Interior Design Tips and Tricks

How to Choose An Area Rug: Rug Placement & Size Guide

May 27, 2020

Area rug placement can be tricky. If you are wondering where to place a rug in a bedroom, living room or dining room, these tips will help! A visual rug size guide is included in this post.

how to choose the perfect area rug

Today we’re gonna talk rugs. It's a topic that I talk about in Designer in a Binder because it's such an important part of getting an interior design for a room just right. If you want the cliff notes version, you can find the quick and dirty rug size guide at the bottom of this post.

First of all, let me tell you my friends, there’s nothing that brings a room together quite like a big, beautiful area rug. Similarly, nothing looks quite as disjointed as a rug that’s too small or dwarfs the space. It’s all about balance. If you’re wondering where to buy a great rug, there are plenty of places to find rugs for well under $300.

When it comes to choosing a rug, I don’t have one hard and fast rule for ya’ll. There’s no quick answer to how big should an area rug be. In some cases a room-sized rug looks great, spread out to fill the entire space. In other cases it can look downright overwhelming. It’s all about assessing the room, the furniture and the layout.

You know I’m a bargain lover, BUT considering all the right rug does for a room, it’s a worthy investment of time and effort to find the right fit. Don’t skimp or go too cheap when it comes to rugs and don’t jump at the first deal you find. You want a great rug you’ll love. A rug is a major focal point, so take your time and find the perfect piece to tie it all together perfectly. You can check out this post about GORGEOUS colorful rugs that are a perfect starting point for any room. Let’s break it down to the proper rug placement and size, room by room.

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Living Room Area Rug Placement & Size

When it comes to rug placement in your living room, you don’t want your rug to go right to the wall (à la carpeting). You want a little bit of leeway between the wall and your rug. Think of a rug as an anchor for the room, rather than a platform. Similarly, you don’t want a rug to appear as a tiny island, lost in the vast sea of your living room floor. If you opt for a smaller rug, keep the rug proportionate to your couch. A rug should run just beyond your couch and seating area. This living room rug placement is perfect for the size of the furniture and space it's placed!

 Source: Better Homes and Gardens

In the example above, as you can see, the rug placement fits the proportions of the room and extends 8-12” beyond the edge of the couch. It doesn’t need to sit beneath the couch completely, but shouldn’t float out from the coach either. This rug works beautifully with the scale of the ottoman as well. Everything in the room looks proportionate, where a larger rug could dwarf the smaller couch. In this case, it helps the room feel cozy and inviting.

Wow, such a beautiful rug placement - the cohesive design that pulls the room together in such a fun and colorful way!

 Photo by E.L. Interiors

Another important guideline for how to choose an area rug is to mimic the shape of the room, as illustrated in the above photo. Living and family rooms are typically more square or rectangular, particularly in a formal seating arrangement. It’s tempting to mimic the shape of the coffee table instead and opt for a smaller round rug, but it would throw off the balance. In this room, a small round rug would create the “floating island effect” as I described above–not a cohesive look. Instead, this beautiful geometric rug (similar rug available at Wayfair 8’ x 10’ for under $300) really brings the whole room together (and incidentally, looks great with the color scheme).

This beautiful rug placement is so perfect for the furniture! It is colorful, delicate, and creates a warm and cozy atmosphere in this room.

If your furniture has delicate legs, keep all legs ON the rug. Lower furniture (such as a this sectional sofa, above), look fine with a rug tucked 8-12” under the edge of the sofa, but for the beautiful side chairs the rug should sit completely underneath all four legs. This rug creates a sense of intimacy and creates a conversational space in the room above. The walkway is left clear, but the rug sits perfectly in the seating area of the room, creating a visual division. Using this technique helps larger rooms appear cozier and warmer, and can also delineate traffic flow in smaller rooms. We've followed these guidelines in our family room with this rug (one of my favorites). area rug placement in family room We've also followed the guidelines in the sitting area in our master bedroom (which is basically like a second family room that we use at night after our girls go to bed) with this rugarea rug placement in family room

