Rugs 101: Everything you Need to Know about Buying a Rug

Rugs can be an overwhelming item to buy for a space. Often they can be pretty pricey, and they take up so much real estate in a room, so you don’t want to make the wrong choice.Our sage green and blush nursery

Rory’s Nursery (Vintage Rug from this Etsy shop)

Rugs are vital when it comes to making a room feel comfortable, layered, and homey, so I don’t want you to skimp out on buying a rug simply because you’re overwhelmed with this task. Instead, I’m here to answer ALL of your questions on this worthwhile topic. Hopefully, after reading today’s post, you’ll feel more confident when buying a rug for your home.

Buying a Rug 101

If you're buying a rug you want to make sure you spend time answering these questions before you pull the trigger

How Do I Choose the Right Rug for Me? A large seagrass rug works well in a living room space.

Condo Living Room Rug

When I pull a room together, my rug choice really sets the tone for the rest of the room. Sometimes I want the rug to act as a neutral in the space (like in my old living room above), and other times I want it to be the focal point (like in my current living room below).Our living room home tour before and after

Living Room Rug (9×12 Olive/Charcoal)

But before you even think about the LOOK of the rug, you must think about the FUNCTION of the rug. Is this a high-traffic area? Will there be spills on this rug? Will you be laying on this rug, so softness will be an issue? Think about how you will use the rug in your everyday life before you choose. Vacuuming our seagrass rug

Condo Living Room Rug

In the past, I’ve opted for natural fiber rugs in high-traffic spaces. You can read more about the differences between natural fiber rugs in this post, but know that these rugs are very durable and affordable. That’s why they’re great for spots that will see a lot of use, like a family room, kitchen, or entryway, plus you won’t feel bad if you have to replace them frequently, due to wear and tear. However, some can be a bit scratchy, so that option might not be great if you’re on the ground playing with small kids all day.  Our main bedroom makeover reveal

Main Bedroom Rug (9×12 Natural/Sand)

In the past few years, I’ve opted for more colorful rug choices in my home.  Much of the furniture in our house is neutral, so adding a pop of color on the floor is always a welcome idea. Plus, these colorful rugs can often hide any dirt or spills, so they can work well in high-traffic spaces too.

Should I Buy a Rug Online?
The business of blogging

Home Office Rug (5×7.5 Red/Navy)

I buy most of my rugs online. In fact, I do a large chunk of my home shopping online. (For more tips on how to online shop for home decor, check out this post.)  It can be a bit scary ordering such a large piece online and not seeing it in person…I get that. But you’ve just gotta be smart about it.

Always read the reviews from other customers and check to see if they’ve posted photos of the rug in their space. Sometimes colors will look different in person, so it’s always good to hear from a “real person” about their experience.

Only order from places with easy return policies. If they won’t take the item back after opening, or if you have to pay an arm and a leg for return shipping, find another online retailer!How have our painted floors held up?

Guest Bathroom Rug (Vintage from this Etsy shop)

And here’s a little piece of advice…  If you’re ordering a huge rug for a room and you’re nervous about what it will look like in real life, try to order a sample or even a doormat of the exact same rug. Seeing the exact color and fabric in person could save you from making a bad decision on such a big purchase!

Where Do You Shop for Rugs? This contemporary master bedroom looks great with a tribal patterned area rug from Lulu & Georgia.

My Brother’s Main Bedroom Makeover (this rug is similar)

  • RugsUSA: Wait until they have a big sale before you buy…sometimes up to 70% off!
  • Lulu & Georgia: I love their unique collection of rugs. They have so many awesome colors and patterns that are right on-trend (like the rug I used in the bedroom above!)
  • Loloi: I have lots of Loloi rugs throughout my home and I buy most of them on Amazon. Their patterns and colors are fantastic, plus the prices are good. However, please know that they’re screen printed so the rugs have a very low pile. (It’s hard to tell in pictures.)
  • Wayfair: Sometimes you have to dig to find good ones, but they have such a variety and good prices.
  • West Elm: You can’t go wrong with one of my favorite stores! It’s also nice that you can go into the store to view their rugs in person.
  • World Market: They tend to have a lot of great rug sales, so wait to buy. I’m a big fan of their outdoor rugs. 
  • HomeGoods: This is another good spot because you get to see the rug in person before you buy. The rug in my mom’s bedroom was a steal from HomeGoods, so you really never know what you might find there. All of the smaller rugs near our entry doors are natural fiber rugs from HomeGoods because they’re around $30 and I don’t care if I have to change them up each year.

What About Vintage Rugs?Finding a new kitchen runner

While I have lots of vintage-inspired rugs that are new and screen printed (like this one in just about every color), I really appreciate the beauty of a vintage rug that was hand-knotted and meant to last forever! That’s why I went for a vintage Turkish rug in Rory’s nursery, in our guest bathroom, and in our kitchen. My best tips for buying a rug for your kitchen

Vintage Kitchen Rug (from this eBay shop)

I actually have an entire blog post dedicated to the topic of where to buy vintage rugs. You can head over to this blog post for all of that information.

What About Outdoor Rugs?Sharing our back deck and patio

Outdoor Patio Rug (7×10)

I’m all about an outdoor rug! It really makes your patio furniture feel more cohesive and gives the sense of an outdoor room. When buying outdoor rugs, I try not to spend too much money because they typically only last one season for me. We have harsh weather here in Chicago, so I don’t count on my outdoor rugs lasting forever. I’ve had a lot of luck finding inexpensive outdoor rugs at Target – like this one from our patio. If they get dirty, I’ll often powerwash to get rid of any dirt or grime and that works very well.

