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Purchase only those area rugs that truly floor you

The day we moved into our 130-year-old money pit, my husband, Dan, and I went crazy stripping away the old, worn trappings that covered the marvelous bones of our house. One morning I awoke to find Dan ripping up the ancient carpet to see what was underneath. We struck gold by unearthing wonderful hardwood flooring. But now we had a new challenge: finding a fleet of area rugs to warm up and pull together each room.

Unless you run into one heck of a sale, area rugs can be a hefty investment. For that reason, once you select a rug, you’re likely to keep it forever. Since you and your rugs will be married for life, you need to be careful selecting them. Here are a few tips you can use to find rugs that will absolutely floor you.

First, don’t settle for a rug you aren’t head over heels in love with. Rugs are like artwork — they have to speak to you. Don’t be in a hurry or settle for second best just to get something down on the floor. Take your time to find the rug that’s just right.

Second, select a rug that works perfectly in your space. Pick area rugs that stay true to the architecture of your home, reflect your personal design style and harmonize with the rest of your home décor. For instance, if you’re going for a country cottage look, choose a romantic needlepoint rug over a traditional Persian wool.

Third, don’t be afraid to mix up your rug styles, material and colors. In my home, I have wool Oriental rugs, delicate needlepoint carpets and durable sisal mats all jumbled together willy-nilly, and I think the overall effect works well.

One of the reasons I upholstered my living room furniture in white fabric was so I could bring in lots of color through accents like flooring. I had a blast scouting for rugs in lots of different hues. In my living room alone I have one carpet in navy, taupe and maroon, a second in blue green and rusty red, and a third in turquoise and tan. Sounds overwhelming, but it’s not. Every color in the carpets is repeated in the room’s other accessories to create a harmonious, lively space.

Fourth, pick area rugs that match your lifestyle. If you have kids, pets or husbands who put lots of wear and tear on your home, make your life easier by selecting rugs that are durable and cleaned easily.

Because I entertain so much in my dining room, I’ve had more than a few glasses of red wine spilled on the formal Oriental carpet under my table. Tired of stressing out about rug stains, I decided to trade the Oriental with a forgiving sisal rug.

I’ve fallen in love with natural fiber rugs because they are attractive, durable and affordable. A friend of mine absolutely swears by natural sea-grass carpets because they can take anything kids dish out. Made from salt marsh grass, sea grass carpets are wonderfully water and stain resistant. One night her teen boys spilled cola on the rug. When she discovered the puddle the next morning, she simply wiped it up. The rug still looked fantastic.

Finally, make sure you size your area rug correctly. I like a border of wood showing in my rooms, so I pick rugs at least 1 to 2 feet smaller than the dimensions of the room. Old design rules dictate that all the furnishings in a seating arrangement have to be on or off the carpet, but I prefer the front legs on the carpet and the back legs off.

To get the rug size right, arrange your furnishings just as they’ll be when you have your rug, then mark off the rug dimensions with masking tape. Be sure to get two measurements before you go rug shopping: the largest and smallest size that would be acceptable to you.

When you’ve found the perfect rug, you’ll be amazed by how it adds character and charm to your room.

Mary Carol Garrity owns three home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and wrote several books on home decorating. Write to Mary Carol at nellhills@mail.lvnworth.com. Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.

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