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How To Choose A Rug: Insider Tips from an Expert Rug Buyer

Rugs. They really help pull a room together and make it feel complete—but they can be quite the chore to pick out and purchase. With a wildly broad range of prices and so many styles to choose from, rug shopping can get overwhelming quickly. We’ve been there! And, because we have, we want to help simplify the rug-buying process and help make it easier on you!

So, if you’ve been asking yourself, “What rug should I get??” for far too long, keep reading. We’re going to break down how to choose a rug, with considerations from price and material to size and style! Plus, Modsy’s Senior Director of Product Development and Sourcing, Meg Donovan, also shares her best rug insights!

How to Choose a Rug – A Complete Guide

Rug Prices

One question we hear quite often is, “Why are rugs so expensive?” And it’s a fair question. While you can find rugs for under $200, you can just as easily stumble across rugs that are $2,000 or more. Why the huge price discrepancy? Well, according to Meg, it generally depends on the rug size, material, production process, and country of origin.

Meg says, “When it comes to construction, a hand-loomed or hand-knotted rug will be more expensive than a power-loomed rug, as it takes way longer to produce.” Makes sense, right? And, since rugs are priced by the square foot or square meter, larger rugs will be more expensive.

In terms of material, anything that’s more durable or more difficult to source will cause a rug to be more expensive. So, since natural fibers, like wool, silk, or cotton, involve a plant or animal-based growth process (whereas synthetic fibers are merely produced) so they’ll often be a bit pricier.

And then there’s the country of origin. Meg notes that labor costs and the skill of the workers involved varies greatly in the rug industry. So, a rug that’s machine-made in China (which has lower labor costs and doesn’t require as specific of a skill set) will cost less than a hand-knotted rug from Morocco that’s made by a family who’s been in the rug business for generations.

Want to find a higher-quality rug for less? Meg suggests looking for used or secondhand rugs. Don’t be afraid to scour estate sales, flea markets, and even thrift stores or online marketplaces. You can sometimes score a real gem for a low price from someone who’s moving or is redecorating and simply wants to get a rug off their hands.

Want to dive deeper into this topic? Check out our tips on figuring out how much to spend on a rug and our stylists’ favorite picks for rugs at any budget.

Rug Sizes

Different spaces in your home require different rug sizes—so, it’s important to consider what size of rug you need before making a purchase. Because there’s nothing worse than getting a rug you’re super excited about, only to find it’s too small for your space! (Though we do have a good tip for that later in this section!)

High-level, you’ll want to consider the shape and size of your room, as well as the furniture in the space and the overall layout. These details will help determine the rug size you need. When arranging a rug in your living room, we often see people choose too small of a rug size. Here’s our big advice: skip the 5×8 rug, and don’t go any smaller than a 6×9. However, most living rooms do best with an 8×10 or 9×12 rug. That way, you can define your space with the rug (a 5×8 just can’t define a large space) and all of your furniture can be at least partially on the rug, which will make your layout feel more intentional.

In a bedroom, an 8×10 rug is the most popular size, as it is large enough to go with a king-size bed but doesn’t feel too large for a queen or even full-size bed. However, in a large bedroom you can bump up to a 9×12 for more floor coverage, and for a smaller bedroom with a full bed, you can get away with a 6×10. And in a bedroom with a twin-size bed, a 5×7 rug will do just fine!

If you already bought a rug only to discover it’s too small for your space, don’t be dismayed! Meg is a big believer that, with some simple rug layering, you can make use of this too-small rug. Here’s her trick: layer a larger rug underneath the small one. Our favorite way to do this is to use a large natural fiber rug as a base, layered under a more highly colored and patterned rug. That way, you get the floor coverage you need, while still making use of a smaller rug you love. This is also great for those who have antique or vintage rugs they love but that are too small! Learn more about how to layer rugs here!

Want us to walk you through the process of choosing the right rug size for your space and layout in a bit more depth? Check out our living room rug size guide and our bedroom rug size guide for more details and a ton of specifics to help you find the perfect rug size!

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Rug Materials

We already talked about how different rug materials will impact the overall cost of a rug. But Meg suggests that you shouldn’t make a decision on rug material strictly based on your budget. You’ll also want to think about where your rug will be placed and what lifestyle factors you should consider when purchasing a rug, since both of these factors influence what rug material might be best for your space.

