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Which Rug Is Right for You? The Pros and Cons of Each Material

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
vintage rug (similar) | sectional | pouf | floor lamp | wall sconce | art | coffee table

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 timeooh, 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

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
Baxter rug in indigo

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.

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
Nola rug in neutral | pouf | curtains | sconce | be nice + ultrasound art

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.

Wool Favorites:

On Choosing Vintage

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material. Plus, why rug pads matter!
(similar) vintage rug | pendant light | (similar) stools | toaster | hardware

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.

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
vintage rug | sofa | throw (similar) | velvet pillow | pouf 

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.

Vintage Favorites:

On Bringing the Outdoors In

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
outdoor rugcabinets | bench light | shoe basket | outdoor bench cushion

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.

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
stair runner | mirror

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.

Outdoor Favorites:

On Choosing Natural Fiber Materials

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
natural fiber rug | bed frame | floating side table | lamp | pillow shams

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.

Synthetic Favorites:

On Choosing Custom

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
custom rug | sconce | chair | blanket | octopus | toy basket | art

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

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
rug | table | chairs | pendant | vase

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!

Rug Pads for Every Floor: plush | low-profile | budget buy

So, Which is the Right Rug for You?

How to choose the right rug for your room, including the pros and cons of each material, from wool to synthentic. Plus, why rug pads matter! via Yellow Brick Home
navy rug | outdoor rug (similar)office chairs | wall planter | kids craft table

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?

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  • Katy9.19.19 - 5:47 AM

    Love the honesty re: synthetic rugs. Allllll the bloggers these days are pushing the vintage replica loloi’s and it’s been hard to get some realistic info on how they hold up and how they look in real life. 

    I wish flat weave rugs made this list! The new SSSxLulu and Georgia rugs have been really tempting me lately but I usually stay away from flat weave rugs, from a comfort standpoint. Would love to hear any input you have on that type of rug!ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.19 - 7:46 AM

      Synthetic rugs definitely have a time and place, which is why I wanted to point out the pros and cons. Everyone will be in a different spot financially, and it can certainly be a huge pro to score a massive rug for a small price. That said, let’s talk about flat weave:

      I personally think they’re wonderful from a comfort standpoint if you add a rug pad. A rug pad is EVERYTHING for a flat weave, which also keeps them safe and in place. My only hesitation with flat weaves is the material: if they’re mostly cotton, I’ve found that they don’t stand up to our family with dogs. Cotton is much more difficult to clean (although it’s possible), but it also soaks up stains – as opposed to repelling them (like wool or synthetics). However, a pro is that they can be less expensive! So so consider your lifestyle and the room it will be living in.ReplyCancel

      • Jess C9.19.19 - 9:22 AM

        There are so many great flat woven wool rugs! They do a great job of maintaining stain resistance while being fairly inexpensive. Also, small cotton flat woven rugs have the advantage of often reacting well to machine washing. ReplyCancel

        • Kim9.19.19 - 10:57 AM

          Such a good point!ReplyCancel

        • Ann9.20.19 - 8:53 AM

          Cotton rag rugs are great, too.  I have found that spills clean up on them as well as they do on wool pile rugs, with the added advantage that you can throw them in the washing machine if you don’t get to the spill quickly, or don’t get a stain entirely out with a spot washing.  I just put them though the washer and dryer periodically for general cleaning, which is sooo much cheaper than having my persian wool rugs professionally cleaned by rug dealers (even a 6′ X 9′ cotton rag rug fits in the old triple load washers at laundromats). I had one in my kitchen for years, and it looked good enough to use in other rooms in future homes, no stains at all.  

          They are much softer underfoot than flat weave rugs.  I’ve found they last really long, longer than I ever expected, and are even in better shape than some of my wool pile rugs – the moths and carpet bottles I’ve been plagued with in some places ignore the cotton rugs and only munch on the wool ones.ReplyCancel

          • Kim9.20.19 - 4:00 PM

            Rag rugs are so nostalgic to me. They make me happy!

