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Indoor and Outdoor Rugs That Are Worth Their Salt


An area rug is the design glue that holds a room together. Whether selecting a rug for the family room or your outdoor entertaining area, a rug can bring color and texture into your space. 

However… Googling area rugs will quickly drown you in options, and aside from the obvious overwhelm you’ll experience, you simply don’t have time to browse them all. One, because you have better things to do, and two, because if you’re looking for an outdoor rug for this summer, you should be purchasing ASAP. 

We got you. Today, we’re answering your biggest rug FAQs so you can weed out the less desirable options and proceed straight ahead to the good ones:

  • What makes a quality rug?
  • What features should you look for in your rug?
  • Which rug fiber is best?
  • Does pile height matter?
  • What about VOC-free rugs?
  • What size rug should I get?

Oh yeah, and we’ll even divulge our favorite places to source indoor and outdoor rugs. I know, what would you do without us? 

What Makes a Quality Rug? 

The industry standard for a high-quality rug is tightly woven. This means threads stay tight, and the fibers don’t shed. The higher the “knot count,” or knots per square inch, the higher the quality. A superior vendor will always divulge the knot count, but most vendors do not.


From our San Francisco Style Project. Photographer: David Duncan Livingston.

What are the Must-Have Features of an Area Rug?

Hard to say. You should base your must-have features on what you want out of a rug. For example, an empty nester without pets would fare well with a shaggy silk rug. In this situation, this is an excellent investment and feels luxurious under your toes. However…

If you have a busy family at home and a high-traffic living room, the must-have feature you need is durability and ease of cleaning. You would benefit from a tightly woven cotton or cut pile rug made of a synthetic material like nylon. The shorter pile will allow you to vacuum efficiently and extend the rug’s life. (More on pile in a bit.)

How Do You Decide Which Fiber is Best for Your Rug? 

The answer depends on traffic levels and potential spills.

High Traffic Rugs: Nylon, polyester, synthetic fibers

We recommend synthetic fibers like nylon or polyester. These fibers don’t fade and are easy to clean. However, a common misstep we see people make is purchasing a cheap rug for high-traffic areas. I know it sounds intuitive — it’s going to get beat up anyway, right? Wrong. Cheap wool rugs are more likely to shed and leave fibers everywhere, which nylon and polyester won’t do.

Light Traffic Rugs: Wool, silk, cotton, linen, jute, viscose

Wool and silk blends are plush and comfortable. But if someone in your family has a wool allergy, cotton or linen is best, with added cushion for comfort. Wool and silk are easy to have professionally cleaned and can last up to a decade with the proper care. 

However, some light traffic rugs require extra maintenance, like jute rugs. They are beautiful with their beachy natural aesthetic, but they are notoriously difficult to maintain. Viscose rugs are also super soft on your feet, but the synthetic silk is hard to clean. 


From our Beach House project. Photographer: David Duncan Livingston.

Why Does Pile Matter?

“Pile” is the height of the rug and can vary widely. Select your rug’s pile height based on traffic and maintenance. The higher the pile, the more dust and debris it’s likely to collect, which makes it smart to vary your pile height depending on the rug’s location. 

For example, most people prefer a higher, thicker pile in their bedrooms because they are often barefoot, and it’s a low-traffic area. Flat or thinner piles are perfect for high-traffic areas because they will wear better, and dust will be less likely to settle into the space between the fibers. 

What about VOC-Free Rugs?

Many rugs and rug pads can emit VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, into the air at room temperature. This is called “off-gassing” and these toxic fumes (like formaldehyde) may lead to health conditions over time. Non-toxic rugs and rug pads are another way to protect your family from exposure to these risks.

Rug pads are prime toxic emitters (you’ve probably smelled them before), so purchase one that is felt or recycled rubber. For sustainable options, stick with natural or recycled fibers.


From our Beach House project. Photographer: David Duncan Livingston.

Rug Sizing Tips

Finding the right rug size is all about scale and is very nuanced to the space! In fact, it’s so tricky to get right that even designers disagree on the right approach. Some say that all the legs of furniture must fit on top, while others find it okay to have the back legs of a sofa or the nightstand resting on the floor. Who’s right?

We stick to this main rule: A properly proportioned rug has a grouping of furniture on top of it. So, for example, a large rug in a large room with a small cluster of furniture in the middle will make the space feel empty, while a small room with a huge rug can tend to make the room feel smaller.

Here is a quick sizing guide to get you started: 

  • Allow a minimum 6” border of rug around the furniture grouping, or…
  • If the furniture has to rest off of the rug, allow no more than 12” of furniture-off-rug space


From our Beach House project. Photographer: David Duncan Livingston.

Where Can You Find Quality Rugs in Retail?

As promised, the moment you’ve been waiting for. (You skipped down here, didn’t you?) Here are our favorite places to source indoor and outdoor rugs via retail…

Dash and Albert: We’ve never been disappointed with their high-quality, cotton-woven rugs in modern neutral colors. They also have fun beachy patterns. 

Nordic Knots’ rugs are GoodWeave certified, meaning they are handwoven by appropriately paid laborers, NOT by child laborers (which is an unfortunately common problem with rugs woven overseas).

Fab Habitat is an excellent sustainable option because they use recycled materials in their area rugs. They are durable yet soft under your feet.

Revival Rugs are known for their handmade, one-of-a-kind natural material rugs and longevity. Always a good pick.

Beni Rugs are fully customizable in size and color, which is a rare find in retail. This company also supports its local community and values craftsmanship, which is always a plus. 

There you have it, friends. Rugs are a nuanced feature that can make or break your space. Need help designing a room with the perfect rug for you and your family? Contact us, and let’s collaborate on your next project.




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