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How To Choose The Right Rug Size For Your Living Room – 5 Formulas Guaranteed to Work

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design by and home of sam gluck |photo by alison bernier | from: house tour: a warm scandi-inspired home + shop the look

We’re back with one of our favorite topics: rugs. This was originally published back in March, right when the world flipped upside down and when rugs were the last thing on anyone’s mind. Understandably, no one really saw it. But since this topic truly never gets old it only made sense to run it again. 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. We’ve also updated and included some black-owned brands to continue our commitment to the 15% pledge.

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…

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | my friend’s kid and pet-friendly family room reveal

I know from personal experience how daunting it can be finding 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 lets into the nitty-gritty of the rules for each of the EHD approved layout options…

General Rules: 

  1. Typical living room rug sizes are 8’x10′ and 9’x12′.
  2. Make sure your rug is at least 6″ wider (8″ is ideal) than your sofa on both sides.
  3. Typically run the rug the length of the sofa.
  4. 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.
Hot Tip

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

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: in defense of the comfy sectional—a friend’s almost-finished family room

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 PASSED IT OR ELSE.

photo by david tsay for styled: secrets for arranging rooms, from tabletops to bookshelves

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.

design by flack studio | photo by anson smart| via the design files

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)

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how target’s fall threshold collection nails the “updated classic” trend

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??

photography by erin francois | from: tour a stylist’s mid-century-meets-traditional “farmhouse” full of thrifted treasures

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.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a light, bright, & luxe lighting room makeover

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

photo by david tsay | from: a spanish living room

“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)

photo by david tsay | from: rustic modern house tour

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.

photo by david tsay for styled: secrets for arranging rooms, from tabletops to bookshelves

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

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house reveal: our light-filled neutral textural living room

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.

Hot Tip

Layering a Cowhide or Sherpa Rug is a fun way to make a conversation area bigger.

photo by teri lyn fisher | from: style evolution, where it’s going, and a big return to og ehd

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. Jovan Indigo Handwoven Dhurrie Rug 8′ x10′| 7. Black And Ivory Woven Chevron Indoor Outdoor Rug 8′ x 10′ | 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. Pink Shag Rug 7’10” x 10′| 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. Flokati Wool Shag Rug 8′ x 10′ | 4. Plus Black/Cream Rug 8′ x 10′| 5. Adagio Handknotted Rug 8′ x 10′ | 6. Nurae Rug 8′ x 10′ | 7. Aspen Rug, 8×10 | 8. Flatwoven Melina Rug 9′ x 10′ | 9. Pamela Wiley Zigzag Rug 9′ x 12′ | 10. Hira Rug 8′ x 10′ | 11. Gold Symbology Rug by Justina Blakeney® X Loloi 7’9″ x 9’9″ | 12. Casablanca Rug 9′ x 12′

1. Sarah Sherman Samuel Moroccan Flatweave 9′ x 12′ | 2. Black Movement Rug 8’10” x 12′| 3. Washed Out Large Hareez Rug 8’10 x 11’9 | 4. Winn Hand-Knotted Rug 8′ x 10′ | 5. Echo Rug 8′ x 10′ | 6. Huxley Rug 8′ x 10′ | 7. Serapi Design Rug 8′ x 10′ | 8. Solana Navy Woven Cotton Rug 9′ x 12′ | 9. Weighton Hand loom Wool Ivory/Black Rug 6’x9′ | 10. Guilford Navy Woven Cotton Rug 9′ x 12′ | 11. Tres Rug 7’10” x 5’7″ | 12. Robbin, Hand-Knotted Area Rug 8′ x 10′

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.

Fin Mark

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Sahaja

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.

Rebecca

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”

Caitlin

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.

Teri

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?

Teri

gah! RUG!

Lauren

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.

Susan

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.

Keira

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. 🙂

Erin

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!

Temi

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.

Bre

The sofa looks extremely similar to Interior Define’s Jasper sectional

Deena

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.

Kat

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!

Temi

Thank you!

Julie

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!!!

Suzanne

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 🙂

Julie

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 🙂

Erin

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.

Rachel S

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?

Katie

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.

Inês Seabra

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?

Rachel S

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.

Rebekah

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!

stacey

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.
Thanks!

Dana

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!

Anya

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. 🙂

Dee

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!

Irina V

Great tips! I am trying to figure: for a small rectangular living room would a Front Legs Only or Float work best? 🙂 thanks!

D

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.

Susanna

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.

Louise

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.

Paula

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.

Stephanie

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?

Nina

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.

Melanie

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 🙂

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