What Size Do I Buy?How we incorporate baby storage into our living room

Living Room Rug (9×12 Olive/Charcoal)

By far the biggest mistake I see people making when it comes to rugs is buying the wrong size. And most of the time that means they’re buying a rug that is way too small for their space. I outlined all of the dos and don’ts in this post, so read it carefully before selecting a rug for your specific space. It shares tips for choosing a size for each space in your home and it is a great resource. When in doubt, bigger is often better!

Can I Layer Over Carpet?Tips to create a work from home setup in the basement

Finn’s Basement Office Rug (9×12 Taupe/Stone)

Yes! Absolutely. If you hate your carpet, the best thing you can do is place a rug on top that you absolutely love. We plan to eventually replace the carpet in our basement, but for now, this large blue rug makes the space so much better. Rugs make a room feel cozier, so feel free to use them, even if you have wall-to-wall carpet. Even if you don’t have carpet, you can still layer rugs. Because rugs can be so pricey, especially big ones, sometimes it makes sense to layer a small expensive rug over a large natural fiber rug that is more affordable.

Do I Need a Rug Pad?Jan cutting my rug pad down to size

Yes, especially if you have hardwood floors. Rug pads do a few things. They keep your rug in place; they add an extra layer of comfort; and they protect your floors! Natural fiber rugs can be abrasive and permanently scratch the hardwood floor underneath. If you place a rug pad underneath, you can protect your floors and avoid falling victim to permanent scratches down the road.

Rug pad underneath the kitchen rug

The good news is rug pads come in all shapes and sizes and are a fraction of the cost of the actual rug. Even if your decorative rug is an odd size or you can’t seem to find the perfect rug pad, you can always cut down a rug pad to fit your rug’s dimensions. In the past, I’ve used heavy-duty scissors, but I’ve found that a razor, with something underneath to prevent scratching your floor, works so much better. I like using this felt and rubber rug pad underneath my rugs.

How Do You Clean Rugs?Vacuum your area rugs regularly and spot clean them to keep them looking good.

My Brother’s Living Room Rug (8×12)

This is a really good question and sadly, I’m not an expert at this one! I vacuum our rugs regularly and always use spot remover if I find a spill or a stain. I’ve never had an area rug professionally steam cleaned, but from my research, this can be done once a year and it really improves the longevity of your rug.

Can I Donate Mine?If you're getting rid of a rug, make sure you see if you can donate it first. If not, you can recycle your area rugs.

My Mom’s Bedroom (rug from HomeGoods)

If your rug is in good condition, but just doesn’t jive with the style of your home, or is the wrong size, you can definitely donate it! Most local thrift stores will accept large area rugs. However, if it’s badly damaged, soiled from pets, or just reaaaaallly worn down, you should recycle it! This website can help you find out where to bring your used rug.

Can you Share All of the Rugs in Your Home?Loveseat from Article

Quick Rug FAQOpen living room space in the city

Jan’s Living Room Rug

I had you submit your questions about buying a rug over on Instagram stories and figured I’d do some rapid-fire answers…

How do you do multiple rugs in the same room?

For rugs, there are usually geometric patterns, organic patterns, and then no pattern – like a natural fiber rug. I’d pick from two of the categories if you’re doing two rugs in the same room. For example, this jute rug and this rug with a more organic shape. Also, consider mixing up the textures and pile height.

Should you put a rug under a dining room table?

I’ve never done it, but it can be done. I think it depends on the space and how often you use the table. There’s no way we could use one now, because a lot of Rory’s food ends up on the floor and we would be cleaning up stains constantly. If you do go for a dining room rug, consult this post for sizing. And choose one with a low pile or else crumbs will get lost in there!

Is Ruggable worth it?

I don’t have any Ruggable rugs, but my mom has one as her kitchen runner and loves it. She can toss it in the washing machine if it ever gets dirty and it comes with its own rug pad.

Do you prefer carpet or rug for a bedroom?

I prefer hardwood with a rug pad and rug.

How do you get them flat?

When I unroll them, I’ll often put heavy objects on the ends to train them down. You can also try this carpet tape to keep them in place on the ends.

How thick for the rug pad?

Depends on the use and how thick the rug is. If it’s a thinner rug, I go with 1/4 inch or thicker for the rug pad size. Also, be sure to think about any doors that are nearby and need to open over the rug. You don’t want it to be too thick that the door gets stuck!

How long should a rug last?

A high-quality wool rug that is properly cleaned and cared for can last forever! The vintage rug in Rory’s nursery is 50 years old and still looks great. Many families pass down rugs from generation to generation, so it can pay off to invest in a high-quality wool rug.

Favorite kid-friendly rug?

I love our living room rug so much. It hides EVERYTHING! Rory has peed on it, pooped on it, spit up on it, spilled milk on it. This thing has seen every spill imaginable, yet it hides everything. We just wipe up spills as they happen and use carpet cleaner if anything is super gross. It’s a screen-printed rug, which I don’t mind, and it’s very soft and has a low pile. 10/10 recommend.

Go Forth & Buy a Rug with Confidence!My best tips for buying a rug

Wow, that was a lot about buying a rug! I hope I helped make the rug buying process a bit less scary. I know it can be overwhelming, but now you’ve got the tools you need to find the perfect rug for your home!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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