icon How to Pick a Rug for Your Living Room

How to Pick a Rug for Your Living Room

In an 1850 essay called Philosophy of Furniture, Edgar Allen Poe stated that "the soul of the apartment is the carpet." While this might feel a bit overkill to modern sensibilities, it doesn't change the fact that your flooring choice can have a major impact on the vibe and feel of your home space.

When it's time to decorate your home, it can feel like there is an unending number of pieces to the puzzle. What style should you choose? What's your color palette?

Whether you're starting from scratch or need to replace your old, tattered rug, it's worth learning a bit about how to pick a rug for a living room. This can help ensure that you invest in a piece that adds to your interior design, rather than looking clunky or out of place.

With no further ado, let's take a look at how you can pick out the perfect rug for your living room!

How to Pick a Rug For the Living Room: First Consider How You Use the Room

When you are choosing a rug for your living room, it's easy to start thinking about the aesthetic right off the bat. However, you'll want to slow down a bit and start somewhere a little less fun: how can you pick a rug that fits with the practical reality of how the room is used?

For example, if you have young kids and a lot of pets, you'll probably want to choose a rug that can withstand a lot of wear and tear. You'll probably also want a rug that's easy to clean, durable, and soft.

Close up of baby feet in yellow sweatpants and blue and white striped socks.  Baby is sitting on the a striped rug on a light wood floor.

If you really feel like your house is more like a zoo than a residence, you might consider getting an indoor-outdoor rug rather than a strictly indoor rug. These rugs can be easily wiped down with a sponge and spills won't penetrate their synthetic fibers. If you're worried about sacrificing style for functionality, don't worry: indoor outdoor rugs these days are pretty much indistinguishable from more traditional indoor rugs.

On the flip side, maybe you live with an elderly parent. If this is the case, you'll want to focus on choosing a rug that offers the lowest risk of tripping or getting stuck. This means you'll likely want to stick with a low-pile rug.

Additionally, simply think about how much traffic you intend the rug to get. If it's out of the way and you're not expected it will be walked on much, you don't have to worry as much about durability. If part of the rug covers a major throughway in your home, though, then you'll definitely want to consider getting something that can withstand more wear and tear.

How to Pick the Right Size Rug

Getting the size right is one of the most important aspects of choosing a rug for your living room. While it can seem overwhelming at first to fret about investing in a rug that is either too big or too small, there is luckily a common rule of thumb that interior designers tend to use for this purpose.

Large living room with a large floor rug under all of the furniture in the room.

As the most simplified rule you can think of it this way: the bigger your room, the bigger the rug you should be shopping for. An ideal size for a rug in a living room is to leave somewhere between four and eight inches of bare floor around the edges of the rug you choose.

Are you wondering where you can find rugs that are both stylish and affordable? If so, check out this article.

Choosing the Perfect Color and Pattern

Now it's time to get to the fun stuff. What color and pattern do you want your rug to be?

Unless you are starting with an empty room, you likely already have an established color palette in your living room. This is the case whether it happened organically or purposefully.

(Feeling stumped about picking out a color palette for your new home? You can learn more about basic color theory here.)

If your furniture and walls are neutral, consider adding some color with your rug choice. If the palette and style of the room are eclectic and busy, it can be a nice balance to use a simple, solid color rug in a neutral color.

Patterned rugs can serve a practical purpose, though. Better at hiding spills and dirt than solid rugs, patterned rugs might be the right choice if you expect children and pets to constantly be running around like little rascals. Having a bold pattern can also help to liven up an otherwise tame interior design, adding a splash of color and personality.

A bunch of rugs stacked up and on top of those are rolled rugs.

Do you have a colorful living room but you simply don't want to buy a boring, neutral-colored rug? No problem. If you go this route, though, you'll want to think of choosing a color that helps to tie all of the colors in the room together.

It's important that the colors in the room aren't clashing, as it will create a sense of visual clutter in the space.

When you're choosing a rug, it's a good idea to be thinking long-term rather than something that happens to strike your fancy today. If you are really concerned that you will pick a rug you will grow tired of, it's probably a good idea to go more classic rather than eclectic.

