Decorating with area rugs can transform your space. And as I’ve pointed out before, area rugs are a great way to design from the ground up. But this column is a little different: The following tips are about how to look at a rug.

Many people fall in love with rugs they see in magazines. But the same rug can look very different in real life, without the benefit of studio lighting and a perfect complement of furniture and accents.

I saw this rug in a magazine and fell in love. And when I saw it hanging in a showroom, I was struck by its versatility. But once it was taken down and laid on the floor, I was sorely disappointed. The colors were much more muted than the vibrant photo.

Though rug stores often hang rugs for ease of display, most of us aren’t buying rugs for a wall. Ask the store to drop the rug so you can see it on the floor.

Better yet, many stores will allow you to take the rug, or a small version of it, home for a day to see how it looks in your space. Another option is to see if the store has a sample piece you can take home.


You also can take swatches of your d├ęcor — a floor sample or a cushion from your sofa — to see how the rug will tie in to the colors, textures and styles of your space.

My final tip for you: Look at the rug from all directions, especially if it’s made with silk. These will have a sheen one way and a deeper tone the other way. Make sure you love it both ways.

So drop that rug and take a closer look. You’ll be surprised how much easier your decision will be.

Cathy Lee is a home style expert, speaker, president and designer of Cathy Lee Style. Her redesigns of residential and business spaces have been featured in local and national publications and on HGTV. For more info and inspiring photos of design projects, visit And keep up with Cathy’s dream home makeover at her photo blog, Homefront.