One of the things we always say here at Ballard is: when decorating a room, start with a rug. A rug provides the perfect foundation of color, texture and style on which to build your room’s design. Choosing the look is only part of the challenge, though – you also need to know how to choose the right size rug.
As a general rule, designers recommend that you leave at least 18”-24” of bare floor exposed around all sides of a rug. You can get away with a little less in a small room like an entryway or bathroom, but otherwise 18” is a good starting point. The maximum amount of exposed floor is largely up to personal preference. So whether you want to call attention to a beautiful wood floor or cover up flooring that has seen better days, you can select a rug perfectly sized for your needs.
Here are some other room-specific guidelines to consider when making your choice.
First, measure your room. Next, position your furniture the way you’d like it. This will help you figure out precisely where you want your rug and how large you’d like it to be. For a room-sized rug, simply take 18”-24” off the room’s measurements. Rugs typically come in standard sizes, up to a maximum of about 10’ x 14’ or so. If your room is significantly larger than that, consider dividing it into separate seating areas, each with its own rug. Or place two matching rugs side-by-side to achieve the size you need.
If you prefer a smaller area rug, use your sofa as a guide and make sure your rug is at least as long as the sofa. Furniture can be positioned with legs on or legs off the rug – whichever works best with your arrangement and is more pleasing to your eye. Still having trouble deciding? Use some painter’s tape to mark out different positions and sizes for your rug. That will help you visualize the rug in your space and feel confident before you buy.
Have you fallen in love with a rug that’s too small for your space or would be budget-busting in the right size? Layer it on top of a larger, less expensive rug! Natural fiber rugs like seagrasses and jutes make great neutral backgrounds for a colorful hand-knotted rug or eye-catching cowhide, and are wallet-friendly even in large sizes.
After you’ve measured your room and taken off 18”-24” for exposed floor, you’ll next need to measure your dining table. (If your table has extensions/leaves, put them in place before measuring.) Your rug should be at least 24”-30” larger than your table on all sides to allow chairs to be pulled out for seating without falling off the edge of the rug.
A rug in a bedroom should be large enough that one can climb out of bed without touching the bare floor. You can achieve that via one large rug that goes under the bed and covers roughly 24” of floor on both sides (12”-18” for twin- or full-size beds) or by placing smaller area rugs on each side of the bed.
This is one of those rooms where you can cheat the 18” minimum of exposed floor rule a bit if need be. The most important factor to consider in this space is door clearance – make sure the rug you choose doesn’t have a thick pile that would prevent your door from opening properly.
Finally, keep traffic patterns in mind when determining entry rug placement. Constantly having to step on and off a rug as you move through a space can be annoying and even a trip hazard. Make sure the size and placement of your rug enhances your room’s comfort and style rather than distracting from it.
Related story: Guide to Rug Materials and Construction
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