A well chosen area rug that is the right size can pull together a whole room. The rug you choose can set the design direction for the space, and choices are available for every possible situation, style, and price point. There are many ways to approach decorating a room, but if you want pattern underfoot (THIS post talks about when and why you might!), the area rug is a good place to start!
Rug Size Guidelines
One of the most often made mistakes in decorating is choosing the wrong size rug. For both visual and practical reasons, the size should be determined by the size and layout of the room and the furniture going into it. For example, dining area rugs should extend beyond the dining table at least 2’ in all directions so chair legs don’t catch on the edge of the carpet when a diner sits down and scooches the chair in. For the banquet-sized table in this dining room, that meant an oversized 12’ x 24’ rug! But generally a minimum of 8’ x 10’ for a small table or 9’ x 12’ for a larger table is about right.
In defined rooms, if possible, area rugs should be about 12”-18” from the edges of the room. The sketch below illustrates this ideal.
Rugs can be a great way to define areas, especially in ‘open concept’ living spaces. But be aware of the traffic paths…walking with one foot on/one foot off the edge of a rug is awkward at best, and can pose a tripping hazard. And what about rooms with angled walls or fireplace hearths protruding into the space? Sometimes these elements dictate that a rug be a bit smaller, or angled under the furniture, or sometimes, in the case of custom bound sizes, they can even be custom cut to echo the shape of the room – this works especially well with grass rugs like sisal, seagrass, and jute.
For bedrooms, rugs that extend beyond the sides and foot of the bed far enough to provide functionality and look proportionally right with the size of the bed are needed – in most cases with a queen or king sized bed that means a 9’ x 12’ or larger. It is possible to use a pair of runners on either side of the bed instead, but it depends on the room layout whether this will contribute to the overall design or merely serve the function of a soft landing spot next to the bed.
Too small is the MOST common mistake. A rug barely larger than the coffee table is too small. While rugs are oftentimes artwork for your floor, they should also visually tie together the seating pieces. For rugs defining seating groups, chairs and sofa legs should sit, at least partially, if not totally, on the rug. If your rug is too small and is a piece of textile art in its own right, consider hanging it on the wall!
Our client fell in love with this rug and bought it on a whim even though it was too small to be useful for any of the spaces we were outfitting. We had a special mounting board constructed so we were able to hang it as a spectacular piece of art in this small dining area.
A word about rug shapes
Rectangular rugs reign supreme - Other rug shapes need not apply. What about round rugs? Don’t I need a round rug under my round table? Generally, no. Your rug can relate to the shape of the room rather than the shape of the furniture. Round rugs are best reserved for round rooms (like the turret rooms sometimes found in Victorian houses) and kindergarten classrooms where ‘circle time’ is a thing..
There are many other considerations when choosing a rug - construction, material, pattern, weave…THIS post talks about the pro’s and con’s of various options. But if you get the size wrong, none of the rest really matters!
Below is a helpful infographic to remember what sizes and shapes work best:
Need some inspiration for your room? Here are some favorite area rug options - many are currently on sale, all very well priced. All of these come in a variety of sizes and, more importantly, all come in at least 8’ x 10’ and most come larger as well. Click on each image for more information
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