How to Measure & Choose A Rug Size

A month ago we found a rug online for our living room that we liked and was within our budget (we’re keeping what the rug looks like a secret until it gets here, mwhaha).  In the same month however, painting the dining room became a priority and our living room became a bit too cluttered, so we’ve held off getting it until we could get the room cleared and figure out which size rug to order.

the dining room furniture encroaching on our living room’s territory – it was war

From some past measuring I did a year ago of how large our seating area was, I had given myself a size range to work within when shopping for rugs, which was 6.5-8 x 8-10.  For the rug we’re now interested in, it is offered in a 5×8 and 8×10.  I was initially leaning towards the 5×8…but then last week after we’d moved the dining furniture back to where it belonged, we got into a “feeling impulsive” mood.  So, having been curious to try some different arrangements in the living room, we moved things around in there…and it ended up working awesome-ly.   More on that in a future post.

The new setup opens the room up a lot, and now we’re 99.9999999% sure that an 8×10 is the way to go.

How did moving furniture change the rug size, and how do we know the size is right for the room?  Let me show ya.

To start, there is no concrete “right or wrong” way to use a rug in a room…these are more like guidelines.  Ultimately, the style of the room is up to you, but here are some of the basics to get you started:

1- Furniture Placement
In most cases, you want to have all of your sofas and chairs touching the rug; this pulls together the furniture and proportionally unifies the room.

Sofas should have the front legs on the rug, and the back legs off.  A setup which all legs could be on the rug would be if you had a console table behind it, and then that table would only have it’s back legs on the rug.

Smaller one-person chairs can either have just the front legs on, or both front and back, or not touch the rug at all.  Play around with the amount of room you have available and eye the chairs from a distance until you feel it looks good.  Don’t be afraid to situate the chairs a certain way and then take a few weeks to let the effect simmer in your mind for a bit before you decide if it’s working or not.  

Exception: If you have all the legs of all of your furniture off of the rug, it can still look appropriate.  Remaining consistent with your furniture placement works in this scenario.

2- Width
Your rug needs to extend further than the width of your sofa on either side by a good 6″ or more.  If the rug is the same width as your sofa, it will make the rug seem too small.

3- Maintain Borders
Allow for a border of at least 18 inches between the rug’s edges and the room’s walls to let the bare flooring show and maintain the room’s balanced proportions.  An exception to this would be if it is in a small room, such as a laundry room or walk-in closet, in which the border’s gap can be smaller.

4- Your Goal  
A rug will define a space.  A sitting area, the dining table area, a bed, an office desk & chair, etc.  Too small a rug in a big room, and the furniture will look like it is floating and not appear as cohesive (see a pic of our living room here for an example of what not to do).

5- Details to Consider
The size of your rug will also depend on:

  • the size of the room
  • how much contrast you want between the rug and the flooring (how much of the original flooring do you want to still have showing in the room)
  • budget (the larger the rug, the more pricey).   

The best technique for finding out the rug size needed is to play a little.  If you’re a visual person like me, you’ll want to especially do the following.

What You’ll Need:

– Painter’s tape (if you don’t have tape, you can use books or toys or whatever else you have to mark the 4 corners of the rug)
– measuring tape

1- Measure your seating area’s width and length
Take the measuring tape and extend it length-wise in front of your biggest sofa until there are at least 6 inches on either side of the sofa.  If you have other chairs on the ends of the room that you want touching the rug, keep extending the tape so that they do.  Repeat this process for the width of the rug as well.

I took two measurements when I did this.  First I found out the maximum length our room could handle without losing borders (floor gaps between the rug edges and the room’s walls), and then I found the minimum measurements for what would allow at least the front legs of our seating to touch the rug.  This way you have a range to work within when shopping for a rug, versus a very custom or constraining measurement.

Tip: If you’ve been wanting to move furniture around in the room, do so now, as the dimensions may change.  When we moved our furniture around last week, it took advantage of our space and thus enlarged our seating area’s size, creating the need for the 8×10 rug when in the recent past, the 5×8 worked.  That would have been sad if we got the 5×8 and then found we couldn’t re-arrange our furniture around it.

2- When you find a rug you like
Once we found a winning rug, I measured out both the 5×8 and 8×10 and marked the four rug corners with painter’s tape (frog tape), then stood back and eyed it for awhile, readjusting and re-measuring a bit as I experimented until I got both rugs sitting where I felt they’d work best in the room.

Give it time to marinate if you need to.  I had placed the tape down late one night and then kept that tape on the floor through the next day, finding myself eyeing the floor each time I passed through, giving me time to mull it over. In the evening I found myself standing in the room for awhile and visualizing the room with the rug with Karl, and we both came to the same conclusion: the 8×10 worked best.

3- Wait to pounce
Rugs are an expensive investment.  So naturally, if you can also wait to time your purchase for a holiday sale or subscribe to the store’s website to receive a coupon, all the better.  We signed up for the rug store’s newsletter and scored a 10% off coupon, which allows us to keep the rug that was at the top of our maximum budget, to now be comfortably under-budget.

Got a question?  Ask in the comments section below  :)

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