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What Size Should My Area Rug Be In My Living Room?

Feizy patterned area rug underneath a traditional velvet sofa with three accent pillows

Finding an area rug with that perfect pattern and colour that ties in all the elements in your space – that’s already a task in itself, and now you have to think about the size, too! Many of us have felt the sting of purchasing an ill-fitting area rug. And the worst part is: area rugs are not cheap (not the large, high-quality ones, anyway).

So, it’s more than okay - in fact, it’s recommended - to take the time to understand what size you’ll need to avoid buying a rug that just doesn’t work in your living room.

At McElheran’s Furniture + Design, we offer a wide selection of area rugs at a broad price point. With plenty of rugs in stock and hundreds of different samples, we can definitely point you in the right direction when it comes to selection.

Beyond the style, our Design Guides are here to ensure that you’ll have an appropriately sized rug, too. Area rugs play a pretty crucial part in determining how you plan out the rest of your living room. Our Design Guides have worked with many clients to find that perfect rug that complements their style, but also functions as it should.

Because of her passion for space planning, one of our Design Guides, Shelley, has taken quite a liking to area rugs. They really do help distinguish space and are a great starting point when you’re furnishing your living room. In this article, Shelley will go over an area rug’s function, some common measurements, tips, and tricks - all in the interest of helping you find that rug that fits perfectly in your living room.

Why does size matter for an area rug?

An area rug helps anchor the space and create zones within your home. Especially since open-concept layouts are so popular now, area rugs can really help to differentiate and distinguish an area.

They’re the perfect starting point, too, if you’re refurnishing or decorating a room. You can build an entire concept around an area rug because it's a foundational piece. And if the size is off, the rest of the room suffers.

An area rug, depending on the size, really has the power to make your room feel spacious and complete or cramped and underwhelming.

Is it better to go too big or too small with area rugs?

Obviously, this article is meant to help you get the right size of rug, but if you’re going to miss the mark, it’s better to overshoot your measurements than go too small. If it’s too big, you can always get a rug cut down by a professional (and hey – then you can have two beautiful rugs!) 

The problem with going too small is that it can visually shrink the area, almost leaving it looking unfinished. Because an area rug is meant to anchor the space, if it’s not big enough, well, it’s simply not able to serve its function. 

The issue of too small a rug can be fixed, though, either by repurposing the rug to a different space or layering it with another, bigger rug. This can actually look quite stylish if you find the right rug combination.

What is the most common size for living room area rugs?

8’ x 10’ – this size just works with a lot of spaces. It’s not so big that it overwhelms a room and it’s not so small that it leaves the room with an unfinished look.

Other common sizes that you might want to play around with (depending on your space, of course) are 7’ x 9’, 5’ x 8’, and 11’ x 14’.

Hand-knotted rugs, because the size is so dependent on the number of knots, don’t usually fall under these exact measurements. That’s just something to be aware of if you need a very specific dimension.

Tips for finding the perfect size of area rug

Caracole cabriole sofa with two accent chairs around rounded coffee table over area rug

The “front leg” rule

If you’re looking for a clear and concise answer for the size of your area rug, the popular front leg rule will get you close. All the furniture involved in your space should at least get its front legs on top of the rug. This completes the room’s look because it includes all the pieces as part of an entire idea and concept.

The front leg rule brings us to another helpful tip: an area rug should relate to the size and grouping of the furniture, as opposed to relying on the walls and dimensions of the room. You’re creating a zone with an area rug - regardless of the perimeter of the space – which gives you a little more freedom to play around with your design and layout.

The “tape trick”

All you need is some painter’s tape for this one. Put an outline down on the floor in the size and shape you're thinking you'd like your area rug to be. Then, over the next couple of days, see how your lifestyle works with the “rug.”

If you eventually realize that the size doesn’t fit with the flow of the space, try out a different size. Especially if you’re more of a visual person, the tape trick can prevent you from making a costly mistake!

By the way, you can use the tape trick for more than just area rugs. Next time you’re unsure what size of sofa or table you need, tape out a measurement on the floor for a few days to get a feel for it.

download button for an area rug buying and maintenance guide

How do I design my living room around an area rug?

Now that size is no longer an issue for you, you can get to the fun part! Finding the rug of your dreams that will really pull your living room together. Browse our rugs and drop by our showroom and see which styles you’re drawn to.

If you see something that you like, but you’re not quite sure if it will work with your living room, you can actually take samples home with you from McElheran’s! There’s no obligation to buy when you do this, but we do ask that you bring the samples back when you’re done. 

And if you’re ready to take that new rug and move forward in your space plan (without making costly mistakes!) take a look at Space Planning: The 3 Most Common Mistakes.