Choosing an Area Rug by Size, Shape, Color and Pattern

Once you’ve settled on the fiber content and construction of your new rug, you can shift your focus to the fun stuff like size, shape, color and pattern. These are the design elements that define an area, unify a space, add color, soften hard surfaces and enhance any type of decor. With so much riding on the choice of an area rug, here are a few guidelines to help you pick the perfect one for your home!

Rug size is just as important as color, pattern and shape. Buying the proper size rug means the difference between good room design and one that looks totally out of proportion. To avoid any mistakes, you’ll need to take a few key measurements prior to rug shopping.

Note the placement of your furniture within your room and measure the length and width of the area it occupies. For instance, in an open concept living area, make sure your rug measurements extend beyond front legs of your furniture. This will ensure the rug is large enough to anchor the furniture grouping. You can also take the rug just beyond the outside boundary of your furniture to encompass an entire seating or entertaining ares. Keep in mind if your rug is too large, it will look like wall-to-wall carpeting. If your rug is too small, it will appear as if it is "floating" in the room.

In the dining room, your rug should accommodate chairs positioned at and away from the table. Measure the table and add at least two feet to those dimensions. Better yet, take your table measurements, pull out a chair and sit down—measure just beyond the chair to compensate for those additional inches.

If you are still unsure of the size, use painter’s tape to mark your future rug’s outline directly on the floor. The outline will not only give you an idea as to how it will look in the room, it will also indicate the size rug you need to purchase. Take those dimensions and go up or down slightly given available rug sizes.


Standard rugs range from 2 by 3 feet up to 9 by 12 feet and beyond. Additionally, retailers now carry square, oval, round and octagonal rugs that work in a variety of applications. Round or octagonal rugs take a boxy living room from mundane to marvelous. Create warmth and balance in a rectangular bedroom by adding a plush, square rug. And don’t forget runners to protect narrow entry floors and hallways that receive a lot of traffic.

Color can literally make or break your design plan. The color or colors you choose for your area rug will go a long way in bringing your vision full circle. Flooring accounts for roughly thirty percent of your room’s color, so you better do some real soul-searching to get it right.

If you’ve chosen a rug as the jumping off point for your room’s design, use shades from the rug to carry through to your paint, upholstery, window treatments and accessory selections. If your rug is the final layer of your room’s design, keep the palette neutral, so the colors support and complement the other furnishings in the room. If you choose a solid color, go with one that is similar to that of your wall color, so it blends with your existing decor.

Pattern, like color, is highly personal in nature and one that requires careful thought. A rug with pattern can work with any decorating style, you just have to know how and when to use it.

While oversized rooms can easily take on the visual strength of a patterned rug, small spaces can handle them just as well. In the case of a cozy, cottage-style room, florals underfoot bring to mind an English country garden. Mid-century modern spaces cry out for bold, geometric punches of pattern. When mixing patterns in a room, make sure each one relates to the other through color, style or texture.

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