  • Sarah9.19.19 - 5:53 AM

    My (newly hard won) advice is, if buying vintage, pay extra close attention to the pile height! I finally splurged on my first large vintage rug, and while I love it for all the reasons listed in this post, it has literally no pile to speak of at all. The result is a very hard and scratchy rug that is so thin it has no cushion to it at all. I have ordered a rug pad and am hoping that will help the surface texture too, but for now it definitely is way less comfortable than the cheap synthetic rug it replaced!ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.19 - 7:38 AM

      That’s a great point. But yes, a rug pad will definitely add comfort under foot!ReplyCancel

  • Caitlin9.19.19 - 6:08 AM

    And don’t forget the FLOR rugs!!  I was going through some of your old posts when you used to rave about them, and it convinced me to buy one for our office.  It was just what we needed!  Our desk chairs roll over it nicely, it looks AMAZING, and it was easy to size to the room.  I also like that I don’t have to worry about having my son’s art table on the rug, because we can clean them!! ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer9.19.19 - 7:32 AM

    Love this!  I am also really struggling with selecting a rug.  I’d also love to see a post on how you decide on a rug look… As in, how do you decide whether to pick a graphic rug, traditional style rug, solid color… one that blends in with the floor vs. one that pops… dark vs.light etc.  That is my real struggle right now.  I’ve ordered 5 rugs for our living room already and they have varied greatly in style (dark vs. light, graphic vs traditional) and I still haven’t found the perfect one.   Having to return rugs is getting old fast, and my husband might want to wring my neck at this point, ha!  I wish I were more efficient at this.ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.19 - 7:42 AM

      I’ve struggled with that in the past – if you’ve been a longtime reader, you know that we’re on rug #3 in our living room! I’m a firm believer in changing it up if you no longer love it, but I hear you: returning rugs or swapping them out can be tiresome.

      Your question is really all about personal preference. I’d suggest looking online at rooms that you love and paying close attention to what you like about the room. Do the rugs contrast? Do they blend in? Are you pinning rooms with bold designs or something subtle? You’ll start to notice a pattern, and then stay the course when selecting one for your home!ReplyCancel

    • HeatherB9.19.19 - 8:11 AM

      I generally think it is best if you have opposites between your rug and your other big pieces.  So, if you have a large patterned sofa, go with a less/non-patterned rug.  If sofa is darker, keep rug lighter.  If sofa is very colorful, keep rug more neutral.  Or vice versa to each of those.  It isn’t a hard and fast rule, but just seems to work the majority of the time, in my opinion.  Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Peggy S9.19.19 - 7:35 AM

    This is a good overview for choosing a rug. I agree with you on the benefits of wool rugs. I have a wool kilim that’s over 20 years old, and other than some fading on one side (but it’s reversible!), it still looks as good as when I first got it. It’s had baby spit-up and who knows what else on it.
    A couple of years ago when I was searching for another wool rug, I discovered rugchick.com. There’s an amazing wealth of knowledge on this site. Not all wool rugs are worth the price!ReplyCancel

  • Stacy9.19.19 - 8:52 AM

    Thanks so much for putting this post together! It definitely made me think of some things I hadn’t considered before. I’ve been on the vintage rug hunt (both for looks and for weird sizing requirements) and it can be kind of discouraging sometimes when it feels like it takes SO. LONG. to find something that will work. I’m going to look into the custom rug options you referenced to see what my other options are now!ReplyCancel

  • Kasey9.19.19 - 9:48 AM

    Could you share the name of the company that made your custom rug in your 7×7 room for locals? I’d love to do that for my son’s room! ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.19 - 10:56 AM

      I believe it was Olympia carpet! It’s in the Hermosa neighborhood.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly Watson9.19.19 - 10:26 AM

    Thank you for this post.  So informative.  Do you cut your rug pad smaller than the rug?ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.19 - 10:56 AM

      An 8×10 rug pad, for example, will already be sliiiiightly smaller than an 8×10 rug.ReplyCancel

  • Halle9.19.19 - 11:02 AM

    Your post is so timely! We’re starting to put together a master bedroom plan and a new rug is in the works, we just can’t decide on what to get. Thanks for the info – hopefully this will help us out!ReplyCancel

  • amy9.19.19 - 2:29 PM

    this is so helpful and thorough! am redoing our entry way and I need go a great indoor/outdoor runner to accommodate kid traffic. do you know what color yours is in the mudroom at the tree house? thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Betsy9.19.19 - 2:31 PM

    I am a fan of the look of a natural fiber rug.  But definitely stay away if you have pets.  My dog immediately(within days) threw up on my new rug.  Needless to say, they stain at the drop of a hat, and do not come clean.  I lived with huge stain for over a year trying to find a replacement rug I liked.  But like is the key word.  I don’t LOVE it.  But I couldn’t take the stain any longer.  I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect kilim rug for years now.  Maybe someday I will find it!ReplyCancel

