The Complete Guide to Buying a Rug
When we first spoke with Susie Kurkowski, interior designer and founder of Items of Interest, a Brooklyn-based interior design boutique, she pinpointed rugs as one of the home décor items actually worth the splurge. “There's such a big difference in a good-quality and a fair-quality rug that will just end up falling apart. It's a good investment piece that you can roll up and take with you.”
That said, there are tons of logistics that go along with finding the perfect area rug to suit your space and your taste, one that actually lives up to its price tag. And who better to help us navigate the process of buying a rug (which, it turns out, is even more nuanced than we could’ve imagined) than our favorite aforementioned décor expert?
Whether you’re an urban dweller without much wiggle room when it comes to measurements, an expectant mama dreaming up a nursery, a proud pet owner, or just looking to spruce up your space simply by unfurling some fabric, we present to you the rug buyer’s bible:
Make sure you see your rug in real life. Kurkowski feels so strongly about this rule, she’ll order samples of pretty much any rug for her clientele. Ordering rugs online is rarely, if ever, a good idea. When you see a picture of a rug online, oftentimes the color is not represented accurately. Whether it’s the rug manufacturer’s fault for taking a bad picture, the website that uploaded it, or something to do with your screen, it’s almost impossible to judge the coloration of a rug based on an image on the web. Furthermore, (this one’s for all you city-dwellers) almost every rug website notes that the dimensions of their products may vary by plus or minus a couple of inches—at least. Kurkowski herself learned this the hard way, when she ordered a runner to fit the dimensions of her hallway, found it didn’t fit, and was denied a refund based on the fine print.
When it comes to rugs for nurseries, Middleton-esque muted colors may not be your best bet. Babies’ eyes aren’t as developed as ours, and cannot detect pale colors very well. Kids are attracted to bright, primary colors. Opt for a rug that will be attractive to the baby, something they will want to play on. For girls, Kurkowski recommends bright orange or lavender pieces. For the boys, she favors teals, bright blues, and Kelly greens. Babies also get a kick out of rugs with great texture, like sheepskin. Ikea has some really great cheap ones (okay, there may be one exception to the no-online-ordering rule). Speaking of cheap, there are tons of soft, cute rugs with great patterns that are under $300 and perfect for decorating nurseries. They'll serve their purpose for a few years, take some beatings for the team, and you won't feel so bad retiring them when your kiddo hits three and some redecorating is in order.
If you have a pet, opt for a polypropylene machine-made rug. Or something similar. Under no circumstances should you purchase a looped or tufted rug that your cat or dog can dig their claws into. Pets, especially cats, call for short weave, low pile, or flat-woven rugs. Rugs made from natural fibers like wool will just shed all over your four-legged friend (and require majorly annoying clean up).
Wool rugs are the real deal. If you want something that’s going to last over time, looks and feels great, and is naturally stain-resistant, there’s no substitute for high-end stain-resistant wool rugs. If you have a wool suit, you’ve seen how liquid just slicks right off it. The fatty fibers in the fabric make it extremely plush and resilient (Read: a good choice for nurseries, since you want your kiddo’s hands and knees cushioned). For those of you who strive to be eco-conscious, you can walk with ease knowing you’re stepping on natural, renewable material. The only downside to these luxurious pieces? In the beginning, you’ll be shocked as to how much you have to vacuum them. Don’t be alarmed, your rug is not defective. It’s all part of the breaking-in process.
Make sure your rug is wider than your sofa. Decorating your living room? Note, the sofa goes on top of the rug, not behind it. Your rug is what defines the space. Your sofa and all other chairs within the group should be at least partially on the rug.
Coordinating rugs is all about fabric, print and texture. Kurkowski loves the rug-layering trend. She’s even devoted an entire post to it on her blog, Roomology. “If you have wall-to-wall rugs, layering is a great way of creating individual spaces within that area. Layering two rugs that may be a bit dull on their own makes each rug look so much more exciting.” People often get confused about using rugs next to each other that aren’t the same pattern, material, or texture. Coordinate your rugs the same way you would as if you were matching your blouse to your pants. Use complementary patterns, colors, textures…you get the idea.
Care instructions for rugs are literally spelled out for you. Every rug comes with care instructions on the back, just like the washing directions on clothing tags. Your typical cleaning spray gets about 90 percent of dirt and stains out of the rug. Once a year it may be a good idea to hire a professional cleaning service to go over all the rugs in your house. Don't worry about breaking the bank, this only costs about $99.
For Kurkowski's favorite picks when it comes to area rugs for boys, girls, toddlers, pets, layering and more, check out the slideshow above.
By Cordelia Tai
Love Elizabeth Street? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram @ElizabethStMom.