How to shop for an area rug like an interior designer

There’s no denying the transformative power of the right area rug in a room. A rug can add warmth, texture and visual interest to a space. It can also help zone a room, reduce noise and protect hardwood floors. Without something cozy underfoot, bare floors can feel cold and underdressed. But if you go shopping for a rug you might be floored — by wildly varying prices and the exhausting number of choices, especially online.

With that in mind, we asked a handful of interior designers and one rug pro to share their advice on how they navigate shopping for a rug that’s of good value. Whether you’re budgeting for a quick style refresh or more of an investment piece, here’s how to spend wisely.

Consider materials

Every designer interviewed for this story said wool is the best material for an area rug anywhere in the house. With the exception of silk, wool tends to be more expensive than other materials, but it also has a much longer life, so the added expense is worth it in their opinion. “It’s one of the oldest and most durable materials you can use for a rug,” says interior designer Krista Nye Nicholas of Cloth & Kind in Ann Arbor, Mich.

After wool, natural fibers, such as seagrass, and indoor-outdoor performance rugs made from polypropylene or polyethylene terephthalate (commonly called PET) were all recommended by the designers, particularly for areas that might see a lot of wear, such as mudrooms or laundry rooms.

If a 100% wool rug is out of your budget, designer Stacey Dobrovolny of 2 Navy Lane in Culpeper, Va., recommends looking for a rug with a blend of 80% wool and 20% viscose. Robert Radifera Photography/styled by Charlotte Safavi

Another option is to go with a wool blend. As a way of making some rugs more affordable, companies will blend wool with a semi-synthetic material such as viscose, which is a form of rayon that approximates the softness of silk.

“If budget is a concern and you do opt for something with viscose, then I would recommend the lowest percentage — for example, 80% wool and 20% viscose,” says interior designer Stacey Dobrovolny of 2 Navy Lane in Culpeper, Va.

Know what’s in your budget

We broke retailers into three tiers to distinguish between inexpensive, moderately priced and what some designers considered to be a worthwhile value for the expense. Because 8-by-10 feet is a common size many homeowners search for, we used that as the standard for pricing.

For high-traffic zones like this mudroom designed by Cloth & Kind, this vintage wool runner, or rugs made of indoor-outdoor performance materials such as polypropylene or polyethylene terephthalate, are good bets. Styling by Michelle Adams/Photo by Martin Vecchio

Inexpensive ($200 to $500)

There aren’t any real surprises for shoppers working with a modest budget. Dobrovolny likes online destinations such as Wayfair or Amazon for their wide selection, low prices and the fact that they deliver — a true godsend when you think of schlepping a rug around town. However, if you need to send it back, you may have to pay return shipping fees and a restocking charge, depending on the vendor. If you prefer to see the goods in person, she recommends browsing big-box stores HomeGoods, At Home and Homesense. “Home Depot, Lowe’s and Target are also good because it’s easy to take it back if you get it home and decide you don’t like it,” she says.

Mimi Meacham of Houston-based Marian Louise Design favors both Ikea and Urban Outfitters for affordable, youthful styles. While it may be tempting to score an 8-by-10 rug for less than $200 (they do exist), she warns, “If you go below that price point, you’re really sacrificing quality and I don’t think it will last long or look great.”

Revival brand rugs, as seen here, are considered a good choice in the “moderately priced” range of $500 to $1,500. Revival Rugs

Moderately priced ($500 to $1,500)

Once you go above $500, the field of choices expands exponentially. Nye Nicholas and Dobrovolny name-checked Revival, Lulu and Georgia and Loloi for their range of options and on-trend designer collaborations. Rejuvenation also gets high marks for its affordable and well-made updates of traditional Turkish and Persian designs. “They do really good reproductions in great colorways,” Nye Nicholas says.

New Orleans designer Hattie Collins of Hattie Sparks Interiors likes both Annie Selke’s Dash & Albert line and Anthropologie’s whimsical designs for kids’ rooms. She’s also a fan of West Elm’s custom measure program for large seagrass rugs, though the company offers the service (which allows you to specify unusual dimensions) for select sisal, hemp and wool options, too. “While you can’t get it to within inches, you can get it within the foot,” she says. “It’s a good economical choice when you want something that feels more made-to-order.”

If new is not your thing, you can find a trove of affordable wool vintage rugs in the mid-priced range, as well as newer reproductions on Etsy. Every designer we talked to loves the online marketplace for its dense selection and access to vendors from around the world. Without the benefit of assessing a rug’s quality in person, you’ll have to read vendor reviews and study the photos provided, which can give a good sense of the pile, colors and any areas of wear. Collins also pays close attention to customer reviews, especially the ones where buyers have posted photos of the rugs in their own homes.

Expensive, but good value ($1,500 to $4,000)

While dropping $2,000 on a rug would be an absurd splurge for most people, in the world of fine rugs it’s considered a bargain. Here’s some context: “If you’re looking for an 8-by-10 that’s either an antique, something unique or a custom rug, you can easily go upward of $10,000,” Nye Nicholas says.

For well-designed rugs at this price point, Meacham likes Milagro Collective for newly produced, hand-knotted wool Oushak styles, while Nye Nicholas recommends Nordic Knots, whose designs favor a modern Scandinavian sensibility. She’s a big fan of their collaboration with London design studio Campbell-Rey. “All are hand-knotted New Zealand wool and they run about $2,000 retail for an 8-by-10,” she says.

She also likes Beni Rugs, a Moroccan company known for its flatweaves and hand-knotted, shaggier styles. “They let you choose the size and the colors, so it gets closer to the experience of getting something custom-made,” she says.

All the designers we spoke to recommended Chairish and 1stDibs for antique and vintage collectible rugs. While we found many rugs in this cost bracket, depending on what you’re looking for, prices can run the gamut between a few hundred dollars and well into the five-figure range.

Finally, understand age

As a point of reference, vintage rugs are generally 30 to 50 years old; semi-antique, 50 to 75 or 80; and antique rugs are anything older than that.

“Some people only consider antiques to be 100 years or older, but in the rug world it tends to skew a little younger,” says Hemad Fadaifar of the Loom House in Milwaukee. “If you ask 10 antique rug dealers, you’ll get 10 answers, but they’ll all start between 75 years and 100 years.”

Nordic Knots, which offers this “Folded Ribbon” rug for $2,195 online at, is one of designer Krista Nye Nicholas's favorite sources. Nordic Knots

Fadaifar warns that buying a vintage rug has become even more confusing because of the practice of acid-washing, shaving or burning wool fibers to make a newer or younger vintage rug look much older than it is in the quest to achieve the muted, bleached-out appearance so popular with buyers today. All that abuse leads to weaker fibers and easier staining for these faded impostors.

“Ask your dealer how old the rug is and whether it was made with any chemicals,” he says. “Also, if a vintage rug seems like too good of a bargain, it may very well be.”

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