Area Rug Rules of Thumb to Follow

Width and placement are the first priorities

red area rug anchoring a living room with white furniture
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There are plenty of reasons why it’s ideal to have an area rug in a living room, bedroom, or other living space. Area rugs provide comfort, warmth, and decorative interest (color, pattern, texture, etc.). And they can create a frame in which to place furniture and define spaces.

Area rugs are often advantageous over wall-to-wall carpeting because they are easier to clean. And if you get tired of the look, it’s easier to switch out an area rug and replace it with something new. While there are tons of options, there are certain rug rules to consider before buying an area rug.

Size

Keep the following tips in mind regarding area rug size:

  • The most frequent mistake people make with area rugs is to get one that is too small. An area rug should fit under all of the key furniture pieces in a room. So think about your furniture arrangement before committing to a rug. For instance, a rug should go far enough under a couch that at least the couch's front legs—and preferably its back legs too—can be on the rug. The rug also should be at least 6 inches wider than the couch. For smaller furniture, the entire piece should be able to fit on the rug.
  • If you have a particularly large room, divide it into zones and use a different rug for each one. The rugs don’t have to match, but they should be tied together by color or pattern.
  • For most average-size rooms, a rug should cover all but approximately 1 to 2 feet of bare floor between its edges and the walls. So that would mean at least a 10-foot square rug size for a 12x12 foot room. Make sure the rug is centered in the room and the distance between the rug and the wall is the same on all four sides.
  • No matter what the size, make sure that in heavily trafficked areas there is enough room for people to walk on the rug. They shouldn’t have one foot on and one foot off.

Color and Pattern

Don’t be afraid to choose a rug with color and pattern, but remember these tips:

  • Area rugs are like artwork for the floor, and they’re a great way to infuse some playfulness into a room. But at the same time, consider furniture placement if the rug pattern isn't uniform. You don't want the part of the rug with the design to be covered up.
  • If your room is an unusual size or you want to customize a pattern, consider carpet tiles. Carpet tiles (such as those from FLOR) come in a variety of colors and patterns, so you can choose what works for you. It’s also possible to switch out tiles if there’s a spill.
  • For inspiration on color and pattern, check out rug sources like Madeline Weinrib and Dash and Albert.

Maintenance

Cleaning guidelines for rugs vary, but there are certain things you can do to maintain your rug to help it look its best and last for years to come. Before buying, think about where you’ll be using it and what kind of maintenance will be required:

  • Generally speaking, medium- to high-pile rugs should be thoroughly cleaned once a year to remove dust, hair, and allergens. Vacuuming isn’t enough. You'll either have to send the rug out or invest in a carpet cleaner, taking the rug's individual cleaning guidelines into account.
  • Low-pile and flatweave rugs should be taken outside periodically to be shaken out.
  • Rugs made of natural fibers, such as jute and sisal, generally can't be washed, so big spills might result in permanent damage. That said, they don’t show minor dirt and stains as much as other fibers.
  • Keep the rug tags with cleaning instructions, so you don't forget any specific cleaning do's and don'ts.

Watch Now: How to Select an Area Rug