9 Ways to Avoid Wasting Money When Buying a Rug

Rugs are the unsung heroes of the design world. A bit dramatic? Perhaps. But don't underestimate a rug's ability to transform a room. Neutral furniture can go modern when paired with a bright, graphic rug. That same furniture veers traditional when placed atop a muted Oriental rug, and if you prefer a laid-back, bohemian vibe, use that same furniture with a kilim or Moroccan rug to achieve a completely different feel. Rugs are a worthwhile investment, but an investment nonetheless. Here are nine ways to help you avoid wasting money on your rug purchases.

1. Know exactly where your rug is going.

First things first: Is your rug going in a high-traffic area like an entryway or playroom? Or will it be in a bedroom for just a few people to enjoy? Your rug's location and function is an important factor in determining the type of rug you select and will increase its life span. For example, choose a durable material such as sisal or jute for areas that get a lot of wear and tear — hint: by a front door. A patterned flat-weave kilim or Persian rug is a workhorse in a kitchen or dining room where spills might occur — it's amazing what pattern can hide! A bedroom is the perfect location for a luxurious silk rug that will feel great underfoot but can't stand up to prolonged exposure to shoes and dirt. "When buying rugs, I make sure to consider foot traffic — is it a highly used area, are there kids and pets, will food be served — and if so, I make sure to purchase a rug with lots of pattern and texture that is made of a cleanable, stain resistant fiber like wool," said Daleet Spector, a Santa Monica-based interior designer.

2. Measure. And then measure again.

Before you begin to rug shop, measure your room carefully. This might sound obvious but is often overlooked. Measure the space and then think about standard rug sizes: 3-by-5, 5-by-7, 8-by-10, and so forth. Lay out those sizes with painter's tape and choose the size that looks best with your furniture. Knowing your room's dimensions and the layout of your furniture will help determine the shape you should buy.

3. Don't underestimate — or overestimate — size.

People often err when selecting a rug that is too small for their space, which can leave a room feeling cold and uninviting. Conversely, in the world of rugs, it is also possible to have too much of a good thing: a rug that is too big can overwhelm your space. Need some clarity? A great rule of thumb is to get all of your furniture's legs on the rug with it extending at least 6 inches all around — this will give you lots of bang for your rug buck. At minimum, the rug should be big enough for the front two legs of your furniture to sit on top to create a unified and defined space. Break out the painter's tape again and use it on your floor to outline the dimensions of your rug to get a better visual.

4. Layering can save money.

If money is an object (and when isn't it?), a great option to consider is layering a smaller, more expensive rug that you love, over a larger, more affordable rug. Consider a hide-on-hair rug layered atop a neutral woven rug. We also love the way a plush Beni Ourain rug looks when paired with jute or sisal. This cost saving tip has the design bonus of adding texture and interest to your room.

5. You can never go wrong with vintage.

Vintage rugs never go out of style. They can be a bit more costly than mass produced rugs, but the unique personality they infuse within a space can be worth the extra money. Plus they're an eco-friendly choice, and they are generally better made. Check out Etsy, eBay, and Charish for price comparisons.

6. Buy in bulk from the same vendor.

If you're in the market for several rugs, consolidate your purchases from the same vendor. This will give you a bit more leverage to ask for a price break. Most brick and mortar stores have regular sales, offer discount codes, and occasionally offer price matching, so prepare to wait for one of those.

7. Hit the flea markets.

It can be difficult to bargain with big-box stores, but if you have access to a local flea market, it can be a great place to score some deals. Get to know the vendors and when you see something you love, don't be afraid to ask if there's any room on the price.

8. Mull it over before making a purchase.

As with all big purchases, it never hurts to take a little time to consider your rug and make sure you really love it. If, after a few days, you are still pining for it, go ahead and pull the trigger. Even if it is a little outside your budget, a rug you love will make you happy for years to come and will be a good investment.

9. Always check return policies (and ask if you can borrow it!).

After all the online and in-store browsing, measuring and contemplating, nothing beats actually seeing a rug in your space. Can your rug be returned if it isn't quite right? "The best way to avoid making a rug mistake is by seeing the rug in your space — so, ask the store owner if they will memo the rug to you. Believe it or not, they will likely say yes," adds Spector.

(Lingo low-down: "Memo" means you can take something from a store to see what it looks like in your home, with the possibility that you might return the item. The store will charge your card, but will refund the money if you decide to return the piece. Since some places don't have return policies, this is like a loophole.)


Jaclyn Schatzow

Jaclyn Schatzow

Jaclyn Schatzow is a freelance writer living in Santa Monica, CA