"The more you look, the more you realize what you like," she said. "There's a whole world of patterns to choose from and color palettes as well."
Athineos advised going to a reputable store, not one that's constantly promoting a going-out-of-business sale. Ask about the return policy, as some stores allow you to buy and try, and return it if it doesn't work.
"Sometimes you don't know until it's laid out, the way the light falls on the carpet," she said.
If you are shopping for a machine-made reproduction carpet, Athineos suggests bringing a damp, white cloth. Part the pile and rub the cloth against the carpet to make sure no color comes off; that bleeding is the sign of a cheap carpet, she said, that won't last two years.
"Reproductions can be great, but this is a carpet you do not want," she said.
Don't get too hung up on a carpet's size, Athineos said; buy what you love and find a way to work it into your home. Try the layered look, she suggests, with one carpet overlapping another.
"You should take the size equation out of it," she said. "Persian carpets aren't about an exact size to fit the room."
With 61,000 carpets to choose from at New York's ABC Home & Carpet, the company's vice chairman, Graham Head, advises people to buy pieces they feel emotionally attached to, much as they would a painting.
"It's got to speak to you, otherwise don't bother," he said.
Carpet buying is an art, not a science, he said, and shouldn't be overanalyzed.
"If it makes you smile and you come home at night and open the door with a little bounce in your step, and you're happy to be home with the rug, then that's a good buy," he said. "If you've done it by some mathematical equation, it doesn't have the same soul to it. It should be predictably unpredictable."