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Tips to Choosing the Right Rug Size

what rug size

Buying a rug is like buying a dress for your grandma  –  it can be kinda overwhelming, there are a lot of factors to consider, and if you buy one that is too small she just might wear it out of obligation and then you’ll have to live with yourself as the weird guy that bought their grandma a tube dress, that she wore to your cousin’s baptism.

How to choose the right rug size for your space is difficult, especially when rugs are notoriously kinda expensive and therefore intimidating. In general people buy rugs that are too small because 5×7 and 6x9s are so much cheaper than 8x10s or 9x12s, but its often going to make the whole space look chopped up and accidental so in a way you’ve just wasted that money. Tough love, folks.

Here are some tips that you can follow to help you decide:

1. Measure the size of your SEATING AREA before shopping and get the closest size up from that. If your budget is tight and your room is small you can have a smaller rug that floats in front of all the furniture – this is especially ok if your sofa is backed up against the wall – you don’t need to waste the rug real estate under the sofa if you can’t even see that its there. But if your furniture is floating or if your room is big, get a larger rug or else it will make the room look smaller, chopped up and totally out of proportion. One of the main functions of a rug is to pull the room together, not chop it up.

Here it looks fine to have them floating because its a smaller room, sofa against the wall. (Scott’s house, shot by me).

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 8.56.13 AM

But here, in my house its way too small because the room is a lot bigger and the furniture is floating:

what rug size should i have

2. Orient the rug to the room – If you have a long rug, orient it length – wise. If you have more of a chubby fat room, orient it horizontally.  This is not always the case so its a very nuanced situation. Often if you have a really long and skinny room then you might have two different seating areas and two rugs that are oriented with those seating areas, but the rugs need to cover up a certain amount of real estate on the floor in proportion to the room, so if you are orienting the rug to your sofa, not your room then often you are cutting off huge portions of the room and again, making it look smaller.  So when in doubt, go with the orientation of the room.

3. Legs on or off? This is a question i get ALL the time and my best tip is BE CONSISTENT. If you don’t have a massive rug that fits all your furniture (because yes, that is ideal) then make sure that you are at least consistent with how you handle the legs; if your sofa legs are off, have the chair legs off the rug  as well. If your sofa is all on, then you can’t have the chairs all off or it will really chop up the conversation area.  So I say, ALL ON, or ALL OFF or if its slightly too small to be all on, then try to have them all pretty evenly on the rug. Is that confusing? Just be consistent so it looks as intentional as possible.

how should a rug be oriented

I have seen it where the sofa is all on and the rugs are 1/2 and vice versa and it can look fine, but ideally all the legs would be on the rug.  If you have to choose which legs should be on, then choose the ones that are the least obvious. AKA, if your sofa is low and closer to the wall then you are less likely to see under it and reveal the fact that its not fully on the rug.  See, i told you… nuanced.

4. Square rugs are for square rooms.  That is all.  Round rugs are for foyers/entries or kids room/family rooms that are more playful (or round shaped rooms in case you live in a Yurt).

5. If you have a rug that is too small but you love it, then buy a large sisal that fits the whole seating area and layer your favorite rug on top – I do this ALL THE TIME. Sisal, jutes, seagrass rugs are cheapish so buying a 9×12 is more doable than a 9×12 antique kilim.

6.  Make sure that your rug is has at least 6-10″ on either side of the sofa. This is crucial. If the width of the rug is the same as the width of the sofa then you are in trouble – it will look too small and create a bowling alley effect.

And now a video to demonstrate some of these tips, for your viewing pleasure.

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what rug size

As you can see I went with a hearty sized 9×12 from West Elm that fits all the rules perfectly, made the room feel so much bigger (because its light and bright) and of course added a ton of texture, warmth and depth.

Alright, any other rug questions? There’s a lot to talk about here and a lot of info out there, so ask away and i’ll get to all of your questions.

 



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  1. Help! I have a small living room with a fireplace. I have a sectional against the wall. I am trying to figure out how big of an area rug to get. I have read a bunch, but nothing really addresses all of my “issues”: (1) small space that I want to appear larger, (2) the use of a sectional and a coffee table (and no other seating furniture), and (3) the sectional is against the wall (not floating). Where should the boundaries of the area rug be? I also don’t want my entire room to be all rug. (I like my hardwood).

    1. I found someone with my EXACT ISSUES TOO!!!! 🙂

      Small room wanna make look bigger, and have a huge freestanding fireplace as a wall, and on opposite I have an L shaped sectional!!

      Did you get any ideas yet??
      My brain is fried from doing so much looking and research!!!

      If ya wouldn’t mind sharing any recommendations I would be so grateful!!

      Thanks

      1. ^^^ This is why I’m here as well. Small livingroom with L shape couch against the wall in corner of the room and matching ottoman as coffee table. We move it around quite a bit to put our feet up .

      2. I have this same challenge…..any ideas??

  2. My couch is being delivered and I don’t understand the dimensions given but I want the rug to look good can you give me some tips on the size of rug I should get? The picture shows a smaller rug I almost would prefer to it to completely cover the entire couch…what do you think would look best? My living room isn’t huge, but it fits with extra room. I’d really love your advice!!

    I’ll link the couch I’m getting….Thank you!!!

  3. Where are your chairs from??

  4. My husband is a very creative guy, so he wanted that most of our furniture in our new house will be customized according to our personalities and style. One of the things that we talked about this morning is getting area rugs for all of our rooms. So I am really grateful for your explanation about how to choose the right size for each type of room. Actually, I never really knew that round rugs are only for kids and family rooms and also for entry points of the house. Thanks!

  5. What is the size of the room that you used in the video?

  6. Ture, sisal, jute and seagrass rugs are way cheaper than handknotted rugs.
    Lovely article, thanks for sharing this with all.
    Thanks

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