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Choosing the Best Area Rug for Your Space

Figuring out the right shape and size for an area rug can differ with each room in your home. Follow these expert tips to help you choose the best rugs to suit your home.

There's good reason area rugs should carpet a room. They're practical, providing cushion, comfort and warmth over a concrete, tile or wood floor. But they also provide artistic value to a room's design. Considered artwork for the floor, which acts as the frame, size does matter — and it's often a big concern for the homeowner unsure of how to create that well-balanced space.

So designers say start with the area rug first. From its design, you can choose colors to paint your walls and find throw pillows and paintings to complete the decor. Just make sure to follow this rule of thumb: The area rug should be a minimum of six inches and no more than two feet away from the wall. When you take into consideration the different uses, shapes and design preferences, however, other factors weigh in as well.

"Less is more in transitional spaces or entrances that open to other rooms or a stairway," says Mahmud Jafri of Dover Rug & Home in Massachusetts: "But the width should either match the door space or be a few inches less — not too long, not too short." If you use a round area rug in a large foyer, center it under the light fixture. In a hallway, stretch the length to fill the space, leaving even space on both ends for balance. And if you plan to place any furniture in the hallway, keep it off the rug. "No half off, half on there," he says.

For the home office, perhaps in the corner of a bedroom, "Treat it like a cocoon," Mahmud says. Choose a rug that completely fits both the desk and chair to create a warm space where you'll feel comfortable at work. For practical purposes, this prevents tripping or chair dragging over the edges of the carpet, which are the weakest part of the accessory, he says.

Malene Barnett, principal of Malene b, a custom-design carpet company based out of Brooklyn, N.Y., says the area rug should be used as the focal point in a room. Depending on your preference, she suggests a rug that will provide space enough for the furniture to sit on top.

"You don't want too small of a rug for the space it serves," she says. In large living rooms, for example, you can use two rugs to create two separate living areas.

Aimee Beatty, an in-house stylist for Pier 1 Imports, says to be sure to choose a rug that extends beyond the coffee table and at least under the first set of legs on sofas or chairs.

If you prefer the rug be placed in front of the couch, Malene says it should run the same width (or a little longer) than the couch. For a more interesting look, she says, "try placing the rug at an angle. It should anchor the room but not overpower or underwhelm."

A large bathroom is the perfect place to fit a round rug. It's also a good place to experiment with colors, textures and patterns, Malene says. "If you choose color — for any room — the more the better, because that will inspire the rest of your decor."

Sigal Sasson of RUG-ART agrees. "Bold patterns (large flowers, abstract designs, lots of layers or color) on a small rug can make the room look larger," she says. But if you plan to place furniture on it, avoid covering up the design, "So no medallions in the center. You want to be able to see the design from all angles," she adds.

In the dining room, designers suggest centering the furniture over the rug and choosing a rug that fits the shape of the table. If you have a round table, place a round area rug underneath. "The round shape in a square room can help soften the space," says Sigal.

"In a bedroom, rugs are a great way to make the room feel more cozy by adding them alongside the bedroom furniture," says Beatty. You can also place one under the end of the bed, letting the rug extend into the room to pull a large space together. 

The outdoor area, while often overlooked, can also be a great place for an area rug. Sigal says to experiment with shapes and textures that mimic the outdoor space and to purchase textiles that are made for outdoor use.

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