How to Choose a Rug – A Complete Guide

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Natural Fiber Rugs

As we mentioned earlier, natural fibers encompass everything from silk and wool to cotton, jute, seagrass, and sisal. Natural fiber rugs are just that: natural. So, you don’t have to worry about extra toxins or chemicals used in the production process. Natural fiber rugs also tend to be easier to clean, making them great for high-traffic areas.

Meg’s Top Pick: Wool

Wool is a favorite material of Meg’s. She loves this material for how long it lasts and how easy it is to clean. It’s also naturally antimicrobial—so, essentially, it’s naturally self-cleaning when it comes to airborne spores! “You’re paying more for wool, but you’re getting more for your money,” says Meg. “Wool rugs are more durable than other materials. A wool rug can last more than 50 years if you treat it well!” While wool does tend to shed a lot at first (it comes from a sheep, after all, which sheds just like most other animals), this lessens over time. And a hand-knotted wool rug sheds less than a power-loomed wool rug. Because wool rugs are so easy to clean—they’re virtually stain resistant—a low-pile wool rug is also Meg’s top pick for high-traffic areas in your home, as they can handle a bit more wear and tear than other materials.

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Synthetic Fiber Rugs

“You can get a lot of look for a low price with a synthetic fiber rug,” Meg says. But, similar to fast fashion, that can come at a cost. Synthetic rugs tend to not last as long as their natural fiber counterparts. Why, you ask? These materials are man-made and are usually petroleum-based. Because of this, they tend to reject water and hold onto dirt. Translation: this makes cleaning a challenge. But if you’re on a tight budget or have kids or pets you know will give your rug a run for its money, synthetic may be the way to go. Just know that you’ll likely have to replace it sooner than you would a natural fiber rug.

Meg’s Top Pick: PET

If you do go for a synthetic fiber rug, Meg says that PET is your best bet. (This is what indoor outdoor rugs are typically made of.) This material is made from recycled plastic—hello, eco-friendly!—and the threads are woven in such a way that they have a look and feel that’s actually very similar to wool. This is because the way the material is woven mimics the way you can weave a natural fiber. And this is the easiest synthetic fiber to clean, too. All you need is some diluted bleach, and you can clean most stains and spills from a PET rug. This makes it a great material for households with kids and pets, while being a material that still feels soft underfoot!

Other Rug Considerations

Once you’ve landed on a rug size, the material you want, and what your budget is, there are just a few other things to consider when choosing a rug! First, what’s the foot traffic like in the area where this rug will land? Second, how cushioned do you want the rug to feel underfoot? Finally, what style do you want?? Read on for a few more details.

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High and Low-Traffic Areas

When choosing a rug, it’s worth considering how much foot traffic it will get on a daily basis (think, is your rug a 4-lane highway, or a less-traveled side street). We generally consider the living room, entryway, and hallway to be high-traffic areas. In contrast, a bedroom or dining room might be lower-traffic, since there will be fewer people walking there and your rug won’t experience as much wear and tear.

Learn more about how to choose a rug for your dining room in our dining room rug guide!

High-pile rugs are great for low-traffic areas, and lower pile rugs are better for high-traffic areas. But Meg notes that this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Low-pile rugs simply tend to be easier to clean, which is good for a high-traffic area. But you can also do something different if you’re prioritizing aesthetic over sheer practicality.

How to Choose a Rug – A Complete Guide

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The Cozy Factor

A big benefit of rugs is the coziness they add underfoot. So, this is another factor you want to consider when choosing a high or low pile rug. Meg says this is ultimately a matter of personal preference—so think about your lifestyle, how much of a “cozy factor” you want in your space, and what aesthetic you’re going for. But also consider how often you want to vacuum. Rugs with a high pile need to be vacuumed more often!

Rugs that have a high pile are more warm and give you that cozier feeling. Meg recommends going high pile in colder climates and anywhere you might be walking around in bare feet, like a bedroom. However, in a standard room you’ll probably want to go for a medium or low pile. And then there’s flatweave rugs! Meg says this is another great way to get a lot of look for less money, and these rugs tend to be lower maintenance. They give a room a streamlined look, but they don’t offer any plushness.

Rug Pads

However, coziness isn’t’ just about the rug pile. Rug pads are a great way to give an area rug a little bit of extra cushion and comfort. Instead of getting a rubberized non-slip rug pad—which can damage your floor and doesn’t offer any extra cushion—opt for one made of recycled materials. This style is sold in different thicknesses and can be cut to the exact size you need—so you can add a little extra loft to your rug and can help it stay put and not slide around! Plus, rug pads can help a rug last longer.

