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Whether you follow the Ballard tried-and-true decorating concept of “start with a rug” or just select one to add color and definition to an established décor, area rugs are the quintessential decorative accessory.

From the elegance of a classic Oriental to the casual look of a natural jute, an area rug adds personality and warmth to a room. But with so many styles, colors and materials to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?

It’s actually easier than you think. Here are a few ground rules to help you find the right area rug for your room.

Style Sense

Two of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a rug that you’ll love to live with are your lifestyle and your own personal style.

For a rug that’s going to last, you’ll want to make sure it can hold up to your lifestyle. Are you placing your rug in a high-traffic area, such as a hallway or family room? Do you have young children or pets? If so, you’ll want to go with a rug that’s durable and easy to clean, like wool, a synthetic blend or seagrass. And keep in mind, a dark-colored patterned rug will hide stains or dirt in high-activity areas.

Make sure any rug you’re considering ultimately complements your sense of style. You may not think so, but you really do know your style better than anyone else. So trust your instincts. Don’t talk yourself into a popular pattern or color if it’s really not you. You might love it today, but will you like it tomorrow?

What size?

Before you go shopping you’ll need to do a little homework, starting with measuring the area where you’ll be placing your rug. You might want to select a minimum and maximum optimal size to give you a wider selection of rugs to choose from.

Below are a few general guidelines:

  • In the family room, select a size that covers at least the length and width of your furniture. A 5′ x 8′ or 6′ x 9′ rug is a good size to cluster furniture around for an intimate area. To expand the space, select a larger size that outlines the perimeter of the area.

In the dining room, a rug should be large enough to allow space for chairs, even when pulled away from the table. Measure your table and add approximately two feet, or sit in one of your chairs yourself and measure the distance from the table.

If you have a wood floor, try to have at least 18 to 24 inches of flooring around the perimeter of the room.

Still not sure about the size? Here’s a trick we use from time to time: use painter’s tape to tape the area to the size of the rug you’re considering. This little trick can help you visualize how the size works with your furniture.

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Solids and colors and patterns! Oh, my!

You’re almost ready to start rug shopping. First, take a quick inventory of your color scheme. To tie the look of the room together, you’ll want to select a rug that complements the two or three main colors in the room.

If you go to a store, we suggest you take a throw pillow and a color swatch of your drapes, furniture or wall colors with you. It’s incredibly hard to visualize how the colors will work together without any reference. And if you’re considering a Ballard Designs rug, we strongly suggest you order a swatch first.

Use these basics to get you started on your hunt:

  • If your primary furniture, such as a sofa, is a solid color, consider selecting a patterned rug.
  • Match the secondary color in a patterned rug to your sofa. Match the third rug color to your pillows, drapes, wall color or other accents in the room.
  • If your primary furniture is upholstered in a pattern or is elaborate in design, a solid-colored rug would work really well.
  • Make sure a solid-colored rug complements your sofa color, and match it to the accent colors in the room, such as artwork or a vase.

Since a rug serves to anchor the room, the color and style of your rug can establish the mood. Dark, rich colors help define a more intimate space while lighter colors make a smaller space appear larger. Spicy hues such as yellow, orange or red add warmth while cool colors create calm, especially in a sunny room.