Updated: Jul 16, 2021
An area rug is a big investment. Getting the wrong one would remind you how your money was wasted every time you see it and how much you want it to be replaced.
Many people think an area rug is one of the last decorations to consider when designing their living room.
Ironically it is the other way around.
Choosing the living room rug should not be an afterthought. It is one of the main design elements that grab everyone's attention by the moment they step inside the living room and it significantly impacts how the room feels.
But how to select the ideal rug for my living room? I will walk you through these 3 easy steps, bringing tips and things to avoid so you will praise yourself for making the right decision.
Let's dive in...
Table Of Contents:
Step 1 - Consider the Rug Size and Shape
Before determining how big the rug is needed, let's decide how you want it to be placed in your living room.
3 Common Ways on How to Place Your Rug in the Living Room
All furniture legs on the rug
Suggested Rug Sizes
10' x 14' (300cm x 420cm)
12' x 15' (360cm x 450cm)
Suitable for large, spacious, and open concept living rooms with floating furniture.
In this setup, all the furniture's legs rest on top of this gigantic rug to create a defined seating area. It pulls all the furniture together, bringing a cozy and inviting conversation zone.
It also provides the best protection to the hardwood floor from the furniture above.
Leave at least 18" of floor space around the rug and the wall. This gap creates a layer of visual contrast to the room.
If possible, leave around 10" to 12" between the back of the furniture to the edge of the rug.
Half on, half-off
Suggested Rug Sizes:
8' x 10' (240cm x 300cm)
9' x 12' (275cm x 365cm)
Probably the most common arrangement among the three. Only the two front legs of the sofa, armchairs, and side tables (if present) rest on top of the rug. This setup works well for all sizes of living rooms or with seating pieces leaning against the wall. A right rug will define your seating area and connect all pieces of furniture together in the room.
The edge of the rug should not exceed the front half of the seating piece
No Legs On (Coffee table only)
Suggested Rug Sizes:
5' x 8' (150cm x 240cm)
6' x 9' (180cm x 270cm)
This setup works best if you do not want to spend too much on a rug or plan to show off more of the flooring. The rug is positioned underneath only the coffee table, all the rest of the furniture legs resting on the bare flooring in this arrangement.
The area rug itself acts as a piece of small decoration without drawing too much attention away from the room's overall design. That means the design of the rug should match with the rest of the furniture and upholstery without being too eye-catchy.
Leave about 4" to 6" between each seating piece and the rug.
Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Your Living Room Rug
It's tricky to visualize how big a rug is needed in your living room with naked eyes. People will usually end up buying a rug that is smaller than what they need to get. It is a common mistake that many people still make when purchasing a rug. Picking one that is too small for your space will end up with something like this.
How to Find the Right Rug Size?
Before deciding which rug size to go for, we strongly suggest using masking tape to outline on the floor the size of the rug in the ideal position, next, measure each side (or the perimeter) of the tapes carefully. You will then have an accurate measurement of the rug size that is most suitable for your living room.
This method can also check if the rug size you had chosen will interfere with other
objects in the room such as doors, display shelves, or columns.
If you are struggling between two similar sizes, always go with the larger one. A slightly larger size rug will create an optical illusion that your room feels somewhat bigger; a smaller one will lead to an opposite effect.
Sometimes it is challenging to get the right size of rug from all the standard sizes you can find in a carpet shop. If that is the case, customizing your own area rug is probably the best option to create something unique and suits best.
Contact us and let us help you out. Don't worry if you know nothing about rugs, we will guide you through from start to finish.
Step 2 - Choose Your Materials and Designs
Once the size ready, let's move on to picking the right material.
The type of material for the living room rug depends on the traffic in that room, your budget, who will be using it (pets, children, elderly, etc.), and how easy to clean and maintain.
There is no such thing as the BEST fiber, pick the one that suits you the most.
Keep in mind that every material has its pros and cons. The following chart is only for a general reference on how each material compares with others.
The pattern or design all comes down to personal taste, lifestyle, and how the rug is going to match with the room's wall and furniture. Here are some useful tips that can help you narrow down your choice.
A rug with a light color palette can make your room looks larger but make stains more visible. On the other hand, a dark-colored carpet will make your room looks smaller but hide stains better.
Match with your furniture and wall color to unify the whole theme of your room.
If you already have busy patterns on your upholstery, pick a rug that has a geometric, southern pattern or a simple design.
Prefer designs that are more feminine and can last for an extended period? How about a rug with flowers, branches, and leaves. Persian or oriental rugs are vibrant in colors and have a timeless look.
Be sure to check on our Rug Designs for inspiration.
Step 3 - Choose the Rug Thickness
Why rug thickness matters? Because it affects how you feel with bare feet, how easy to clean, and the durability of your area rug.
What are the differences between high and low pile rugs?
