Choosing carpet for your home is a complicated decision. Once installed, you’ll be living with it for years to come, and the color and style will either compliment or detract from your other design choices. Add to the process the fact that there are literally hundreds of manufacturers to choose from, each selling dozens of styles in a wide range of colors, and the process can be more than overwhelming. Instead of bending to the confusion, take a step back and try to simplify things by answering a few basic questions about your needs in advance. Here are a few characteristics to consider when selecting carpet that will best suit the look and feel of your home.

The fiber that you choose will only have a small impact on the look of your home, but will impact the cost and feel a great deal. In general, you’re looking at three options: nylon, wool or polyester. Nylon is probably the most durable, though more expensive than polyester. You’ll need to add stain protection after market, so if you have a full house of children or pets it may not be the best option. Polyester carpeting is often made from recycled plastic bottles, so it’s a great option for those who want to consider the environment in their purchasing. Wool is probably the most expensive option, but it’s also the softest. Again, not a great option for heavily trafficked rooms, but might be perfect for a real show-stopping design.

Outside of the fiber, your next major decision will be texture. Sure, there are slight differences in construction style, but unless you are looking for high-performance carpet (generally unnecessary in a private home), you won’t have to worry too much about that. But textures vary widely, and certainly impact the look and feel of a room. The key is to consider whether a room is built for comfort, style, practicality or a mix of all three. The basic texture is simple, smooth and level. It’s not particular formal. You could add more visual drama by choosing a texture that follows a pattern or incorporates loops or twists. Uncut, level loops will be a great option for high-traffic areas, while a twisting texture will be softer and more comfortable under your feet. Two more casual options are frieze and shag. Frieze is created when the fibers are actually over-twisted. They curl around themselves, and that makes it incredibly durable. It’s a solid option for well-traveled rooms or areas that might come into contact with dirt. Shag has been making a comeback lately, and is much more durable than it was back in the ’60s. Again, it’s a great casual choice, especially for bedrooms.

You’ll find other texture options work well in more formal environments. One option is called textured plush. The textured surface the manufacturer creates will minimize marks from the vacuum or your feet, which will give the room a seamless, untouched feel. This is a great option for the entire house, a nice mix of casual and formal. If you want something more elegant, check out the Saxony texture. Smooth and soft, it’s a great option for dining rooms and living rooms.

Other textures focus on comfort first and foremost. Take a look at either berber loop-pile or cut-pile. The loop-pile acts and looks a great deal like wool, even if you use a less expensive material. It comes across as natural, imperfect and warm, which works quite well in country or contemporary furnishings. The cut-pile texture is more recent. It comes across as thicker, with flecks of color that help hide dirt. That makes this carpet texture a great option for kids’ rooms.

It’s all a lot to consider, so your best bet is to find a carpet professional you trust. Whether they work in a small business or a national chain, make sure they are knowledgeable about fiber, construction and texture, and how each will impact the overall look and feel of the carpet. You’ll have to balance the variety of carpeting needs you have with the constraints of your budget, but if you enter the process with some ideas already on paper, you should be able to balance each requirement and come out happy with the results.