This Is the One Rule Designers Agree on for Buying Rugs and Placing Furniture

Should furniture side fully atop the rug, or is having it partially on top OK?

a living room with emerald green ceiling, yellow sofas, a black and white rug, and large windows that flood the room with light

Natalie Papier / Photo by Megan Easterday

Designers don’t discriminate when it comes to rug styles—we see spaces featuring everything from classic jute pieces to vibrant Turkish throws to comforting sheepskins. But when it comes to positioning furniture atop a rug, people can have some strong opinions. Some feel that furniture lining the perimeter of a room must be placed at least partially on a rug, while others can’t get on board with this concept. We polled four interior designers to find out their thoughts on this much debated matter, and lo and behold, we received an array of different takes, which we outline below! 

  • 01 of 03

    Try to Position Furniture Fully Atop the Rug—If Possible

    a living room with neutrals and black and white pieces

    Alex Nino / Photo by Kirsten Francis

    “My philosophy when it comes to selecting an area rug that’s appropriate for a room is ‘go big or go home,’” designer Alex Nino commented. “The biggest mistake you can make when choosing a rug size is getting one that’s too small for the space.” So how is a homeowner to know whether the rug they’re eyeing is indeed size appropriate? Nino suggested allowing for 12 to 18 inches of space between the edge of the rug and the walls. 

    Thus, Nino doesn’t just think that furniture legs should touch the rug—she’s a proponent of going all in. “Wherever possible, I think the optimal configuration is one that allows all the furniture to sit fully on the rug below,” Nino noted. Of course, this may not always be feasible, so there is room for modification. “Try to keep the front legs of chairs and sofas at least touching the rug in some way,” Nino said. “This creates a nicely cohesive look and unified seating area anchored by the rug itself.” 

    But, she added, there are some cases in which this rule can be broken altogether. “An exception would be if you’re placing furniture on the perimeter that’s more decorative than it is functional, say, for example, a great antique chair from your latest flea market finds,” Nino said. “Since that item isn't intended to belong to a formal sitting group, it’s absolutely ok to place it along the perimeter walls where it’s not touching a rug at all.” 

  • 02 of 03

    Make Sure Furniture at Least Touches the Rug

    a white chair is positioned on the edge of a rug in a neutral baby room

    Alex Nino / Photo by Kirsten Francis

    If you're not able to fit all of your furnishings fully atop a rug, don’t sweat it too much, but focus on components of each piece at least partially on the rug, designer Whitney Riter Gelinas advised. “​​I am a pretty firm believer that all the furniture should at least be touching the rug,” she explained. “Even if it’s just the feet of a chair, something about having all the furniture on the rug really ties the space together.” 

    Designer Natalie Papier agreed. “My theory is that the front legs of furniture should always be on the rug to ground the space and not make the rug feel like it’s just out there floating,” she said. “When a rug isn’t grounded by the furniture, it typically feels too small for the space.” 

    If you have a smaller rug that you love but just won’t be sizable enough for your space, take a cue from Galinas. “One of my favorite tricks for large rooms is to layer rugs—if you put a large sisal down to cover the majority of the square footage, you can then layer on a smaller vintage rug,” she said. “This adds a little character and can highlight a part of the room without making it feel too separate.” This is an excellent way to play with different color schemes, too—go ahead and lay a vibrant piece atop a more neutral one for some pizzazz.

  • 03 of 03

    Make the Furniture Scale Your Priority

    a neutral nursery room features a mint green wallpaper, white oak crib, and a white rug, drapes, bookshelves, and more

    Alex Nino / Photo by Kirsten Francis

    Designer Nichole Samuel offered yet another opinion. “When it comes to furniture and rugs, there is no real rule of thumb about placement around the perimeter,” she explained. “However, furniture should be placed in proportion to the size of the room and to the size of the furniture.” This means opting for a large area rug to sit under the bed and nightstands versus placing a smaller throw rug at the end of the bed, for example.

    The One Thing You Should Do

    This concept ties back to what Papier mentioned about a rug “floating” in a space—clearly, designers agree this is a setup to avoid. Make sure your rug isn't hanging out on its own—anchor it with some furniture.