Rug Sizing & Layering 101

One of the things that drives me the most insane as a designer are ill sized rugs.  And it’s a mistake seen SO often- even on favorite HGTV shows (not naming names- but there have been  large spaces “designed” with what looks like bathmats!)  So I wanted to do a thorough post about how to properly size a rug to your space by room.

Living Room

Wrong (even in AD!): This rug is way too small for this seating area.  None of the furniture touches it except for the coffee table. We in the “biz” call this The Dreaded Rug Island.  Everything looks like it’s alienating each other. Does the rug have cooties? Come on furniture, can’t we all be friends?


Right:  Emily Henderson, of course, knows how to size a rug in the room below.  This one runs under all the furniture but you can also scale it down a little bit and have just the front two legs of each major piece of furniture on it too.  This anchors the room and makes everything look cohesive instead of floating in space.


Here’s a little graphic I created showing both options.

living room

Dining Room

Wrong: This to me looks like someone wanted to spend the bare minimum on a rug so they got the smallest size possible.  This table looks stressed out to me. Like, don’t move and inch or you’ll fall into the lava pit!  When pulling any chair out to sit down you would be half on and half off the rug, which creates a wobbly chair- no fun.


Right: All four legs of each chair remain on the rug even when pulled out. This makes the room look larger too!


Another little graphic to illustrate:



Wrong: Well, there is a lot wrong with this space but focusing only on the rug- again, a Rug Island.  The rug needs to run at least halfway under the bed (ideally right to before the nightstands) and extend several feet past the end of the bed.  This can be tricky in some shaped rooms (long and narrow for example, but you can make it work).


Right: perfect bedroom rug size and placement.



Rug Layering

So what do you do if you have a beloved rug that is just too small. LAYER IT!  Use a nice, neutral base such as a jute or sisal that is the proper size and then layer the smaller rug on top like in the below photos.




Hides work great this way as alone they look and feel a bit bare.


But don’t try to get too creative with your layering- this looks like a living room ripe for tripping.


No. Just no. Too much. The pic on the left makes me insane. WHY?


Rugs Over Wall to Wall Carpet

Layering an area rug in a room with wall to wall carpet can really cozy things up and make a space feel more interesting.  Make sure the rug on top is a flatweave style (or natural fiber rug) on the thinner side- layering a cut pile rug over a cut pile rug does not look right- you need to mix up the textures.



I hope this helped!


  1. Awesome post! I’m struggling with this myself for my family room and now I know what to do. Next up is the dining room! Thanks, Erin!

  2. You were reading my mind!!! So do you think 8×10 under a king size bed in a medium sized room, or 9×12??? I’ve always made existing rugs work-for myself and clients-but now have the opportunity to buy new! Or antique, whatever;) Follow our building company on Instagram @cbcbuilds! We do new construction and remodels in Tulsa, OK!

  3. Great advice! Rug sizes have always been tricky for me, especially in odd-shaped rooms. I’ve realized that it’s best to just wait until I can afford the right rug rather than get something too small.

  4. Perfect timing! I need to figure out how to place a new 8×10 under my queen bed. I was debating which direction to place it. Sideways seems somewhat counterintuitive, but you’ve convinced me!

  5. Erin–thanks so timely since I am moving into a newly built home in 2 months. I have always been confused about rug size. Perfect post!

  6. Your note about falling into a lava pit was hilarious. The rug in my living area looks dwarfed and shrinks the room by a lot. It’s an 8×10, but I need something ridiculous like an 11×13. Oy. And no matter what, dining room rugs stress me out. They are without fail too small. That, or I live in terror food will be dropped on them.

  7. Erin, how do you choose rugs in rooms that are in the same space? Same rugs? Different rugs? My living room and dining room are in one L shape room! Thoughts?

    1. Great question that I meant to address- I leave do one textural (jute or sisal) and one patterned. Or you can do one patterned (Persian, floral) and one graphic/geometric or stripes. Just make sure they relate I color!

  8. YES! Love this post! We recently ripped out the carpet in our house and put down hardwoods. I had the hardest time convincing my husband we needed a 9×12 in our bedroom and a 10×14 in our living room.

    He said, “why would we want to put in hardwoods just to cover them up? Can we just save a piece of the carpet we’re tearing out?” Typical husband. Haha

  9. Hi Erin,
    Great post. Would you know the source for the rug (light blue/hues) in the dining table/chair photo?
    Thanks so much!

