Photo: James Bombales, design by Red Barrinuevo

Shopping for a new area rug can be downright scary. What other piece of decor has the power to completely transform the look and feel of your space — for better or worse? With so many materials, colors and patterns to choose from, it can be extremely difficult to pull the trigger on such a big purchase.

Etsy has released a how-to guide on choosing the right rug for your “taste, space and lifestyle,” with expert advice from Lindsay O’Brien, Etsy’s senior merchandiser for home goods, and Alex Bates, a New York-based creative director and sustainable design consultant. Below we break down the dos and don’ts of shopping for an area rug based on the global marketplace’s practical guide.

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1. Do choose the right rug size

Photo: James Bombales, design by Dvira Ovadia

Before you even begin browsing for a new area rug, you need to carefully measure your space. A too-small area rug is one of the most common decorating mistakes people make, and can cheapen the look of your home. “Starting about 12 to 18 inches from the wall, use masking tape to mark off where you want the rug to fall and then measure those dimensions,” suggests Bates.

2. Do consider its location

Photo: James Bombales, design by Lisa Canning

“If you’ll be using it in a high-traffic area — family rooms, hallways, entryways, and kitchens — you’ll want a durable wool or man-made fiber in a color that won’t show dirt,” says Bates. “For medium-traffic rooms that still get regular use, like dining rooms or home offices, you should use fibers that can be cleaned easily, like a good wool or synthetic.” Looking for something you can really sink your toes into, like a Beni Ourain or Flokati shag rug? Use these high-pile area rugs in the bedroom, where you’ll likely be barefoot and spend less time shuffling about.

3. Do take your lifestyle into account

Photo: James Bombales, design by Jo Alcorn

If you’re a family with young, mess-making kids or own a German Shepherd that sheds like nobody’s business, you’ll want to choose your materials wisely. “Durable natural fibers like jute, hemp, abaca, and seagrass add an earthy warmth and soul to a room and are comfortable underfoot,” says Bates. Pet owners will want to consider wool or synthetic blends that are stain-resistant and repel cat and dog hair.

If neither of those lifestyle factors are of concern to you, luxe fibers like soft wool, silk or sheepskin may be worth the investment. And if you’re on a tight budget, other natural fibers such as jute, cotton and sisal are “very affordable,” according to Bates.

4. Don’t shy away from layering

Photo: James Bombales, design by Shauna Walton

“Layering is a fun way to experiment with patterns or textures without having to commit to covering a large area,” notes O’Brien. Say you scored an overdyed kilim rug on a recent trip to Istanbul, but it’s just not the right size for your space. Throw it over an inexpensive jute rug for a relaxed, multi-dimensional look. O’Brien also recommends varying pile heights or playing with contrasting colors “to create [a] one-of-a-kind statement.”

5. Don’t dismiss vintage pieces

Photo: James Bombales, design by Jaclyn Harper

‘They just don’t make them like they used to’ is a tired trope, but one that very much applies to rug construction. “Many vintage rugs are woven with hand-spun yarns that show an inconsistency in color saturation; that also brings depth and nuance to the design,” explains O’Brien. While the condition may not be perfect (remember, it’s likely older than you are), the character and craftsmanship it brings to the space is well worth the compromise.

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