Buying furniture and home decor online is a massive advance in convenience. You can see a vast selection without wearing out your legs walking down endless aisles, and the items you choose show up right to your door without the hassle of transporting them there yourself.
But when you’re shopping online for area rugs, one of the easiest decor pieces you can use to refresh your look, remember that there are pitfalls. It’s not as easy as finding something pretty on sale and clicking “add to cart.”
We talked to interior designers about the biggest mistakes people make when shopping for area rugs online, and they had some whoppers to share. Make sure you skip these missteps the next time you’re trying to fancy up your floors.
1. Not measuring your area
Photo by Von Fitz Design
It may sound like common sense, but not everyone reaches for the measuring tape when buying an area rug online. You know your space, you know what size will fit best, right? Wrong.
“One of the main things we see is when people do not properly measure out the space. They end up just going off the room size and estimating in their head, and it usually doesn’t work out well,” says Bre Hance, CEO and founder of InHance Interiors. “We suggest using painter’s tape to map it out on the floor to be absolutely sure the rug fits.”
2. Going too small
Photo by HOME Stagers, Inc.
Even if you’ve measured your space, you’re still at risk of buying a rug that’s too small if you haven’t planned out your space just right.“The general rule of thumb is you want at least the front legs of all your furniture to sit on the rug. You don’t want to see the floor in between the rug and your sofa,” says Rachel Alcorn, owner and principal of Two Hands Interiors in Chicago. “If you fall in love with a rug that is technically too small, you can always layer it over a larger natural-fiber rug made of sea grass or jute.”
If you can’t find the exact size you want, Devin Shaffer, Decorilla’s lead interior designer, says it’s better to go too big than too small.
“Yes, there may be some sticker shock with going a size up, but as long as it fits and exposes at least 8 inches of the flooring below, it’s going to transform your space and make the room feel more complete,” he says. “Undersized rugs have a shrinking effect on a space and instantly compete with the scale of surrounding furnishings.”
3. Not paying attention to the materials
Photo by BARRETT STUDIO architects
When selecting a rug for your space, your first focus, of course, is on the design. If you were at a brick-and-mortar store, the next thing you would probably do is reach out and feel the rug—and maybe reach for the label—to see exactly what it’s made of.
Interior designer Jenny Dina Kirschner, principal of JDK Interiors, says this is a step that often gets missed online.
“With the abundance of rug design options online, I find the focus to typically be on the aesthetic qualities of the rug and not on the actual content of the rug,” she says.
The content of the rug can affect not only how it wears, but also whether it will stain easily, how easy it is to clean, and how it will feel under your feet, she explains.
“I often tell friends to first filter their rug searches by material when possible. You might need to do a bit of online research to know which rug material is right for your needs.”
4. Not checking the pile height
Photo by Best & Company
If you’re buying an area rug to add a soft surface to wood or tile floors, you’ll really want to pay attention to the pile height—the thickness of a rug from the surface to the backing.
“The biggest mix-up we see is people thinking the rug is going to be supersoft. This is not always the case,” says Nick Bond of Renovation 320. “If you want a rug that you can [lie] on with your kids, try looking for an area rug with a high pile height. This gives the rug a more plushy feel and is way more comfortable.”
You’ll also want to note this for high-traffic areas like hallways, where high-pile heights can lead to tripping hazards or even prevent doors from opening properly.
5. Not ordering a swatch
Photo by Mary Hannah Interiors
If you’re ordering an area rug from Target or Amazon, you’ll likely be unable to procure a swatch before you commit to a purchase. If you’re buying from a higher-end store (and likely spending a lot more money), getting a swatch is definitely something you should consider, according to Jill Valeri, owner of the Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions.
“Whenever possible, order a swatch,” she advises. “There are two things that are extremely difficult to determine from your computer screen: the true colors of the rug and the texture of the pile.”
Even if you have to pay for the swatch, it’s worth it to make sure you’re not wasting a lot more of your hard-earned cash on the whole rug.
If a swatch isn’t available, there may still be a way to get a sneak peek.
“If you cannot find a brick-and-mortar store nearby that sells the rug you’re considering, then it may be wise to order the smallest version of the rug first,” says Ariel Richardson, founder of ASR Design Studio in San Diego, CA. That way, “you can see how the colors and texture look in person before you commit to a bigger size and have to deal with the hassle of a large return by mail.”
6. Not making sure it’s returnable
Photo by nuLOOM
No matter how diligent you are about making sure the rug you’re choosing is just right, you’re never going to know what it looks like in your room until it’s actually in your room. If you’ve chosen a rug that’s not easily returnable, that may be a big issue.
“Ideally, you can order a few returnable options online to view in your home with your particular combination of natural lighting and furniture,” says Alcorn.
Interior designer Sara Chwatt of SBC Interiors agrees.
“Always shop somewhere that you can return for free,” she says. “Rugs are large, heavy items. Returning one can be costly.”
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