How to Choose the Best Decorative Rug for a Room: 12 Tips

You’ve done everything you needed to do for your living room. You saved your money in order to buy that ABC Carpet & Home sofa. You bought high-quality linen and silk and had drapes made by a seamstress. That vintage Charles Hollis Jones Lucite coffee table that you scored off of eBay couldn’t have found a better home. The accessories you’ve collected from around the world have found happy homes on your bespoke bookshelves. Your final touch was the discount rug from the closeout store. 

Wait, what?

Cheap Rugs Cheapen Rooms

Many people go out of their way to buy the very best for their home. Conscientious folk realize that in order to create a room that sings with beauty and good taste, they’re going to have to do their homework and buy the highest quality items that they can find. Those same people then wonder why their rooms don’t look quite right when they’ve slapped down a cheaply made rug. We’re not talking about a good rug that you were able to get for an incredible price. This is about cheaply made rugs that may kind of look nice when you’re staring at them in the store or online but that look horrendous when you bring them home to your space. The phrase “slapping lipstick on a pig” comes to mind. The word “cheap” when applied to goods and services usually means poorly made. You can buy a rug inexpensively, but you don’t want it to be cheaply made. 

Decorative Rugs Should Represent the Quality of the Home

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This blue and red oriental rug is consistent with high quality of the furniture and art in this Richard McGeehan designed living room in the Provincetown home of Robert Duffy, designer Marc Jacobs’ business partner.  

When choosing a decorative rug for your living room or any room in your home, always go out of your way to choose a rug that is consistent with the quality of your home and the other objects in the room. A cheaply made rug tends to bring down the quality of everything else in the room and also offends the eye. It can stick out as something you neglected to do, especially when compared to the other high quality objects in the room. Cheaply made rugs can start to lose their looks with even minimal use, they may fray, fade in color or feel uncomfortable underfoot. A rug that is handmade with high quality wool looks sumptuous to the eye and wears beautifully. Interior designers know that the right rug can helps define the space, forming the basis from which all of the other objects in the room flow. Your decorative rug is literally the foundation for a room and you wouldn’t build a house on a cheap, poorly made foundation, nor should you build a room on a poorly made rug.

Richard Duffy’s Provincetown library, featured above, features dark wood-paneled walls set off by red tufted-leather armchairs made by Gerard and covered in rich, red Edward Ferrell/Lewis Mittman leather. The Chesney’s mantle holds Russian knickknacks from the 1830s. Underneath it all? A gorgeous, red and blue oriental rug which ties all the elements in the room together. 

Inexpensive Rugs Should Not Be Cheaply Made Rugs

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Interior designer Wendy Valliere’s front porch in Stowe Vermont is anchored by a striking black and white striped rug.

In this photo, interior designer Wendy Valliere didn’t skimp on design just because she was “only” designing her front porch. From the antique French doors to her cherished Majolica collection to the black and white striped rug, everything was chosen with love and care.

Think of the following tips when choosing a rug for your home:

  • Think of your lifestyle, and choose a decorative rug that is handmade with high quality wool.

  • Make sure the rug has been quality tested by an independent quality testing organization and approved for high traffic residential use.

  • Know that durability is compromised in rugs that have been chemically washed or mechanically distressed to make them look antique.

  • Choose a rug that will help balance all the colors in the room

  • Choose a rug with a texture that contrasts with the other textures in the room

  • Select wall and fabric colors that either resonate with or contrast with the rug’s colors

  • Create contrast between the decorative rug and the floor

  • Avoid too small a rug as it will “shrink” the room

  • Pick the sizes of dining and living room rugs correctly

  • Maintain through regular vacuuming, including under and on both sides of the rug pad.

  • Do not send the rug for routine washing, just as you would not send a good quality wool dress for unnecessary dry-cleaning.

  • Use a high quality rug pad for added comfort and durability.

Remember that inexpensive does not mean cheap, or poorly made. It just means that you found a great deal on a high-quality rug, but make sure you choose a rug that is not just well made, but it also elevates the look and comfort of the room.

Find more detailed decorating advice on choosing the right rug in this video with Southern California interior designer Eric Guenther.

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