How to Choose an Area Rug

A complete guide to selecting a rug you’ll love. An area rug can add texture and warmth to any room in your home. Whether you’re looking for a small, bold entryway rug or a large rug to anchor your living room furniture, you’ll find all the tips you need in this guide.

Once you’ve browsed some inspiration shots of area rugs, look to the size and shape of your room as a starting point. Would rectangular, square or round work best in your space?

Then start to think about the colours and patterns you’re drawn to. An area rug can be a perfect starting point for the rest of a room’s décor.

Area Rug Sizes

Living Room Rugs

9' x 12'

9' x 12'

If your furniture arrangement will be entirely on the rug, leave at least 6 inches of rug around the periphery. This arrangement is best for an open-concept space or any grouping of furniture that isn’t against a wall. In large living rooms, you can use two rugs to define two separate seating areas.

8' x 10'

8' x 10'

If you prefer the look of a rug slightly smaller than your furniture arrangement, choose a size that extends under the front set of legs on the sofas and chairs. This setup works well if your sofa is against a wall. Choose a size that allows for the front legs on every sofa and chair to be on the rug, while still leaving room to walk around the coffee table.

5' x 8'

5' x 8'

For smaller living rooms, a rug under the coffee table can play off the room’s scale and make it feel larger. Choose a rug size based on the interior dimensions of the furniture grouping and not the coffee table itself. Usually 5’ x 8’ or 4’ x 6’ rugs work well under coffee tables. Try to fill up as much negative space as possible without going under the front legs of the furniture. Use the shape of your coffee table as a guide, too — a rectangular rug for a rectangular coffee table or a round rug for a round coffee table.

Dining Room Rugs

9' x 12'

9' x 12'

Measure the length and width of your table, then add at least 4 feet to each. This should allow at least 2 feet for chairs to be pulled out without sliding off the rug. Don’t forget to allow for extendable leaves, if your table has them.

8' x 10'

8' x 10'

Use a rug to define a dining area in a large eat-in kitchen. An 8’ x 10’ rug is often large enough for a small table and chairs. Still allow for 2 feet around the periphery for chairs to be pulled out without sliding off the rug.

8' Round

8' Round

Choose a rug based on the shape of your dining table (round, oval, square or rectangular), but still go with a size large enough to keep chair legs from being pulled out onto the floor.

Bedroom Rugs

9' x 12'

9' x 12'

Use your bed as the focal point for rug placement. If you like the look of a large rug, choose one that covers the area of the bed and its accompanying furniture pieces like nightstands and benches, but does not include furniture along the walls like dressers.

8' x 10'

8' x 10'

If you prefer a smaller rug, place it under two-thirds of the bed, leaving the nightstands off the rug. You should still allow for at least 18 inches of rug on either side and foot of the bed. Generally, an 8’ x 10’ rug is good for a queen-sized bed, and a 9’ x 12’ rug is best for a king.

2' x 6'

2' x 6'

Two runners fit nicely on either side of a bed against a single wall. Choose a size that isn’t longer than the bed and is a bit wider than the nightstands. You can place the front legs of your nightstands on the rug, or leave them off entirely. If your bed is tucked into a corner, opt for a single runner on one side.

Kitchen Rug Tips:

Kitchen Rug Tips
  • For a long or galley-style kitchen, choose a runner that will leave at least a few inches of floor between the edge of the rug and the toe kick.
  • A runner adds softness underfoot when you spend long hours prepping meals or washing dishes, and also protects your floor from dropped pots and pans.
  • For a large eat-in kitchen with a dining table, choose a round, square or rectangular rug (depending on the shape of your table) under the table and chairs.
  • Remember to choose a rug large enough that all chairs remain on the rug when pulled out.

Shop by Size

Colour & Pattern

Tip: Choose a Rug Colour to Complement Your Space

Tip: Choose a Rug Colour to Complement Your Space
  • Designers suggest choosing an area rug as a starting point for décor. Pick a shade from its design to influence wall colour and throw pillows.
  • Lighter-coloured rugs can make a small room seem larger, and darker rugs add an intimate, cozy feel.
  • If you’re splurging on a rug made from a more expensive material, choose a neutral colour that you won’t tire of over the years.
  • A rug will read as one of the largest pieces of “furniture” in the room, so remember to consider the tones in your flooring and other fixed finishes like ceiling lights before choosing a rug colour.

Shop by Colour Palette

Tip: Choose a Pattern That Works With Your Décor

Tip: Choose a Pattern That Works With Your Décor
  • If you have furniture upholstery or wallpaper with a bold pattern, choose an area rug with a subtle pattern or solid colour.
  • If the rest of the room is fairly subdued, try a rug with a fun pattern.
  • Traditional rugs often have a central medallion, which works well in a spacious room with subtle décor.
  • If the room already has a focal point like a fireplace, for example, consider choosing a rug with a more repetitive pattern.
  • Avoid covering up a central medallion with a coffee table, dining table or bed — let the medallion take centre stage.

