Mad About . . .

How Big Should A Rug Be?

30th October 2018
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This post first appeared a couple of years ago but it’s still a question I am asked all the time so I thought I would go over the guidelines again and also show you some of the new rugs around this season for those who don’t need the information but might just fancy a new look.

the rules of rug layout: 1 - front legs only

The first thing to note is that for every one person who says there is a rule, another will want to break it. For every one person who tells you to do it this way, another will disagree. So let me say, these are my rules, you may disagree (at your peril mwahahaha) but at least you can feel free to experiment.

abstracto 6 rug from floorstory

abstracto 6 rug from floorstory 

The thing about breaking rules is you have to know how to do it or it can just be a mess, so start off with these guidelines and if you feel that in your house, with your furniture, things work differently, then by all means play around. And that, by the way, applies to all rules. Once you know what it’s supposed to be you can work out how to get around that in a way that works for you which is helpful if you don’t feel that you instinctively know what looks right. Which many people don’t.

bohdi rug from

bohdi rug from by rebecca hoyes

First up then, this is my personal number one. Buy the biggest rug you can afford. It doesn’t have to go all the way to the edge of the room – try leaving 18ins spare if that is you like so that you get the comfort and warmth of something like carpet but crucially that isn’t  – but aim to either have all the furniture on it, or at the very least, all the front legs. Adapting that rule? Front legs of the sofa, chairs freestanding. What you want to avoid is a rug island in the middle of the room with all the furniture standing respectfully round the edge of it.

To start with your visitors will feel that if the furniture isn’t allowed on the rug then nor are they, which isn’t a relaxing position from which to welcome your guests. Secondly, the room looks disjointed. A large rug brings everything together and creates a unified space. There is an exception to this rule (my rule) at the end… do you want me to pause while you all skip down there and come back? Go on then…..

And, if you read last week’s post about how to zone an open plan space you will also know how useful a large rug is for that too.

the rules of rug layout: it must be big enough to go under the bed

Right, rule two. To the bedroom with you. If you have a large rug in the bedroom it needs to pretty much go under the whole bed. You can keep the bedside tables off it if you like but don’t (please) do that thing where you have a bit of rug the same width as the bed sticking out of the end. It looks rubbish. It looks, basically, as if you couldn’t afford to buy a rug big enough for the room. And, if that was the case, and you couldn’t, then put that rug somewhere else.

rules of rug layout: a bedside rug can float

Or use it for rule three. A bedside rug can float. You can have one either side. These work particularly well if they’re odd shapes. I used to use the boys’ old sheepskins that they had in their prams by the sides of our bed.

rules of rug layout: if under a table it must be big enough for the chairs to stay on it

Leaving the bedroom and into the kitchen (or dining room), you can absolutely have a rug under the table but it must be large enough that the chairs can be pulled out and remain on the rug. Otherwise people trip, or they pull their chair in and rug gets caught up in an in a curls up. And people trip. Again, if your rug ain’t that big – put it somewhere else.

rules of rug layout: an oddly shaped rug can sit in the middle of the furniture as an island

And finally – that exception: if it’s an odd-shaped rug it can float like an island. This is because it can lie at a jaunty angle which, therefore, looks like you meant it. A small rectangle rug in the middle looks like you ran out of money and no you can’t put it at a jaunty angle. You can find rugs that are unusually shaped so if that is the look you want then buy one of those. There’s one below from Habitat which is pictured on the wall but it doesn’t need to be.

prado focus rug from woven

prado focus rug from woven 

Now, for those of you that are left with about four small rugs that you can’t use anywhere – there is a solution. As long as they aren’t too deep then layer. I have four rugs in my sitting room for that very reason. They don’t have to be the same pattern but the colours should tone. Or they can be the same design in different colours. Experiment. But, be aware, you are getting into rule-breaking territory so you need to be confident enough to trust your judgement here.

face rug by habitat

face rug by habitat 

It’s like wearing a really outrageous outfit to a party – if you feel good in it you will look good. If you feel nervous people can tell. The same with interior design. The basic, most important rule of them all? IT HAS TO LOOK LIKE YOU MEANT IT.

Yes, I’m shouting. If there is even a hint of panic about what you have done it will show.

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  • Wendy 1st November 2018 at 8:02 am

    This post is spot on Kate, I have been working on one myself lately…’s a question asked so often, and there is no getting away from it, size really does matter. Thanks Again. Wendy x

  • Sarah 30th October 2018 at 6:37 pm

    You must be psychic, Kate. This is the ‘problem du jour’ at my house with reference to the bedroom and your guidance has been most helpful! Now, if you could provide some pointers to affordable rugs for a large bedroom then that would be perfect!

    • Anny 30th October 2018 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks Kate – useful and informative as always. We are having the rug size discussion /argument at the moment and your guidance is so welcome (especially as it backs me up completely). Now just need to choose a large beautiful green rug! I love the one you have used in your bedroom, would you be able to tell me where you found that one?

  • Laura 30th October 2018 at 2:19 pm

    Some great advice here, but I have carpet throughout my house and I suspect that rug-over-carpet is another big no-no. You don’t mention that here, but all of the photos are of rugs over hard floors, so perhaps it just goes without saying?!

    • Kim 30th October 2018 at 3:28 pm

      There is wall-to-wall carpet in my house and I have rugs thrown all over that thing! The carpet is really neutral though —ivory in the living area and grey in the bedrooms— so that may make a difference. The rugs help with that zoning thing Kate talked about the other day as well.

  • Velvet 30th October 2018 at 7:46 am

    I don’t like layering rugs much, but if I have to do so for a client or something, then a cowhide rug works like a charm as the top layer over an area rug. It works every time, without having to worry too much about coordinating colors or patterns.

  • Caroline Warren Bank House Interiors 29th February 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Rather late in the day for commenting on this blog but it is really useful and I agree with all the ideas.

  • The Househunter 5/1/16 – Mad About The House 5th February 2016 at 7:00 am

    […] The spaces are, as you can tell, E-normous and while I love that, it does feel like the owners don’t quite have enough stuff to make it homely. I could fill it… let’s start with a big rug in that sitting room – at the moment it’s just three pieces of furniture. A rug would bring it all together. I wrote a post about that if you’re interested: The Rules of Rug Layout. […]

  • Valerie Taylor 13th January 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Can you tell me where the rug in layout two is from. Thanks.

  • Rosa 13th January 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Great advice, thanks! I love some of the rugs you’ve pictured. The one in layout 3 is lovely, and the other bedroom one. Do you know where they’re from?

    • sandra 13th January 2016 at 7:01 pm

      I like the bedroom rug too – it looks like Ikea Stockholm but not sure if they still have it in grey.

  • sandra 13th January 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks for the great post today – I can now sort out the rugs for our sitting room and bedroom 1. This is what I really like this site – the education/info elements. Anyone can have lots of Pinterest photos that look great but you really understand the rules that created the look. Thanks again.

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