Pet Friendly Design

Picking the Perfect Area Rug

Kathy McCleary gets advice from decorating experts on choosing the perfect area rug to complement your home.

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When we moved a few months ago from our fairly small, thoroughly carpeted house to our new home, we were thrilled with the lovely old oak floors. We had the floors cleaned and polished before we moved in, and have lived with the rich, warm glow of the bare wood ever since. But now it's starting to get cold, we're all inside more and the kids (and the cats) are skidding crazily through the hallways when they run in the house. Also, it bothers me that my voice echoes even in the relatively small space of my office. It's definitely time to buy some area rugs.

I've never purchased a rug in my life and have the feeling that it's like buying a car: The less you know the more you pay. I called three different experts for advice on where to begin. While they disagreed on just a few points (most notably whether or not the rug should be the first or last purchase in designing a room), they offered loads of helpful tips.

The Experts

  • John Kurtz, former host of the PBS show Art Underfoot, is the designer for New Moon (newmooncarpets.com), a rug company he owns in Wilmington, Del.
  • Karl Lohnes, interior designer in Toronto and co-host of HGTV's This Small Space
  • Patrick J. Baglino, Jr., a Washington-based interior designer (www.pbaglino.com) who was recently voted one of America's top young designers by House Beautiful.

Budget
You should buy the best rug you can afford, even it means living with bare floors while you save up your pennies. Look for good quality natural materials such as wool and silk. A high-quality wool rug will wear well and even look better over time, says Kurtz. "Wool has the capacity to develop its own patina through exposure to light and air and feet walking on it. It's like having a wonderful piece of wood furniture and rubbing your hand over it every day."

Sisal, jute and grass rugs often cost less, but are difficult to clean and don't last as long. "If you spill red wine on it, that rug is gone," says Baglino.

In general, use the cost of the other furniture in the room as a guideline for how much to spend, says Lohnes. In the living room, for instance, the rug should cost as much as the sofa, or slightly more. (Since our 12-year-old sofa has been spilled and spat up on through a decade of kids, I'm using what I'd spend on a new sofa as a guideline.) Set your price limit before you shop then add 10 percent, so you have some flexibility in that range.

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