After spending hundreds of dollars on your favorite Picasso print, the idea of buying it online, anticipating its delivery, tossing it on the floor and going for a stroll seems unimaginable. But there is a form of art that you can walk all over: the area rug.
Sure, the comparison may seem a bit far-fetched, but area rugs are the art underfoot. Whether it's oriental or Persian, braided or contemporary, the area rug is a reflection of our style and character, much like a picture or painting. And with the advancement in online shopping technology, buying your area rug has never been easier.
Interior designer John Kurtz of Wilmington, Del., says the most important thing when buying a rug is that it has a "beating heart and is going to please you every time you look at it."
The area rug gives a room structure, flavor and design, allowing room colors to be accentuated and drawn out simply by adding this one piece of decor. Unlike wall-to-wall carpet, area rugs bring a pattern into a room without being permanent fixtures. The versatility of an area rug means it can be moved from great room, to dining room, to bedroom and finally find a home in the garage.
Like with any piece of art, you can't just visualize an area rug. You have to see it first. Like standing in front of the wall at an art gallery, your eyes wander from place to place before an image catches your eye. At a store where you can flip through the hanging rugs like posters, the important option of feeling the rug is available, but selection is sometimes limited. This is another area where the shopping technology of the Internet can pay off.
Cutting a Rug While Surfing the Net
Shopping for merchandise online continues to increase every year, with a jump of 19% expected for the 2004 holiday season, according to the ClickZ Network, which monitors online sales. In hard numbers, $21.6 billion is projected to be spent online in November and December. Area rugs have joined the ranks of products available at the click of a mouse.
Before choosing an area rug online, it's important to exercise all of the same techniques and precautions that would be used if you were buying from a store. Because you likely won't be dealing with a salesperson online, you have to ask and answer the questions yourself with research. What is my budget? What room do I want to put my new rug in? What is the right size? What style best reflects my taste?
First and foremost, start with a budget. Like with a piece of furniture or appliance, you should buy the best area rug you can afford. Quality will pay off over time, so natural materials like wool and silk are your best bet. A high quality wool rug even has the capacity to look better over time through exposure to light and air.
Some alternatives to wool and silk are sisal, jute and grass rugs. The upside is these rugs are less expensive. The downside is they are hard to clean and likely to ware out quicker.
A good rule of thumb used throughout the industry when determining how much to spend is called the couch factor. The price of the rug should equal that of a sofa. Set a price and add 10 percent to give yourself some shopping flexibility.
There's a good guideline when determining size as well. When choosing a rug, pick one that is two feet shorter than the smallest wall in the room. For a room that's 14 x 20, consider a rug that's no more than 12 feet wide.
Many of the high-end online sites offer tips on buying, caring and selecting the right area rug. The biggest selling point, however, is selection. With hundreds of choices from the comfort of your computer chair, it might take days going from store to store to view the same amount of rugs.
Most quality sites break down shopping for area rugs into several categories, including color, weave, shape, design and brands. Since sight is so important when choosing a rug, it's imperative that the Web site offers large pictures with high-end resolution of its images. Information on each rug should include the manufacturer, the origin and a brief outline on the construction. For example, a brief synopsis might include the type and percentage of material, whether it has a built-in gripper or not, and if it's machine washable. After making a style decision, size, shape and price should be listed with your choice.
Rug Refresher: Tips, Tricks and Taxes
A simple game plan should be followed in order to make a smooth online purchase of an area rug:
- Make certain all rugs are of the highest quality and come with a manufactures warranty of at least one year.
- Compare shipping costs between retailers. Shipping can add a hefty toll to any online purchase, so it's a good idea to find the best price, or a retailer who offers free shipping.
- Check to see if the retailer charges for tax. This varies from state to state, but a big savings on taxes is usually one of the benefits of ordering online merchandise.
- Find out how long delivery will take. Like any piece of furniture, the typical wait can be two to six weeks.
- Remember that most rugs need non-slip pads. Price is based on size, with an average ranging from $10 for a 2 x 4 pad to $250 for 12 x 18.
- Most importantly, make sure that if you don't like the rug, you can return it, no questions asked. As outlined before, an area rug is like a piece of artwork, and the only true test of whether it fits your style is when it's spread across your floor.
Based in Los Angeles, Ron Neal is a free-lance writer, editor and owner of Writemind Media. With more than 20 years of experience, including six at the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Neal has produced and edited hundreds of articles on a variety of subjects, including flooring, home improvement and area rugs of all kinds, including Oriental rugs.