HomeHome Updates: Tips & IdeasDecorating Ideas and How To'sDecorating Ideas: Area Rug Rules – Placement, Size and More

Decorating Ideas: Area Rug Rules – Placement, Size and More

Posted on January 28, 2014 by KylieMawdsley


Area Rug Tips and Ideas – Living and Family Rooms

When it comes to decorating with area rugs some people might follow what we call ‘rules’ and I say ‘rules shmules’ – rules are highly overrated, just like unpainted wood and moderation.

However, there are some generic guidelines and tips you can use to help you choose the best size and style of area rug for your room. And while there are many ideas for every room in your home, this post will apply to spaces like living rooms and family rooms.

Family room with stone fireplace, Sherwin Williams Cyberspace, leather, laminate wood flooring, chartreuse chair. Kylie M INteriors E-design and home

And you might be thinking, ‘but I just need to know what size I need!’ but the thing is, once you know HOW you want to place it, take the tips below and your tape measure and that will show you what size you need!

Area Rug Guidelines and General Rules

Area Rug Tip #1  

2 pieces should sit the same distance on the rug

Whether you want your rug slightly under your furniture or ALL the way, the concept should apply to at least 2 of your main pieces of furniture (the odd arrangement can accommodate otherwise, but just assume that yours doesn’t, capiche?)

Sometimes you can’t quite get it even, and that’s okay, just do the best you can as the more even the better!

Area Rug Tip #2   

Area Rug on carpet

If you’re going to put an area rug over your carpet, you’ll want to find one that is thicker than the carpet you are putting it on (doesn’t have to be drastically so, but at least a bit). While some of the thin, tapestry style rugs are gorgeous, they won’t lie flat on a carpet and will get bumpy and lumpy when you put furniture on them.

Area Rug Tip #3 

Don’t go too small

If your rug won’t fit at least a bit under 2 pieces, then you may as well lick a postage stamp, slap ‘er down and call it a day.

Living room before with fireplace

I think the above photo proves my point nicely…

And THIS is the exception…

Silver Satin, Benjamin Moore in living room with gray couch, chrome accents, oak flooring and cowhide rug. Transitional style. Kylie M Interiors E-design and Virtual Colour consulting

This bad boy makes me SO happy. It’s irregular shape and show-stopping look make it a perfect statement rug without needing to be full-size.

Area Rug Tip #4

The long side of the rug should follow the longest piece of furniture

Now, sometimes this doesn’t work, but in the ideal world, you would have your longest piece of furniture line up with the long side of the rug. If you can’t make that happen (due to other room issues), at least make sure there is 6″ of rug showing on either side of your longest piece (as suggested in the next tip), otherwise, the rug is just too small!

Area Rug Tip #5  

The Rug MUST extend at least 6″ or more beyond the arms of your main piece of furniture

Really, this should be more of a rule than a guideline. If your area rug lines up with the arms of your couch, it will look completely reedonkulous. This point follows what I was saying in Guideline #4.

home staging and decorating ideas for the living room with sherwin williams repose gray or benjamin moore wish with neutral couch, cream shag rug, chrome,

For things to stay proportional and sane you need your rug to be at least 6″ beyond the arms on either side…at least.

Area Rug Tip #6

8×10 minimum

I have to say, I haven’t met a living room that has looked good with a rug that is smaller than 8×10.  7×9/5×8 – this size if more of an accent for a smaller sitting area. If you have a living room that is MAYBE EVEN on the small size, I would do an 8×10 rug. With the thought that the rug could be approx 24″ away from at least 2 walls, even a 10×12 room would suit an 8×10 rug!

Area Rug Tip #7

Consider your room

Your area rug can dictate the rest of your space with its colour, texture and pattern.

Home staging in living room with balance, navy blue accents. Similar to Sherwin Williams Sandbar. Kylie M E-design

While your rug might look good ‘for now’, try not to choose a rug that might limit your future choices if you like to switch things up now and then.

Area Rug Tip #10  

Don’t be afraid to put an area rug on wood flooring

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients say to me, ‘…but I don’t want to cover up my beautiful wood floor!’ While I appreciate the sentiment behind this (wait, not really), you aren’t necessarily doing your floor any justice by leaving it bare. Quite often rugs help to define a wood floor, especially when there are other wood pieces in a space such as tables, entertainment centers, walls. They also add acoustic value and texture.

leather sectional in living room showing the homeowners' artwork above

I love the above living room but feel like the sectional and ottoman float without an area rug to anchor them.

It’s kind of like a framed picture. As a bare canvas it’s certainly beautiful, but once framed it really shines.

Rug Rule and Ideas

  • If you have a focal point like a fireplace or TV stand, try to have your rug centered on this.
  • In the ideal world you’ll want your rug centered on 2 things (ie couch and fireplace), however, at the very minimum it should be centered on 1 of them.
  • The length of your area rug should be centered on your longest piece of furniture.  If you have a couch with a loveseat beside it, you’ll want the area rug centered on the couch at the very least.
  • Your rug choice might be determined by your age.  I’ve been to many homes where I’ve said,’Well, what about a shag rug?’ and they say, ‘been there, done that honey – lived in it for 20 years!’  So, I take that as a no?
  • Try not to butt your rug right up to the front of something (ie: couch or fireplace).  If it can’t fit under it, it should sit a minimum of 4″ in front of it.

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature


  1. Pingback: New Living Room Rug -

  2. Hi Kylie, love the information you have provided. What do you do about a rug when the furniture (couch & love seat) are positioned on a angle?

    1. Usually I will line the long side of the rug up with the longest piece of furniture (couch) and try to center both pieces on the rug (so the couch is centered on the length and the loveseat is centered on the width. Hope that helps!

  3. Thanks so much for this post Kylie. I had been thinking/worrying we went to small (8 x 10) but now see a 9 x 12 would have butted up to close to the walls. Crisis diverted!

  4. Hi, I have angled a rug in my living room, small room. basically lined up w/ a corner fireplace. I like it that way, but what would your opinion be of that. Looks rather eclectic in a modern room.

    1. Post

      Hi Susan, that is TOTALLY a good idea if it fits! It can simplify things as you are mimicking something/a shape that already exists!

  5. My room is longer than wide, but to make all of these rules work and anchor the two club chairs and the sectional on my rug I need to turn it the other way celibate belong area is perpendicular to the short part of the room. The room is very large, but as a result there is a down out 4 feet from the edge of the rug to the beginning of the entertainment center. I’m not sure if this is OK, my eyes just can’t get used to it

    1. Post

      Hi Sammi! There are ALWAYS exceptions and if it isn’t feeling right, then it probably ISN’T right. It sounds to me like it might be too far away from the entertainment stand and you’re feeling the disconnect OR…maybe you need a larger rug! Either way, I’d be switching directions or rugs 🙂

  6. Pingback: 15 Small Living Room Ideas: Create the Illusion of Space | Clutter Keeper

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More Posts

Meet Kylie

Thank you for visiting!  I'm so glad you're here!  Come on in to learn a little more about me!