We’re back AGAIN with one of our favorite topics: rugs. It’s one of our most requested topics in both “how” and “which one”. And we get it! It’s a BIG piece that isn’t cheap so you want to get it right the first because also, who wants to return a rug?? No one. So, if you are now in the market for a living room rug, or just want to spice things up, we hope these formulas will help you find the one. There are a bunch of new rugs that we have sourced too. Enjoy:)
One of the biggest mistakes we see (as we’ve pointed out before) is the “too small rug.” However, today I’m going to walk you through how to not only pick the right size but show you how to lay it out. It’s easy to say “don’t buy too small” but around here we like to be a little more thorough than that. So, we have formulas, rules, and general “no no’s” that can help (oh and some shoppable picks). Let the (fun) rug inquiry begin…
I know from personal experience how daunting it can be to find THE rug for your living room. Not many are affordable (we found some, don’t worry), and returning them is a pain. But it’s a main piece in your living room so it needs to look right. So first let’s into the nitty-gritty of the rules for each of the EHD approved layout options…
- Typical living room rug sizes are 8’x10′ and 9’x12′.
- Make sure your rug is at least 6″ wider (8″ is ideal) than your sofa on both sides.
- Typically run the rug the length of the sofa.
- Give 30″ to 36″ of a walkway between large furniture pieces (if your living room allows for it) if not then at least 18″-24″. That will help to inform your rug size.
Measure out your desired rug size with painter's tape to get a sense of how it will feel. We promise it's a lifesaver.
All Legs On Board
If you have a large enough room and want all of your conversational pieces on your rug (i.e. sofa, accent chairs, coffee table, etc.) then make sure you give yourself around 8″ from the edge of your furniture to the edge of your rug. This way your furniture won’t look like it’s a child getting dangerously close to the edge of the subway platform. Consider the 8″ point your official yellow line. DON’T GO OVER IT OR ELSE.
Then give yourself around 10″ to 18″ from rug to wall (and maybe even 24″ if you have the space). If you go too much closer your rug going to overwhelm your space and look like awkward “almost” wall to wall carpet.
The main exception to these rules is if your sofa is up against a wall (or our recommended few inches off as not to crowd the wall). Your rug can get a little closer so you don’t waste valuable common area real estate.
Front Legs Only (The EHD Go-To)
This layout is probably THE go-to around these parts (and likely the world). All of your furniture pieces get “to play” but get to have the space to be individuals. Isn’t that what we want for all of our carefully selected furniture??
With this one, you want the front legs of the sofa and all chairs to rest on top of it. Here you aren’t playing “furniture lava” where the rug is the only safe zone. Let those back legs hang off and take up space.
This layout is going to make your room feel spacious even if it’s not. The rule here is to have the rug go under each piece about 1/3 of the piece’s width.
For example: If your chair is 21″, make sure your rug is at about 7 inches under it (give or take).
Back in the day, Emily and Orlando made a video on how to select the perfect sized rug and if you are a visual person (like me) it’ll help you see why these rules are going to help you find your match made in heaven:
The Too Small, But Make It Work
“But EHD, I have a 5’x8′ vintage rug that goes PERFECTLY with my room. Can I really not use it?” Fear not made up reader! You can layer that beautiful vintage rug on top of a larger rug. Yep, it’s totally legal and can look awesome if you find the right pairing.
The nearly no-fail way to attempt this is by choosing a natural jute-like rug as the large base and then layer a smaller rug (with a different color and material) on top. You can take a cue from Emily and Jenny Kayne from the photos above and place your smaller rug in the middle of the larger piece. But if you want to go even more rogue, you can off-center them as long as the front legs of your seating are on one of them.
The Float (The Rule Breaker)
This layout is one that can look cool but you have to be careful. First, what does a “float” mean? Well, it means your rug is under your coffee table, but not your seating. I know, SHOCKING.
Here’s the thing. If you have a truly great rug that only misses your sofa and chairs by a few inches then you won’t find us calling the rug police. We do recommend not letting the gap from your sofa to your rug be larger than 5″. Any more and it will really look too small and probably make you sad.
