Choosing the Right Sized Area Rug

Sometimes planning the layout of a room comes down to numbers just as much as style and decoration. While traditional interior designers might normally default to the trusty tape measure and a trip to the local home furnishings store, nowadays the task can be even more difficult due to online shopping forums. Even knowing the measurements of your room and furniture, it can be hard to determine exactly how large to buy such things as area rugs. But with a little information, as well as some new digital tools, one can size up a room to find an area rug that fits perfectly.

When sizing a rug, choosing too big or small of a size can make the room look incomplete or poorly decorated. A good place to start is deciding if your rug will cover a large area or if it will serve as a small accent. For a larger area rug, decide which furniture will be placed on top of it; make sure the rug is large enough to accommodate all furniture with at least 12 inches of rug extending beyond the edge of the furniture. Alternatively, make sure the rug is small enough so that the furniture will rest completely off the edges. For example, in a living room, the rug should either extend a foot beyond all sofas and tables, or it should be small enough so that the front legs of the sofas do not rest on the rug. (See the images below).

Similarly, in a bedroom, the rug may serve as an accent at the foot of the bed or next to the bed. But if the bed will rest on top of the rug, it should extend at least 18 inches from the edge of the bed.

And when sizing your rug, be sure to consider distance from the wall as well. Generally, the rug should end at least a foot from the edge of the wall. Sometimes this guideline is not necessary, like for some hallway runners or when a rug extends from the wall, as in the bedroom picture above. These rules vary if your main piece of furniture is against a wall, so take into consideration your room layout.

When choosing the proper size rug, also consider the shape you plan to purchase. A rectangular rug may fit your space differently than an oval rug, and you may choose one over the other depending on the shape of the room. Rectangular and square rugs are ideal for rectangular and square spaces, but a room with odd corners might benefit from a rug with round edges, as it won't conflict with the dimensions or seem oddly placed. Plus, it will give a nice, balanced feel to a room with many corners. Round rugs are measured similarly to rectangular rugs, and the length corresponds with the diameter.

This image was created with Arrange-a-Room

Additional Sizing Tools: New Software

Wouldn't it be nice if you could view of a model of your living room, with furniture precisely placed and measured, so that you could add various items to see how they look before purchasing them? With room layout software, this useful tool is now a reality. Companies like Icovia offer a few different options for digital room layouts, from 2D maps with symbols to detailed, 3D images that even include lighting and shadows. One simply begins by entering the type of room and dimensions. Once the blank room has been created, the user may add a wide range of furniture, size it, and place it into the room. If the user is considering purchasing an area rug, he or she may try out different shapes and sizes to get a clear understanding of exactly how the rug will look.

3D imaging software can help you visualize the layout of a room. This image is from Icovia.

Room layout software is not only great for customers, but also for interior designers and retailers. Interior designers may show a design example, complete with the customer's already existing furniture, before purchasing a thing. And furniture, rug and home decor retailers can better assist their customers in choosing the proper size rug or furniture by displaying a digital picture of the room pre- and post- purchase. But most of all, those struggling to visualize the addition of a rug can better judge the proper size and shape for a room.

At the end of the day, the size of your rug can determine the overall feel of a room, so choosing the proper dimensions can make or break your design. By paying attention to furniture positioning, the purpose of the rug, and by measuring and mapping out the space, customers and designers can confidently purchase an area rug of the proper size.

Top tape measure photo courtesy of