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Design

How to Choose the Perfect Rug Size

Men bringing in a huge rug that is a perfect size for the room.

Nothing irks me more than seeing a tiny rug in a furniture grouping (and I love tiny things). You know the look – where the furniture only has its front legs resting on it, as if it is clawing to get a piece of that rug action. In this post, I’ll enlighten you on how to choose the perfect rug size for your space and what to do if that size is unusual.

The Problem: Size Matters

More often than not, people select a rug based on the size that is surrounding their coffee table, not the overall size of their furniture grouping. Doing this means that only the front legs of their sofa, sectional, or chair, etc. is actually on the rug. It really makes the rug feel like an afterthought and something they “should” have, but didn’t want to commit to.

Proportionally, this will never work. Your rug will always look tiny if this is how you determine the size of it. Our brain wants to read a space as a whole and puts a little invisible fence up around the perimeter of the furniture to define the area mentally. Everything in that zone is in direct proportion to the largest object contained within the invisible fence and the remaining space. When you put a rug that is smaller than this invisible fence, your brain automatically defines it as small, because in proportion to everything else, it is. 

Besides that, it is just weird. When half of your furniture is on the rug it creates “naked” floor space. You wouldn’t put on a pair of pants that had shorts on one leg and a bell bottom on the other, would you? Maybe you would. I don’t know you. But I do know that if people saw you walking down the street and it wasn’t Halloween they would most likely think you looked weird. 

Floor plan showing the wrong size for a great room rug.
Wrong

The Solution: Room to Grow

So what do you do? Easy. Get a bigger rug! The rug should be large enough to be 2 or so inches past the perimeter of the furniture. So past the back of the sofa, or side of the end table, or back of chairs, etc. ALL of the furniture needs to sit on the rug. Of course, this can change slightly given your spatial parameters, but this is a good rule of thumb. By doing so, your brain then reads your space as larger because you are now a few inches bigger than the biggest object in that invisible fence. Magic. 

But there’s a catch because, most of the time, this creates a rug size that is not typically found. So then what do you do? Well, you have two options:

  • Option 1 – Have it made in a custom size. Depending on the manufacturer, you can get your rug made to the exact size you need. Will this increase the lead time? Most likely. But what isn’t taking forever to get these days. Or you buy something larger than you need and have it cut down by a rug speciality store. Will this increase the price? Most likely. But you wouldn’t walk around in shoes that are two sizes too small just because they were cheaper. 
  • Option 2 – Reselect. Find something larger to suit your needs, which might mean broadloom, aka carpet. Most carpet that you would install wall-to-wall will come in widths up to 15 feet and pretty much endless lengths, depending on the manufacturer. I have done them as long as 30 feet in some instances. 

Once you have your size, you then need to decide how to finish the raw edges. Typically, the fabricator will do that for you too. The most popular options are hand-surged and machine-surged. Hand-surged is more time consuming and costly, but you are able to customize the exact threads used. So it is a good choice if you have the funds and want to do a contrast stitch or something with multiple colors. Machine-surged is quicker and less expensive. They typically just match the background color of the rug which is usually fine anyways. 

Some manufacturers use a plasticy kind of woven binder instead of seam stitching and it just looks ugly, to be frank. I beg you – do not do this. It will cheapen the look of your rug. Don’t go through all that trouble to make it exactly how you want it and then throw it all away on this little detail because you will be sadly disappointed when your rug is delivered. 

Floor plan showing the correct size of a Great Room rug.
Right

But just like every rule, there are exceptions. 

  • Exception 1 – TV consoles. Since a TV console or entertainment unit is either attached to a wall or right up against it, you can not easily run a rug under it. Instead, I generally stop the rug 12-24 inches from the front, depending on the size of the space. You want to have enough clearance so people walking around are not half-on or half-off the rug while moving about.
  • Exception 2 – Dining Rooms. No matter the age, people are messy eaters. A rug under the dining table will get dirty, stains, and spills. Plus, it would have to be large enough for the chair to be pulled out and remain on the rug. It could also be a tripping hazard if you are walking to the table carrying a large plate of food and thinking about how good it will taste instead of watching where you are stepping. I haven’t put a rug under a dining table of any kind in years and I don’t foresee myself doing so anytime soon. 
  • Exception 3 – Bedrooms. In bedrooms, I stop the rug about 6 inches short of the nightstands. Again, because they are up against the wall and if the rug were to follow suit, it would visually feel off-balanced and cramped to one side. Be mindful of door swings, too. The rug should clear the door swing and, again, not be a tripping hazard. That doesn’t make anyone feel welcome. I also like for it to go from the farthest edges of the nightstands so everything is balanced, but that is the Libra in me.
Floor plan showing the perfect size of a bedroom rug.

So there you have it – the how, why’s, and what’s of determining the perfect size rug for your space. 

Let me know in the comments below if you found this article useful or if you have any specific questions on this topic. Happy to help!

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