When you are buying a rug you are making a big investment, so you want to make sure you'll be happy looking at it day in and day out. On top of that, the flooring in a room has a major impact on how the room looks overall. For this reason, you don't want to underestimate the extent to which the flooring should complement and not clash with the rest of the room.

While this advice is listed here in relation to your living room, you can apply it to any room in your home. In fact, you can follow these same guidelines for your workshop, studio, or small business, too.

If you're redoing your living room, you likely have a lot of little decisions to make. Are you wondering what size ceiling fan would be right for your living room? You can learn more about picking the right size ceiling fan here.

Consider the Material and the Texture

Another element of choosing a rug is the texture and the material it's made out of. How do you want the rug to feel under your feet, and what kind of visual texture do you want it to add to the room?

Carpets have come a long way in the materials department since the first rugs were made thousands of years ago. Typically made out of goat hair or sheep wool and originating in the middle east, these carpets were used to make it more comfortable to sit on the ground.

Close up of rug showing weave.

Even though they were limited in their materials and technology, that doesn't mean these ancient rugs were bland or ugly. Check out this intricately designed wool carpet that was found in the Pazyryk burial mounds from the early Iron Age.

(Are you interested in learning more about the history of rugs and floor coverings? Take a look at this fascinating article that explores the way people decorated their floors throughout history.)

One aspect of choosing the material again has to do with how much foot traffic you expect your living room to get.

If the rug is going in an area that's endlessly busy, you'll want a material that is more durable and can withstand constant use, such as jute or sisal. Another good choice for this type of space is a woold-blend or pure wool rug.

Is your living room quiet, serene, and peaceful (lucky you!)? If so, feel free to go a bit more plush and cozy with your material. Something like a hand-tufted rug or a thick shag rug could work well if you are placing it out of the major highways of your home.

If you expect moderate traffic in your living room, consider a distressed or flatweave rug. This can both withstand a bit of foot traffic from both pets and people while still feeling soft underneath your feet.

The material and texture of a rug is also a big part of what creates the aesthetic of the rug. A hand-knotted rug will lend a rustic feel, while a mass-produced mixed-materials rug might feel more refined.

The Shape of the Rug

It is common to use area rugs in order to help define your living room's seating area. Depending on how your furniture is arranged, you can choose what shape of rug makes the most sense for you.

For example, if your seating area is square, a properly oriented square rug can work well in this case. You can follow the same logic for a rectangular room or circular room.

Brown and white living room with a patterned rug defining the seating area.

If you have a smaller seating area, you'll want to make sure you purchase a rug that can fit completely under all of the furniture pieces. You'll want to still leave at least 6" or so of bare floor between the rug and the wall.

When choosing a rug for dining rooms, you'll want to consider where the chairs will be positioned when they are pushed back away from the table. You'll want the rug to be large enough so that the chairs remain on the rug even when they are pulled out.

Layering Rugs: Is It Right For Your Space?

Are you having a hard time choosing just one great rug? If so, you might consider whether or not layering rugs would work in your space. Putting rugs on top of one another might seem strange at first, but it can actually add a lot of depth to your room's look if done correctly.

Living room set up using all West Elm furniture and decor
Image courtesy of West Elm

This technique works best in rooms that aren't overcrowded with furniture. If your décor and color palette is very simple, you can have fun layering patterned rugs. For rooms with more going on or patterned wallpaper, you right consider layering a patterned rug and a solid rug together.

It's important to think about coordinating the colors of the rugs with each other and with the room as a whole. Think about your desired aesthetic style and whether you want a more eclectic look or a more classic work.

Size is also important when it comes to layering. You'll want the rugs to be different sizes, with one being more dominant and larger and a small rug acting as an accent.

Are you interested in learning more about types of rugs and how to layer them? Check out my article on the topic here.

What Does Your Space Say About You?

Know that you know how to pick a rug for a living room, you can feel more confident in your rug shopping. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming for there to be so many different options. Looking at your space and how you anticipate using it can help to narrow down the potential rugs that would work for your house.

When you are decorating and furnishing your home, you want it to reflect your personal style and personality. You are creating the environment you will spend a lot of your time in, and it's important that it's an environment that supports you and allows you to thrive.

Are you looking for some help when it comes to interior design? I can help you with a wide variety of home decorating, furnishing, styling, and organizing. Contact me today to start your journey to the interior space of your dreams!

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