Living room rugs: How to choose the right one for your space

by Dale Burrows
Bayliss - Ivy Rug FogCream - Moroccan Style - Wool Rug - Nest Living

Post by Bron Burrows, Interior Designer at Ivy + Finch Interior Design

At a glance:
  • The right living room rug will pull together the overall look of your room. 
  • Size/placement: Your living room rug should be large enough so that either a) all of your living room furniture fits on top of it, b) the front legs of your furniture fit on top of it c) only a small space is left between it and your furniture, so that your feet touch the rug when you stand up from your couch or armchair.
  • Colour: Dependent on your style, but keep in mind your living room’s focal point; if it’s an epic piece of art, for example, go for a neutral colour and style of rug and vice versa. 
  • Materials: 100% wool rugs offer the highest level of comfort and durability. Flatweave rugs are another hard-wearing option, which are friendlier for smaller budgets. If your rug’s to withstand the added … delights (or challenges, depending on the day) of pets and kids, a polypropylene rug is cheaper than a wool rug, and super easy to clean.

 Bayliss Rug - Nordic Round Rug - Pinecone - Handwoven Wool

Rugs bring warmth, comfort and style to our interiors, while helping to keep our houses clean by preventing debris like dirt and sand from spreading too far within them. Living room rugs, in particular, help to pull together the overall look of the room, which is helpful as living rooms tend to extend from other interior spaces, rather than stand as separate rooms. 

Area rugs come in many different sizes, shapes, colours, patterns and materials, so it's not surprising that choosing the right rug for your living room can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve provided a few tips to help you, including advice on:

  • How to style your living room rug
  • What size rugs are best for the living room
  • How to place rugs in your living room
  • How to choose the right colour rug for your living room
  • What materials are best for living room rugs.

How to style your living room rug

If you’re designing or decorating your living room from scratch, should you pick the rug before selecting any other furnishing? As interior designers, we get asked this question a lot.

Honestly, there’s no short answer, as it always depends on your desired outcome, as well as the overall design of your living room. However, because the living room tends to endure less traffic than other areas of the house – such as the entranceway, for example – it’s likely that style will be your deciding factor in choosing the rug rather than, say, function. (That said, we do have something to say about durable rug materials, but more on that below!)

So, with style in mind, a good rule of thumb is to know what your final vision for your living room will be, with a good idea specifically of its hero piece. Will it be the super classy fireplace and mantel or an epic piece of artwork? If it’s the latter, you won’t want to pair it with a busy rug. However, if you’re loving the bold patterns of a designer rug, you can use that as your hero piece and design the rest of the living room around the rug. Bring in the accent pillows!

Designer Rug - Persian Bidjar - Handcrafted Wool Rug - One-Off - Nest Living

What size rugs are best for the living room

A mistake we see a lot of DIYers make when choosing rug size is selecting a rug that is too small for their space. A too-small rug can look ridiculously out of place (like a postage stamp!) Not to mention, rugs that are too small can make the room appear smaller and become a trip hazard. 

The easiest way to choose the right size living room rug is to measure your existing living room layout, including how the furniture is arranged within the space (or consult your plans, if you’re awaiting new furniture).

Once you have these measurements, ensure the living room rug you choose is large enough so that your living room furniture can either sit:

  • entirely on top of the rug, 
  • with its front legs on top of the rug or, 
  • half a step away from the rug, as the rug is centred within the room. 
Bayliss Rugs - Memphis Rug - Maya - Wool Living Room Rug Geometric

Whichever of the three primary placements you decide on, one thing should remain the same: whenever you get up from the couch after a Saturday night Netflix binge, your feet should be touching rug. 

Keep in mind, though, that when we say that your furniture (or at least its front legs) should sit on the rug, we don’t always include the focal point of the room – like the fireplace hearth or entertainment unit. Typically, the rug will fall short of these (besides the point, but you’d have a hard time putting a fireplace on a rug, anyway…)

So, measure your room, measure your furniture’s layout, and choose a rug that can either touch – or nearly touch – every piece.

How to place rugs in living room

Similar to when selecting the size of your living room rug, consider your living room furniture and arrangement when placing your living room rug. The same rule applies; your rug must either be touching - or nearly touching - every piece.

How to choose the right rug colour for your living room

Bayliss Rugs - Coast Rug Dunes - Bamboo Silk and Wool - Nest LivingChoosing the colour or pattern for your living room rug is dependent on your desired style, existing living room furniture, and space.

If your living room is small, it pays to avoid ‘loud’ or ‘busy’ rugs, as it can make the room appear smaller or cluttered. When it comes to colours, aim for a dichotomy; incorporate light and dark colours, for example. If your room features mostly dark furniture, you may not want to get a dark coloured rug – unless, of course, your intention is to create a moody atmosphere. If your furniture is bright and patterned, a solid-colour rug is typically best, and vice versa; neutral furniture pairs well with a patterned rug.

 Our best advice: if you’re looking to style your own living room, spend some time on Pinterest or Instagram, and even check out great interior designers’ project portfolios, to get an idea of the kinds of colours and living room layouts you like. 

What material and texture should I choose for my living room rug?

Bayliss Rug - Kensington - Shade - Living Room Rugs - Nest Living

When choosing rug materials and textures, consider first the function of your living room rug. 

If you’re a parent or regular carer of kids or pets, and you foresee your rug receiving a lot of attention and sort-of love from such, you may like to purchase a polypropylene rug – made of synthetic fibers – which can be easily hosed down for cleaning. 

 Otherwise, we highly recommend 100% wool rugs – not blends. Wool is water-, flame- and stain-resistant, with natural properties that deter bacteria and purify the home – it makes for a true wonder rug! Wool rugs can remain vibrant and in good condition for decades; when professionally cleaned they can look brand new.

If you don’t have the budget for a wool rug but would like something that’s durable, we recommend a flatweave rug. 

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