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The Simple Rule to Avoid Choosing a Rug That's Too Small

Make no mistake.

living room

Katie Martinez

Choosing an area rug may seem simple at first glance—surely you can just eyeball it, right? Wrong. There is much more than meets the eye when it comes to choosing a rug that will fit your space and furniture perfectly. Yes, it's a science that interior designers have perfected for decades, but it's actually easy to follow, and it follows one simple rule: Measure twice. 

Interior designers often warn that the biggest decorating mistake they notice is area rugs that are too small for the space. "I'm a firm believer that the rug is a unifying element that pulls a room together and should anchor the furniture pieces," interior designer Stefani Stein told MyDomaine. "Sometimes finding the perfect rug in the perfect size can be tricky, and going custom isn't always an option. So if the rug of your dreams isn't quite the right scale, try layering. Just be careful to avoid textural overload."

In most rooms, the rules are simple: Leave at least six inches between the end of the rug and the walls (or counters, in the case of kitchens); leave all furniture legs off rugs in busy thoroughfares like entryways and hallways, and let the space dictate your choice of rug size. But in other rooms—the bedroom, the living room, and the dining room—the rules are a little trickier.

Ahead, we break down everything you need to know for choosing an area rug.

Meet the Expert

Stefani Stein is an interior designer based in Los Angeles. She just recently launched a bespoke furnishings and wallpaper brand, August Abode.

In the Living Room

Choosing the Right Area Rug Size: a living room with a large purple rug
Courtesy of Katie Martinez

In the living room, choosing an area rug size more or less follows the same rule as in the bedroom, but depends on a few factors.

The first option is to have all furniture legs—including the sofas and accent chairs—sitting on the rug. With this layout, the rug should extend at least six inches past each piece of furniture. The ideal size for this option is a 9-by-12-foot rug or larger.

The second option pertains to a smaller space. In more cramped quarters, you can also opt to have only the front legs of the furniture sitting on the rug, with the back legs on the surrounding floor. This works especially well if a sofa is up against a wall or if you want the rug to act as the area rug that it is and not a glorified wall-to-wall carpet.

Lastly, you could choose to only have your coffee table on the rug and leave your living room seating off the rug entirely, though interior designers warn that this is the number one decorating mistake they notice in homes as small rugs can actually make your space look even smaller. We suggest only using this option if you're dealing with an abnormal layout that doesn't actually make sense with the above central area rug concepts.

When laying out your furniture, ensure that only the front legs of all pieces are sitting on the rug. Consider an 8-by-10-foot or 9-by-6-foot rug for this layout.

In the Bedroom

Choosing an Area Rug Size: a bedroom with a curtained bed and rug
Courtesy of Alexander DB

A rug is a great alternative to carpeting in a bedroom. It keeps it cozy and warm and prevents the whole room from echoing. With an area rug, however, you still have the ability to gaze upon the gorgeous wood floor that lies beneath while still having the ability to layer on a soft topper.

When choosing a rug for your bedroom, there are three main rules that you should be focusing on, however. And they all have one thing in common: The bed is your focal point.

The first option is to place all legs of the bed and surrounding furniture—like nightstands and a bench at the foot of the bed—on the rug. With this option, you should leave 18 to 24 inches of space around the outer edges of the furniture.

As a general rule, for a king or queen bed, a 9-by-12-foot rug is ideal if you have a bench at the foot of the bed. If you don't, an 8-by-10-foot rug should suffice. For a twin or full-size bed, aim for a 6-by-9-foot rug or bigger.

The second option is to place two-thirds of the bed on the rug. What that means is that the rug should start just slightly in front of your nightstands. Here, the rug should extend 18 to 24 inches on each side of the bed (including the foot of the bed). For this layout, consider an 8-by-10-foot rug for a queen bed and a 9-by-12-foot rug for a king. This layout can also work if you have a deeper piece of furniture at the foot of your bed, like a small sofa or settee.

Lastly, you can opt to simply have runners on each side of the bed, which is a great choice if other larger rugs don't fit in your room or if your layout is asymmetrical. Look for runners that won't extend beyond the bed itself but that are slightly wider than the nightstands. The runners should be placed on either side of the bed, not touching the furniture itself.

In the Dining Room

Choosing a Rug Size: a dining room with a blue rug
Courtesy of Katie Martinez

In the dining room, there is one simple rule to follow when choosing a rug: Make sure that all chairs sit comfortably on the rug by ensuring sure that the rug extends 36 inches beyond all sides of the table (and no less than 24 inches). This goes for both rectangular and round rugs. 

If you want to be confident that you're choosing the right area rug size for your dining room table, simply add at least 60 inches to the length and the width of your table to get your ideal rug size. For instance, a 40-by-60-inch table should be paired with at least an 8-by-10-foot rug but would work best with a 9-by-12-foot rug. For round tables, add at least 60 inches to the diameter.