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Choosing the Perfect Rug Size for Your Living Room

Transforming a living room from bland to beautiful often depends on a few crucial details. One of these is choosing the right rug. But with so many options to consider, like proportion, balance, and functionality,...

Transforming a living room from bland to beautiful often depends on a few crucial details. One of these is choosing the right rug. But with so many options to consider, like proportion, balance, and functionality, determining the size rug that's best for your living room can be a mystery.

different living rooms with rugs

The issue for most homeowners and families is determining what size they should get. This guide addresses such concerns and helps families, individuals, and households choose the right rug for their living rooms.

Living Room Rug Size Guide

rug in room with shelves

Although living room rugs come in standard sizes, homeowners often struggle to determine which one to buy. Thankfully, interior designers have provided several "rules" to help families make the best choice. Following these guidelines can help households identify the most appropriate floor covering for their living room.

The 12- to 18-inch Rule

One popular rule of thought is that rugs for living rooms should leave 12 to 18 inches of space between the area rug's outer edges and the wall surface. This rule creates a "border" between the rug and the wall, similar to a picture frame that contrasts the image and the wall.

To apply this rule, homeowners must determine their living room dimensions and subtract 12 to 18 inches from the measurements to get the "ideal" floor covering size. For example, a living room measuring 16 by 20 feet would benefit from a 14- by 18-foot area rug (or something slightly smaller).

According to Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Ideas, "Area rugs are especially useful in new open-plan houses or in older homes with big rooms devoted to more than one use."

Unfortunately, finding a readily available 14- by 18-foot carpet might be challenging, as the largest standard size for these rugs is 12 by 15 feet. Therefore, the "12-to-18-inch" rule might be inapplicable in exceptionally spacious rooms.

The 70% Rule

This guideline addresses the shortcomings of the "12-to-18-inch" rule. It allows homeowners to use area rugs that cover at least 70% of the living room's floor.

To calculate the appropriate size, multiply the living room's square footage by 70%. For example, a 16×20-foot living room has a square footage of 320 feet. Multiplying 320 square feet by 70% results in 224 square feet. Unfortunately, even the largest area rugs (12×15 feet) cannot meet this requirement. In such cases, homeowners might want to consider placing an area rug under furnishings as accent pieces.

According to interior designer Kevin O'Gara, "A good rule of thumb is that rugs should be at least one-third the size of the room." This ensures that the rug complements the furniture layout without making the room look unbalanced or cluttered. For example, in rooms with a couch and chairs around a coffee table, the rug should be large enough to fit under at least the front legs of all the furniture to create a cohesive look and define the seating area.

The Small-Large Rule

Interior designers recommend placing rugs that are large enough to accommodate a small accent piece's bottom, such as a coffee table or sculpture stand. On the other hand, larger furnishings, like chairs, sofas, and loungers, should have at least two feet or legs on the carpet. Homeowners must also observe placement consistency, adhering to the "small-large" rule.

The Room "Feel" Rule

Interior decorators consider area rugs mood-creating pieces. Therefore, homeowners must decide what vibe or feel they want to project in the living room.

For example, large-size area rugs that nearly hug the wall are ideal for creating an inviting ambiance. Family members and visitors will love to lie and sprawl on the carpet without a care in the world.

On the other hand, smaller rugs are perfect for defining spaces and transforming living rooms into sections with a purpose and a formal "feel." Families who want a more "organized" and "polished" look in the living room should choose a small area rug under accent pieces, decorative items, and functional furnishings.

The "Size Down" Rule

Similar to the 12-to-18-inch rule, the size-down guideline is more specific to homes with cramped living rooms. Families must avoid placing a large area rug in such spaces because it will only make the floor plan look and feel smaller.

These "rules" can guide homeowners, individuals, and families to buy the correct area rug size for their living room. But what sizes are available? Here are some popular options:

Popular Sizes for Rugs

  • 3 feet by 5 feet: Ideal for defining space and borders of living room furnishings
  • 4 feet by 6 feet: An accent piece on the floor under coffee tables, decorative stands, or center tables
  • 5 feet by 7 feet: A 35-square-foot carpet for accenting medium to large furnishings
  • 5 feet by 8 feet: Ideal for accommodating a center table with surrounding chairs and sofas
  • 6 feet by 9 feet: Offers a 54-square-foot coverage for furniture sets
  • 8 feet by 10 feet: A common size for many homes with 115-square-foot living rooms
  • 9 feet by 12 feet: Recommended for rooms with a floor area of at least 155 square feet
  • 12 feet by 15 feet: Ideal for spacious rooms with an area of at least 260 square feet

Round Rug Size

minimalist room with sofa and ottoman

Some families prefer round rugs in the living room instead of rectangular versions because they are cozy and create a feeling of intimacy. Circular area rugs "draw" the corners and edges of a living space toward the center, allowing families to create a focal point.

Unlike conventional rectangular area rugs with two measurements (length and width), families only need to consider a round rug's cross-section or diameter. Here are the common circular sizes homeowners should be familiar with:

  • 4 feet: An accent piece for covering the floor underneath a center table or a small 36-square-foot floor plan
  • 6 feet: A round decor piece perfect for a small 8-by-8-foot living room
  • 8 feet: Recommended for a 10-foot by 10-foot living room
  • 10 feet: Ideal for 12-foot by 12-foot rooms, creating a 1-foot border on all sides

How to Choose Rug Dimensions for the Living Room

area with plants, dresser, rug, and lamp

Choosing the right rug size for the living room can be challenging and daunting, especially for first-time homeowners or families with insufficient "interior decorating" know-how. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Determine the living room's square footage: The first step is to measure the living room to determine its dimensions. This information is necessary to choose the most appropriate carpet size, considering the "rules" explained above.

