An area rug in your living room adds a real dash of personality. As bright or as elegant as you choose, an area rug is a real opportunity to express yourself through interior design. However, as well as looking fabulous, an area rug is an incredibly practical addition to your living room.
A hard-working member of your household!
An area rug in the living room has to work hard. It adds color and texture to your room, and also makes a wooden or tiled floor more cosy. It absorbs sound in an un-carpeted room - preventing a sterile, echoing effect.
A rug brings your furniture together and defines seating areas. It can delineate different parts of the room, and you may decide you need more than one area rug to help achieve this. Plus - it has to cope with the daily demands of your household in the room that’s the center of the home.
The unique demands on a living room area rug
Your area rug is going to be busy! Before you start to choose your living room rug, you’ll need to think about what functions it needs to fulfil, and whereabouts in the space it needs to sit.
As we’ve already briefly mentioned, one of your new rug’s main functions is to separate areas in your living space. An area rug naturally creates a cozy space, especially if the rest of the floor is un-carpeted.
Therefore, we use the rug to mark out the sociable seating area where we want people to congregate. For example, look at all these lovely living rooms from Home Designing – the one feature they all have in common is a rug in the seating area.
As well as creating “islands” in a larger room, rugs and runners can also be used to direct traffic – which routes do you want people to take around your room? Both family and guests will automatically walk around rugs rather than across them, so you can define pathways in the most convenient places.
And let’s be honest – a living room area rug has to look great. This is the room that most of your guests will see. This is not the room for cutting corners. Besides, as it’s a lively and active place, a bargain rug may not be up to the job.
As well as setting the style standard for your home, a living room area rug has to be durable. If you have kids and pets, your rug will definitely take a pounding!
So – an area rug needs to add personality, define areas of the room, add warmth, and cope with the daily rigors of dogs and kids... That’s a big ask for any piece of soft furnishing.
Here’s our guide to making sure you choose a living room area rug that ticks all those boxes.
What style of living room area rug should I go for?
This is a personal choice. A good area rug is an investment that will last for years, so it’s important that you really love it. However, before you dive in and make a purchase, take some time to think about what design of rug you’d really like.
What sort of living room do you have? Think about what else is going on with your interior style. If your living room has calm and restful tones, you could choose a contrasting design and go for a bold pattern – or alternatively, go for a corresponding light and subtle rug.
If you have bold wallpaper or your couch is upholstered in a lavishly patterned fabric, then an intricately designed rug may seem a bit too much.
We’ll look at how color influences your rug choice in a moment.
A classic or contemporary area rug?
Is your signature style classic or contemporary? An antique Sootri rug would look just right in a traditionally styled room – imagine how its rich colors and detailed patterning would look in front of the fire.
These rugs are perfect on polished wooden floors (but remember your rug pad! See our article on securing your rug). For inspiration, look at the sumptuous use of antique style rugs in this piece from Decoist.
For a contemporary space, a geometric design is a good option. The tribal pattern of this Kilim rug is a great choice for a modern room. Try one of our Ikat rugs, which have soft, abstract designs and come in muted, modern shades.
But don’t feel too restricted, as a more traditional looking Oriental rug can look fantastic in a contemporary living room, and play an essential role in adding a bit of warmth and color to an otherwise minimalistic space.
Which item will take center stage?
Another important design question to ask is - do you want your rug to be a statement piece? What’s the star of your room at the moment? A grand piano? The fireplace? A painting? An architectural feature such as the window? Or, will the rug itself need to become a focal point for your room?
The answer to this question will influence your decision. If it’s not the main feature, it mustn’t be so bold that it will detract from the room’s A-listers. If it is to be a hero piece, then go for it!
A rectangular or round rug?
The last major design choice is shape. The classic rug is rectangular, and this shape works with most rooms and furniture arrangements. However, don’t dismiss the less conventional round rug.
A round rug can add real interest – most of the shapes in our living rooms have straight lines and angles, so a circular shape really draws the eye. It can also encourage you to arrange your seating in appealing conversational groupings.
