How Should an Area Rug Fit in My Living Room? (and other questions to ask)

How Should an Area Rug Fit in My Living Room? (and other questions to ask)

When you’re buying an area rug, there are plenty of options to choose for color, material, texture, and pile. But one consideration comes before all the others: how should this area rug fit in my living room? 



We live for living rooms. They’re called living rooms for a reason, after all: we live a lot of our lives in them. Sitting on the couch, reading in the chair, entertaining, playing games on the coffee table, rolling around on the floor, having dance parties in front of the TV. Whatever you’re doing in your living room, it’s an important and integral part of your home and it deserves to be treated that way.

Long story short: our living rooms are important. That makes the furniture and decor we put in them important, too. 

If you’re in the market for some new living room decor and are wondering how to choose the right rug for such an integral part of your home, then you’re in the right place. To make the purchasing process easier, we’ve broken down what we consider to be the most important questions to ask yourself before committing to any new living room rug purchase.

What is the function of my living room?

The first question you need to ask yourself during this process is the most important: how does my living room function? Is your living room a showplace where you want to focus on luxury and appearance over function?

Alternately, is your living room a hub for your home, featuring a lot of seating, tables, and regular use? Do you plan on entertaining in this space? Do you plan on letting your children have free reign?

Determine how you want your living room to function first so that you can answer the other questions in this post (and find your ideal area rug) far more easily. How you live your life will guide you to the best rug for your space.

How busy is my living room? 

Not all living rooms are built the same. As we mentioned in the previous question, some living rooms are used as showplaces while others are home hubs. How busy your living room is will determine how much foot traffic any rug you choose will have to stand up to.

Do you have a lot of children running in and out of the room at random? The busier your living room, the more durable you’re going to want the fibers of the rug you’re choosing to be. 

For example, if you have an especially busy lifestyle, we recommend focusing your search on sisal rugs. They have strong fibers and are free from chemical processing, both of which are good for families. Wool is also durable and long-lasting, but at a higher price point for its exceptional softness and luxury.

What is my design aesthetic? 

Determining your design aesthetic can be hard work. Taking time to learn and know what you like before purchasing new home furniture or decor can save you a lot of hassle. It’ll help you avoid purchasing things you don’t use and only spending your money on the stuff you love.

How can you figure out what your unique design aesthetic is? Try these things:

  • Read interior design blogs and save images or posts that speak to you. 
  • Create mood boards where you add some of these images and start to curate a collection of visual elements that you like most. You can do this easily online using a website like Pinterest.
  • Speak to professional interior designers or salespeople at the places selling things you like. There’s nothing like expertise coming directly from the expert.

What style rug should I get?

Eventually, everyone ends up wanting what they don’t have: people with small living rooms wish they were bigger, people with big living rooms don’t want them to feel quite so big. Luckily, there are a few ways to style your living room using an area rug to achieve your paradoxical design dreams. 

First and foremost: keep area rugs with busy patterns out of small living rooms. Even simple patterns can create the illusion of a jumbled mess, which leads to the room feeling cluttered and smaller than it is. And, just as dark walls can make a small living room feel downright claustrophobic, dark area rugs are bound to give your room a shrinking feeling. Instead, go for a neutral-colored area rug with a solid design.

For a large living room, an area rug with a pattern or other design will have the same effect: it will make the space feel smaller. By essentially filling the space on the floor with a pattern, your area rug can help prevent the room from feeling like a massive empty space. This is also your chance to play around with bold colors. An indigo area rug with a diamond pattern, for example, can make a clear boundary between what is and is not the living room. 

What size rug am I looking for?

Just like the style, the existing size and shape of your living room will play a role in exactly which rug size you choose. The most frequent non-custom rug sizes for living rooms are 5 foot by 8 foot8 foot by 10 foot, and 9 foot by 12 foot. Measure your space and choose accordingly. 

Pro Tip: Make sure the area rug is wider than the furniture

No matter how big your living room is, it’s always a good idea to have your rug extend out past the edges of each piece of furniture it’s under. There are no health or safety implications for this tip, but a rug that sits under the edges of a couch or is straddled on either side by a couple of chairs will not look its best. 