For example, if homeowners adhere to the 12-to-18-inch border rule, they can look for an area rug that is about two feet smaller than the living room's dimensions. Suppose a living room measures 10 feet by 8 feet. In that case, a suitable area rug size would be 6 feet by 8 feet.

Families who prefer a more substantial floor space between the rug and wall can follow the 18-inch border rule. In this case, a 5 x 7 rug size would be a great option. Although smaller, the rug can still create a cozy and inviting design layout.

Another option is to determine the living room's 70% dimensions. For example, a 10×8-foot living room has a 70% floor area of 56 square feet. This makes a 7 x 8-foot area rug ideal. Families can choose a slightly bigger area rug if they prefer.

  • Consider the furnishings in the living room: While the 12-to-18-inch rule or the 70% rule are excellent guides for choosing the right area rug size, some situations make these guidelines irrelevant.

For example, in rooms with supersized dimensions exceeding 300 square feet, homeowners can consider clustering the furnishings under a large carpet. This arrangement creates "zones" within the living room without using dividers, drawing attention to specific groups.

In this case, families should observe a 6-inch rule, which suggests that the area rug should be half a foot larger than the furnishing's outer edges. For instance, an 18-inch-wide coffee table would look extravagant on a 30-inch-wide area rug.

  • All-Feet or Front-Legs?: Homeowners must also decide whether to put all furnishings on the area rug (all-feet layout) or keep the rear floating or grounded on the floor.

The all-feet arrangement places all furnishings, including tables, desks, sofas, loveseats, and chairs, ON the area rug. The rear edges of the furnishings should be positioned at least 8 inches from the area rug's edge. This layout requires a 10 x 14, 8 x 10, or 9 x 12 carpet.

On the other hand, the front-legs-only approach requires the rear sections of the furnishings to be grounded on the floor, with only the front legs on the carpet. In this case, the carpet should cover the front third of the furnishings. Excellent choices for this arrangement include 5 x 7 and 8 x 10 area rugs.

What Size Rug for the Sofa?

living space with television, area rug, couch, and window

Sofas vary in size depending on the brand, seating capacity, and model type. For instance, a living room sofa that can accommodate three adults can have a side-to-side span of 84 inches.

A good rule of thumb is to choose an area rug about half a foot wider than the sofa on the left and right sides. For example, an 84-inch-wide living room sofa will look more fantastic with a 9-foot-wide (108 inches) carpet underneath.

Should the Rug be Bigger than the Couch?

living area with sofa, chairs, rug, and window curtains

Despite functional differences, couches and sofas require the same area rug sizing. Therefore, homeowners must observe a 6- to 8-inch allowance on the couch's left and right sides to determine the ideal area rug size. This makes the living room rug 12 to 16 inches bigger than a couch.

According to interior designer Deborah von Donop, "Consider the carpet materials based on your lifestyle. For instance, wool carpets are popular for their softness, durability, and natural stain resistance, while plant-based fibers like bamboo are valued for their durability and affordability." Von Donop also recommends selecting a carpet after choosing base finishes like wood floor tones and upholstery. To visualize how the dimensions will look in your space, use painter's tape.

What Size Area Rug for Couch and Loveseat?

room with high ceiling, coffee table, sofa, and loveseat

Loveseats are 2-seater sofas perfect for snuggling and promoting intimate moments with partners. These furnishings come in three different widths: 48 to 62 inches, 58 inches, and 72 inches. The average 3-seater sofa measures 84 inches, although some families might have larger variants.

The area rug size for a living room with a loveseat and couch depends on the measurements of these furnishings. Most interior designers recommend an area rug that is at least 8 feet wide and 10 feet long. If homeowners are unsure, they could opt for a larger 9-foot by 12-foot area rug to cover the loveseat and couch.

What Size Area Rug for an Open Concept Room?

open floor room with wood floor, rug, sofa, and window

Many modern homeowners opt for an open concept floor plan, which improves foot traffic and promotes entertainment. However, choosing an area rug for an open living room can be challenging.

The "ideal" area rug size for open spaces depends on the dimensions of the living room section. The 70% and 12-to-18-inch border rules still apply. For example, a 12-foot by 15-foot carpet would be ideal for a spacious open concept layout. Alternatively, a 9×12 carpet should suffice for a large corner sofa or a pair of floating couches.

Most open concept living rooms use 8 x 10 rugs, but a 6 x 9 option is also suitable for smaller homes. Families should resist the temptation to place a 5×8 rug in an open concept floor plan.

Does a Larger or Smaller Rug Make a Room Look Bigger?

room with rug, chair, sofa, and fireplace

Interior decorators consider a larger rug more advantageous in making a living room look bigger than a smaller version. However, they caution homeowners to leave at least 12 inches from the rug's edges to the walls. This creates a border that acts as a frame for the floor covering.

Placing several smaller rugs in the living room may give the illusion of more space, but it can also create a disorganized floor plan, detracting from the room's aesthetics.

According to interior designer Shea McGee, "Layering smaller, decorative rugs on top of larger, natural weave ones can create an interesting look." She also suggests using rugs in the kitchen and outdoor spaces to enhance the overall ambiance.

Living rooms are essential spaces in every home, where families welcome and entertain visitors in a warm and comfortable environment. Unfortunately, many overlook the transformative power of an area rug. These smaller-than-carpet furnishings can add warmth, color, and texture to the living room, instantly converting it into a five-star hotel-like space for everyone to relax and enjoy.

For more related content, check out our article about soft natural fiber rugs.

*Note: The content and images in this article were sourced from the original post.