What color area rug would look right in my living room?
Most area rugs are patterned, so when we talk about the color of a rug, we’re focusing on the most dominant shade. This could be the background color or a shade that features prominently in the pattern.
Your accent says a lot...
Do you already have an accent color in your living room? For example, your main color scheme may be restful green tones, and your curtains or scatter cushions are in a brighter accent shade such as cerise.
In that case, cerise would be a great choice of color for your area rug (or choice of dominant color if your rug is a patterned one). Something like this overdyed pink rug would look amazing in this instance.
If you want to create a new accent color and aren’t sure which shade to go for, remember that opposites attract. For example, splashes of yellow or orange in an otherwise blue room make a great contrasting highlight.
If you’re not sure which colors work well as accents, use a color wheel and choose combinations of colors that are opposite each other.
A calm and neutral approach
You may want your rug to be more discreet, and in that case an accent color is not the right choice for you. If the area rug is mainly to provide warmth and comfort, go for neutral colors, or choose a color that blends well with your permanent floor or walls.
Another advantage of a more neutral rug is that it has a longer life if you decide to change the other colors in your room. If the rug has to outlive the other items, make sure it’s a versatile design.
A lovely, subtly shaded rug like this Beige and Ivory Peshawar Ziegler rug would add a touch of discreet luxury to your living room without taking over. If you have boldly-hued furniture such as a scarlet couch, or a statement item like a grand piano, a pale rug like this would set the piece off beautifully.
If your room is a blank canvas at the moment, why not let the rug call the shots? Simply choose the area rug that you love the most, and make it a focal point of your living room. Here are some tips from Houzz on how to make your rug the star of the show.
Or, choose a rug of many colors and keep your options open! A patchwork rug gives you all sorts of gorgeously vivid colors that can inspire the design choices for the rest of your room.
What size of area rug should I choose for my living room?
We’ve looked at this is detail in our blog post about rug sizes. However, we’ll summarize the main points here, as there are some stylistic rules that apply whatever size space you’re looking at.
Should the furniture sit on the area rug?
One of the most important decisions you’ll need to make when choosing a living room rug is whether the furniture will sit on it. The rug anchors your furniture by drawing certain items together, so the relationship between furniture and rug is a really crucial one.
There are four classic ways to position your furniture with your area rug:
- All your furniture – the couch, chairs, and any small tables – goes on the rug. You’ll need a generous sized rug for this – a 9” x 12” or even larger
- Some of the furniture goes on the rug. The couch is on the rug, but the side tables are on the floor. Go slightly smaller at 8” by 10”
- The furniture goes half on and half off the rug. The front legs of the couch and chairs are on the rug, and the back legs are off it. Just make sure that the colors and patterns don’t clash. Again, an 8” x 10” rug would suit this approach
- None of the furniture goes on the rug. A small rug is at the center of a grouping of furniture. Great for making the rug a focal point, or if you have a more compact space. Try a small but perfectly formed 4” x 6” rug
Thinking about the room border
If you are looking for a rug that covers most of the floor area, like one of these large 12’ by 15’ area rugs, it’s important to get the proportions right with the border of the room. A border of 12” to 18” is considered a pleasing-sized gap between the rug and the skirting.
However, if you have furniture placed around the walls (a sideboard or bureau) do you want these to be completely off the rug, or half on and half off? It’s worth thinking about this before you invest in a large rug.
Rug – or rugs...?
You may need more than one rug. If you are using area rugs to divide up a large space, there could be one in the seating area and another under a table, desk or grand piano, for example. You may also want to add a runner or two to direct the flow of movement through your space.
A good way to create a really cozy area in your living room is to layer rugs. A smaller rug (possibly in a contrasting color or a different shape) on top of a large rug gives you a really luxurious finish. If you want to get this opulent look, choose the larger rug first to ensure that its border isn’t partially covered by the second rug.
Trying it out for size...
