Best Living Room Rug Placement for Your Home

A bright, modern living room with a Persian rug.

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If your home doesn't have wall-to-wall carpeting, an area rug is a must-have accessory for a cozy, comfy living room—and if you do have wall-to-wall carpeting, the right area rug can add a pop of color, texture, and pattern to your space.

When it comes to decorating, the area rug you choose for your living room may seem like an afterthought, but in reality, the right-sized or wrong-sized rug can seriously make or break your space. A too-small area rug can make a room feel unfinished, one that's too large can look like wall-to-wall carpeting—or might not fit in your room space-wise. What's more, area rugs can be a major financial investment, and returning rugs purchased online can be a headache, not to mention pricey if you're stuck with return shipping costs.

So, are you feeling the pressure? We know choosing the right-sized area rug is a major design decision, so we've rounded up some of the best tips for choosing the best area rug for your living room's dimensions, furniture, and more.

Measure Your Living Room

Sure, a six-foot-by-nine-foot area rug may sound large enough for your living room, but is it really? Should you opt for a rectangular rug or a square rug? Before you even start shopping for an area rug, be sure to measure your living room's dimensions. Most living room rugs measure eight feet by 10 feet, or nine feet by 12 feet, but your space may require a smaller or larger pick.

Once you've determined your dimensions, keep these general rules in mind while you shop:

  1. The edge of the rug should be at least 10 to 18 inches from the wall. If it's too close, it can look too much like wall-to-wall carpeting. If your sofa is against a wall, however, feel free to scoot the rug a little closer to the wall—no one will see the edge, and it'll save space in between pieces of furniture.
  2. Make sure your rug is at least six inches—but ideally, eight inches—wider than your sofa on both ends.
  3. Sofas are typically placed on the long end of a rug, so make sure your room measures wide enough.
  4. If your living room is big enough, try to leave at least 30 to 36 inches of space between larger pieces of furniture, like the couch, coffee table, or armchairs. This will prevent you (and your guests) from stumbling over too-close furniture. If your living room is smaller, aim for 18 to 24 inches of space between pieces.

If you're having a hard time visualizing your living room's new set up, measure out your desired rug size and furniture placement with blue painter's tape. It won't damage your flooring or carpeting, it's super cheap, and it's an easy way to really see your space before you buy.

Layer Rugs to Save Money

Depending on its materials, production, style, size, and age, a large living room area rug can be a serious financial investment.

There are plenty of resources for large, yet affordable area rugs from online shops, to discounted home goods stores, but our favorite way to maximize coverage without blowing the budget is to layer a smaller rug over a larger, more affordable rug. Placing a five foot by seven foot Persian rug over an affordable nine foot by 12 foot jute or sisal rug, for example, can add warmth, texture, and interest to your space without being a massive investment. Some other pairings include a cowhide or sheepskin rug over a jute or sisal rug; layered rugs in complimentary patterns; and a boldly patterned rug layered over a neutral rug.

We recommend layering the smaller rug in the center of your larger rug. Having the rug edges too close together can be a tripping hazard.

Determine Your Furniture Placement

Before you buy an area rug, it's also important to figure out the placement of your living room furniture. Every space is different (and it's okay to bend decorating rules!) but these are the most popular arrangements for a living room:

All legs on the rug

If you have a large living room, try placing all of your bigger pieces—including the couch, coffee table, armchairs, and side tables—on your area rug. Try to give at least eight inches of space between the edge your furniture and the edge of your rug.

Front legs on the rug

If you want to maximize the walkway space between your pieces of furniture, place only the front legs of your sofa and chairs on the area rug. This arrangement can make a smaller living room feel much larger, too.

Float your furniture

This is technically a design rule breaker, but like we said—it's okay to bend decorating rules here and there. If you have a smaller rug you absolutely love, place it under your coffee table only. Just try to avoid more than five inches of space between the edge of your sofa and the edge of your rug.

A small, modern living room.
Oscar Wong/Moment/Getty Images 

Ready to get shopping? Remember: It's okay to change up design rules depending on your taste, budget, and space, but choosing the right-sized area rug for your living room is an easy way to take the space from "meh" to marvelous.