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  1. Home Decor
  2. Rugs
  3. Area Rugs
  4. Guide
  • Table of contents
    1. Consider the Rug’s Location and Purpose
    2. Choose a Rug Size: Guide by Room
    3. Choose a Rug Material and Features
    4. Choose a Rug Color

While a rug can add color and pattern or be a focal point in a room design, it also plays other important roles. An area rug can provide comfort by covering up a bare floor, reducing noise or creating a soft and safer landing spot for toddlers and children. But it’s important to know how to choose the right rug, one that has the right dimensions and the right pile height along with the best rug color, material, and style for your room. Here we’ll cover everything you need to know for choosing an area rug, along with using a rug pad correctly and our best practices for placing an area rug under furniture.

Want some inspiration before diving into the details?

1. Consider the Rug’s Location and Purpose

Where an area rug lives and what it will be used for are important overall considerations. For example, will the rug be placed in a high-traffic area, such as a runner rug in a busy hallway? If so, you’ll probably want a sturdy and low-pile rug. Do you want a stunning focal point in a formal living space that only adults will use? A unique one-of-a-kind or vintage rug might be just the thing. Is it for a child’s play area? In that case, a higher-pile patterned rug made of an easily cleanable material can be a good idea, to cushion little knees and keep stains camouflaged or at bay entirely. No matter what the location and purpose, there’s an area rug to fit your needs.

2. Choose a Rug Size: Guide by Room

The perfect rug size for your room depends first on the size of the room and second on the types and sizes of the furniture within it. We’ll explain both in this area rug size guide. First, you’ll want between 10 inches and 3 feet between the rug and the wall, with equal amounts of bare floor on all sides of the area rug. In smaller spaces, you might have a rug that allows for just 10 inches of bare floor between the rug and the walls, while in a larger room your area rug might allow for 2 to 3 feet of bare floor between it and the walls.

Next, if you have a rug under furniture and there is additional furniture in the room, allow 6 to 24 inches of bare floor between the furniture pieces, to create well-defined zones and for a pleasing appearance.

Tip #1: Place painter’s tape on your floor in the outline of the rug you’re considering, to get a better visual of whether the rug size is correct for your room.

Tip #2: For bigger furniture, make sure all four legs can fit on the rug with at least a few inches of rug on all sides beyond the legs. For smaller furniture, you might have just the front two legs on the rug, but ideally, furniture is either completely on or completely off an area rug. Either way, make sure any doors have enough room to swing over the rug without catching.

Luckily, area rugs come in rectangular, square, round, and runner shapes and a great many sizes. 

The most popular area rug sizes in feet are:

Tip #3: Rugs may have a small size variance. A rug advertised as a particular size might actually be a few inches different. For best practices, always check a rug’s “product specifications” under the product listing to ensure these measurements will work with your space and the intended use.

Now let’s dive into rug layout guidelines for individual rooms.

Living room rug size 

Most living rooms have at minimum a sofa, a chair and a coffee table. No matter what size the room is, a good rule of thumb is that your area rug should be around 8 to 12 inches longer than your sofa. If you have a smaller living room and don’t have space for a rug under all three pieces with enough bare floor between the rug and the walls, make sure the front two legs of the sofa and chair are on the rug. Try to avoid having only the coffee table under the rug. If you have a large living room, you might create zones — such as an intimate conversation zone with two chairs by a fireplace, along with a main seating area — with separate rugs. 

Dining room rug size 

Ideally, your area rug should fit under both the dining table and chairs, with enough rug behind the chairs to allow for sliding the chairs in and out. That means if your dining table and chairs occupy a space that’s 5 by 7 feet, you’ll probably want a rug that’s at least 7 by 10 feet. You’ll want at least 24 inches between the rug and the walls to create a wide enough pathway for walking.

Bedroom rug size 

Whether you have a king-, queen- or twin-size bed, you have multiple options both for placing a rug and for rug size. 1. You can place the rug completely under the bed with an equal amount of rug on the left and right sides of the bed, or an equal amount on both those sides and the footboard side. 2. You can place most of the rug under the bed, with the least amount of rug on the headboard side. 3. You can place a rug on either side of the bed. 4. You can place just a runner rug at the foot of the bed.

Here’s a mini rug size guide for specific bed sizes:

  • King-size bed: A 10 x 14-foot area rug can fit under both the bed and a nightstand on either side with enough room for comfort on all sides (that is, at least 18 inches). You also could go for a 9 x 12.
  • Queen-size bed: A 9 x 12-foot area rug can fit under both the bed and a nightstand on either side with enough room for comfort on all sides. You also could go for an 8 x 10.
  • Full-size bed: An 8 x 10-foot area rug can fit under both the bed and a nightstand on either side with enough room for comfort on all sides. You also could go for a 7 x 9.
  • Twin-size bed: A 7 x 9-foot area rug can fit under both the bed and a nightstand on either side with enough room for comfort on all sides. You also could go for a 5 x 7. If you have two twin-size beds with a nightstand in the middle, an 8 x 10 will do nicely.

Outdoor rug size: Follow the guidelines for living room rugs above. 
Round rug sizes: Round rugs are sold by diameter, and the most common diameters are 4 feet, 6 feet, 8 feet, or 10 feet. As for choosing a specific size and determining placement, follow the rules for rectangular rugs: Try to choose a size that fits under all the major furniture, or at least under two legs of the sofa and any chairs in the living room and under two legs of the bed in the bedroom.

3. Choose a Rug Material and Features

Picking the perfect rug material is a matter of considering the foot traffic the rug will sustain, whether there are children and/or pets in the house, whether the rug is meant to be a focal point or a supporting player, whether the rug will be in direct sunlight or not, and your personal taste when it comes to softness. Here are a few guidelines.

