Top 5 tips to consider when shopping for the perfect rug

The floor is your canvas when it comes to choosing a rug that’s right for you, writes Carol O’Callaghan.

It’s rapidly becoming the time of year for hibernating beneath winter duvets, extra blankets, furry throws on laps, while prone on the sofa with the television remote control.

It’s also the time for investing in a good rug for comfort underfoot, but beware of being easily seduced by an on-trend look which may be out of fashion next year, such as the overlapping of several rugs which cite similar patterns or colourways to pull the look together. It might look novel now, and even eclectically stylish, but once the corners start to curl up, it’s potentially lethal to those wobbly of foot, like the very young and very old.

As a priority, deal with practical considerations. What happens to your expensive rug that worked with your old furniture and accessories, but now has no place with a new sofa and paint scheme?

Where will the rug be situated? Maybe it’s a high traffic area, like the hall, where wear and tear will show in the short-term, especially when wet leaves and slush are brought in underfoot in the coming months.

Simon Paul, of interiors shop and interior design consultancy, Paul & Co, is a big fan of rugs, and errs on the side of practicality for high volume areas like the kitchen as well as the hall.

“You don’t want the rug to break your heart,” he says. “There are some very good rugs which are washable and dog and child friendly. You can take them outside and scrub with a deck brush so you don’t have to be precious about them.”

For low-traffic areas like living rooms and bedrooms, there’s an opportunity for indulgent luxury in wool and silk.

“In a more formal house or a modern house where everything is precise, throw away practicality,” says Simon. “Silk is soft underfoot but it’s more suitable for a room where there are no children and dogs, and no fire where sparks can fly out.”

But we’re not necessarily limited to laying rugs on the floor. According to Simon, they can also be used as a wall feature.

“Think of them as a tapestry, especially in modern houses which can be like glass boxes, which tend to have blinds rather than curtains. Wall rugs bring in some fabric and take away the hardness, and they’ll stop the echo, especially in big rooms which haven’t much furniture.”

His five tops tips to consider before you go rug shopping are:

  • Look at the room and the furniture in it. If it’s plain without much going on, go for a punchy colour or pattern, or where you feel warmth and comfort need to be added.
  • Measure where you think you want the rug to go. Size can be distorted in a large shop space and can alter your perception.
  • Go bigger than too small in your choice, if space allows, and put the rug right up to the legs of the sofa, or, ideally, underneath it. Rugs really should carpet the whole area and not look like a postage stamp in the middle of the room.
  • Think practicality: Can your choice withstand heavy wear and tear, and can it be washed?
  • Get a good underlay, especially for wooden and tiled floors, so the rug doesn’t slip when standing on it, otherwise it can be lethal, especially for older people.
  • Good maintenance of your purchase, especially if it’s made of natural fibres, adds to its longevity.

Phoebe Holland, director of Cork-based, says, “Always vacuum in the direction of the pile or it will cause strands to come loose, but do expect some pilling on a new wool rug until it settles down.”

It seems some old-fashioned housekeeping methods still hold good, including the rotation of the rug every six months if it’s in a sunny spot, to ensure any fading will be even.

“Thick pile rugs can fill with dust and affect the colour too,” says Phoebe, “so take them outside on a dry day and throw them over the clothes line, and beat them. Never, ever use cleaning products with bleaching agents. Always use an organic cleaning product, and unless it’s a synthetic rug, just spot clean it, never fully wet it, and never use a steam-cleaner on natural fibre. It will behave like a wool jumper and shrink.”

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