a bathroom.
A runner even works in a bathroom. | Source

Experiment With Texture

Rugs are a great way to experiment with texture in a room. Today’s wide variety of area rugs can provide a unique look and mood to your interior spaces. Texture on the floor gives new life to a tired room.

Natural materials, such as sisal, jute or seagrass impart an organic feel in a traditional room. Contemporary berbers with their dense loop construction add a casual softness to a room and are more comfortable underfoot than the grass cloth varieties. A sculpted wool rug can become the focal point bringing a sense of elegance to a bedroom or formal spaces. Fluffy flokatis and shags turn up the hip quotient in modern interiors.

A dainty shag rug adds texture and dimension to this monochromatic dining space.
A dainty shag rug adds texture and dimension to this monochromatic dining space. | Source

Capitalize on Color

Color can literally make or break your design plan. The color or colors you choose for your area rug will go a long way in bringing your vision full circle. Flooring accounts for roughly thirty percent of your room’s color, so you better do some real soul-searching to get it right.

Choose a rug as the jumping off point for your room’s design and carry the rug colors through to your paint, upholstery, window treatments and accessory selections. If you've played it safe with solid color upholstery, pillows and curtains choose a rug that makes a bold statement, such as an oriental, Kilim, tapestry or hooked floral.

If your rug is the final layer of your room’s design keep the palette neutral so the colors support and complement the other furnishings. If you choose a solid color go with one that is similar to that of your wall color so it blends with your existing decor.

When you go shopping bring along a digital photo of the room, a throw pillow or swatches of fabrics or paint colors. These color references will give you a good idea of how your new rug will work with the other colors in your room.

A bright colorful rug is a great way to pull in subtle colors from the room.
A bright colorful rug is a great way to pull in subtle colors from the room. | Source

Play With Pattern

Pattern, like color, is highly personal in nature and one that requires careful thought. A rug with pattern can work with any decorating style, you just have to know how and when to use it.

While oversized rooms can easily take on the visual strength of a patterned rug, small spaces can handle them just as well. In the case of a cozy, cottage-style room, florals underfoot bring to mind an English country garden. Mid-century modern spaces cry out for bold, geometric punches of pattern. When mixing patterns in a room, make sure each one relates to the other through color, style or texture.

This geometric pattern adds visual interest and coordinates with the room's furnishings.
This geometric pattern adds visual interest and coordinates with the room's furnishings. | Source

Care for Your New Rug

Rugs are not cheap so protect your investment. Be sure to save the care tag and cleaning instructions. It will tell you about its fiber content, if you need to dry clean, steam, wash or spot clean the rug. Take smaller rugs outside weekly to shake out the dust and dirt. Most large rugs can be vacuumed just like carpet. Oriental rugs and those made from delicate fibers may require extra special care.

Always check the rug's care label before attempt to clean it.
Always check the rug's care label before attempt to clean it. | Source

How to Spot Clean a Wool Rug

© 2010 Linda Chechar


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