Dining Room Area Rug Placement & Size

This is a beautiful rug placement! This textured rug looks rustic, but is still cohesive with the design of the room.Photo by: Better Homes and Gardens

When choosing an area rug for your dining area, pick a texture and material that’s dining (a.k.a. spilling) friendly, especially if you have little ones in your household. You don’t need to go with a four-season or jute rug as they did above (but you can find a 9’ x 12’ option for under $200 at Target), but a more durable material will look appropriate. Dining room rugs should be large enough to cover the entire area under the table and beyond. There should be plenty of room for dinner guests to slide their chairs in and out without getting hooked or hung up on the edge of your rug.  In the case above, the rug placement goes nearly to the edge of the room.

This rug placement leaves enough room for the chairs around the table to move! It's a perfect size for the dining room table and mimics the size and shape of the table, pulling the whole room together. Source: Hello Fashion

In the dining room, your rug can be round (if you have a round table) or square/rectangular. Match the feel of your dining room and if chairs are more linear and angled, opt for a rug with straight edges. Again, as illustrated above with this low-pile vintage-style rug (similar one here at Target), a rug should offer plenty of room around the edge of your table. With chairs moving in and out, a rug should stay put! In this case, the 12-18” space between the rug and perimeter of the room works just fine, because the rug placement is in scale with the table (and there’s plenty of room to scoot)!

The rug placement still fits the size of the room, with enough space around the edges to move all the chairs in and out comfortably. Source: Emily Henderson

With a round table, like this mid-century modern tulip dining table, you have the option of a large round rug (fitting the scale of the room) or a square rug as used here. Again, the rug picks up the lines from the bar/hutch, the large painting and door frame. The curved ceiling already mimics the white curves of the table, bistro and molded chairs. The rug placement still fits the size of the room, with enough space around the edges to move all the chairs in and out comfortably. This rug also creates a nice visual conversation/dining area, leaving walkways around the perimeter to access the bar and storage nook in the corner. We've made sure to follow these guidelines in our own dining room, as you can see below. perfect dining room rug placement

Bedroom Area Rug Placement & Size

This large bedroom rug is perfect for the size of the room! That rug placement is beautiful - who wouldn't want to step out of bed onto that beautiful warm rug on a cold morning?Source: The Hunted Interior

Rugs in the bedroom are a bit of an enigma, huh? Here you’ve got your biggest piece of furniture (your bed) which takes up a good chunk of the room. How big should an area rug be? Do you match the rug to your bed? Can you opt for a runner on the side? How do you get a cohesive look? Bedroom rugs should be large. They should fit the scale of the room. No one wants to hop out of bed on a chilly morning and step on a bare floor! In the bedroom, rugs add coziness, warmth, texture and softness. In the above bedroom, doesn’t that big ol’ tufted rug make you want to hop right in the bed?

Bedroom rug placement should offer plenty of leeway along the sides of the bed, like this run which is placed perfectly under the bed, but not far enough against the wall. Source: Becki Owens

Bedroom rug placement should offer plenty of leeway along the sides of the bed, at least 24”-36” as we see with the above. If you need to go with a slightly smaller rug, it should cover at least the area under the bed and give you a good 6”-12” at the foot (more if you have a bench or chest at the foot of your bed). If the head of your bed meets the wall, the rug should start about a foot away. You don’t need rug coverage right at the head of your bed, but you need plenty of coverage on the sides. Feel free to scootch the rug down a bit so it meets the proportions of the room, but never go more than 24” from the head.

Bedroom rug placement is crucial for keeping your feet warm on a cold hardwood floor! This rug is perfect for this room, it extends just far enough from the edges of the bed without taking up ALL of the beautiful hardwood.Source: Style by Emily Henderson

Once again, above we see the rug placement come out about three feet on the sides of the bed. Does it need to cover the whole room? No! But you don’t want to put your bare feet on the hard floor. A rectangular rug should actually run perpendicular to the bed. The longer edges of the rug should run along the head/foot and the shorter edges can go at the sides.  This will ensure your rug fits the bed and room. This fun chevron patterned rug above is a great proportion with the room.

