Emily Henderson

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.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my youtube channel by clicking HERE. NOTHING really happens except when you log on to youtube. No nagging, just a ‘hey, wanna watch a new video about how to styled Bearcat’s hair?’ ‘n such….


what rug size

As you can see I went with a hearty sized 9×12 Souk rug 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. Can you show us what’s going on behind the couch? I just moved mine so it’s about 1.5 ft away from the wall (in order to be able to center the coffee table below a chandelier) and I don’t know what to do with the awkward amount of space now behind the couch.

  2. Hi,

    I have an odd shaped living room and therefore a hard time choosing my rug size….

    I have a sofa (floating) opposite our fireplace , To the left (under the stairs) another sofa (not floating). To the right is a walkpath to the kitchen… Sofa’s all on the rug is not possible. Do I leave all off ? Or just the floating front and or back legs on? Also I can’t have a rug that has the total length of the non-floating sofa because of the fire place. Will that look odd? HELP!!!! THX in advance, Aukje

  3. I have a sectional couch that measures 8×8. You recommended the rug to extend 6″ on each side of the couch so does that mean I have to buy a rug that is 20×20? Help please!

    1. You’re adding 6 feet — instead, add 6 inches to each side (or 1 foot total to each measurement). So you need a rug that is at least 7×7, but you’re more likely to find an 8×8.

  4. I have a square sitting room that is 14 by 14, but it has inlay wood that leaves an 8 by 8 space in the center. It also has a coffered ceiling and wainscoting. I was going to get a 6.5 by 6.5 round round rug to sit in the middle with a circular tea table and two chairs 45 degrees to each other both front legs on…. you mentioned square rus for square rooms but I thought a square rug might be too cold. Thoughts?

  5. I have a sectional sofa that is 6’x8′. The long side of the sofa is against the wall. The living room is small, rectangle shaped. What size rug should I use? And, what color? My sofa is dark charcoal grey. I am looking at a light gray with white design rug, but am wondering if that is too much gray. Should I use a rug with color? Thank you.

    1. My situation is similar! My sectional is 9’x9′ with one section against the wall in a rectangular shaped room. My couch is charcoal grey, too. I have been looking at cream colored rugs-maybe very light grey- and want a design. I was thinking a 6’x9′ rug might work and then the front feet of the couch are on the rug?

  6. I have a hardwood floor baby’s room. The size is 11.5 x 13. I am getting the same rug from West Elm, but want to know if I should get the 8×10 or the 5×8. Cost is not an issue, visual is my focus.


  7. Hi,
    I have a lounge/dining room. The lounge space is squared off with floating furniture and then there is a little dining table in the back corner. The floor is tiled (which I hate but can’t change in the near future) with a creamy flecked tile and dark grout. I wanted to get a beni ourani inspired rug that I am obsessed with but think the dark grout tile poking out around the edge of the rug with a geographic pattern will look odd…do you think it would be okay? Should I just go for a plain rug? I want to not only hide some of the tile but to create a zone for my living area.

  8. I’m on the hunt for an 11×15. I would love for you to share your favorite sources for HUGE rugs, or tips for making multiple rugs work in a large space. My furniture arrangement is 13.8 x 8.7, which is tricky (without a $15k budget — I was hoping to spend under $2k!)

  9. Hi,

    Thank you so much for the advice! We currently live in a pretty small apartment and I have a awkward space in between the living room and bedrooms…It is not a hallway…Would you use a runner rug or a small area rug. It is L shaped but wider on one end…I could use a 4X6 area rug but it would leave the other space open…Thank you!

  10. does anyone know who makes the white rug with black zig zag stripes? love this rug and haven’t been able to find it anywhere! x

    1. I saw one EXACTLY like it at West Elm – I believe it’s the same one. The manager couldn’t stress enough how bad the rug sheds. He told me if I buy it I better like to vacuum .. like every day! I’m still contemplating on buying it just because I love the style so much!

  11. I have been agonizing over this issue!! This was the most helpful post I have seen on this subject. I am moving to a new home with a large family room and I am struggling over weather to by carpet (and have it bound) or by a cool area rug. I love the idea of something interesting in the space, but I am chicken about trying to make a print work with all the other elements in the room. I want comfort and durability (family of four with 2 boys), by style too! I am buying a very large u shaped sectional (Axis Sectional from Crate & Barrel) and it measures 12′ 10″ across the back.
    So my questions are:
    Can I get I get away with a 9 x 12? I know it will be a little short of your 6 inches rule.
    What are your thoughts on West Elm’s quality? I love their “Vines” rug in blue, but I hear that some people have issues with wool rugs shedding. The rug you have is very cool! Is it wool? Any shedding? Does it lay flat? It looks more “soft” and less stiff than your typical wool area rug.
    Thank you!!!!

  12. If you are getting an area rug for a room that doesn’t have a sitting area, how much space should typically be from the wall? (For example, my room is 11’5″ x 11″, should I get 8 x 8, 10 x 10 ?

  13. i am trying to pick a rug for a conference room that is 10 1/2 x 12 1/2 i ordered a round table 48 inches and 2 chairs. just wondering if i should get a 5×8 or 8 x 10. gray or navy.

  14. I have a long rectangle room. The dining table shares the space with the living room. The couch is against the wall facing the fireplace. I have a beautiful white/cream cowhide for under the dining table and want a rug for couch area. Don’t know what kind of rug or color to put with couch area. The cowhide almost reached the leather chair near the couch. Can you help?