Whether you have wall-to-wall carpeting or genuine hardwood floors, nothing adds warmth and brightness to your home like an area rug. Rugs—distinguished from carpeting as smaller, portable, and easy to roll up and store away—are your floor’s version of clothing. The best area rugs are durable, functional, and can be stylish additions to the home. But shopping for rugs can take time since there are many materials, sizes, and patterns to consider. To help you choose the best area rug for your living space, this guide gives you a start with several recommendations.
- BEST OVERALL: ReaLife Machine Washable Persian Distressed Rug
- BEST STATEMENT RUG: nuLOOM Marisela Tribal Area Rug
- BEST FOR THE KITCHEN: Maples Rugs Southwestern Stone Distressed Kitchen Rug
- BEST FOR BEDROOMS: Safavieh Milan Shag Collection SG180-1212 Area Rug
- BEST FOR LIVING ROOMS: Safavieh Monaco Collection MNC243N Boho Chic Area Rug
- BEST FOR OUTDOORS: Home Dynamix 6681-480 Area Rug
- BEST FOR HALLWAYS: ReaLife Machine Washable Vintage Bohemian Rug
- BEST IN COTTON: Homcomoda Cotton Plaid Checkered Area Rug
- BEST IN WOOL: Safavieh Blossom Collection BLM402A Handmade Wool Rug
What to Consider When Buying Area Rugs
A good rug should be safe, durable, and stylish. It should also be health- and eco-friendly. If you have allergies or other respiratory concerns, choosing the right material will be key. Pile and weave are important considerations when assessing a rug’s functionality and safety, especially if it will be placed in a highly trafficked area. You also might consider purchasing a rug mat or gripper pads to prevent slipping and tripping.
Pile and Weave
Pile refers to the density of rug fibers and how high these fibers are. A thick, dense pile can add comfort and padding underfoot. Thinner piles are great under furniture, as well as in highly trafficked areas (kitchens, hallways, bathrooms, etc). Pile height comes in three basic categories: low (less than 1/4 inch); medium (between 1/4 and 1/2 inch); and high (1/2 to 3/4 inch). Rug pile can be woven in two ways: looped or cut. Cut pile is commonly used in wall-to-wall carpeting, and also can be found in area rugs. Looped pile has a woven look and can be manufactured or handmade. Looped pile often is easier to clean than cut pile, but cut is preferable if you have pets (their claws can get caught in the loops).
Natural vs. Synthetic Fibers
Made of 100 percent cotton, wool, silk, or fibrous plants like sisal or jute, natural fiber rugs have many benefits. They typically are better for the environment than synthetic fibers, especially if they are grown and manufactured using certified organic, sustainable, and fair trade methods. They can also be beautiful and unique, especially if handwoven. A drawback of natural fiber rugs is often cost; they might be more expensive than synthetic rugs of the same size and style. Wool, in particular, can shed, making it necessary to vacuum more often.
Rug makers typically craft synthetic fiber rugs from nylon, polyester, or polypropylene. Some synthetic rugs are made of recycled plastics and other manmade materials, boosting their eco-friendliness. Though synthetic fiber rugs can be ultradurable, long lasting, affordable, and easy to clean, they also might come treated with flame retardants, glues, and artificial dyes that raise health and environmental concerns. Therefore, it is important before buying any rug to assess any health risks. Then you can make a choice of natural or synthetic fiber based on your family’s needs and awareness of more sustainable options.
Rugs are typically measured in feet, and can be as small as 3 feet by 5 feet or as large as 12 feet by 15 feet or more. For kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways, narrower rugs and mats are also useful, and come in sizes of 1.5 feet by 2 feet or longer. A good rule of thumb for choosing the right size area rug for your room is to subtract 2 feet on each side. For example, if your room is 10 feet by 12 feet, consider purchasing a central rug that is 8 feet by 10 feet. Of course, you will want to measure your space before purchasing.