Shop by Pattern

Materials

Choosing either a natural or synthetic fibre depends on the style of rug you want, how much traffic you expect to have in the area and your budget. Learn about the pros and cons of natural and synthetic fibres before buying a rug to suit your lifestyle.

  Pros: Cons:

Natural

(Cotton, Jute, Seagrass, Sisal, Wool)

  • Wool and cotton feel nicer to the touch than synthetic fibres.
  • Better bounce-back after wear and tear from foot traffic and heavy furniture.
  • Wool is stain- and water-resistant.
  • Cotton rugs can be tossed in the washing machine.
  • Very durable.
  • Jute, sisal and seagrass are allergy-friendly.
  • Jute, sisal and organic cotton are more eco-friendly than other materials.
  • Generally more expensive than synthetic fibres.
  • Cotton tends to fade in direct sunlight.
  • Jute, sisal and seagrass can be difficult to clean because they’re not stain-resistant.
  • Synthetic

    (Acrylic, Nylon, Polyester, Polypropylene)

  • Easy to clean.
  • Very durable.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Come in vibrant, steadfast colours.
  • Nylon and polypropylene are stain- and water-resistant, making them perfect fibres for outdoor rugs.
  • Polyester isn’t very durable and doesn’t bounce back from foot traffic and heavy furniture as well as natural fibres do.
  • Synthetic fibres don’t feel as nice underfoot as wool and cotton.
  • Popular Fibres

    Wool

    Wool

    Best for: Living rooms and bedrooms.

    Jute

    Jute

    Best for: High-traffic areas and 
    homes with allergy concerns.

    Cotton

    Cotton

    Best for: Kids’ rooms.

    Polypropylene

    Polypropylene

    Best for: Balconies, patios and decks.

    Tip: Consider Pile Height

    Tip: Consider Pile Height
    • Pile height refers to the thickness of a rug measured in length from the backing to the surface.
    • Pile heights can vary from 1/4 inch for flatwoven rugs or 3/4 inch or longer for shag rugs.
    • Low-pile rugs are best for high-traffic areas — they’re easier to maintain and will generally last longer.
    • High-pile rugs are a plush option for living rooms and bedrooms, but remember that furniture will leave indentations in the pile.
    • If a door will open onto your rug, be sure to choose a lower pile height.

    Ideas: 8 Styling Tricks for Area Rugs

    Ideas: 8 Styling Tricks for Area Rugs
    1. If you want the rug to be the focal point, place it off-centre (a round rug to one side of a sofa) or on an angle (a rectangular rug angled under the foot of a bed).
    2. Layer a few low-pile rugs for a casual, cozy look.
    3. Consider using an outdoor rug indoors — they tend to be more durable and stain-resistant.
    4. In a large open-concept space, use rugs to delineate zones (TV area, seating area by a fireplace, and dining area, for example).
    5. The colours in the rug don’t have to match the colours in your room — just choose a rug you love and make it work. Pare down throw pillows and other accessories if they’re competing too much with the rug.
    6. Combine rugs of different textures for added interest (a sisal runner in the entryway and a more formal wool rug in the living room, for example).
    7. Bigger is usually better. A few inches makes all the difference between a rug pulling a room together or chopping it up. If you’re debating between two sizes, the larger one will prove worth the extra expense.
    8. In a room where the bed isn’t centred on a wall (maybe closer to one side of the room than the other), position an area rug slightly under one side of the bed — the side that opens out into the room.

    Maintenance: How to Extend the Life of Your Area Rug

    Tip: How to Clean Area Rugs

    Tip: How to Clean Area Rugs

    Most area rugs are easily vacuumed, but turn off or remove the rotating barrel option for a high-pile shag rug. Vacuum high-traffic areas frequently and clean spills quickly by blotting rather than rubbing and scrubbing. While some rugs can be cleaned with chemical carpet cleaners, others should only be treated with mild soap and water. When in doubt, check your manufacturer’s recommendation. Remember to rotate rugs (especially cotton and wool versions) every 6 to 12 months to even out wear and tear. 

    Tip: How to Choose a Rug Pad

    Tip: How to Choose a Rug Pad

    A rug pad is a thin, protective layer of material usually made of rubber. Not only do rug pads keep your rug properly positioned, they can reduce wear and tear, absorb noise, prevent spills from leaking onto the floor, and make vacuuming easier. For hard flooring like concrete, hardwood, laminate and tile, choose a rug pad made from heavier polyester scrim coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to prevent slipping and scratching of the floor beneath the area rug. If you’re laying a rug over carpet, choose a rug pad with a thin polyester fabric coated with adhesive — it will prevent a dark area rug from bleeding through on a light carpet. 

    Rugs Defined: A Glossary of Terms

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