How to Choose an Area Rug

If you’ve ever visited the steve mckenzie’s showroom in Atlanta’s West Midtown neighborhood, you know we’re surrounded by some pretty fantastic neighbors. This includes our neighbor right next door, Verde Home. You may remember the many posts where you’ve we’ve made mention of them. We’re obvious fans. Plus, Steve has designed a line of rugs with Verde Home, which was such an honor!

Naturally, we turned to our friend, Kent Schneider, of Verde Home, when looking to share information on selecting an ideal rug for a space. He was so kind to answer our many questions and we thought we’d share them with you in this post all about how to choose an area rug.

After all, rugs are one of the primary elements of a space we’re asked most about and unfortunately, it’s easy, even with good intentions and tastes to not get it right. We hope this post helps you in your area rug selection. And please know, our design team here at steve mckenzie’s is always available to aid in your search and selection!

steve mckenzie’s: How do you know where to shop for a rug?

Kent Schneider: I would suggest looking for a specialized rug dealer or a store that sells rugs as a category rather than just as an accessory.  By this I mean if you go into a home furniture store that has rugs on the floor but has no area to display and browse rug options…chances are they are just using them to make the furniture they are selling look good and they may not know as much about them.  There are many exceptions to this, but in my experience I think it is a good rule of thumb.

sm’s: What should you know about your space when shopping for a rug?

KS: Most important would be the size of the room.  That seems obvious but you would be surprised how many customers really have no idea how big the room is.  9 out of 10 times when customers estimate the size the do so on the small side.  Rugs out of context often look very big.  When you shop for one you may see an 8×10 in a stack and think it is a very large rug and perfect for a living room that actually needs a 10×14.

sm’s: Which rug materials work best in certain spaces?

KS: Right now, I would say Wool is still the fiber of choice for all indoor applications.  It has great resilience, luster, and cleans well.  Most of the synthetics on the market will always compare themselves to wool.

For outdoor applications, you will see a variety of fibers used.  Rugs that get full exposed are generally made from some sort of woven plastic and can be very cheap (because they tend to last only a few seasons).  Polyester is a good choice for covered out door areas as it handles moisture well.  Most recently, we have seen solution-dyed acrylic fiber, like those used in Sunbrella fabrics start to make their way into the floor covering industry.  At present, the piled rugs made from these are pricey, but I expect that will come down and these will become a good indoor/outdoor option. 

sm’s: How do you determine the right size rug for your space?

KS: There is no hard and fast rule about how to size the rug for your room. In my experience, the larger the rug you can fit in a room, the larger the room will feel.  Rugs tend to ground the room and define the boundaries of conversation groups.  Undersized rugs can make a room feel cramped and can get lost under furniture.

You should also consider natural traffic patterns and doorways when laying out a room.  When in doubt we always like to draw a room out to scale to see how a rug will fit. But if you need a quick method to visualize it we suggest marking the area off on your floor with some masking tape.

sm’s: What questions should one ask when shopping for a rug?

KS: Not all rugs are created equal and this will often be reflected in the price. Here are some different terms you’ll hear, which will help you determine what type of rug will work for you and your budget…

  1. Handmade or Machine made – with very few exceptions the machine-made rug should be cheaper than the hand made.  That doesn’t always mean better because rugs come in many different knot densities.  However, when comparing two rugs of similar content and density, the handmade rug would most often be more expensive and would generally be considered the better rug.
  2. Hand knotted, hand tufted or hand loomed – Handmade rugs can be made using Hand Knotting, Hand Tufting or Hand Looming.  Hand knotting is the most time consuming and would considered the best.  Hand tufting has many qualities and often gets a bad reputation for the goods on the low end of the spectrum that are coarsely tufted and use a bad backing.  Fine hand tufted pieces can often achieve the look of a hand knotted rug at much less cost. The main drawback with tufting is the backing.  Each tuft of wool is fastened into the foundation using glue.  Overtime, this glue will break down (cheaper glues will break down quicker), and the tufts will release. Hand looming is a process of weaving a rug that bear similarities to fabric weaving.  The rugs are often very simple in pattern and can be woven very quickly.  They generally priced about the same as fine, hand tufted products.
  3. Density and Content– How fine is the knotting, tufting, or looming of the rug and what is it made of?  Finer rugs take longer and generally cost more, as do rugs made or wool or wool and silk rather than synthetics.

sm’s: What else should you consider purchasing when buying a rug?

KS: We always recommend a good rug pad.  Aside from preventing the rug from slipping, it also provides sound dampening and helps ease the wear of a rug. In spaces where children and/or pets may be present, we also suggest having your rug sealed.

sm’s: What’s the best way to keep a rug looking its best?

KS: The primary upkeep would be vacuuming.  This can be done weekly (or as needed).  Make sure the height of your vacuum is set so that it does not lift the rug.  In some instances, you may wish to turn off the beater bar or only use it occasionally. Spot cleaning can usually be done with water or a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water.  If the rug is wet, make sure it dries thoroughly to prevent mold and dry rot.

With a little knowledge and preparation you’ll be set to find your perfect rug! Good luck on your search, and feel free to reach out to our team here at steve mckenzie’s with any questions you may have and guidance you need.

Thank you to Kent and Verde Home for providing their expertise – their showroom should not be missed when searching for a fantastic rug!

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