Rug Placement 101: How to Choose Rug Size & Positioning

A carefully selected area rug has the power to transform a space. It can lend warmth, style, and cohesion to any room in your home. Choosing the right floor covering and settling on the best area rug placement is one of the foundations of a harmonious space. Thankfully, there are a few fundamental design principles you can follow to create balance in all types of rooms.

Tricia Fortin, Senior Interior Designer at Acampora Interiors, has guided many of our clients in finding the ideal rug and best placement in rooms throughout the home. Here, she shares room-by-room fundamentals for selecting and placing rugs perfectly in each type of space.

How to Choose Rug Size

Area rugs

Because each home is unique, there is no one rug size that will be universally appropriate in all living spaces. However, Fortin offers an overarching principle for choosing the correct rug size for any room in your home. “Your rug needs to cover the furniture. Everything needs to sit on it,” she says.

The proper rug size will allow some or all of your furniture to rest on top of it. In living rooms, this means you should place all four legs of couches and chairs on the rug, or at the very least the front two legs. A telltale sign that your rug is too small? When the furniture floats outside its borders.

Some homes have large great rooms or open floorplan living spaces. In these instances, Fortin suggests creating discrete sitting areas, each with its own rug. For example, a great room might have a seating area with a sofa and two armchairs anchored by a rug and a separate dining area with chairs and table arranged atop another rug.

When creating multiple seating areas in one room, Fortin says the key is to select proportional rugs. “I always make sure that the rugs fit both spaces, but that they look right together, size-wise,” she says. “So if my dining room has a 9 by 12 rug and a 9 by 12 works in the sitting area, I would do the same size. If they need to be different sizes, they need to be proportionate to each other so one doesn’t dwarf the other or make the room feel heavy on one side.”

The correct area rug will ground the space and create harmony, not chaos.

Tips for Perfect Rug Placement

Once you have selected a rug with the appropriate dimensions, it’s time to place it within the space. The rules of rug placement vary from room to room, but here are some general guidelines we tend to follow when designing client homes.

Bedroom Rug Placement

Bedroom rug placement

In a bedroom, the size and placement of an area rug are determined by the room’s central focus: the bed. “When you swing out of bed in the morning, your feet should touch the rug rather than the cold hardwood floor,” Fortin says.

When it comes to rug placement under beds, a queen-size bed pairs nicely with an 8-by-10 rug, while a 9-by-12 rug is the proper size for a king. When it comes to rug placement under the bed, it should be centered with the wood floor exposed near the headboard to leave space for nightstands. The area rug should rest approximately three inches from the front of the nightstands. If a bench or settee sits at the foot of your bed, the legs of that piece should also land on the rug.

Master bedroom furniture
Guest bedroom from Acampora Interiors’ Nantucket Seaside Home project. Photo: Cary Hazlegrove.

For additional bedroom rug placement ideas, opt for cut-to-fit rugs, a custom option the Acampora team often embraces for bedroom spaces.

“It’s not uncommon for us to have a custom rug sized with a rug vendor,” Fortin says. “We follow the shape of the room. We give ourselves a four or five-inch reveal off the wall, so you still see a little border of wood floor, but you’re basically going the whole span of the room.”

Cut-to-fit rugs add a feeling of warmth and coziness to master bedrooms. In children’s rooms, they serve a practical purpose: providing young ones with a soft surface on which to play and protecting the wood floors from wear and tear.

Living Room Rug Placement

Living room rug placement

When placing a rug in a living room, you should think of the rug as an anchor for the furniture. The legs of your furniture should all sit on the rug.

Chairs and couches can rest on the rug in one of two ways. You may choose to place the rug entirely under all four legs of the furniture, or you may opt to have only the front two legs on the rug. End tables, however, should not straddle the rug. Ideally, they will sit on the rug fully. Otherwise, they may wobble.

Layering Rugs 

Layering area rugs
Detail of layered rugs in the dining room of Acampora Interiors’ Cozy Colonial Project.
Detail of layered rugs in the family room of Acampora Interiors’ Cozy Colonial Project.

So what happens when you fall in love with a rug that is too small for your space? Add a neutral layer as a base. “We’ve layered rugs before, which is always a really pretty look,” says Fortin. To achieve a layered rug look, reach for a sisal or neutral natural-fiber rug to fill the space and ground the furniture, then layer your special rug on top.

When you do mix and match rugs in a living room, either through layering or in creating separate seating areas, the goal is to create visual harmony between different floor coverings. “The patterns and the colors should coordinate,” Fortin says. “They should all be the same color palette. They don’t have to be the same pattern, but you have to make sure they talk to each other.”

Dining Room Rug Placement

Dining room rug placement

A dining room rug has its own unique considerations. First and foremost, it should be large enough to fit the entire table and the maximum number of chairs. “This gets hard when you have a table that expands because when the table expands, your chairs change location,” says Fortin.

If your dining area has an expandable table, be sure to measure your space with your table fully extended and all chairs at the head and sides of the table. The best rugs for dining rooms should accommodate all furniture, and chairs should remain fully on the rug when guests push out from their seats.

The other concern in a dining area is durability. “Anywhere that is high-traffic or where there’s food involved, you’ve got to go wool,” Fortin says. Wool is a durable fabric and takes spot-cleaning well. While manufactured fibers like polypropylene may carry the strength to hold up in a family-friendly home, they do not have the same cozy and soft feeling underfoot. Fortin says that a patterned wool rug can also hide any crumbs and stains on a dining room rug.

The perfect area rug can change a space dramatically. It enlivens a room, adding color and texture. It provides a soft, cozy environment and offers a gentle surface on which children can play. It grounds furniture and creates unity. Selecting the appropriate area rug and placing it in just the right way can transform an ordinary space into a serene, harmonious space to relax in and enjoy for years to come.