High Pile Rugs :
High pile rugs mean the pile height of the fibers has at least 1/4" or higher. If you want something that is luxurious and provides the most excellent comfort, a high pile rug is the best choice. The extra softness of this kind of carpet makes you feel like you are walking on a cloud. It is incredibly plush and soft to sit or lie on without a doubt. It also gives better sound and heat insulation than low pile rugs.
Not Suitable For:
High pile rugs have dense and longer fibers that collect dust and debris more quickly, meaning that they require more attention to maintenance and frequent vacuuming. They are not suitable if someone in your home is allergic to dust mites or other kinds of substances.
Also, if living with elders or someone with wheelchairs who use the rug regularly, better to stay away from a high pile rug as it increases the chances for the cane, walker, or foot caught inside the yarns. The wheel rubber of the wheelchair is more easily tangled inside the long pile fibers as well. Remember safety always comes first!
Low pile Rugs :
Low pile rugs give a soft feeling to walk on and can also be luxurious, although it is not on the same level that can be found on a high pile rug. Low pile rugs tend to be more affordable and durable than high pile rugs as well. They require less frequent vacuuming since they accumulate dirt or pet hair much less.
Low pile rugs are more friendly to your family member who suffers from allergies or other kinds of respiratory problems.
Good to Know: Do you know that you can custom make a handtufted rug in all shapes and sizes, in whatever pattern you like with an unlimited number of colors? See our previous article Handtufted Area Rug Guide to learn more.
How to choose an area rug for a small living room?
If you live in a small apartment (which most of us do) and have a narrow living room, consider placing the area rug using either the half legs on or the no legs on (only coffee table) method we mentioned above.
Ensure the rug is having the right proportion to the living room's size, not just the coffee table itself. If you plan to put the carpet in the no legs on arrangement, leave about 6" in front of each piece of seating.
When picking a rug design for a small living room, go with stripes, textures, or a simple pattern that will make the room looks larger. A plain color shaggy rug is a great alternative in bringing the living room a calm and warm feeling.
How to choose area rugs for an open floor plan?
In an open-plan space where no wall is present to separate the different zones in a home, the rugs play an essential role in defining each space's purpose.
When buying area rugs for an open plan layout, the traditional way is laying two different rugs, one under the conversation area and the other one under the dining table, to clearly define the space for both areas.
We recommend picking both rugs that share a similar color palette or design to harmonize both spaces' overall atmosphere.
Choosing a Rug for an odd-shaped living room
Buying a rug for an oddly shaped living room is challenging. Not everyone lives in a house that the living room is in a perfect square or rectangle.
When designing these odd-shaped rooms, the key is to rearrange the furniture to draw attention away from these imbalanced corners.
Try putting an asymmetrical rug, mix and match with carpet tiles, or even a cowhide in the seating area.
Place a rug with a busy design such as an Oriental or Persian style in the center of the room along with other large decorative pieces (painting, mirror, plants) to create a new focal point.
Should I get a rug if I have pets?
Your four-legged friend can live with your favorite living room rug perfectly fine. But before rushing out to make the purchase, here is some advice.
Always Pick Low Pile Rugs (such as handtufted, flatweaves, carpet tiles, etc.) -
That means to stay away from those shaggy or fur-like area rugs at all cost. High pile fibers tend to grab dust, mud, and pet hair easily and more difficult to clean when trapped inside the piles. Most importantly, your pet will have a lesser chance of catching its claws and teeth inside the long fibers causing them injury.
Avoid rugs with fringes. The structure of the fringes might be dangerous for pets with long nails. Dog and bunnies also like to chew on them resulting in serious damage to the rug.
The key is to pick the material that is durable, easy to clean, and stain-resistant. If you prefer natural fibers, wool or cotton will be the best pick as they are easy to clean. The Lanolin is a coating found on wool fibers that act as a natural barrier from liquids and dirt. The downside is these materials are expensive compared with other synthetic fibers. Jute and sisal are great natural fibers for catching dirt or sand but need more work when removing liquid stains like urine and vomit.
Nylon, polypropylene, or polyester are great options if you do not mind using synthetic yarns. They are easy to clean, durable, and even washable. The rugs made in synthetic yarns are more affordable to replace than natural fibers if something went seriously wrong.
Color / Pattern -
Perhaps you might think dark colors would hide pet hair best, this is not the case.
The secret is to find a rug with a color palette that matches your pet's fur, which means a light color rug is suitable for hiding light color hair, vice versa.
A rug with busy and detailed patterns will make dirt and stains less visible. The drawback is that you probably notice the urine or vomit stain until you step on it.
Cleaning / Maintenence -
It is common sense that more frequent vacuuming is required if a pet is present. It is a good idea to hire a professional carpet cleaner once a year to clean the allergens that hide deep inside the fibers. We also recommend staying away from the chemical rug cleaners you can buy in the supermarket as they might contain chemicals that are harmful to your pet and the rug.