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Skip Pottery Barn and Anthropologie. Buy a rug at these places instead

And more tips from an expert on buying rugs online.

Skip Pottery Barn and Anthropologie. Buy a rug at these places instead
[Photo: Revival Rugs]

We’re in the golden age of nesting. As millennials–now in their late twenties and early thirties–buy homes and start families, a wave of startups has popped up, tailored to the way that this generation likes to shop. Brands such as Burrow, Brooklinen, and Floyd sell their products on the internet, cutting out middleman, and have found ways to ship products directly to the customer’s doorstep.

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As a result, it’s never been more convenient or more affordable to set up a home. You can now order a couch on Burrow that will arrive on our doorstep in the mail a few days later. You can order hip patio furniture on Yardbird year round, rather than just during the summer months (useful if you live in Los Angeles or Miami). You can get hotel-quality bedsheets on Brooklinen without having to sell a kidney.

Over the past few years, a new category of home goods has entered the mix: rugs. There’s been a spate of new direct-to-consumer rug brands, selling everything from vintage Turkish carpets to customizable machine-printed rugs that can fit any space. But it can be hard to figure out how to navigate this new world of rugs online. How can you tell if the rug is of good quality? And how can you tell if you’re getting ripped off?

Maddy Karolian asked many of the same questions when she tried to purchase a rug a few years ago. “It was so incredibly confusing,” she recalls. “I would sit there scanning through rows and rows of rugs, not knowing why one was five times more expensive than the other.”

Karolian’s experience was so unpleasant that it prompted her to create her own rug startup, Boundless, which will launch later this fall. In order to lay the groundwork for her own company, she did a lot of research about what to look for in a rug and how to avoid any pitfalls. She shares her knowledge with us here.

[Photo: Beni]

Brand-Name Stores Often Mark Up Rug Prices

One thing that many people don’t realize is that many brands, like Pottery Barn and Urban Outfitters, sell some products that you could get elsewhere. Take, for instance, this leopard print rug. Anthropologie calls it the Tufted Stella Rug, and sells the 8-feet-by-10-feet rug for $998. Meanwhile, the exact same rug is available on Rugs USA under the name Stella Dalmation for $559. “It can feel a little deceptive, because many brands make the customer feel like they actually created the product when they are actually buying them from third-party manufacturers,” says Karolian. “But they photograph them with other products in their catalog so you can’t reverse-search the image on Google.”

[Screenshots: Anthropologie (left), Rugs USA (right)]

Her advice? When you find a rug you like, do a thorough search on other sites, including Amazon, Wayfair, and discount sites. Sure, these sites can be overwhelming, since they don’t curate the selection for you. But since they aggregate rugs of all prices and quality, you can easily filter through their products when you know what you’re looking for. And the bottom line is that you shouldn’t be gullible and assume that home brands with a fancy websites have superior products.

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[Photo: Beni]

Know What You’re Paying For

Once you start looking at rugs, you’ll realize there are lots of different price points, based on how the product is made. The very top of the line is the hand-knotted rug, which is made of silk or wool. This is a labor-intensive technique and may require months of work to make a single one. It’s the most expensive type of rug on the market, ranging in price from $1,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on the size and quality. It’s often described as a Turkish or Persian rug, although it might be made in many parts of the world.

But there are a plethora of cheaper options. Plenty of machine-made rugs use either a weaving or tufting technique that replicates the Persian rug style. These tend to be less expensive, because they use less labor. But depending on the manufacturer, they can still be durable and beautiful.

The newest technology is machine printing. It is now possible to print designs on nylon and wool, and this technology allows you to create new styles, like watercolor patterns. They often aren’t supposed to mimic a traditional Persian rug, but have compelling, colorful designs. And they’re very affordable with prices that sometimes start at under $100 for a small rug.

Finally, for the past 10 years,  rugs made out of organic fibers like sisal or jute have been in vogue. They’re relatively inexpensive because the materials are cheap and can be made by machine. People assume these rugs are easy to maintain, but Karolian points out that they’re often not. The fibers absorb liquid and food can get stuck inside them. They’re best left in areas far away from food–like an office, for instance. “They can be really nice if you can’t afford a rug that’s the appropriate size for your space,” she says. “They’re inexpensive, even at large sizes, so you can define your space the way you want to without having to spend too much money.”

[Photo: Revival Rugs]

Always Measure Your Space

When you’re shopping from your couch, you might be tempted to skip measuring the room where you’re hoping to put your rug. Websites present rugs next to furniture, so it can be easy to believe that you understand the scale of the piece you’re looking at. Don’t be fooled. Always measure. “Rugs are notoriously hard to send back,” says Karolian. “If you get the wrong size, you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re stuck with a rug you can’t use.”

If you don’t actually know what size rug to buy, Karolian recommends this helpful primer from Apartment Therapy. There are lots of creative ways to use large and small rugs, but in some cases, an inappropriately sized rug can make the room feel smaller than it is, or make interacting with the space awkward.

