By Johanna Calfee
Rugs are the best of form and function. As grounding elements, rugs can often set the tone of a room while also serving an important role throughout the home. Whether looking for a soft place to land, protecting wood floors, or covering ugly ones (we’ve all been there), there’s no doubt that the right rug can complete a space.
While replacing all of the rugs in your home at once may not be in the cards, addressing those in the most visible, high-traffic areas is a great place to start. For insights on how to make a choice you will love, we called in expert help from Brittany Sydnor, Lynchburg-based owner of BeFound Collective (befoundcollective.com), an online shop of vintage, hand-woven rugs sourced from all over the world.
Step 1: Picture It
Before identifying your rug style, it’s important to understand your personal design style. For help with that, Pinterest is a great resource.
“Search by room names and focus less on the rug and more on the overall space. What is it about those rooms that resonate with you? From there, pick it apart and determine the rug style that best supports the space you’re trying to create. You might be surprised to discover that the style of rug you’re attracted to doesn’t align with the aesthetic you’re trying to create. Once you determine the style you love, I recommend sticking with wool or other natural fibers as they tend to wear better over time and are easier to maintain,” Sydnor said.
Let’s be real, many of us are influenced by what we see on social media these days. And in the Instagram world in particular, rugs are having a full-blown moment. So what are the trends emerging as a result?
“Vintage and antique Persian and Turkish rugs have always been a timeless choice for the most discerning rug buyers, but in the last several years, a younger audience has emerged and we’re seeing design influencers placing antique Persian rugs in some of the most unexpected spaces,” Sydnor said. “It’s a testament to their versatility and longevity in design.”
Step 3: Size It Right
Once you set on a style, rug sizing can be the next difficult challenge and with good reason—Sydnor said it’s hands down the most important consideration when selecting a rug.
“In living spaces, aim to have all of your furniture legs resting on the rug or at the very least, the front legs of each piece,” she advised. “For large areas, like living rooms and open concept spaces, we love to use natural fiber rugs (sisal, seagrass, etc.) as a neutral base layered with smaller rugs on top. They can be purchased online in custom sizes (search “custom natural fiber rug”) and are comparatively cost-effective. This approach allows for flexibility with your topper rug and creates layers of texture.
For odd-shaped rooms, custom rugs are certainly an option and most carpet stores can take a broadloom carpet (typically thought of as wall-to-wall) and create an area rug, tailored to your space. It’s also worth noting that many hand-woven rugs, particularly old Persian and Turkish pieces, are sized outside of modern standards (4’x6′, 5’x8′, etc.). We recently helped a client place a 7’x16′ antique Persian Bidjar gallery runner in a long, narrow home library. We would have never found this size outside of looking for vintage or going custom.”
Step 4: Making a Beautiful Investment
As any homeowner can attest, rugs don’t often come cheap. However, for something you walk over all day, the price is often worth the investment. Sydnor said she has a “buy what you love and you’ll always make room for it” mantra that extends to rugs, particularly vintage and antique pieces.
“Because no two are the same, if you love it, snag it. There will never be another just like it. That said, it’s important to balance love with space realities. Collecting smaller rugs is a solid approach because even if you aren’t in your forever home, they can easily transition from dwelling to dwelling. For instance, something in the 3’x5′ range will work as a doormat, at the side of a bed, in front of a kitchen sink, and so on.”
Step 5: Keep It Clean
For basic cleaning and care, Sydnor said, first start by using the floor setting on your vacuum and avoiding the fringe, which is one of the most vulnerable areas of a hand-woven rug. On occasion, take your rugs outside for a sun bath–the UV rays act as a natural disinfectant and will help kill off odors and bacteria.
“We recommend professional cleaning as needed and at least once every year or two, depending on the amount of traffic your rug receives,” she said. “It’s also important to keep the perimeter of the rug (fringe and binding) secure so that you don’t lose any of that precious weave. Lastly, do not—I repeat, do not—tape your antique rugs to the floor. The residue from the tape will be nearly impossible to remove later and impacts the stability of the foundation. We recommend thin, felt wool pads under all rugs.”