Your area rug should extend at least six inches past the sides of each piece of furniture in your living room. There will not be a penalty for extending only 5 and three-quarters inches, but without this extension of the rug, you risk making your room feel cramped. Yes, a bigger rug can make a room feel bigger! 

And maybe worst of all, if your rug doesn’t go past the edges of your furniture or just barely peeks out from under them, your living room will look haphazardly furnished, and you risk looking like you bought the wrong size rug. This is an easy problem to avoid by taking the time to measure your living room and measuring the furniture. And it’s even easier when you order a custom size rug

How will I keep this rug looking new?

If you're putting this much effort into finding the perfect area rug for your living room, you're going to want to make sure the rug you choose lasts. By knowing how you'll care for your rug before you've even purchased it, you're already miles ahead of the average rug-purchaser.

Here are a couple things to keep in mind for anyone wanting to prolong the life of their rugs, new or otherwise:

  • Always use rug pads to add cushioning and stability to any rug you're using. They’ll help less direct wear affect your rug, extending both its life and it’s usability. Plus, they make any rug they’re beneath cushier and who doesn’t like that?
  • Make sure to have spot cleaner on hand before big spills happen instead of after. We have plenty of rug fiber-specific cleaning guides you can find listed here for easy reference.

Do I have any unique needs to consider?

You’re you, and nobody knows you better than you do. That said: there might be something we haven’t mentioned here that’s unique to you, but still important when it comes to choosing a new rug.

If you have sensory processing problems, look for companies that can send samples in the mail that allow you to feel and experience a rug fiber before making a purchase. If you are an avid drinker of red wine, you might want to look for rug materials that are the most stain resistant and easy to wash. Be true to yourself and your needs when purchasing and you’ll always end up with a product that makes you joyful.

Where should I put my area rug?

If you only follow one tip on this list, make it this one. The most important thing you can do to make sure your area rug fits in your living room is making sure the legs of your furniture are on the rug. It may seem fun to have some furniture on and some off, or to have the rug sit just in front of each piece of furniture—don’t do it! 

First and foremost, placing all the furniture on the edge of the rug prevents two of the four major rug hazards: tripping and slipping. If the rug is just tossed loose onto the middle of your living room floor, unanchored by anything but gravity and hope, there is a significant chance it will slide out of place when someone gets up from the couch. Even with a slip guard, the rug could slide out of place as someone is stepping onto it, causing that person to slip and fall. Or the opposite could happen: someone’s toe might catch the edge of the rug and they could trip. 

Once the weight of furniture secures the rug, however, it’s up to you how many or each item’s legs are placed on the rug. In small living rooms or with a smaller rug, putting just the front legs on the area rug is all you need. In bigger living rooms, especially open-concept rooms with hardwood or concrete floors, consider getting a rug that goes all the way under each piece of furniture. This makes a nice vignette that defines the living room area of an otherwise cavernous floor plan. 

Pro Tip: Don’t put the area rug too close to the wall

Now it’s time for the old adage “all things in moderation.” The first two tips on this list are about making sure your area rug is big enough. But if you go too hard on rug size, you run into the same problems as going not big enough: a living room that looks crowded, sloppy, and not particularly well decorated. 

The trick to avoiding going too big is to make sure your rug sits at least 8” away from the wall. That gap between the rug and the wall creates a border of open floor, which gives the appearance of additional space in your living room. In a small living room, expanding this border to 18” can help make the room feel bigger

If your home has a particularly large open floor plan, the area you designate as the living room may not be near any walls. In this case, follow the tip of making sure the area rug extends six inches out from the back edge of each piece of furniture. But you still need to be mindful of how far the rug is from the wall. Consider placing the edge of the rug parallel to the wall with at least a 4’ space between them to create a natural hallway.

Area rugs fit for any living room

You can’t change the size of your living room, but you can make sure your area rug fits just how you want it to. Our wide selection of area rugs has styles from light and unobtrusive to bold and busy. And because each of our rugs are custom sized, you can get an area rug that’s the exact size and shape to fit your living room. Browse our complete selection of custom rugs today!

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