The other day, we were browsing our local craft fair. Vendors at the fair sell anything from art prints to clothing to vintage wares, and as we passed one of the booths filled with the latter, a passerby and I took one peek into the booth and said – at the same time – ooh, RUGS! I laughed, she laughed. I can’t help but fill with joy when I see a big stack of rugs to flip through, and I love knowing that I’m not alone. In fact, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that if you’re reading this post, you’re just like me, too!
Not long ago, we received this email:
Hi, guys! I have a question about rugs. Specifically, how do I pick one? What should I look for? What are your favorite online shopping resources? I am really struggling, and I’ve been rugless for years in our living room where we spend all our time because I just don’t know what I’m doing. Thanks! – Stephanie
I’m not a rug expert, but I’m certainly an enthusiast! We’ve made enough choices over the years and have learned a lot along the way. Scott and I have purchased almost every type, style and size of rug out there, and a good rug has been some of our biggest home splurges. I’m going to break down my answer by material, and I’ll share the good and bad for each. Let’s go!
On Choosing Wool
I’m diving right into our favorite – wool! We would choose a wool rug over and over again. We prefer a low pile, and they’ve proven to stand up to our family and pets. A regular vacuuming (at least three times a week) keeps them looking like new.
The good: Wool rugs are naturally resistant to stains if you get to the spill quick enough – but even if you don’t, we’ve found that a mix of dish soap and water will pick up any stain. We’ve yet to come across a stain we can’t clean out of a wool rug! They’re also soft, saturated in color (or not!), and if taken care of, will last for the long haul.
The bad: Would you believe it if I told you that Scott’s allergic to wool? He is, yet we still buy them for the reasons above! It’s a mild allergy, so in his case, he prefers not to sit directly on the rug; keep this in mind if you’re also prone to wool allergies. Wool rugs can also be more expensive than its synthetic counterparts.
On Choosing Vintage
Our second go-to for rugs is vintage. The thrill of the hunt might be one of my favorite games (much to Scott’s dismay), and practicing patience is key. If you’ve been looking for the perfect vintage or antique rug, my suggestion would be to search once a day, and set up search alerts.
The good: Vintage and antique (more than 100-years-old) rugs are one-of-a-kind. If they’ve lasted this long, chances are, they’ll last a lifetime! I personally love the look of a worn in vintage rug – worn edges, threadbare spots and traffic patterns are all signs of a rug well loved. They also come in unique shapes and sizes, so if an 8×10 won’t cut it, you may have better luck finding a Persian in, say, 6×12. Vintage rugs have solved many skinny room dilemmas for us! If you’re lucky enough to find the perfect vintage rug for you, hold on tight.
The bad: One-of-a-kind can mean more money, however, I think the popularity of Persians, Kilims and the like are making them more affordable. Before purchasing, you’ll want to do your research: What is it made from? Can repairs be made (if absolutely necessary)? Has it been cleaned? Emily’s guide is a great place to start.
On Bringing the Outdoors In
We use outdoor rugs in our home way more than we do outside! From our mudroom at Tree House (above) to the stair runner in our Chicago home (below), we know we can count on an outdoor rug to hold up to daily abuse in high traffic areas.
The good: An outdoor rug is meant to live outdoors (obvs), so chances are, it’s made from materials that will last. They’ve been made to stand up to wind, rain and snow, and because of this, they’re a good choice for an area in your home that sees a lot of traffic. To clean, you can quite literally take your rug outside and hose it down! Another bonus: They’re more affordable than wool.
The bad: They’re not always that soft, and some outdoor rugs may have high VOCs due to the synthetic material. If you’re on the hunt, check to see if the rug is made from PET (recycled plastic) which is more environmentally friendly.
On Choosing Natural Fiber Materials
Natural fiber rugs add a big dose of texture and warmth to a room, and guys, they are affordable. They’re a wonderful neutral backdrop, and they’re a great option to layer with smaller vintage rugs if you’re looking to add depth!
The good: The price point. Comparatively speaking, they’re inexpensive, even in the largest sizes. They’re a strong, quiet contender if you’re looking to fill a large room, but I think they’re equally sweet as small doormats. The texture they bring to a room is one of their main attractions, and they can range from cream to dark.
The bad: Some natural fiber rugs can be quite scratchy, so always read online reviews if you’re unable to purchase in person! Cleaning up a stain can be more of a challenge, they may have an earthy odor (being natural fiber and all), and they’re more prone to shedding. You’ll notice imperfections with more wear – some will like this, some won’t. Oh, and if your cat loves those scratching towers? You’ll want to skip natural fiber rugs altogether!
Natural Fiber Favorites:
On Going Synthetic
Synthetic rugs are made from polypropylene (the same as most outdoor rugs), acrylic or some variation of plastic. We don’t own one, but I understand the draw: They’re inexpensive, and because they’re machine made, they can easily produce intricate vintage designs.
The good: Like natural fiber rugs, synthetic rugs are really affordable – even more so! If you’re a fickle person that likes to change things up often, these won’t break the bank when you change your mind. (Please re-list it in on the Marketplace or Craigslist, rather than tossing it into the dumpster!) Their looks have also gotten better over the years, so much so, I’ve been fooled into thinking a synthetic rug was a true vintage – that is, until I got up close.
The bad: This is a type of rug that shows its age. The fibers will crush over time, and a cleaning or vacuuming may not help with this. It probably isn’t going to last you for years, at which point, you’ll need to replace it. So although it’s affordable, it may end up being more costly in the long run.
On Choosing Custom
Did you know that our funny little nook has a custom rug made from wall-to-wall carpet remnants? We were struggling with this room because of it’s small size (about 7×7), and we discovered that a local carpet outlet could create a rug in any size using any of the remnants in their massive warehouse! It’s thick and cushy, and with regular vacuuming, it looks as good as the day we brought it home.
The good: Well, it’s completely custom! Like ours, custom rugs can be had from a warehouse, but another option that some retailers supply are rugs to the inch. There will be different materials and patterns to choose from, and you can rest assured knowing that your rug will fit your room perfectly. Some of my favorites: Room & Board, Crate & Barrel, and Sisal Rugs Direct.
The bad: Is the pressure of committing to the perfect size a bad thing? I suppose it can be! Custom rugs also have the potential to be pricier than their popular-sized counterparts.
Why a Rug Pad Matters
We love a rug pad for the extra cushion it provides (this one is our go-to), and it’s the first thing we buy after purchasing the rug itself. A good rug pad will keep your rug in place (safety first!) and reduce sound between floors, all while also protecting your floors – hardwood, carpet or otherwise – from scratches and dye transfer. Pads come in varying thicknesses depending on your needs, but unless you need low profile (like for an office), my advice would be to spend a little more for the thicker one. Your bare feet will thank you!
So, Which is the Right Rug for You?
Consider which room you’re shopping for (living / dining / bedroom), who spends time in there (just you / the pets / your pre-teen) and how often (every day / occasionally / rarely). Of course, budgets matter, but I encourage you to think long-term as well, and don’t forget the rug pad!
Fellow rug enthusiasts, what other advice would you add to this list? What experiences can you share?