Hardwood and tile floors in the living room can be great. They are usually easier to maintain than carpet and at least a little more durable. What they are not however is very warm and sometimes just the right thing to soften the look a little as well as add a little warmth is a great area rug.

One you start shopping for an area rug however you will quickly find that there are a lot of choices available to you. So how do you make the right choice? Here are just a few tips:

Don’t Go Cheap – There are a lot of cheap area rugs available but scrimping on the cost of a rug for a room as well trafficked as the living room can be a false economy. In most cases this piece will become something of a focus for the space and you certainly want it to last so spending a little more for a really good rug that will serve you well for years is usually the better option in the long run.

Go Natural – In terms of area rug materials the very best rugs are those made from 100% natural wool. Wool is easier to take care of than you might imagine, is very durable and a high quality wool area rug should last you for years. Natural wool also has the advantage in that the wool retains its natural anti bacterial propertie,s so if you have little ones crawling around on the floor its a little bit healthier as well.

Other good options you can consider include sisal ( a natural grass) and silk.

Buy the Right Size – The general rule of thumb for choosing the right size for an area rug according to most interior designers is to pick one that is 2 feet shorter than the shortest wall in the room. For example if you have a room that measures 16 x 12 you should be looking for a rug that is no longer than 10 feet in order for it to be the right size.

That being said there are no hard and fast rules other than making sure that you do not buy an area rug that ends up being so small in relation to the room that it looks like a strange little island floating in the middle of the room!

Consider Your Furniture – There are some beautiful patterned rugs out there and some of them certainly could make a real statement in a living room but you do need to consider the furniture that is in the rest of the room first. For example if you have a couch that has a strong patterned fabric then you should avoid a heavily patterned rug as the two will end up clashing rather unpleasantly.

Where to Shop – If you are going to make the investment in a really great area rug then you should probably avoid big box retail stores as the quality is not always of the highest standards and the mark up tends to be huge!

Instead shop with a specialist rug dealer. Some design experts feel that to truly get a sense of how a rug will work in your home you need to actually see and feel it in person. These days though that may not always be true. There are actually some very reputable rug dealers online, with knowledgeable staff and good return policies and sometimes you can find a far wider range of options shopping these sites. Just shop carefully and make sure that you will indeed be able to return the rug easily if you have a problem with it.