Your Fifth Wall: An Area Rug Guide

An Overview of the Types of Area Rugs

Area rugs are beautiful artwork for your floors. They help to anchor a space, can make a room feel larger or smaller, more nurturing or more energizing. The right area rug can enhance the effects of color, texture, shapes and scale in your home. It will affect how you feel, and even how you think. 

Read our area rug guide below to learn the dos and don’ts of the often-forgotten fifth wall.

Area Rug Guide to Rug Placement

When the primary furniture in a room – for example your sofa, chairs and tables –  sit at least partially on the area carpet, the space will feel anchored and connected. The room will feel more expansive. If your area rug is too small, there are too many bits and pieces and you’ll be less able to focus or feel settled.

Area rugs are wonderful to help define spaces, particularly when we’re working with great rooms. You might have a long and narrower room with the living space at one end and the dining area on the other. By installing a rug in your seating area you’ll define your living space. Another area rug can be placed under the dining table creating a separate “room”. 

Your dining rug should ideally be about 72” wider and longer than your table. That way your chair won’t get caught on the edge as you pull it out and in, in order to sit. In a more formal setting try to allow 42” from the edge of the table to the edge of the rug. This will allow room to walk behind the seated guests.

Many clients shy away from a dining room rug. But given the primary spills are that of crumbs, it’s easy enough to clean. In an instance when wine is spilled, by dropping  a napkin immediately on top of the spill to soak it up best possible, and the use of an appropriate carpet cleaner it’s really not a big issue.

Area Rug Guide to Rug Construction

The different types of area rug materials and construction offer my clients many options. There are a few basic terms that are helpful to know, as it truly does matter. Your area rug’s look, texture, quality and longevity are all determined by the materials and construction.


Tufted Rugs

Tufted rugs are created by pulling yarns through the backing material, either by a machine or a hand-held tool. This creates loops on the surface. These are then sheared to create a cut-pile of the same height. Since the rugs are created without knots, these can be produced fairly quickly and inexpensively. They also tend to shed more than other rugs, requiring more frequent maintenance, an important consideration when choosing between different types of area rug.


Flat-Weave Rugs

Weaving vertical yarns, called warps, through the horizontal yarns, wefts, on a loom either by hand or with a machine create Flat Weave rugs. They do not have a pile, nor do they have a backing, making them reversible. These rugs are very durable and are great on staircases.


Hand-Knotted Rugs

Hand-Knotted rugs are the most labor-intensive to make. Individual knots are tied to the warp yarns that run the length of the rug. The more knots, the finer the design can be and the more durable the rug. Each is a true, unique work of art, and their durability makes them one of the best types of area rug.


Hooked Rugs

The production of Hooked Rugs is similar to that of Tufted Rugs except that the yarn loops stay intact. By machine or by hand, the loops are pulled through the backing material and are left alone, creating a knobby, embroidered look.

Sea Ranch Living Room

Area Rug Guide to Rug Styles

Traditional Rugs
Typically originating from Persia, these tend to be wool, silk or cotton.
Border designs are common, and can help define a space. Large area rug designs can be incredibly detailed incorporating a myriad of colors and shapes. Representations of flowers are common. Smaller tribal rugs are created on transportable looms and tend to display geometric patterns.

Flat woven rugs typically have geometric patterns and are produced primarily in India. Usually made of cotton, Dhurries can also be found in wool, jute and even silk. As these are not produced with backing, they are reversible. 


More tightly woven than Dhurries, Kilims are produced from the Balkins to Pakistan. These flat weave carpets typically have traditional designs made up of thin stripes of color with small geometric designs within areas of blue, green, brownish yellow, and red.

Natural Fiber Rugs

These types of rugs are extremely environmentally friendly. Sourced properly they are grown sustainably and will biodegrade. They can be produced in most any shape or size, and borders can be applied in a number of techniques.

  • Sisal is a durable plant fiber from the agave plant. Harvested by hand, no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used in its production. Sisal is available in many colors and patterns, and is typically tightly woven making it ideal for just about anywhere.
  • Jute is harvested from the skin of the jute plant. It is soft to the touch, can be woven in any number of patterns and in a variety of tones. 
  • Coir is extracted from the skin of the coconut, then cured by the sun and spun into yarn. All leftover organic material is used as compost.
  • Seagrass is non-porous and is never treated with dye. The natural color ranges from pale green to gold and will settle over time, typically losing the green.
  • Wool from sheep is naturally durable and more renewable than petroleum based options such as nylon. 

Typical natural fiber rug backings include jute, and from the Havea rubber tree natural latex and natural rubber. No chemical polymerization is used in its production.

Tibetan Rugs

Traditional Tibetan rugs are hand-knotted and typically a cut pile. The company I use weaves in Tibet with 100% child-free labor and 100% natural materials as ecologically friendly as possible. Fine designs can be created with up to 150 knots per square inch. The wool is highland virgin long fiber hand carded and hand spun Tibetan wool, The silk is grade “A” pure natural silk. These are soft and luxurious, and can be made in any size, color, pattern and shape.

Moroccan Rugs

Typically made of wool or cotton, the shaggy high-pile rugs kept mountain dwellers warm while lighter-weight styles were used in desert environments. Today they work beautifully in contemporary, organic and industrial designs. 

If you’ve found our area rug guide helpful and are considering how your space could benefit from a beautiful area rug, learn more about our interior design services, our custom rug designs and our first ever custom rug sale.

Stacey Lapuk, ASID


Stacey Lapuk, ASID

Stacey Lapuk, ASID is celebrating her 30th year with her firm. Named “One of America’s Ten Designers To Watch” by Design Times Magazine, one of the “Top 100 Interior Designer in North America” by Blink Art Resources, and the winner of multiple national design awards.  Her goal is simple: To co-create with her clients the home of their dreams with responsive and comprehensive solutions, and timeless, beautiful results.

Her full service firm attracts clients desiring the finest workmanship, materials and custom design. Facets of work include partnering with architects on new construction, remodels, kitchen design and bath design, color consultation, custom furniture, flooring, area carpets, wall and window treatments, lighting design, art procurement and antique acquisition.  Service areas include but are not limited to Marin County, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Ross, Kentfield, Belvedere, Tiburon, San Rafael, and Pacific Heights.