The Sculptural Or Amorphous Float
Let’s get weird…with rug shapes. There are more options than just the classic rectangle. These types of rugs are great for awkwardly shaped rooms (like if you have a corner fireplace) and are easy to float and layer like Emily did in the mountain house living room.
Layering a Cowhide or Sherpa Rug is a fun way to make a conversation area bigger.
But there are no real rules for this one except make sure to buy proportionate to your sofa and have at least the majority of your seating’s legs on top of a part of the rug.
So there you have it for our living room rug intensive. We, of course, wouldn’t leave you without giving you the proper materials to take with you. So below we have a little visual cheat sheet to help you decipher between all 5 of your options and then we have some shopping to do:)
We know that large rugs can be expensive so we did a deep dive into finding the best of the best on the internet in three different price ranges. Happy shopping!
1. Natural Moroccan Shag 9′ x 12′ Area Rug | 2. Black With White Stripe Rug 8’X10′ | 3. Ivory Paddle 9′ x 12′ Area Rug | 4. Ramona Geometric Flatweave Tufted Accent Rug 8′ x 10′ | 5. Hallu Fiesta Rug by Justina Blakeney® X Loloi 7’9″ x 9’9″ | 6. Chunky Knit Wool Woven Rug | 7. Black And Natural Grid Axel Area Rug | 8. NuLOOM Cotton Hand Loomed Herringbone Cotton Rug 9′ x 12′ | 9. Birmingham Black Woven Cotton Rug 8′ x 10′ | 10. Indra Rug 8′ x 10′ | 11. Ivory And Gray Wool Kilim Reversible Soho Area Rug | 12. Finesse Tower Court Rug 7’10” x 11′
1. Jamila Spice Rug by Justina Blakeney® X Loloi 7’9″ x 9’9″| 2. Souk Wool Rug 9′ x 12′ | 3. Jonathan Adler Inkdrop Slate Blue Rug 8’X10′ | 4. Plus Black/Cream Rug 8′ x 10′| 5. Zion Ivory Handwoven Rug 9’x12′ | 6. Guilford Navy Woven Cotton Rug 9′ x 12′ | 7. Aspen Rug 8’×10‘ | 8. Solana Navy Woven Cotton Rug 9′ x 12′ | 9. Topanga Teal Moroccan Rug 8’x10′ | 10. Hira Rug 8′ x 10′ | 11. Floral Blue Rug | 12. Casablanca Rug 9′ x 12′
1. Earth Maze Moroccan Shag Rug 8’X10′ | 2. Amber Lewis for Anthropologie Hand-Knotted Sarina Rug 8’X10′ | 3. Serpentine Rug Wool 9’X12′ | 4. Winn Hand-Knotted Rug 8′ x 10′ | 5. Echo Rug 8′ x 10′ | 6. Huxley Rug 8′X10′ | 7. Large Moroccan Checkered Area Rug 9’X12′ | 8. Handwoven Priya Rug 8’X10′ | 9. Stripe Break Rug 9’X12′ | 10. Noma Indigo Woven Wool Rug 8’X10′ | 11. Tres Rug 7’10” x 5’7″ | 12. Dusk 8’X10′
Ok, that’s the real end. I hope you are now extremely confident and well equipped to pick out your dream rug and have it look exactly how you want it to. Let us know if you have any more questions in the comments.
Love you, mean it.
Opening Photo Credits: Design Sam Gluck | Photo by Alison Bernier | From: A Warm Scandi-Inspired Home
I admit, I wasn’t excited about this piece bc it didn’t seem like anything new. But it was great to get new ideas of placement. I would add to not sleep on urban outfitters for rugs. I’ve gotten large 8×10 rugs for $120 esp when they have their 40% off sales. I got 2 chindi rugs that were very neutral and patterns similar to Moroccan rugs. Add a great rug pad ( thank you Emily for that idea! It made a world of diff in our living room and nursery) and they are amazing.
Great article. Only because it’s in the first paragraph and screaming at me in all caps. “PASSED” is the past tense of “to pass” – for everything else use “PAST.” In this case you want “don’t go past it or else”
Thank you for the correction and clarification.
I don’t want to be one of “those” people, however,
grammatical errors here are sometimes astonishing to my friends and me.
