Rugs 101

What You Need To Know To Pick The Perfect Rug

by Rhonda Benvie Plummer // April-May-June 2017

Rugs – they bring all kinds of different emotions to people. Some people love having them in their homes, while others don’t get why they are needed. If you fall into either category (which pretty much everyone does), then this article is for you.

Why do you need rugs? If your house is entirely carpet, then you don’t need them. You can, however, put rugs over carpet, but you really need to know exactly the right way to do so. A rug to be placed over carpet should have lots of texture and not be too plush. Usually cotton rugs work best for this. And it is imperative that you use the correct rug pad under it so that it lays flat. If you have tile, wood, or any other hard surface flooring, then a rug is a must.

In addition to providing a pleasing design element to a living space, rugs have other uses as well. They help to define spaces in the ever-so-popular open floor plans of today’s homes. They also add warmth and coziness to a space in which a hard surface cannot even dare to compare. And in a house with all hard elements such as hard floors, walls, trim, cabinets, countertops, etc., rugs really help to absorb sound in the space.

The choices of rug materials are endless and thus, can be quite confusing to the consumer. Fibers and processing techniques seem to change and improve constantly, and their price points are in every range. So how do you know what to pick? It really depends on your family’s lifestyle and what you want to spend. It is best to determine your floor covering needs, set a budget, and educate yourself about what is best for your home and personal tastes. To help you decide, you need to know the pros and cons of every type of rug fiber.

Wool rugs are the most commonly known type of rug. They are durable and soft to the touch, with great natural stain and water repellency. Wool is a great choice for all high-traffic areas except damp ones, due to the fact that they absorb moisture in the air. Fading happens a little faster with these, so direct sunlight can cause them to lose their color faster. New wool rugs will shed for a while, so be prepared to vacuum them a little more frequently at first. The price points of wool rugs vary in extreme ranges.

Animal skins have many of the same characteristics of wool rugs. They are easy to clean and offer a uniqueness that no other rug can. However, they are best suited for low traffic areas in the home.

For the person who wants the most luxurious of all rugs, then silk is the one. There are no rugs any softer than silk ones. They have a shine and sheen that cannot be duplicated. Low traffic and dry areas are best suited for silk rugs, as they are not as durable and do absorb moisture. Be ready to pay for this divine rug of luxury – they are rather expensive.

Cotton rugs are probably the most affordable of all rugs. They are easy to clean and somewhat durable in medium traffic areas. You do not have to worry about damp areas with cotton, because they will dry if they absorb wetness. Cotton rugs are not known for their softness and most are a flat weave.

Sisal, jute, and seagrass rugs offer more texture than any other. They mix with any style of décor, as well as with other rugs. They are extremely durable, but staining can be a problem with these options. They have a coarse feel, with jute being the most prickly. Sisal is a little smoother, but is still somewhat scratchy, and seagrass is the least rough. The price points of these rugs vary like wool rugs.

Synthetics rugs such as polyester, acrylic, olefin, nylon, viscose, and polypropylene are the most durable of all the options. They are also the most stain and fade resistant. Synthetic rugs are easy to clean and can be used anywhere, even outdoors. The indoor/outdoor ones are made of polypropylene. Synthetic rugs from days past got a bad rap because they looked as if they were very cheaply made. However, with today’s new techniques, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between a higher end synthetic rug and a wool one. The price of these vary as well, but you can definitely tell the difference between an inexpensive one and one that may cost a bit more.

Allergies sometimes are a determining factor when selecting which rugs are the best fit for your home. Synthetic and cotton rugs are best if you or a family member suffers from allergies. If you are allergic to dust mites, most allergists recommend no rugs or carpet because they become a breeding ground for these allergen triggers.

So if rugs are causing allergy issues, what does a person do to add the design element and function to their space that only a floor covering can provide? Hot on the market right now are vinyl rugs. These coverings come in all sizes, designs, and colors, and look great on any floor, whether you have allergies or not. Of course, vinyl rugs won’t offer the cozy softness of a more traditional rug, but they do absorb sound, are very durable, and will not stain. You clean them like any other hard surface floor, making them a great option for underneath kitchen tables where you worry about food and drink spills. With vinyl rugs, that constant worry can now be eliminated – simply wipe up the spill with a paper towel and spray cleaner. They are also perfect for under an office chair, letting you protect your beautiful hardwood floors. Sunrooms, decks, and patios are also ideal places for these versatile rugs.

Selecting rugs for your home, coordinating them for all the spaces where they are needed, and getting the right sizes can be a daunting task. To make this process a little easier, consider hiring a designer to help you, or go to a retailer that offers in-store design assistance to help with your selections, making sure they offer samples that you can take home and look at in your space for color. These can be big purchases, so you want to make sure you are making the right rug decisions for you and for your home.

Rhonda Benvie Plummer

The owner of Help Me Rhonda Interiors and Open Door Furniture & Accents, a furniture and accessories store, in Raleigh. Visit or, or call 919-263-9054.