What to Consider When Choosing a Rug

Making a home into a retreat is about more than just aesthetics — the items I choose for my clients need to be durable and practical in addition to beautiful. Before I got into the design industry, I wrongly assumed that it was all about the appearance of the space, but now, and as a homeowner myself, I understand that even if something is beautiful, if it is difficult to maintain, it isn't worth having in my home.


Since my first obligation is always to the function of the room and the comfort of the client, I never want to specify something that is going to be complicated or expensive to maintain. A rug can be a big investment and I always want to be mindful when I ask my clients to spend money, but I believe that a good rug is worth the money. Here is what I am considering when choosing a rug for my clients.


cozy library with wood paneling

Design by Hoedemaker Pfeiffer | Photo by Haris Kenjar


Size and Material

A rug that is the right size for the room just feels right, it helps the room breathe, and makes you want to exhale when you step into it. For most rooms, my preference is to leave 12 inches between the edge of the rug and the wall, and around 6 inches around the frame of a hearth. A lot of times the best option is semi-custom, where I choose a rug sample from my favorite vendor and have it cut on-site to fit my client's space.


I would specify a good ready-made option if it fit my clients’ needs and budget, but this is an area where custom or semi-custom is just going to get a better outcome than buying from a retail sources (I feel the same way about custom drapery and upholstery). When I ask my clients to spend the kind of money, I want to know with certainty that it is worth it, and a rug that is the best material for the space will be easy to maintain and will last.


My number one preference is a 100% New Zealand wool. It's natural and renewable, making it a sustainable choice, but it is also naturally water-repellant and static-resistant. Since it is known to be the whitest wool in the world, it holds dye better and more accurately. It’s soft underfoot, easy to maintain, and is longer-lasting than a synthetic blend — it's a no-brainer! If the client is a family with a lot of young kids or pets, then we might consider a nylon (which is always a great idea for kids’ spaces) or polypropolene. Fortunately, we live in a time when there are many durable and beautiful options.


den with plaid carpet

Design by Ashley Darryl | Photo by Marco Ricca Studio

Pattern and Color

I tend to use a lot of browns and grays, but no color — within reason — is off the table. I like to use the rug as a jumping off point for the room — especially if the client has an heirloom piece they would like to use. I gravitate toward a soft repeat that is really subtle at first glance, but will reveal itself if you look more closely. The antelope pattern by Stark is a great option if we want the pattern to be a little more bold, but still neutral, and this looks great in a hallway or as a stair runner because it doesn't show wear. Plaid can be really nice when done well — it gives that slightly masculine edge that is just right for a cozy den or library or what we call a “bourbon room.” A stripe is another go-to, that adds subtle movement that reads like a texture. Lorimar by Prestige Mills is a favorite.


A rug that is the proper size, material, pattern, and color can make or break a room. If you would like help sourcing one for your space, please get in touch by filling out a design inquiry form.