Yeah, at the risk of being one of “those people” too… for a business that is as successful as this is, it astounds me that there isn’t a copyeditor on board, even in a freelance capacity. Heck, Grammarly is free and would catch most, if not all, of the errors.
This isn’t exactly a rug sizing question but how does EHD feel about rugs on top of wall to wall carpet? Our living room is all beige carpet (with no plans of replacing with hardwood..) and I would love to add a bit more interest with a navy rug on top. Thoughts?
I feel good about it. It really can make a big difference. I used to not recommend ‘high pile on high pile’ but honestly if its a cool rug just go for it and make your living room as cozy as possible.
I have done this in my home but how do you keep the run from buckling? I have one under a bed on wall to wall carpeting and I am constantly tugging at it! Tips?
Proceed at your own risk a bit advice, but we had that same issue with a massive rug (approx 13×18′) in our basement over wall to wall carpet and used carpet staples about every 10″ along the ‘traffic edge’ where the buckling was out of control and now it stays put. Hasn’t caused any tears in the vintage flat weave rug and is not noticeable unless you’re looking for them 6″ from the floor. I painted the top part of each long staple with nail polish to blend into the rug more too.
Thanks, Jess! Here’s a question to consider…what if your rug is too big? We have an heirloom Persian from my husband’s great grandma that’s not going anywhere but takes up a little more space than I’d like in our open plan living/dining/kitchen condo.
Our bedroom rug is too big, our kids bedroom rug is too big – and its kinda fine (well the kids room we have to shave down the door to open it, but otherwise its fine). I guess if you walk in and it looks silly then reasess, but i don’t mind how our bedroom rug is only 4-5″ from the wall – its so cozy.
I don’t understand why many rugs featured in bedrooms are mostly under the bed…and much of the non-bed part of the room is…bare. Why is this? Who wants to walk on the (cold) hard floor in their bedroom? The rugs in the bedrooms in my house intentionally are 6-12″ from the wall. Are too-small bedroom rugs a way to save money? Please explain this phenomenon. 🙂
I don’t see the source for the first image (in the title of the post) – what project is that? I’m dying for the rug and cough!
Hey Erin! That living room is from this reveal: https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/house-tour-scandi-minimal-house-design The whole house is so beautiful!
Hi! I dont see the sofa from the title post in the link you provided. Can you please confirm? Its the sofa with the brass coffee table.
The sofa looks extremely similar to Interior Define’s Jasper sectional
Echoing Temi’s reply below, I can’t find the source from the sofa in the title post (the one with the brass coffee table). It doesn’t appear to be in the above reveal.
It’s this reveal – https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/house-tour-minimalist-home-laguna-beach. Unfortunately the sectional is not available anymore, and the source for the rug is not given – just a similar looking option. Have a great weekend!
I would love a round up of stylish eco-friendly (and ethically made) rugs. I have been having such a hard time finding something pretty that also makes my heart feel good about purchasing it. Please help team Emily!!!
I’d love this as well!
I noticed there’s an old post on vintage rugs, which seems the most sustainable way to go, but it feels so final. I suppose I need to read that post for tips.
I would also love this post! We will add it to our list 🙂
Hi Julie (from another Julie),
There’s a definitely ethically made small business in India called Richclassdecor https://www.richclassdecor.com/
They’re all handmade rugs, AMAZING quality from a dying tradition, all run by an owner with a ton of heart. I’m not paid by them or anything, but I recently purchased a rug, and it’s SO soft and the quality can’t be beat. Price points are very reasonable too for something handmade! I actually wish I had more floor space, just so I can buy more rugs. Ha 🙂
I’ve bought some amazing rugs from Ebay. You can get rugs made from natural materials/dyes for a good price (which helps cut down on in home plastic pollutants). Plus, they’re “sustainable” in that many were used and are vintage.
I’ve bought some worn small rugs on Etsy, too. I don’t care that they’re worn, because I’m putting them in rooms (like a powder room) where I wouldn’t want to put an expensive one. Cheap, too!
If there is anything I’ve learned from this blog, it’s BUY THE BIGGER RUG. And I learned it from that video of Emily and Orlando waaaaay back in the day. Seriously changed my life.