  10. This was actually so useful and I haven’t even thought of using a rug under the bed! I will definitely be doing that from now. Great post as usual! :)

  11. Great post. I’ve known the rug in my living room was too small for forever now, but I love it dearly and all of my decor is based off of it. Definitely need to bite the bullet and layer a larger jute or sisal rug underneath it. Also, loved the bedroom graphic. Thanks for sharing your designer tips!

  12. Okay, sometimes I feel like you can read my mind! My husband and I (after painstakingly looking for about 7 months just ordered a rug for our living room. I think we measured correctly from your diagrams, I just hope it looks as good as the “right” pictures you posted! Thanks as always for sharing with us!!

  13. LOVED this post!!! Specific, practical guidance like this is priceless…thank you!

    Related: should you be considering one of your always helpful lighting posts, would greatly appreciate an address to non-typical areas like the low SLANTED ceilings in my entry (the slant goes over the staircase) where the choices are much more narrow since many semi-flushmounts are not with a chain/something that will drop straight down if coming down from a slant, not to mention that I’m not a fan of chains, love the rod…and I worry a flushmount would look weird from certain angles in the house. Also, if you have several ceilings lights on a loft like bottom floor where you can often see all of them, how do you make them cohesive? If a brass sputnik in the dining room, a brass flushmount in the attached hall, so not to over do it? Or something white/less noticeable/less matchy? Or would you do two statement ceiling fixtures you can see at the same time?

    Not trying to do the obnoxious specific request about my own house though it probably sounds that way ha just continually more stressed with ceiling lighting than other things that seem much more intuitive and this rug post is so spot on with the specific guidance and examples I crave. :)

  14. Love this post! My living room area is strange shape because of the fireplace hearth, requiring an 8 x 10 rug. It then puts my sofa half on and half off the rug, which drives me crazy. The sofa is centered on the window. One decorator suggested putting the sofa even on the rug, but uneven in front of the main window. That’s unworkable and would look strange. I’ve thought about layering a custom cut sisal rug underneath, but I’ve been hesitant. Thanks to your helpful post, I think I will do it! Thanks Erin for this helpful post!

  15. This is a really helpful post! Rugs always confuse me – and they are SOOO expensive (like window treatments) that I struggle to commit.

  16. Great information on sizing and scale of rugs in rooms. Would love to see a post of your favorite rugs!

  17. One of the best parts of your book that I always go back to when buying a rug! Love this.

  18. I love this informative post. Very helpful for me since we are going to buy new living room furniture and an area rug. Thank you!

  19. This is so straightforward and helpful! Definitely bookmarking this. What are your thoughts on “template” rugs? I think that’s what they’re called? They are cut to fit a room and its nooks–a fireplace/hearth in my case. I’m not a fan but it has been suggested to me. Would love your professional insight! Thank you!

  20. Perhaps a naiive question, but how does one keep a layered rug from rippling? I have tried layering, and love the way it looks, but in a space that gets traffic I have always found that the top rug would get waves and become a massive tripping hazard. I was constantly running around smoothing the ripples. Is there a layer between the layers that helps prevent this? (I’ve tried layering over pile rugs and layering over sisal…) Maybe the ripples were more of a problem for me because I caught the layering bug while my kids were learning to walk (hello faceplant) but I’d love to know how if there are tricks to layering safely and beautifully!

  21. This was extremely helpful, thank you! We have a relatively large bedroom and I was struggling to find a rug for the space, thinking it needed to run almost wall to wall. Your guidelines are very helpful.

  22. This is very helpful and easy to understand I just threw out my beyond-grungy living room and dining room rugs. I will do some measuring. Thanks for the tips!

  23. Question: Entry-way – my entry way is too large for a 3 x 5 rug and too small for a 5×7 – ideally a 4×6 would work but finding that size is proving to be difficult without going custom and spending a lot of $$. What about layering a 3×5 over a sisal in my entryway? With the foot traffic at the front door cause too much of an issue with the layers?

  24. Interesting post. I think, though, that installing a rug in the dining area is not a good idea. The place where you eat is a high traffic area and also a place where the chance of your rug getting spilled with some colored drink increases significantly. In other words, I’d never put an expensive delicate rug under my dining table.

  25. I have ugly beige wall-to-wall carpeting. I recently added a flat 8×10 rug in my living room over the carpeting and cannot get it to lay flat. There are always ripples and I’m constantly tugging on it. Is it a lost cause because of the carpet?

  26. This is a great post! Although it should feel intuitive, I am always stressing about rug size when choosing for a room. Thanks Erin!

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