Rugs can save your hardwood floors from damage. They also can cushion your feet and keep you warm in winter. Dense, high-pile rugs—including plush and shag styles—are ideal for bedrooms and anywhere comfort is the key factor. Low to medium pile rugs, including Persian and woven styles, are better suited for heavily trafficked areas like living rooms, dining rooms, entryways, and hallways. Lower pile rugs don’t collect dirt and dander as readily, and are easier to keep clean than higher pile rugs. One risk with rugs is slipping. If rugs are very thin (like some woven cotton rugs) they can bunch up and cause accidents, so be sure to keep them secured with gripper pads (like these, on Amazon) on the back.
Color and Pattern
One of the fun aspects of choosing a rug is how it works with your color scheme and decor. Solid neutrals and subtle patterns are the most versatile, and can also be hard-wearing choices, especially in grays, taupes, beiges, and blues. Lighter solids such as pure white or ivory rugs are elegant, but can more readily show spots and stains. For maximum camouflaging powers and longevity, go for heathered rugs (multiple-hued fibers in the same color family). Another option is to choose a neutral rug with a bold texture (like shag), which works especially well in tone-on-tone settings.
Highly patterned rugs, like those featuring traditional Persian, Oriental, and Afghan designs, bring instant warmth and character to a room. Patterned rugs also can be extremely durable, hide spots and dust, and last a lifetime if made of high-quality materials with a low to medium pile. When selecting a boldly colored rug, be sure that both the background (primary) color and contrasting (secondary) colors suit your paint and upholstery.
Our Top Picks
The best area rugs have durability to hold up to foot traffic, support health and sustainability, and have a top-notch design. In addition to those factors, care, beauty, and choice of material went into the following recommendations.
A rug should do more than soften footfall, and the ReaLife Machine Washable Persian Distressed Rug can infuse a room with warmth, style, and a good mix of subtle colors. Beyond aesthetics, the best rugs should be healthful, hypoallergenic, and eco-conscious. ReaLife’s washable rug considers these factors too, and this distressed Persian-style area rug has low-pile fibers made of recycled polyester. It’s also easy-care, since it is machine washable, kid- and pet-friendly, and able to stand up to high foot traffic.
The non-slip backing helps prevent falls and keeps your rug nicely in place (no gripper pads required). As for design, ReaLife offers a wide choice of patterns and sizes, including this sophisticated alternative to a traditional Persian carpet. The pattern is purposefully faded to lend an air of well-worn grace to a room for an affordable price.
A rug should be durable enough to look good while standing up to daily foot traffic. Made of 100 percent polypropylene fibers, nuLoom’s Marisela area rug is designed with resilience in mind. The deep navy background is offset with multicolored geometric patterns, which serve two purposes. First, the rug design is visually stunning and can serve as a centerpiece in a living room, dining room, or study. Second, the design and colors distract the eye from dust, while the sturdy, medium-pile fibers resist staining and are easy to clean. The brand recommends vacuuming regularly, spot treating any mild stains, and dry cleaning occasionally for a deep clean.
Kitchen rugs need to wear well and provide nonslip cushioning, like the Maples Rugs Southwestern Stone Distressed Kitchen Rug with an abstract pattern in earthy tones of blues, grays, and taupe that can suit a variety of kitchen decor styles, from country to contemporary. Made of 100 percent nylon, with a medium pile and skid-resistant latex backing, this kitchen rug won’t need an additional rug pad for comfort or nonskid traction. The rug comes in other patterns too, like this blooming damask rug, if you prefer something more formal. With a range of rug designs that stand up to heavy footfall and are machine washable, these rugs also can work for pet owners.
If you thought shag rugs were an artifact of the 1970s, you might think again after checking out the Safavieh Milan Shag Collection SG180-1212 Area Rug. Contemporary shag rugs can be chic and super-soft to help pad hard floors and add a sense of luxury to a living space. Made of 100 percent, high-density polypropylene fibers, this rug has an ultra-thick, 2-inch pile that your feet can sink into when you get out of bed. Choose from nine colors, from jewel tones to neutrals like beige, gray, and ivory. You also have the choice to purchase a compatible rug pad to keep your shag firmly in place.