I’ve had to do a hybrid approach in my living room. I have lovely Victorian floors with an inlay border and a mahogany strip around the periphery. Thus I have centered my rug (a gorgeous vintage Persian I got from Ebay) within the mahogany strip, but the room works best with the sofa against the wall, so it has front legs only on the rug, but the arm chairs opposite the sofa have all four legs. Sometimes it strikes me as maybe a little wonky but?
One thing I’m noticing in those Float examples, is the rugs are pretty close to the color of the floor, so it isn’t super obvious. I wonder if they would look as good if the rugs were dark and the too-small size was more apparent.
I agree. I don’t think it would look that good…
It took me 7 tries to find the right rug for our living room. So much furniture moving and rug re-packaging and returning! My partner was so very patient with me. I appreciate him. ?
My current rug dilemma is my guest room. It’s 10.66 x 10.25 foot room with a queen bed in it. 8×10 is too big for the room, but 5×7 seems too small? I wish 6×8 or 8×8 were more of a thing. Not a lot of non-standard size options out there! What would you do?
I feel like this is where a vintage rug could be perfect. Many older rugs are in super non-standard sizes, even squares like you mentioned. It might take some hunting but that’s the fun part, IMO! I’ve bought on eBay and I think Etsy also has decent vintage rug selections. You could probably find something closer to 9×7 which might be just the thing.
Hi Kah, there are a lot of rugs out there that come in a 6×9 (or around there). Or Etsy, as Rachel mentioned as different sizes in the vintage rug selections. Good luck!
This is really helpful. Would you do a followup for bedroom rugs? We are getting new floors (good bye wall to wall) in our bedroom and I am stumped on how to proceed with an area rug.
What great timing!
I actually came to the site today to find out what size rug I need for my brand new sectional. It is 117″ L-Shaped that is going against one wall. Would you do a 9×12? Thanks for any advice!
I was rug shopping this morning and can’t seem to find great info on what to buy! I’d love an article summarizing rug material and design (pattern/color) solutions.
I’m looking for: pet-friendly (not loop?) and kid-friendly (not scratchy wool!) and eco-friendly options (not polypropylene). What’s left?
Anya, this is such a great idea for a blog post! Passing this along to the editorial team now. 🙂
I totally second this idea! Continuing the “practical” flavor of EHD recommendations, it would be great to see a post on rug characteristics that would be suitable for a house with kids and pets. Also if the pandemic has taught us all one thing – its the importance of cleanliness. Rugs can be a huge dirt trap especially in a kids/pets house. I would like to learn how to choose a rug material and size that would make it easy for me to clean in on a regular basis.
Can a living room without a rug work? Can we use indoor/outdoor mats in place of rugs?
Thank you so much in advance!
I second these comments! I’m good on sizing (but still LOVED reading this post for reaffirming my thoughts), but I’m so overwhelmed when it comes to all of the different materials. What material will hold up well in high traffic areas, clean easily because my house isn’t too precious, and still be good to roll around on the floor with the kids? Would love to get the EHD team thoughts/expertise on this topic 🙂
…and to add to your question, is anyone trying that brand Ruggable, where you can wash (!) the top part of the rug? I tried the floor tile carpet company and that was a miss. I hated the way the rug tiles felt.
I’m so over cleaning up hairballs from my furballs and have simply opted out of rugs for the moment. I think in our bedroom remodel we’ll just have two matching faux sheepskins on either side of the bed and hope and pray hairballs magically land elsewhere.
Beautiful rugs seem out of reach for some of us!
Great tips! I am trying to figure: for a small rectangular living room would a Front Legs Only or Float work best? 🙂 thanks!
Something I’ve been noodling on is how to handle a room where the couch is facing a leggy media console + TV, with a chair on one side of the couch also facing the TV. I’m thinking I would have my front legs of the couch on the rug but have the rug end a few inches before the media console and the coffee table in the middle…
Great beautiful rugs. Can you help me choose some to light grey walls and dark wooden floor? I have dog so must be pet friendly.