A top tip for getting the size of area rug that feels right for you is to find an old bed sheet. Simply fold or pin it into various rug sizes, and lay it down on your living room floor. This will give you a great visual guide to how certain sizes of rug work with your furniture.
If your floor allows, you can mark out areas with tape, and see how well the shape and size of your potential rug works. Leave the tape down for a day or two (if this won’t damage any floor finishes!) and “live with” the rug’s shape.
Of course, you may already have an old rug lying around the house that you think is the right size – roll it up, pick it up, and try it out for size in the living room.
Making sure your living room rug is durable
You want your rug to last. You may get away with a less robust rug in a bedroom, where traffic is light and shoes seldom worn. However, in a living room, where most of the household (including any pets) spends a lot of its time, an area rug needs to be of the quality to cope with this.
So, choose your rug based on its tough character as well as its delicate design. A hand-knotted rug is made by skilled artisans – but rather than making it more fragile because of its carefully-crafted manufacture, this process produces durable rugs. A hand-knotted rug is made on a specialized loom, with each knot tied by hand.
When you think that a good quality rug can have 200 knots per square inch, you can appreciate the amount of care that went into its manufacture. Because of this, these individually-made rugs are of exceptional quality and can last for generations.
Machine-made rugs can look good – but they simply don’t wear as well. In short, you get what you pay for. It’s false economy to buy a bargain only to have to replace it twelve months later.
Looking after your living room area rug
Of course, even the best-made area rug can have problems if it’s not treated well. When you’re planning your rug purchase, think about the environment it’s going to live in.
Sun can fade the vivid colors; so if your windows aren’t coated in UV protection or you don’t have low-e glass, think about the rug’s position in relation to daylight. Rotating the rug can at least ensure that any fading is more even.
Also - watch out for the potential for spillages. Maybe don’t have a pale area rug under the table small kids eat at! Have a look at our Rug Care articles to find out more about dealing with stains and cleaning.
If you have chewing puppies or scratching cats, the answer is training. It’s a shame to keep your four-legged friends away from this cozy corner of the room, so plan your pet behavior strategy before introducing this interesting new feature.
If it’s looked after, your children and maybe even their children will be gathering around your hand-knotted rug for years to come. It’s worth that investment.
Choosing a living room rug based on your budget
So, speaking of investment, is a hand-knotted rug much more expensive than a machine-made one? Rugs, like everything else you buy for your home, come in a range of prices.
And, like all your other household items, the price changes depending on the quality. With a hand-knotted rug, you are paying for craftsmanship, care – and exceptional quality.
So yes, you will pay a little more for a top quality area rug; however having made that initial investment, you shouldn’t have to replace your rug for a very long time, if at all in your lifetime.
When a change isn’t as good as a rest
Regularly changing a living room rug is a real hassle. You’ve chosen a rug, arranged your furnishings around it, and possibly even chosen your couch and chairs to complement it.
You may have used one of its colors to inform your choices of paints and wallpapers. You’ve committed to this rug, and you’re not ready to change it for a while. If your rug doesn’t take the strain of everyday life, you won’t be happy... A poor quality rug can be false economy.
If your budget is tight but you still want a long-lasting rug, check out some of our smaller pieces that come in at under $100.
To summarize buying your living room area rug...
We hope this guide has given you a few things to think about when ti comes to choosing the ideal rug for your living room or lounge. To summarize, before you buy your new area rug, ask yourself:
- What is the style of your room? Is it classic or contemporary?
- Do you have any statement pieces in your living room already, or is the rug to become a focal point?
- What shape of area rug would work with your space?
- What about color? Do you want your rug to pick up an accent color, be a bold style-setter, or provide a calm and neutral floor covering?
- How much of your floor do you want to cover?
- Is your furniture going to sit on the rug?
- Do you think you need more than one rug to create the desired effect?
- Do you want your rug to last?
- What could cause damage to your rug and how can you mitigate these risks?
- What is your budget for a new rug?
But perhaps most importantly – choose a rug you love. After all, you spend a lot of time in your living room, and any area rug you choose needs to be just right for you and your family (including those four-legged friends!).