• Alli McDonald

LIVING ROOM RUG GUIDE - Styling:101

Updated: Apr 17


When designing a room, the decorative process should always start with good space planning. And if you just need help getting started I have an A La Carte 'Layout' option just for that. Once you have determined your layout, the rug should be the first item on your list. Finding the perfect rug is easy, but finding the perfect rug to go with all your furniture, soft goods (pillows, drapes, etc), or wall color is not.



Whether you are decorating an open space or a room, a rug sets the vibe for the whole space and becomes an anchor. Without a rug the furniture will feel like isolated islands, but if the furniture is not properly placed on the rug it will appear as if your rug is floating. The size of the rug is important to properly pull it all together and anchor everything. We had the black and white striped Stockholm IKEA rug that I loved but recently switched to the Handmade Diamond Trellis Rug and now that the shedding has slowed down I do love it too. Both of these rugs are just shy of 9'x12' and with our large great room a big rug is needed.


The most common living room rug sizes are 8'x10', 9'x12', and 10'x14'. So unless you have an extremely small living room you usually wouldn't need anything smaller than 8'x10'. To determine the right size, it all goes back to knowing what your layout will be.





Once you have the layout you can determine the size by following these 3 rules:


1) The accent rug should be arranged where the front legs of all your furniture (sofa and chairs) are on the rug.


2) There should be approximately 6-8" of rug sticking out on the sides of the furniture.


3) Your area rug should be a minimum of 6" away from the wall, preferably 12-24".





More Information:

Orient the rug to the room. Which means if you have a wide room, lay the rug horizontally. If you have a narrow room, lay it vertically.

If you have a smaller living room and you need a smaller rug, that also means you need to purchase smaller furniture.

Think about your rug with regard to the style and patterns of your furniture. If your sofa has a bold pattern, go with a solid or neutral colored rug or vice versa.


Every rule is made to be broken, however. My daughter's bold geometric 'Elodie' rug was chosen to go with the bold navy and white striped teepee. While I did choose the rug to go with the teepee, the rest of the room was chosen to let the rug be the focal point of the room.

It also helps bring up another hot topic of rugs. Can you put rugs on top of carpet??? And the answer is YES....well, mostly yes. Adding a rug on carpet helps make the space more interesting. But your carpet needs to be low pile (the opposite of shag carpet) and even with low pile you need to have a good carpet lock rug pad or it will end up looking like this. We had tried everything for this rug to stay put, including rug tape, but finally the 'carpet lock' worked.

Above picture 'before' carpet lock=hot mess.

Below picture 'after' carpet lock=hasn't moved.

Sadly her rug is no longer available but here are some other fun pink geometric rugs.



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If you aren't layering a rug on carpet, the best option for the bottom rug is a natural fiber rug such as jute or sisal.


So, why layer a rug if you don't need to!?


Well, a couple of reasons. Having a jute rug on the bottom adds lots of texture and dimension to the space. They are also typically cheaper so you can get a larger one on the bottom to fill the room and layer a smaller more expensive rug on top.


Photo: Studio McGee




Here are some really great natural fiber rugs that can be used for layering or by themselves. All of these come in an 8'x10' that are either under or over $500.



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Then last but not least here are a few favorite budget friendly vintage-inspired rugs that can stand alone or be layered on top of a natural rug. I love a good vintage rug, as they can be mixed with so many styles and are always in style.






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DON"T FORGET TO SAVE (TO PINTEREST) FOR LATER!