Have the same question. help pls
Perfect matching! You inspired me so much
Amazing! You have shared a very informative guide regarding the right sized rug. All the stocked rugs are eco-friendly, beautiful, and trendy. I like the sculptural float rug idea the most. In my opinion, it looks great and glorious with my love seat and two armchair set. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas.
Hello! Now I have definitely decided that I want a large rug in the room, it looks much better than small rugs. Your advice is very helpful, thanks for sharing this with us. I used to have a rug and it seemed to me that if it was in the room, then all the furniture, a table, a sofa and armchairs should stand obnoxiously on it, that no one allowed the legs to hang from it and I didn’t like it. Because the rug itself was not very large and everything looked rather compressed.
An implied element of the useful advice contained here is that you’ve appropriately spaced your furniture before selecting the rug. Forgetting to do that potentially leads to some awkward appearances.
Love this post. Rug size is just not something I thought about when first decorating my home. As a result we have a very pretty Persian floater in our living room. I just ordered an 8 x 10 jute “under rug” from RugsUSA and I’m so excited for it to come. In terms of comfort and room flow, rug size makes a huge impact. Also, I highly recommend RugsUSA if you need a basic rug. We bought a rug for our home office and a patio rug this year and the quality for the price is really there.
One of biggest pet peeves is a too-small area rug. I always see it immediately, and I cringe.
Thanks a lot for this post Jess! Do you recommend big or small rugs? I believe it depends on the space and overall home but do you think it is better to consider a rug that attracts the vision instantly? Thanks for the great content.
Ok, here’s a question: is it possible to alter a rug? I have a beautiful big rug from West Elm that’s jute interwoven with cotton in a repeating chevron pattern, but it’s really just a bit too big for our very small living room. Currently it overlaps the inset fireplace surround, which is not ideal. Is there a way to make it shorter? Who would be able to do that?
I have a pretty-but-just-a-tad-too-small rug that I got secondhand for 120$. Still lucky because even secondhand rugs can be EXPENSIVE.
I remember Emily recommending a cushy rug pad, does she recommend 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch thickness. I think I’m finally taking the plunge and buying the right size rug for my living room! Thanks 🙂
I have a 9×12 blue striped dhurrie rug (ie It’s Complicated) but I still had chair front legs that didn’t make it in. I ordered an 11×15 jute rug from Wayfair at a very reasonable price and it made all the difference. I angled the dhurrie on top and it was life-changing! Then I floated a Mongolian rug in the corner over both where I have a mid-century leather swivel chair and the whole room was transformed. 3 carpets is something I would never have done but now it makes the room so much more interesting! Just try this layering thing! It’s fab!
Layering is just about the answer to everything. People arranging your tchotchkes — layer them!
what about a rug with a curved couch? i’m having a hard time finding one that fits my giant curved CB2 Roma sofa, as I can’t go too wide, (would block walkway) but a small rug doesn’t fit under couch all the way. And i also have a fireplace that is at an angle, so i can’t go too far that way. i’m thinking a round rug is only one that would fit?
I have a cowhide with my giant curved sectional couch and I love it. No rectangle rug felt right but the natural shape of the cowhide works great IMO.
great tip! thanks!
Great tips as always and it’s so helpful to get your insights on the double rug look. I’m yet to try it but have saved this post for when I do!
Are we still calling it “sherpa”?
How about round rugs? Are they just too unstylish? I think our living room can really only take a round rug. It is a small parlor in a 1915 house and the fireplace sits at an angle and is huge and juts in to the room. So any rectangular rug would only fit on a side of the room. But a round works well. There are so few of them though. Why is that?
Need a round up of LARGE round rugs! Can’t find hardly any!
Now I know what’s missing in my living room. The Hawskbill Patterned Rug! This is the perfect rug for my 3 seater navy camrose sofa. As a first time home owner, I’m definitely learning a lot from this blog.
Thank you for providing this information. I’d like to see a collection of beautiful eco-friendly rugs. I’ve been having a hard time finding anything beautiful that also makes me feel good about buying it.
I recommend to never buy a black rug. We have one and it shows everything!!! Just FYI~
Honestly I have never even considered rug sizing and placement options, this was such a useful article I am so glad I stumbled across it