This rug placement is beautiful! The bed fits perfectly over the rug and it looks perfectly natural for the bedside table to not have all four legs on the rug. Source: Style by Emily Henderson

As for the rest of the bedroom furniture, as you see above, it doesn’t much matter if the rug fits under the other pieces of the furniture. The nightstand and armoire look perfectly natural without all four legs resting on the rug. Round rugs in the bedroom rarely work, because they’re the wrong shape for that big, rectangular bed (unless you have a round bed, lol). Generally speaking, go with a rectangular rug with a nice soft pile and lofty texture to make your room feel restful and inviting. You can see how we have applied these principles in our own master bedroom below. We love that rug so much that we have it in our master bedroom, in Avery's bedroom AND in our foyer! beautiful area rug placement in master bedroom

Office Area Rug Placement & Size

Office rug placement should leave enough room under your desk for your chair to move and slide around without catching the edge of the rug. Look at how beautifully the colors in this rug flow with the rest of the room!Source: Style By Emily Henderson

Okay, who hasn’t caught an office chair on the edge of a rug before? Super annoying, right? For an office, your chair should have plenty of room to scoot around. The above office is a small space, but with the great desk shape, the chair has a little room to slide in and out and miss the rug. Keep your rug mimicking the lines of the room. For most offices, this means going with a square or rectangular shaped rug. Again, if you can see the legs of furniture, keep “four on the floor” (or in this case, four on the rug) whenever possible.

 For this rug placement, this office is small and the rug fits perfectly in the space! It's a great fit, and even though all legs of the furniture aren't on the rug, it looks natural and works well!

Photo by transFORM Home

In the photo above, you see how the rug can’t quite fit under the built-in desk. But, it looks perfectly appropriate in this case (even with the chair half-on) because the rug is matched to the size of the space. Whenever you’re selecting an office rug, you’ll want a texture with a low-pile and a rug with a backing. In an office with higher traffic, you won’t want to fuss with a rug pad and adjusting the edges constantly. For the same reason, avoid fringe as well. The rug above adds a great sunny color and still looks office-appropriate in texture.

The pattern selected for this rug is fun and with the club chair and lamp, it stays in line with the “home office” vibe. The rug placement fits the size of the room and look at the bold pattern! Perfect!

Better Homes and Gardens

As we look at the example above, you see how they followed all the guidelines. The rug is low pile and the right size for the space. Because you can see the legs of the furniture (and isn’t that desk great!), all legs are on the rug–no rolled up edges for this smart home office worker! The pattern selected for this rug is fun and with the club chair and lamp, it stays in line with the “home office” vibe. The desk could double as a writing space or reading area. With the rug about 12” from a door, they’ve wisely chosen a low-pile rug texture (you can find a similar rug at Target for under $200) where a hand-tufted, thick rug would look out of place. I have this low pile rug in the craft portion of my home office and it works perfectly. You can see it below.
So here’s a Rug Size Guide to send you off on your journey to the perfect rug:
  • Choose a rug in scale with the room
  • Follow lines of the furniture
  • Living room rugs should fit under the couch and chairs
  • Leggy furniture should have “four on the floor” (or rug)
  • All dining chairs should be able to scoot in and out, while staying on the rug
  • Rugs should compliment your table or desk shape and size
  • Bedroom rugs should leave a walkway on the sides of the bed
While a good rug will make or break a room, the good news is there are plenty of amazing rug options out there! Choose a rug you love that helps your room feel balanced!
 
Choosing the perfect area rug is just one small part of a cohesive and beautiful room design. There's so much more that matters, like choosing items that are the correct scale, space planning, mixing patterns, choosing colors and more! I give easy-to-understand guidance on all of this in Designer in a Binder®! And the brand new 3rd edition starts shipping soon. You can order your binder now. We have over 4,600 happy customers so far! Click here to learn more.
Designer in a Binder interior decorating book and system
Designer in a Binder interior decorating book and system
Designer in a Binder interior decorating book and system

 

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