A rug can be a great finishing touch to a room, helping you to make the most of the space you have, and bringing the room to life. But it can also have the opposite effect if you choose the wrong rug. The wrong size or shape rug could make the furniture and space within the room feel disproportionate and ruin the impact of the design of the room. It can be tricky to visualise the size of your room, or where the furniture should sit in relation to the rug you select, hopefully our tips below can help with your selection.

The 18” Rule

Traditional interior decorating uses border rules for how much bare space you should have between your area rug and the edge of the room. This is based on the rug sitting in the centre of the room, and being the same shape as the room, meaning that there’s an equal distance free around the entirety of the rug. The principle was that these 18 inches would allow for people to move through the room without it feeling over-crowded with decoration, but still making the space feel welcoming and homely.

If your room is on the smaller side then 18 inches’ space may limit your rug options, and leave the room feeling broken up slightly.  Here the rules become a bit more flexible and you can move to as small a border as 8 inches.

However, as trends have changed and the way we furnish our homes has become much more inventive, so has the way you select a rug. In our guide we explore the many factors to consider when picking the perfect size rug.

How to Measure

If your rug is only going to fill a small portion of your room, it may feel like overkill to measure the entire room. However, it’s crucial to understand the scale of the space you’re going to fill. This helps you all for overlaps, and to see the size of the walkways you’ll be leaving bare.

When you’re measuring furniture areas, look not just at the size of the total furniture, but also at the position of the legs. Furniture will be unstable if it is forced to have one leg on a plush rug and the others on a hardwood floor. If you’re placing furniture on the rug, you ideally want around 6-10 inches of additional material from the edge of the furniture – this allows for people sitting on sofas, using tables and chairs etc.

For rooms which are an unusual shape, or already filled with furniture then measuring around twists and turns can be difficult. If you have a partner or friend to help, then try using string instead of a typical measuring tape for a simpler means of sizing up your rooms, which will be more flexible and easier to move around items. This can also be useful if you don’t have a long tape measure available to check the size as you can fold in half several times and multiply the length by the appropriate multiple (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.).

Sizes

Rugs typically come in standard sizes, with typical measurements. If you’re finding it hard to translate centre metres, inches and all of that into real terms, we’ve had a look at how these rugs measure up to some everyday objects.

CM
Inches
80 x 150
 2’7” x 4’11”
Slightly bigger than a coffee table, so could be a nice size to fit underneath
120 x 170
3’11” x 5’7” Approximately the size of a two seater sofa
160 x230
5’3” x 7’7” This is about the size of an 8-person dining room table
200 x 300
6’7” x 9’10” A standard 3 seat sofa can be up to about 210cm wide, so this could be a good size to fit under a floating 3 seat sofa.
240 x 340
7’10” x 11’2” A good size to fit under a standard double bed (135 cm × 190 cm)
280 x 360
9’2” x 11’10” A good size to fit under a standard double bed (135 cm × 190 cm) or possibly a larger bed, King (152 cm × 198 cm) or Super King (180 cm × 200 cm)


Pick a Place

The key part of knowing the size of rug you’ll need is to consider whether it’s to be the focal point of the room or just a decorative extra. This all comes down to where in the room you’re placing it.

If you’re looking for a rug in a bedroom with the bed in the centre of the room, why not opt for a runner either side of the bed? Or think larger by placing the rug underneath the bed. If you’re looking to place a rug under a standard double bed then you should opt for a rug around 280x360 cm, which will provide enough overlap for the design to still be visible.

The On or Off Debate

There’s disagreement on if you should always place your furniture on top of the rug, or off the rug entirely. If you’re planning for your furniture to be on the rug, then it’s likely you’ll need to think bigger to avoid squashing your furniture pieces together. For those who are undecided, the main rule here is just to be consistent with all of your furniture in the area.

A rug can break up a room too much if it is focused on just a couple of furniture pieces, for example if in a seating area, make sure all sofas and chairs have their legs on or off, rather than just a couple.

If your furniture is floating (that means not pushed against a wall) then often a larger rug, which the furniture is on top of will look better. Meanwhile, furniture that is on the edge of the room can benefit from the rug being more central. 

Shape and Size

As part of selecting the size of rug you need, you also need to select an appropriate shape. If you don’t have a flair for interior design, then it’s best to keep it simple and pick a shape that you know will compliment your room. In general, this means choosing a rug which is the same shape as the overall room, and the furniture within it. For example, if you have a circular dining table which you’ll be placing the rug on, then a circular rug is guaranteed to coordinate well.

It is recommended to avoid placing a square rug within a rectangular room as it can make elements feel out of proportion and hard to choose where relative in the room to place it. Whilst this is the traditional view, it can be good to be a little quirky and opt for contrasting shapes to help make a room feel more modern.