  • LL9.19.19 - 2:44 PM

    Hello. Do you have any experience with viscose as a material in rugs?  I understand they are not very durable.  Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.19 - 3:22 PM

      That would fall under synthetics. Same pros and cons as above!ReplyCancel

  • Ann9.19.19 - 3:37 PM

    we have a vintage wool rug in our family room. I get it professionally cleaned about every two years with just soap and water (no chemicals). For runners and other areas we use popcorn jute rugs. they are inexpensive and our great for hiding sand! ReplyCancel

  • Jessica9.20.19 - 7:45 AM

    I live in the western suburbs of Chicago, any places in particular that I could find vintage rugs? Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.20.19 - 4:01 PM

      We’ve found awesome vintage rugs at Vintage Quest and Humboldt House (both in humboldt park), but most of our vintage rugs come from Etsy or eBay.ReplyCancel

  • Megan9.20.19 - 11:01 AM

    I currently have a sisal rug from Crate and Barrel in my living room (you have it linked above under natural fiber rugs).  I mostly love it.  It was very inexpensive, and I love the look of it.  I got the ‘heritage’ color, which has a great mix of beige and gray, and the color variation helps hide stains.  I spilled an entire cup of coffee on it a couple of months ago, and was able to soak up most of it with a towel and the stain is barely visible.  (Even so, I wish I had had some of that powder carpet cleaner that’s supposed to help absorb liquid spills.)  A couple of other cons: my vacuum has trouble picking up dog hair from it and it is very scratchy and not at all comfortable to sit on.  I think it would be great for a hallway or traffic area, where people are just walking on it.  I’ve had my eye on a wool rug at Room and Board for a while now, and am hoping one day I can afford to replace the sisal with a wool rug.  But, the sisal is fine for now.ReplyCancel

  • Alexandra9.20.19 - 11:22 AM

    This is great timing for me, so thank you for sharing! I’m agonizing unnecessarily over choosing a nursery rug. I love the rug y’all chose for Lucy’s nursery, but I hesitate every time I look at it on C&B’s site because it looks SO much yellower/creamier. In your photos though, it’s perfect! I should trust your photos over theirs, right?? :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.20.19 - 3:58 PM

      I was scared, too!! But in person it is SO much lighter and just really neutral. It’s one of our favorites in the house! It has also seen an unsightly accident (I’ll spare you the details, haha), and is be hard pressed to find the spot where we cleaned it up. It’s a champ! Also, our local Crate has this rug on display in their store, so it’s be worth checking out in person.ReplyCancel

  • Kristi9.20.19 - 1:05 PM

    We have a wool rug from West Elm that we’ve had now for about five years. I was told the shedding would stop, but we still can’t sit on the rug without being COVERED in wool fibers once we get up. Also, after just a day or two I start to notice some wool dust bunnies in the corners of the room its in. Is this normal and to be expected with wool rugs?ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.20.19 - 3:56 PM

      That seems excessive. We didn’t experience that with our Baxter rugs (Crate & Barrel), but perhaps the West Elm rug you have wasn’t knotted as tight? Do you know how it was constructed?ReplyCancel

      • Theresa9.20.19 - 8:45 PM

        I am having the exact same issue with my West Elm rug! It seems very excessive and I’ve been wanting to call customer service. Now that I know someone else thinks this isn’t right, I plan to call. ReplyCancel

  • Géraldine9.21.19 - 1:20 AM

    Hello! Thanks for the great information! French reader here and rug pads seam not to be a thing in my country. I have beautiful wool rugs and would love to find the ressources to buy good rug pads. I thought that, with your extended readers community, some fellow Europeans might be able to help. Would it be possible to consider giving a shout out? ^^ Anyhow, Keep up with the good work! Love from LyonReplyCancel

    • Kim9.22.19 - 4:37 PM

      Oh that’s interesting! Can anyone chime in?ReplyCancel

      • Géraldine9.24.19 - 4:48 AM

        Thanks for the response! Now wait and see ;-)ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca10.15.19 - 9:28 AM

    Have you considered/tried Ruggables? I was very skeptical, but – entirely unbeknownst to me :) – my girlfriend ordered a runner for our kitchen, and I’m actually quite impressed.  We’ve had it literally for three days, so I would be curious if you’ve tried them and have any thoughts on longevity. Love your posts! R ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.15.19 - 9:52 AM

      We haven’t but totally would! A friend has one in her living room and I was super impressed.ReplyCancel

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