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Area Rugs: What They Are and How to Use Them

Is there really a difference between a rug and a carpet? Didn’t Aladdin take a magic-carpet ride (and not a magic-rug ride)? And yet the size of his rug was probably about the size of a typical area rug.

Many people don’t see a difference in the terms rug and carpet and use them interchangeably. Others see them as having different interpretations. Generally, carpets are of the wall-to-wall variety, something that covers the entire floor of a room; whereas a rug is smaller, sometimes known as an area rug, and it only covers a portion of the floor. Based on this definition an Oriental rug and a Persian rug are both area rugs, though we generally don’t define them in this manner.

Whatever you choose to call them – area rug, Oriental rug, or magic carpet – they each have a place and a purpose. It’s just a matter of figuring out what you like and what you need.

Identifying the Right Area Rug for Your Room

Area rugs are not one-size-fits-all and there is no one perfect size area rug for any given room because they come in various shapes — including rectangular and round, like this circular hand-woven jute area rug — and sizes. However, most area rugs are available in these standard sizes: 3’x5’, 4’x6’, 5’x7’, 6’x9’, 8’x10’, 9’x12’, and 12’x15’.

When choosing an area rug you should keep several factors about your room or space in mind. First, where are your doors and will they clear the area rug? Second, are there any floor vents (i.e. heating) that need to be taken into consideration? And finally, how do you want your area rug centered in the room or space? Once you have these basics determined, then you can easily choose the right area rug for your space.

Entry Hall, Living Room, Dining Room or Bedroom

Obviously, the size of your area rug will be determined by the size of your room; however, a typical size for the entry hall is between 3’x5’ and 5’x7’. This is where it is really important to watch out for doors.

On the other hand, living rooms can accommodate many different sizes of area rugs from 5’x7’ up to 12’ x15’ and in some cases even larger. It really has to do with how much of the area rug you want hidden underneath your furniture. Some people like to have all furniture placed on top of the area rug; others prefer the area rug to act as a frame, suchas just under the coffee table. In some cases it may be that you have such a large enough living room that you need several different sizes of area rugs to do it justice.

Dining rooms generally call for at least an 8’x10’ area rug in order to fit fully under the dining room set and allow for all the chairs to fit completely on the area rug. Otherwise, you will have guests awkwardly perched half on the rug and half on the floor underneath.

Another use for area rugs is to place them over the existing wall-to-wall carpeting in a room to break up a very large room into smaller sections, cover up unsightly old carpeting or give your room an added boost of color. Don’t be afraid to add area rugs to your bedrooms or even to give an elegant look to your master bath.

Consider the Wear-and-Tear Factor

The question of durability is important when you are choosing an area rug. That’s where fiber content becomes important. If there is a lot of foot traffic, a more durable wool area rug with a thick, deep pile is a good option. Consider wool area rugs that are made with top-quality New Zealand wool such as this hand-knotted Mugal wool area rug made of 100 percent semi-worsted New Zealand wool. While a wool area rug is beautiful anywhere in your home, consider them for high-traffic areas such as the entryway, family room or hallway.

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