Mary Kay Hylton is co-owner of Harbortown Interiors, located in downtown St. Joseph, Michigan. The store specializes in “relaxed living,” focusing on practical, functional and fabulously fun home furnishings.

What types of area rugs are there?

Area rugs can be made of any number of fibers, with wool probably being the most common and traditional fiber. But nylon, cotton, silk, leather, polyester and polypropylene and natural fibers like sisal and jute are also used.

Styles range from traditional Oriental to super contemporary and shag styles and everywhere in between. Construction can be woven, tufted, knotted or hooked, and rugs can be machine made or hand made. Textures range from flat weaves to thick shag.

What is the purpose of an area rug?

Area rugs are both functional and/or strictly decorative. Often, they are both. A rug can both literally and figuratively anchor the furniture in a room. Furniture that sits on a rug is much less likely to move and slide than furniture that sits on a hard surface, like a wood or tile floor. It will visually designate a conversation area or visually separate a reading space from a TV watching space in a room. Of course, there is always the practical aspect of rugs. They are a way to keep dining chairs from scratching your wood floor or a place to wipe your feet with a rug at the door, or alleviate leg fatigue with a rug in the kitchen in front of the sink. Rugs add texture, color and pattern to any room.

How do I know what size area rug I need?

The size of the room or area and the purpose of the rug will help you decide what size rug you need. Most rugs come in a variety of sizes, ranging from two-feet by three-feet up to 10-feet by 14-feet. Five-by-eight is probably the most common size. A rug in a living room should be large enough to touch the furniture around it. Furniture does not have to literally sit on the rug, but the rug should be the anchor and most of the pieces should appear to be in contact with it.

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There is a rule of thumb for a rug under a dining table. Generally, when people sit at a table, they are about 18 inches away from it, so if you want all four of the chair legs to sit on the rug, you need the size of your table, plus three feet or more, if the size of the room allows it. This also accommodates scooting the chair in and out without catching the rug.

What are some trends in area rugs?

A huge trend we are seeing now is indoor/outdoor rugs. Generally made of polypropylene, they are designed for outdoor space like decks and patios. But they have become popular for indoor use because of their unbelievable practicality. They are cleanable, designed to be spot cleaned or hosed off. They are stain resistant, bleach proof and durable. They come in a variety of textures, sizes, wonderful colors and patterns and best of all, are very inexpensive. They can mimic natural fibers like sisal, or hooked wool rugs and are prefect for kitchens, foyers, and even bathrooms.

Do some types of rugs work better in certain rooms?

There are definitely rugs better suited or some areas in your home, some maybe less suited. Sisal rugs are an example. These natural fiber rugs are very popular and they look wonderful in many rooms, but these rugs are woven from very porous fibers. Even water can leave a spot on them. I own a jute rug and it came with this information in the package: “If something spills on your rug, we will keep our fingers crossed for you.” They are generally very reasonably priced, you just have to know you won’t keep it forever. They are also not the softest rug you can put in a room, which is something to remember for bare feet or if kids are playing on the floor. But you can’t beat them for their casual look and great price.

Can an area rug work on any type of flooring?

Rugs are appropriate for any room and any floor surface. They can soften a tile floor or add sound-absorbing qualities to a room. There are a variety of pads or grippers to put under rugs. There is even a specific under layer designed for a rug that is going on top of carpeting. A rug on carpet has a tendency to move and wrinkle and this specific pad has a bit of an adhesive quality that helps eliminate this. It also will help to protect the carpet underneath from color or dye transfer if the rug would happen to get wet.