Area Rugs

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

A quick and easy way to change up your home dÈcor, area rugs come in all shapes and styles. But are they a good choice for homes with children and pets? We look for in a rug that can withstand the wear and tear of every day life.


The Basics

  • Standard sizes are 4’x 6’ and 6’x 9’, which work well under a coffee table or in a sitting area. To cover an entire room, rugs can range from 8’x12’ or larger.

  • A good rule of thumb is to leave at least one foot around perimeter of room to create contrast between the floor and rug.

  • Some companies can custom make non-standard sizes. These orders are slightly more expensive and cannot be returned.

  • Some experts think all furniture has to either be on or off rug, but many now accept that furniture can have two legs on and two legs off, for example.

  • Handmade rugs like Persian and Oriental styles are constructed by a craftsperson usually by tufting the fibres through a pattern or by spinning the yarn and knotting each one. Hand-knotted rugs are more labour intensive and so usually more expensive.

  • Machine-made rugs are produced on a large scale with almost any type of yarn using computerized looms and machines and can mimic intricate designs of handmade rugs and greatly reduced cost.

  • The type of fibre used affects the appearance and performance of the rug:

    • Acrylic fibre has the appearance of wool at a much lower cost, and is sometimes blended with other fibres.

    • Cotton is soft and durable.

    • Nylon is wear and soil resistant, easily cleaned, withstands heavy traffic and furniture movement, and comes in a variety of colours.

    • Olefin or polypropylene is a common machine-woven synthetic fibre that is colourfast, feels like wool, is affordable, and resists wear and stains.

    • Silk has a very soft and luxurious feel and is often used as an accent colour on high-end rugs.

    • Wool is known for its durability, luxury and softness, and is available in many colours.

  • Choose a rug that complements your furniture and wall paint in both colour and style. To help you choose, take a swatch of fabric from furniture or drapes or a paint chip with you to try and match colours.

    • Remember that light coloured rugs make a room look more spacious, but tend to show off dirt more.

    • Deeper colours tend to make a room smaller and cosier.

  • If you’re decorating from scratch, choose a rug first, then furnish the room to complement the rug.

  • Try to find a reputable dealer with a long history in the business and references from friends or designers. Many will bring several selections to your house so that you can actually see how they look in the room. 

  • Don’t be limited by rectangular shape. There are all different shapes and sizes available.

  • Rugs come from all over the world. Here’s a quick overview of common types you’ll hear:

    • Aubussons rugs are of French origin, have a centre medallion and feature hand-stitched tapestry weaves. Most are formal designs in soft pastel colours.

    • Braided rugs are very simple coiled rugs made by braiding cloth strips and stitching them together for a casual look that’s reversible. Good for kitchen, family room or country style house, and hide stains well.

    • Dhurrie Rugs are one of least expensive decorative area rugs, typically made in India. They are reversible, thick, flat-woven wool containing geometric designs with animals, flowers and people in muted colours.

    • Kilims rugs originate from Turkey and the Middle East and tend to be vibrant, geometric, and flat-woven, and are easily machine-imitated.

    • Oriental Rugs are quite expensive but usually a good investment because value can increase over time. Characterized by large-scale patterns, medallions, and corner motifs, the decorations are meaningful symbols of good health and prosperity. Unfortunately, many are made using child labour as their smaller hands can produce smaller details. Some countries now restrict the import of goods made by exploitative child labour.

    • Persian rugs are a type of Oriental carpet from central Asia.

    • Sisal Rugs are made by tightly weaving braided leaves of the agave plant and are characterized by herringbone or geometric patterns. Sisal stains easily and can be scratchy underfoot.

    • Tibetan Rugs are known for their thick pile and muted colors in designs often less crisply-defined than classic Orientals. Tibetan rugs can be very expensive.

Other Considerations

  • Many companies, such as DuPont, offering stain resistant rugs. This is a great idea for young families.

  • Always follow manufacturers recommended cleaning methods to prevent damage and warranty invalidation. Some throw rugs can be machine washed but most need to be professionally deep cleaned. Spot clean certain stains, such as coffee, immediately for best results.

Be Aware

  • Liquidation or going out of business sales can be sketchy since, regular prices are usually over-inflated to make it appear as though you are getting a good deal.


In the name of family-friendly floor coverings, we tested stain-resistance using ketchup, mustard, coffee, and coyote urine, and used soda water to remove the stains on these carpet samples:

  • sisal
  • wool
  • nylon
  • polypropylene

Cleaning Test

  • The sisal was the worst for getting stains out. Dirt and bits got right into the fibres and the ketchup and mustard stained it badly.

  • The polypropylene cleaned up the best with no traces left.

  • The nylon still showed traces of mustard and ketchup stains

  • The wool stains went away, but the carpet looked worn.


In the end, wool came out as our favourite for looks, luxury, and feel, but for a home with kids and pets, consider polypropylene as a better option.


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