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How to Place an Area Rug

Whether it’s the focal point of the room or a neutral base to highlight your decor, choosing the right area rug will bring harmony to your interior design. The right size rug can breathe life into a room and unify your furnishings. Before you start shopping, take a moment to assess the size of your room. This will help ensure that the rug size you choose is neither too big nor too small for your intended space. Plan ahead and take measurements to help you narrow down your choices before sifting through styles and colors.

4 Things to Consider Before You Buy a Rug

1. Style Goals

The first step in determining your style goals is to decide what the focal point of the room will be. For example, you may be styling a sitting area or maybe you’re looking for a small rug to complement a compact kitchen. Once you choose the focal point, consider the colors, patterns, and style of decor you have in the designated space to help you coordinate your selection. If the room is large, you may want to layer different rug patterns and sizes to help create contrast. Ultimately, your goal is to unify your decor.

2. The “Bare Floor” Rule

An important rule when using a large area rug is to maintain a border of bare floor all the way around it. Take the borders of your room into consideration when measuring for a larger size. Traditionally, it’s recommended that you leave at least an 18-inch border of space on each side of the rug to keep the look symmetrical, or 8 inches of space if the room is smaller.

3. Shape & Material

Consider foot traffic and location when choosing a material. For high-traffic areas, look for materials that are easy to clean and will stand up to stains and general wear, like bamboo or wool. Next, think about your furnishings to determine the right shape and style. The shape of the room and style of your decor will help you find the right area rug size.

4. Placement

To help visualize how an area rug will look in your space, use masking tape to create a border on the floor where you ultimately want to place it. When measuring your room, give yourself a 2-inch margin of error to help you avoid picking the wrong size. Once you have the tape placed exactly where you want it, you can then measure the length and width of the area. Use those dimensions to help you choose from the standard sizes for rugs to find a fit that is closest to your desired measurements.

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Overstock TeamFranDeborah DennisDee BeeSue Recent comment authors

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Thanks, good ideas for pulling a room together. Large open spaces look good with area rugs also and it gives the rooms distinct areas for the furniture placement.

Dee Bee
Dee Bee

Can you place the area rug on top a wall to wall carpet

Overstock Team

Hi Dee Bee!
You sure can put a rug over wall to wall carpet! Check out our other guide on area rugs and number 7 should answer your question.

Deborah Dennis
Deborah Dennis

If I have a 36″ square dining table, what’s the best size to put down? Is a 6×6 rug okay?

Overstock Team

Hi Deborah!

Yes, your 6’x6’ rug should work beautifully for your table. You typically want a rug that extends 24 inches beyond your chair backs, but larger is often better, so 6’x6’ should be a great size for your 36” square table.


What size rug do I need for a 11′ x 11′ office? A 5 1/2′ desk is placed off one wall. Do I center the rug for the room or under the desk?

Overstock Team

Great question, Fran!

While the rug size depends on how much coverage you’d like in the room and the placement of furniture, we suggest centering a 5- by 8-foot rug underneath your desk. You could place only the outer two legs on top of the rug for a more modern and contemporary look. For more information about placing area rugs, we suggest watching this video!