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Area Rugs 101

If you're anything like me, you love a good area rug. I think they should be used everywhere; on top of wall to wall carpet, under dining tables, as runners in hallways, and sometimes, even in the bathroom (if space permits). It is my opinion that a home is incomplete without at least one good quality area rug. But here comes the rub...knowing how to pick a good quality area rug.

Rug by Interior Designer Nicole Fuller for The Rug Company

Photo via

Interior Design by Peter Mikic.

Photo via

In design school, I learned a lot about various textiles. One takeaway that has stayed with me is the wide array of benefits of natural fibers, i.e. wool, silk, cotton, jute, sisal, leather, etc. These fibers are usually self-extinguishing and have a breathability that makes them more comfortable to live in and with. Natural fibers are a more environmentally sustainable option than are synthetic fibers. Most natural fibers are produced by agriculture and subsequently, boost the economies of many developing countries. So typically when I am on the hunt for an area rug, I am searching for those made of natural fibers; cotton, wool, silk, leather, cowhide, jute or sisal.

A rawhide rug on top of a broadloom carpet.

Interior Design by Pinto Basto. Photo via

Natural fiber rugs are typically hand-knotted, hand-tufted, or machine made (also known as, power loomed). Hand-knotted is the best method of the three and has its origins in Persia. It is an ancient technique and can have from 40 to 1200 knots per square inch. Hand-knotted rugs are easy to tell because they show the same pattern on the back and the front. Because they are so labor intensive, they tend to be the most expensive. Hand-tufted rugs are made half by hand and half using a machine. They usually have glue or a fabric backing to hold the fibers in place. They are less expensive than hand-knotted but more than those made by a machine.

Two area rugs of the same design used to unify two spaces in an open floor plan.

Interior Design by Blanca Fabre. Photo via

Because these rugs are made of natural fibers, some shedding is likely to take place. Shedding should occur for up to 6 months after the rug is in place. If the rug continues to shed after this period, it is likely a quality issue. Rugs that are hand-tufted tendto shed for longer due to the fabrication process and because the wool is of lesser quality than that of hand-knotted rugs.

Interior Design by Tamara Magel. Photo via

Area rugs create a focal point within a space. They pull the room together and unify the various pieces that add up to a well furnished space. In a living area, furniture should either sit entirely on an area rug or only the front two legs. If you opt to have all the furniture sit entirely on the rug, it should be at least 6" from the wall. In a dining area, area rugs should be large enough that all chairs can be pushed back and still sit on the rug with at least 6" of rug remaining. In the bedroom, the rug can lie at the foot of the bed and extend into the room or it can rest under the bed and serve as a landing place in the morning. In the latter instance, the nightstands should rest entirely on the rug as well.

Rug by Helen Amy Murray for The Rug Company. Photo via

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