Rugs: A Step-by-Step Guide

Buy a rug, lay it down. How hard can it be? Please. As anyone who's ever done it knows, finding the perfect rug can be flat-out daunting. A rug is a big deal—often literally. It can make or break a room, so the pressure's on to get it right. Fortunately, you've taken your first step by clicking on this handy guide. Read on for the full down-low.

size and shape
material
care and feeding
Pier 1 rugs
size and shape

We've all seen spaces where the rug just doesn't seem to fit. Too small and the room looks awkward—like a blind date in a cheap suit. Too large and it can feel cluttered and claustrophobic. Don't let it happen to you. Make a pre-shopping sketch of your space, including dimensions and furniture placement. Keep in mind, too, that rugs are sold as cut sizes, so a 5' × 8' rug might actually measure 4'9" × 7'8". Knowing its exact size can make a difference when your design plan is figured down to the inch.

room-size rugs
On average, a rug should leave approximately 18" of bare floor around its perimeter; likewise, runners should be a few inches narrower and shorter than the hallway. This border thing is flexible, though, and can vary from room to room. For instance, using standard room/rug dimensions, the ratio might look something like this:

floor plans

area rugs
Design tradition says: In a seating area, front chair legs rest on the rug, back legs stay off. This creates a cozy, well-proportioned space that's neither too cramped nor too cavernous. We say: It's a good rule of thumb, so when in doubt, use it to estimate your rug size. If you bend the rule and it works (all legs on, all legs off, etc.), good for you, fancy-pants. In the end, let your eyeballs be your ultimate guide.

area rugs

rug shapes
Rectangle, square, round, oval, polygon, even flowers. Rugs come in a variety of configurations, so try thinking outside the 9' x 12' box. Ovals can work well under oblong dining tables, while a fun round shape can make a circular table pop. Round rugs are also a great solution when a room is irregularly shaped. A hexagonal rug lends itself beautifully to a cozy conversation area, or use two smaller square rugs to define separate zones in a single space. In general, round rugs add an air of casual whimsy; four-sided styles can be used in a variety of settings from formal to informal.

area rugs
rug shapes
materials

Once you've settled on a size and shape, it's time to think about substance. Here's where color, texture, materials and construction come in. Every rug fiber or fabric has its own special characteristics, so before deciding, you'll want to ask yourself a few questions. Where will the rug be used? High traffic or low? Indoors or out? Plush or flat-weave? Wash or dry-clean? Or maybe you just want to chuck the whole idea and go out for sushi? But stay the course, dear reader. Knowledge is power, and you're stockpiling it like a boss. A rug boss.

wool
A natural fiber known for its strength, durability and luxurious feel or "hand." Soft and easy to clean, wool is naturally stain-resistant but prone to shedding and fading over time.

wool

silk
Prized for its distinctive softness and lustrous patina, silk is harvested from the larvae cocoons of silkworms. Strong and long lasting, but costly and difficult to clean.

synthetic
Man-made fibers created from materials such as nylon, polyester, polypropylene (olefin), acrylic and viscose. Often used as an inexpensive but comparable substitute for wool, as well as in many outdoor rugs and doormats. Strong, stain- and moisture-resistant, great for high traffic areas. Colorfast.

synthetic

backing
A liner fabric that makes rugs feel softer and helps to anchor them in position. A rug may feature no backing, primary backing (underside fabric in which the yarn is inserted by the tufting needles) and/or secondary backing (an additional backing bonded with latex onto the primary backing).

cotton
Soft and strong. Easily absorbs dyes, allowing for many color options. Often machine-washable. Wears more quickly than wool.

cotton

grass fibers
Jute, sisal, bamboo and coir are popular examples. Generally flat-woven, they produce extremely strong, durable rugs. Good for high-traffic areas, but prone
to stains. Environmentally
friendly.

grass fibers

rug construction

The way a rug looks and feels depends not just on its material, but how that material is crafted.
All methods except hand-knotting can be done manually or by machine.

flat woven

flat woven
These rugs have no pile. Rather, the rug's vertical yarns (warps) are simply woven through the horizontal yarns (wefts).

hand-knotted

hand-knotted
Master weavers tie individual knots to a rug's warp (vertical) yarns to form the pile. The more knots, the more resilient and valuable the rug.

tufted

tufted
Loops of yarn are pulled through a rug's backing material, then sheared to create a smooth, cut-pile surface.

hooked

hooked
Like tufting, except the yarn loops are left uncut to create a knobby, embroidered-look surface.

braided

braided
Yarns are braided into one continuous rope that is then stitched together in a spiral. Without pile and usually reversible.


care and feeding

First of all, don't feed your rug—it's just an expression, like "alive and kicking" or "staying on a diet." Second, do learn how to care for it. A rug is an investment in time and money; once you've laid the groundwork and found the perfect fit, you'll want to make sure it stays that way for a long time to come.

routine maintenance
Shake or vacuum your rug regularly—at least once a week—to remove dust and dirt particles that can actually damage fibers over time. Every 4-5 months, turn the rug over and vacuum the back, too. At the same time, rotate the rug to prevent uneven wear from foot traffic and furniture weight.

Rugs that require professional cleaning should be treated every 6 months-5 years, depending on the amount of foot traffic they get. Washable rugs will benefit from a bath every month or two.

Outdoor rugs and doormats can simply be hosed down (first check the tag for water-resistance). Extra-dirty or stained rugs can be scrubbed with a brush and some mild soap and water. Hang the wet rug over a railing so water will run off and dry-time is shortened. To prevent mildew, be sure both sides are dry before laying your rug back down.

rug pads
Give slippage the slip and add extra plushness. Rug pads also help protect your rug from everyday wear and tear (and your floor from everyday rug friction). Worth the minor investment.

spills
Sooner or later, it's going to happen—someone will spill something on your beautiful baby. Avoid crying, hurling insults/heavy objects or getting the cops involved. The key is to clean up ASAP, before the stain has a chance to set. Blot—don't rub—with a dry white cloth or paper towel until the area is barely damp, then apply a small amount of carpet cleaner or stain remover to a clean white cloth and work gently into rug fibers until the spill lifts. Blot dry.

[Note: Everyone and their grandma has a favorite home remedy for removing stains (club soda, hydrogen peroxide & baking soda, white wine for red wine stains, vinegar & soap, salt, etc). Some of them work, some don't. Try at your own risk.]

sun
Some rugs can fade in direct sunlight. Keep them shaded as much as possible and rotate every few months to ensure even exposure. 'Nuff said.

storage
You've heard the phrase "snug as a bug in a rug"? Don't encourage it. Have your rug cleaned before storing to thwart tiny tenants. Wool rugs should be treated, front and back, with a fabric-safe moth repellant. Roll the rug topside out and stow in a dry, well-ventilated space. For extra protection, wrap it in a natural porous fabric such as a cotton canvas or sheet, rather than an airtight bag. Check every 3-6 months for mildew or insect damage; reapply moth repellant if necessary.


Pier 1 rugs

So why do we bother to help you select just the right rugs, then offer loads of tips for keeping them in tip-top shape? Don't we want to sell you more rugs? Sure we do. But we love our rugs (seriously, have you seen them?) and want our customers to love them, too. More importantly, we love you. And if we can do anything to make your Pier 1 experience even more awesome, then just try and stop us. Now get out there and hit the ground rugging.