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[Photo: Beni]

If It’s Priced Too Low, It Is Probably Not Ethically Produced

One last thing to consider: If you’re looking at buying a hand-knotted rug, and you find one that is way cheaper than others of its size, then it may have been made using unethical labor practices. Since rugs require such expensive handwork, children are sometimes forced to make them under horrible conditions. Harvard scholars released a study in 2014 documenting slave labor and child labor in the Indian handmade carpet industry. If you’re interested in purchasing a hand-knotted rug, see if it is certified by Good Weave, an organization that audits supply chains to make sure the rug is ethically made. “If the price seems to be too good to be true on a new hand-knotted rug, it probably is,” says Karolian.

[Photo: Revival Rugs]

Rug Startups To Check Out

So if you’re ready to buy a rug to spruce up your home, but don’t want to buy it from a big name brand that might rip you off, where you should you go instead? You’re in luck. There’s an abundance of startups right now that sell rugs of all kinds online at reasonable prices. Here’s a selection of brands that have caught our eye.

Revival Rugs
Revival Rugs finds vintage, one-of-a-kind handmade rugs from all over Anatolia, the carpet capital of Turkey. It then carefully cleans them and decides how best to revive them. In some cases, Revival Rugs redyes the rug, but in others, it leaves it looking worn. On the brand’s website, you can see rugs of all sizes and conditions styled beautifully. Besides giving your home a distinctive look, Revival Rugs is also a good option for people who are environmentally conscious, since used products are almost always greener than new ones.

You can filter through the rugs by size and each one is delivered for free. The rugs start as low as $117, which is extremely low for a hand-knotted rug, and goes up to $1,680 depending on the size and the condition the piece is in. Revival Rugs has recently created kilim rugs that stitch together pieces of several salvaged rugs. These pieces have their own cool aesthetic.

Beni Rugs
Beni specializes in handmade Moroccan rugs, but in a twist, it has found a way to blend traditional Middle Eastern design with a modern aesthetic.

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The brand works with local artisans in the Atlas Mountains to create customized wool rugs. On the website, you can select from a range of geometric patterns, all of which are inspired by the landscape in Morocco. (But if you want to create your own design, you can contact the brand to describe what you would like.) You can pick the size and the colors you want, and the piece will be made on demand, using traditional techniques. It takes 8 to 10 weeks to make a rug, and an additional couple of weeks to deliver it to your door.

As a direct-to-consumer brand, Beni’s rugs cost significantly less than other Moroccan rugs on the market. But they’re still expensive. Small rugs cost a little under $500, but they can go up to nearly $6,000.

Ruggable
L.A.-based Ruggable makes affordable, practical rugs, in a range of designs. The brand’s innovation is that it has created a two-part system, a nonstick rug pad that clings to the polyester rug you place on top of it. The rug itself can be removed and machine washed, without degrading or losing its color. These rugs are great for pet owners, parents of small children, and people who have lots of parties, since they are easy to clean. Rugs together with the underlying pad start as low as $129 and go to $399 for the largest size, which is 8 feet by 10 feet.

[Photo: courtesy Article]
Article
Home startup Article makes high-quality midcentury modern furniture and home goods, with reasonable prices thanks to the brand’s direct-to-consumer approach. The brand has rugs in a variety of textures and materials so it’s a good bet if you’re looking for an affordable rug to pull your Don Draper-inspired living room together. Synthetic rugs, which are made from recycled plastic, cost as little as $249 for a 5-feet-by-8-feet rug, while handwoven rugs start at $399. The brand also sells sheepskin throws and rugs for as little as $89.

Cold Picnic
Cold Picnic, a home brand started by founders with a background in fine art and fashion design, creates rugs with abstract geometric designs, inspired by landscapes. The rugs are handmade in India using wool yarn, and start for as low as $90 for the 2-feet-by-3-feet design, going up to $795 for the largest size which is 6 feet by 9 feet.

[Photo: The Citizenry]
The Citizenry
If you’re home has a more bohemian, globally inspired flair, you might want to check out The Citizenry‘s rugs. This startup also has a strong ethical component, as it goes into various artisan communities around the world to make products, and it ensures that workers are paid living wages through rigorous audits. By selling online, the prices are lower than that of a luxury boutique, but they’re not cheap. This startup sells rugs with tribal patterns, with cotton dhurrie rugs starting at $125, large wool rugs starting at $775, and cowhide rugs starting at $395.

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[Photo: Laure Joliet/courtesy Block Shop]
Block Shop Textiles
This startup is founded by sisters; one lives in L.A., the other lives in Jaipur, India. The brand sells products printed with wooden blocks and dyed in small batches, and donates 5% of all profits to a women’s empowerment program. Block Shop‘s rugs are mostly cotton dhurries that are woven by hand over several months. While the weaving technique is old, the patterns themselves have a modern sensibility, with plenty of geometric designs and vibrant color choices. They start at $120 and go up to $700 for the largest sizes.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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