How to Choose a Rug – A Complete Guide

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Rug Style

Finally, consider the rug style you want. There are so many different styles out there, so this might seem a bit overwhelming. But once you’ve nailed down your personal interior design style, you can more easily figure out what style to look at. Some people prefer brightly colored rugs and others want something more neutral. Some want patterned rugs and others go for a solid color or simple neutral. What you choose is up to you and your personal preference! This is where you really get to have fun and let your personality shine!

Need help landing on the right rug for your space?

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Designers’ Picks – Our 5 Favorite Rugs Under $500

cheap rugsRugs are one of the most important elements in designing a room – they tie the space together, help reduce noise, and keep your feet cozy! But – spoiler alter – rugs can also be one of the most expensive items in your room (sometimes even more than a sofa).

And if you’ve ever googled “cheap rugs” you know how frustrating it is to find what seems like a great deal only to discover it’s 2 by 3 feet large! A $100 for a doormat? No thanks.

So what’s a style-savvy, price-conscious person to do? Luckily, we’re familiar with this conundrum and have a few tricks (or rugs) up our sleeves to help. We polled our Modsy Designers on their favorite cheap rugs under $500 and styled the most popular picks in our rug studio.

Need help designing your space but don’t want to waste money on pieces that don’t look good? Start a Modsy 3D design project and see how amazing your room could look before you purchase a single thing.

Keep scrolling to see our five favorite rugs under $500 and shop your favorites in our rug studio! (Not sure how much you should spend on a rug? These 4 questions can help.)

cheap rugs

The Vintage Medallion Rug, $332

This classical rug from NuLoom features a traditional medallion pattern in a subtle shade of blue. The perfect statement piece, the larger 8×10 size will look great but won’t break the bank – yay for cheap rugs!

Made of polypropylene, our designers’ recommend this rug for low-traffic rooms, like a bedroom or formal living room. While it is stain resistant, these fibers absorb oil like crazy (polypropylene is actually used to help clean oil spills!) so it’s not a great choice for your dining room or any place prone to frequent spills!

And while it features a classic pattern, this rug actually works well in a myriad of styles! From mid-century modern to bohemian, don’t be afraid to try it in your space no matter what your style!

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cheap rugs

The Paramount Rug, $238

Have a room in need of a design pick-me-up? This rug from our friends at Tanjore is sure to do the trick! The Southwestern-inspired pattern is ready to punch up any space, and the neutral hues make for easy pairing with most decor.

Try it with a leather sofa or layered over a jute rug to add texture to your space. The Paramount rug features a low pile making it easier to clean and helps it sit nicely under door ways. Also made of polypropylene, the Paramount is better suited for low traffic areas where you’ll get the most longevity out of it!

The Paramount measures in at 7’9″ x 11’2″, making it slightly longer and narrower than your standard rug. This is great if your space happens to be on the longer/narrower side, but might not be the best fit if you’re looking for a true 8′ x 10′ rug.

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cheap rugs

The Herringbone Indigo Woven Cotten Rug, $438

This bestseller of a rug is not only a quality piece, but also one of our favorite cheap rugs! Made by our friends at Dash & Albert, the Herringbone Indigo rug is super durable making it a great fit for your high-traffic rooms.

If you’re looking to add a pop of style to your space, the herringbone pattern is a timeless choice that will look great for years to come. Don’t miss the fact that this rug is made form natural cotton and sports a flat-weave construction that’s easy to care for.

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cheap rugs

The Leather Dressage Rug, $249

This handwoven rug from CB2 is truly a steal for the size and quality. If you’re looking for a piece that’s unique and interesting but not too much of a statement, the Leather Dressage rug is where it’s at.

Made from recycled leather, this rug is great a great way to add texture to your space and is another great choice for high-traffic rooms. Also suited for households with pets, the leather construction makes this rug extra durable!

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cheap rugs

The Serapi Rug, $387

Another of our favorite cheap rugs from Tanjore, the Serapi features a traditional pattern rendered in eye-catching colors. The faded design give this rug a vintage feel (without the vintage price tag) that will add depth and character to your space.

The Serapi pairs beautifully with any interior, but we styled ours with a luxurious leather sofa for a traditional yet eclectic look.

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Need help finding the perfect rug for your living room?