If you like the look of classic-meets-contemporary style, you may prefer Safavieh’s Monaco Collection MNC243N Boho Chic Medallion Distressed area rug. This rug is made of power-loomed polypropylene fibers, which are virtually nonshedding and easy to care for. The low pile prevents slipping, and the backing is natural jute, which is especially good for hardwood floors since it won’t cause sweating and moisture collection.
Unlike traditional Oriental rugs, this medallion pattern comes in a range of updated colors, including pink, light blue, and violet, but for a more classic look, go for navy. Safavieh also offers a wide range of sizes and shapes, so measure your space first, then choose the dimensions that are right for you.
The Home Dynamix 6681-480 Area Rug was designed by fashion-forward Nicole Miller. The lightweight, easy-to-clean polypropylene won’t scratch deck and patio surfaces (though non-skid padding is recommended, and sold separately). A rug like this works for outdoor entertaining spaces or for indoor spaces like playrooms, sunrooms, mudrooms, and screened-in porches, thanks to its low-maintenance durability. The ultralow pile won’t get too waterlogged, but it is best to roll it up in stormy weather.
Rugs made from recycled fibers, like the ReaLife Machine Washable Vintage Bohemian Rug, add the benefit of keeping manmade materials out of landfills. This rug looks pretty in hallways and other highly trafficked areas, and is easy to clean, making it kid- and pet-friendly. Just toss the runner in the washing machine for a quick wash, then air dry. This runner comes with a built-in, nonskid backing to prevent accidental slips and falls. It also comes in 13 colors, all distressed and prefaded for a look that is both elegant and homey.
Cotton rugs typically land in bathrooms and kitchens, but feel free to place Homcomoda’s Cotton Plaid Checkered Area Rug in your living room or bedroom too. Made of 100 percent cotton, it is Earth-friendly and attractive. To clean, simply vacuum, hand wash, or machine wash and tumble dry on the air setting. Homcomoda makes this particular rug in two color schemes (white-and-black and red-and-black check), with classic designs for the kitchen, as welcome mats, or as living room centerpieces. Cotton area rugs can slide around, so be sure to purchase a gripper pad for this hard-wearing and easy-care cotton rug.
Wool is the traditional rug material par excellence, and Safavieh’s Blossom Collection BLM402A Handmade Wool Rug is an example of “wool done right.” It is made of 100 percent pure wool with a cotton canvas backing for added strength. Thanks to its dense cut weave and low pile, the Blossom rug resists daily wear and tear and can add a warm, botanical feel to a room. The modern floral pattern is subtle yet bold to fit spaces that combine both masculine and feminine influences. This rug also is a safety choice, since it is thick enough to stay put and will lie flat under furniture or in the middle of the room. Remember that wool can shed, so be prepared to vacuum often.
FAQs About Your New Area Rug
Purchasing the right rug and placing it correctly is important for many reasons. A well-positioned rug can make any room look bigger, but it also can interfere with foot traffic and furniture if improperly placed. Here are some answers to your pressing rug-related questions.
Q. What is the correct placement of an area rug?
Most often, an area rug should be placed in the middle of a room, with 2 feet of space on each side of the rug.
Q. How do you place an area rug on hardwood floors?
Make sure you purchase a rug with a natural fiber backing (as opposed to latex). This allows airflow and won’t trap moisture, which can damage wood floors. Then use a felt or rubber pad underneath the rug to keep it firmly in place.
Q. How far should a rug go under a couch?
Ideally, an area rug should extend under the front and back couch legs. If that is not possible it’s fine to place your rug so it reaches under the front legs, but not the back legs, of the couch.
Q. How long does an area rug last?
A high-quality area rug can last a lifetime, especially if it is made of natural fiber with handwoven construction.