These days, a kitchen isn't complete without a stylish area rug. Whether it's a lengthy runner framing the island or a soft landing pad in front of the sink, the aesthetic benefits of this one piece of home decor is clear: It's a foolproof way to infuse character, depth, and color into a space that doubles as the heart of your home. The fact that the right rug can protect flooring in such a high-traffic area while providing a little extra comfort gives it a functional edge that can't be beaten. And while the pros of an area rug are lengthy, it's equally important to be mindful of everything that can go wrong: flying bits of food, water spills, and oily splatter are just the start. With that in mind, it's probably not worth splurging on a high-end shag rug. Instead, go for something with a low pile that is durable, but still design-forward.
Not quite sure where to start? We set out to lay down all of the nitty-gritty details you should bear in mind when shopping for a new kitchen rug.
1. Think about the material that's right for you.
The kitchen can be a messy disaster zone. Spills and messes are downright impossible to avoid when you're whipping up dinner, washing dishes, or simply opening and closing the fridge. By prioritizing durability and choosing the right material, you can relish your new investment that much longer.
For example, outdoor rugs are made with heavy-duty natural fibers like jute and sisal to resist the elements, so naturally, they're ultra-durable. Bonus points for the fact that they can be easily spot-treated — all you need is a little soap, water, and a stiff brush to say goodbye to stains — which makes them particularly well-suited for a kitchen space.
Known for their resilient nature, wool area rugs are yet another option to consider for the kitchen. Easy to clean (spot treat with a damp cloth and go over it with a vacuum) and longer-lasting, it's an ideal option for high-traffic areas. Most wool rugs these days will be treated to repel stains and can still retain their original coloring for years despite frequent washes.
Silk, on the other hand, can be a bit more difficult to maintain since cleaning it will often require a professional touch. Compounded with the fact that it's typically more expensive means it's probably better suited for the bedroom or home office.
Get the look: Chilewich Bamboo Woven Floor Mats, $130 - $375
2. Measure out the area you're looking to cover.
Measure twice, buy once. Rug size and proportion matter, so be sure to properly evaluate the space you have to work with so that you can have a clear understanding of what fits and what doesn't. You might even want to use painter's tape to outline the surface area you're looking to cover and that way, you'll be able to better visualize the end result. Pro tip: Be sure to leave between six inches and 18 inches from the edge of the rug to the base of the wall or cabinets.
3. Invest in a rug pad with grip.
There is a lot of foot traffic in and out of the kitchen so safety is paramount. Be sure to add a non-slip grip pad under your rug to prevent bunching and to keep it in place so it doesn't slide around. And if you spend a lot of time in your cook space — whether it's in front of the kitchen sink, stove, or the island — you might want to invest in a pad for cushioning as well to provide a little extra comfort underfoot, depending on how thick you prefer it. Keep in mind grippers themselves offer some padding.
Get the look: McGee & Co. Stockholm Jute Rug, $55 - $552
4. Choose a style that complements your aesthetic.
Whether you're looking for something rustic, eclectic, midcentury, or minimal, there is a seemingly endless array of options out there. For the monochrome kitchen that's void of color, a vividly saturated flatweave runner should go without saying. In addition to lending a functional detail, it'll invite an unexpected dose of flair and personality to your space.
Get the look: CB2 Gradient Rug, $99.95 - $599
5. In a small kitchen, play with scale.
The rug-to-kitchen ratio can be difficult to nail down, especially when you're working with a very small space. For example, in a tiny studio, where you're more likely to have a constricted galley or U-shaped kitchen, a standard mat may take up the entirety of your floor space, feeling more like carpeting versus a rug. On the other hand, if you have the square footage to spare, a 2x5 in front of the sink won't be nearly as impactful as an extra-long runner going down the length of the room. Consider it the Goldilocks problem — you want to find the piece that'll fit just right without over- or underwhelming your kitchen.
Get the look: Foundry Select Ludlow Geometric Cream/Black Area Rug, $154.99
6. Find the right shape.
Whether you prefer to go with a square, rectangular, or round rug, be mindful of the shape. A narrow layout may benefit from a rectangular runner, for example. They're also ideal for enlivening the area between your island and sink. On the other hand, spacious kitchens can fall victim to feeling quite cold. Punch up the warmth and personality with a large woven design. You can also use a rug to create definition between the cooking and eating spaces.
Get the look: Article Natica Dark Gray Rug, $199
7. Mind the thickness.
The thickness, or pile, of a rug, is yet another important element to consider before making a purchase. Flatweaves are classified as low-pile while high-pile refers to the denser alternatives such as shag or Moroccan rugs. Naturally, when it comes to a high-traffic area, it's best to avoid the latter as it's not only a safety hazard (tripping can be a major issue) but a pain to maintain. Having to constantly vacuum out food, dirt, and debris from the thick fibers of a shag rug is no one's idea of a good time. Go for a durable, flatweave, or low-pile rug to make your life a lot easier.
Get the look: West Elm Ombre Pop Kitchen Mat, $40 - $100
8. In a large kitchen, cover as much ground as you want.
If you have a larger kitchen, definitely consider going for two or more rugs to cover as much surface area as you like. A smaller piece in front of the sink and perhaps a lengthier one next to the kitchen island can cover enough ground without feeling overwhelming, giving you the opportunity to mix and match. Go for a utilitarian or stain-resistant option for the sink, and splurge on a more design-forward rug for the island. Since it's not directly in the line of fire, you can have a little more leeway with the color and material.
Get the look: Armadillo Handwoven Jute Doormat & Runner, $170 - $720
9. Make your color scheme count.
When you have very little room to make a statement, it's all about doubling down on style where you can. A high-contrast mat beneath the sink is the perfect way to reinvent even the snooziest of setups, adding a tactile accent with a depth-defining feature. Opt for a landing pad with bold colors like the one spotted in this cook space, or play it safe with something a bit more neutral that still packs a punch, such as black and white. And when it comes to the smaller details (think a fringed edge), we're always in favor.
Get the look: Lulu and Georgia Masha Mat, $78
10. Take good care of it.
Careful as you might be, this rug will in fact get dirty. (Gasp!) Preparation is key to keeping your nice, new piece of decor looking spotless. In addition to vacuuming regularly, turning the rug once a year, and brushing out pet hair, you should also invest in a tried-and-true spot cleaner like this option from Folex so you can react as soon as disaster strikes. While this is a great option for treating spots, your kitchen area rug will also need to be deep-cleaned from time to time, too.
It can be an arduous task to clean a rug by hand, but the good news is it can be done. And if spending the weekend doing manual labor isn't your thing, you can always call in a professional. They usually charge between $2 and $5 per square foot according to Fixr. So if you have a 5-foot by 8-foot runner, you're looking at spending anywhere from $80 to $200. Before you get started, be sure to refer to your rug's care label so you do not cause any irreversible damage. If you're more into the idea of tossing your landing pad into the washer, there are machine-washable options on the market, too.
Get the look: Ruggable Kamran Coral Rug, $149