High-traffic areas (such as busy hallways, entryways, some kitchens and other functional spaces): Choose a sturdy and easy-to-clean rug material. Many people consider synthetics best in these areas; synthetic rug materials include polyester, nylon, polypropylene and poly silk. If you prefer a natural fiber rug, consider a wool rug with a low pile and a tight, flat weave versus a high-pile, looser option such as a shag rug; you could also get a sisal rug treated for stain resistance or even a sturdy cowhide rug!

Note that sisal is a tough fiber and not very soft for bare feet. Cotton is washable but gathers dust easily and isn’t necessarily stain-resistant, and jute fibers can easily break down with lots of traffic.

Tip: A patterned rug, such as an Oriental rug, generally hides stains better than a solid rug.

The most popular features for high-traffic areas:

Low-traffic areas (such as formal living rooms, some home offices, and some bedrooms): With these spaces, you can take your pick of pretty much any material you like. The rug’s pile can be based on your personal preference — with as high-pile as you would get with a shag rug, you can choose a rug with synthetic fibers (such as polyester), or with natural fibers (such as jute or sisal). If you are going for a very luxurious look and feel, silk can be the perfect rug material, just know that it will require professional cleaning and can show footprints. You may also wan to to consider unique vintage rugs for a special look.

Popular features for low to medium-traffic areas:

Living room and other living spaces: It depends on how much traffic your room gets, the look you’re going for and the amount of effort you’re willing to put into cleaning. Go by the guidelines for high-traffic areas and low-traffic areas above.

Dining room: Stain resistance and ease of cleaning will serve you well here, especially if you have children or otherwise tend to end up with food on the floor. A low-pile synthetic — such as polyester, nylon, polypropylene or poly silk — a low-pile wool or sisal is your best bet.

Nurseries, children’s bedrooms and playrooms: Again, stain resistance and ease of cleaning will be your friends here. So a low-pile synthetic (polyester, nylon, polypropylene, poly silk), a low-pile wool or sisal is your best bet.

Tip: A braided rug can add an extra-homey touch to a playroom or child’s bedroom. Just be sure to use a rug pad to avoid slippage.

Outdoors: You’ll want a water-resistant rug that is easy to clean and can stand up to various weather conditions without fading or growing moldy. Any of the synthetics specified for high-traffic areas above will work outdoors, as will some natural fiber rugs, depending on how much traffic the area gets. You could also get a woven vinyl rug and just hose it off to clean it! Another great option — Indoor/Outdoor rugs, versatile in design and function for both indoor and outdoor settings, are currently trending!

Rugs for hardwood floors: Any of the above rug materials would be fine on hardwood floors, as long as there is no abrasive backing and as long as the manufacturer doesn’t recommend against it; it’s more important to consider the use and how much traffic the space gets. You can shop for rugs that are specifically safe for hardwood floors. A rug pad can help protect your hardwood flooring as well. 

Direct sunlight: When choosing materials for rugs that will be placed in areas with direct sunlight, avoid sisal and wool. Both materials are sensitive to UV light. Wool is prone to fading, and sisal fibers can discolor when exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods
Tip: For every indoor space, consider placing a rug pad underneath. It adds cushioning to a rug, making it softer and easier on the joints. But it also has the important job of helping prevent slippage and protecting your floor. Consider the thickness, material, and anti-slip factor as well as the size — your rug pad should be 2 inches shorter in both length and width than your rug, or 3 inches for thicker rugs.

4. Choose a Rug Color

Rug color is highly dependent on personal preference, but there are some guidelines for choosing a rug that will beautifully complement your room design instead of competing or even clashing with it.

Consider the vibe you want. Do you want a soothing, calming bedroom you can retreat to at the end of the day? A solid color rug in light neutral tones or other light colors that are considered to be on the cool side (such as pale blue or light green) would be better than a rug in vibrant and/or warm colors such as red and orange. Do you want to feel energetic in your home office? Go for vibrant colors and/or patterns. Do you want a rug that offers a warm welcome, such as in an entryway? Consider a bright, cheery color such as sunflower yellow.

Consider the room’s palette. See the color wheel below to help you determine which colors go well together and which don’t. For a high-impact look, choose a rug in colors that are complimentary to your room’s furniture or walls, such as a turquoise rug with tangerine walls. For a look that feels fully harmonious, choose analogous colors, meaning next to each other on the color wheel, such as a grassy green rug with sky blue walls and indigo decor accents. And if you’re going for a high-contrast palette overall, a black-and-white rug can be perfect.

Consider undertones: Colors are considered to have either cool or warm undertones, and the easiest way to create a harmonious look is to have a rug, furniture and walls all with the same undertone. But there’s more leeway if all the colors in your room are neutrals. 

So, for example, if you have a 

  • For a gray couch in your living room (a cool neutral), you could certainly have a vibrant red rug (a warm nonneutral). 
  • For a brown couch, you could stick with neutrals throughout and have a rug that’s a symphony of creamy colors and walls in a light coffee color. Or you could go for pizazz with a rug in a vibrant color. Not all neutrals go well together, however; for example brown and gray aren’t generally considered a winning combination.

Consider the room’s style: You can’t go wrong with matching the rug style to your overall room style. For instance, if your room is rocking midcentury modern style, then a modern rug would fit the space nicely. But don’t feel constrained by a need to match styles. A traditional rug can add a wonderfully grounding touch in an eclectic room, for instance, and a contemporary rug can jazz up a traditional room.