They’re really rather amazing, area rugs, creating maximum impact in minimum space, sparking visual interest, adding welcome cushioning, and muffling the sounds of foot traffic. Between a $10,000 Persian and a cheesy runner from the dollar store lie dozens of options. Let us walk you through the wide array of affordable, high-quality floor coverings available now.
The Right Stuff
If you change your decor nearly as often as you change your outfit, choose synthetic rugs — polypropylene or nylon — which provide water- and UV-resistance at low prices. A 5' by 8' can be had for less than $100. Nylon is the higher quality of the two because of its bulk (yarn made of polypropylene fibers can get crushed over time), plus it holds color well. But both synthetics are excellent at masking dirt. Cotton rugs, $50 and up, are an even more affordable choice, but they can stain and wear out quickly (though you can throw them in a large washing machine). Want something eco-friendly? Plant-based fibers such as sisal, jute, and bamboo are not only biodegradable but made from renewable resources. Especially good for sunrooms or outdoor use because they shed water easily, plant-based fibers are difficult to clean and may last only a few years with heavy use; still, they start at a low $100.
Entertain often or need a stylish floor covering for a high-traffic area? Check out wool. The fibers are naturally stain-resistant and don’t flatten easily (just vacuum regularly to revive). Wool rugs should last decades, but you pay for the durability: They start at $300 and run as high as that pricey Persian, which can range from $200 for a machine-made 5' by 8' replica up to thousands of dollars for an authentic hand-knotted one (more on both of these methods below).
Quality Counts: Measure the Knots
Hand-knotted rugs are the gold standard — they’re the most durable, have the finest details, and should survive generations. And though the hand-knotted technique is ancient, originating in Persia, it’s still used on contemporary rugs. The more knots per square inch, the better (they can vary from 40 to 1,200). Next best thing? Hand-tufted rugs; they’re half man-made, half machine-made. (You’ll see the term “handmade,” but it’s essentially meaningless.) Check the underside of the rug — if you see the pattern in reverse, it’s a hand-knotted piece; if you see a backing, it’s hand-tufted. And on any hand-knotted or hand-tufted rug, look for the RugMark label, which means it was made without child labor. Machine-made rugs generally cost less than a third of the price of hand-knotted versions.
Size Wise: How Big, How Small?
An area rug is meant to give a room a focal point. If the rug is too big, it just looks like wall-to-wall carpeting; if it’s too skimpy, it fails to draw the eye and make the room inviting. (Worst-case scenario: It looks as if someone accidentally left a towel on the floor.) Consider comfort when you choose thickness. For the bedroom, allow three feet of rug on either side of the bed if you and your partner both want a soft landing in the morning (your nightstands should be on the rug as well). In the dining room, be sure the rug is large enough to fit beneath a chair that’s pushed back from the table, then add six more inches. In the living room, personal preference rules. Furniture that’s half-on, half-off the rug creates a casual look; furniture entirely on or off is more formal. Finally, a rug’s price should match the cost of other major furniture in the room. In a living room, for example, the floor covering should be about the price of the sofa.
Rug Pads: Your Floors Best Friend
These handy floor savers not only provide comfort and prevent slipping, they can also add years to the life of the rug you just purchased, since less movement means less friction (read: less wear and tear). Most are made of synthetic materials - such as PVC or latex - and though they may vary in thickness (a thicker one will make your rug feel cushier), most have the same gripping capabilities. Buy a pad that's one or two inches smaller than your rug, and in your price range. (Pads range from $20 to $80.)
Now that you know how to spot a quality area rug, check out Foggs Carpet and Rug Cleaning for quality rug cleaning and restoration!
For more details check out this video from our friends at Serafian's