4 Common Area Rug Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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One of the topics I get asked about quite a bit is shopping for area rugs. Questions ranging from what type of area rug to buy and where to purchase them, to where do you place them when decorating a room? But I want to touch on the most common mistakes I see when it comes to area rugs and placement within your home.

how to place an area rug

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I’ve made a lot of these mistakes myself over the years, and if I can be totally real with you, I still continue to make them, and I’m learning all the time.

But I have gained some helpful tips on how to avoid wasting money on area rugs and choosing the wrong ones. So if anything, let me be an example to you of what not to do, k?

Mistake # 1 – Choosing a rug that is too small

I see this one A LOT you guys. And it usually shows up in 3 main areas of the home.

Kitchen/ Dining Room area rug size

When it comes to area rug placement under a kitchen or dining table, it’s crucial to get the sizing right. Choosing too small of a rug not only makes a space feel crowded as the chairs are forced to fit within the borders of the rug, but it also leaves your floors exposed to damage from chairs as they are pushed back from the table.

how to place an area rug

You can see in the photo above how the legs of the chairs reach the edge of the rug while pushed in, but if you’re seated at the table the chairs will actually extend quite a bit past the rug onto the wood floors. This pretty much defeats the purpose of using an area rug to protect your hardwood floors.

If this is similar to how your kitchen or dining room area rug looks, don’t feel bad, I’ve got you. I actually made this mistake twice now in both homes of buying a too-small area rug. I’m really terrible at measuring.

A good rule of thumb for round tables is to size up your area rug to be twice the diameter of the table that will be sitting on it.

But you always want to measure your table and chairs together to ensure that when you move your chairs out to use them they still remain on the rug. This is an important design detail, that if you don’t nail it, you’ll actually end up making the room appear smaller and more crowded.

how to place an area rug
Notice how the rug is wider than the table and chairs leaving room to push them out

Living Room area rug size

The other common room I tend to notice undersized area rugs in is the Living Room. When it comes to area rug sizing in the living room, a tendency is to choose one just large enough to float in the center of the room to put the coffee table on. This isn’t usually a good look for this space.

how to place an area rug
The size of this rug is too small and appears crowded with the coffee table

It makes the living room feel fragmented. And what I mean by that is that you have too much broken space and texture between your rug in the center of the room, and your furniture surrounding it. So you might see hardwood floors, then it transitions onto the rug, followed by hardwood floors again before it finally meets your couch. And visually it can be a bit busy and distracting.

A helpful suggestion for the right sized area rug

Make sure the length and width of the rug extend just past these dimensions of your sofa so that when you’re sitting on it, you’re feet actually touch the area rug rather than your flooring. Bonus, it’s way more comfortable too.

how to place an area rug
The sides of the rug extend just past the couch for a perfect size

I created a helpful guide that shows the Dos and Dont’s of area rug size and placement. Sign up below to grab your free copy.

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Bedroom area rug size

Now I admittedly haven’t put any area rugs in my bedroom, yet. But I plan to do this when we get around to updating our master bedroom. We’ve just been a bit pre-occupied with several other rooms in the house since we moved in last year.

When it comes to area rug placement in the bedroom, even if you have carpet, you can layer an area rug on top of it. In fact, it makes a bedroom look cozier and inviting.  

But, what I happen to see a lot is a tendency to extend the rug underneath the entire bed and possibly even the nightstands. What happens then is you don’t even end up seeing much of the actual rug because it’s too small for the space.

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The two solutions to this problem are to purchase an area rug large for the furniture to cover it and still be seen, or to use a smaller rug and position it about 1/3 of the way down under the bed so that you see more of the surface of the area rug and it extends past the foot and sides of your bed.

If your bed is covering a majority of the area rug, then why even have an area rug? Amiright? You want to actually see that pretty rug you just purchased.

how to place an area rug
Area rug large enough to extend underneath and beside the bed
how to place an area rug
A smaller rug positioned halfway under the bed

Mistake # 2 – Buying the wrong type of area rug for your space

Shopping for area rugs can be tricky, but the good news is, if ya get it wrong, you can try again. It’s a not permanent décor choice like carpet. There’s a variety of area rug materials you can choose from such as polyester, nylon, wool, jute, sisal and more.

You want to make sure that the material you select for the rug is going to hold up well for its intended space.

For instance, wool rugs are very luxurious, allergy-friendly and extremely durable, but they are known to retain water and moisture that can cause mildew. So you wouldn’t want to place these types of area rugs in bathrooms or other humid spaces. They also require professional cleaning so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re not looking for a high maintenance option.

I purchase a lot of jute, sisal and seagrass rugs for my home. And as pretty as these materials are, they’re known to shed and split fibers leaving a constant trail to be vacuumed up every time you walk over it. Not exactly ideal for high traffic areas.

Be selective of the material in the rug you choose. A major reasons material types are so important is that it’s a large indicator of durability. You’ll notice that the higher quality rugs go up in price point, so does their wear-ability. I typically stick somewhere in the middle of the road knowing full well I’ll get bored and replace it in just a few short years.

Mistake # 3 – Trying to match everything

Most people think buying an area rug means they also have to buy the matching runner for the hallway or scatter rug for an entryway. But you don’t have to, and here’s why.

Matching is one of those things that is really going out the door. Remember those days when you’d walk into the furniture store and see the perfectly matched living room set with the sofa, love seat, and chairs? And they were all in the same exact patterned fabric? It all looked so perfectly put together. And that was precisely the problem. It all looked too perfect. It didn’t look lived-in or natural.

You want to aim for coordinating rather than matching. That means trying to showcase your own style by combining different materials and patterns that combine well together rather than getting all of the matching accessory rugs?

Look, we’ve all been in our grandmother’s bathroom where it had the matching fuzzy bath mat along with the rug around the toilet and we can’t possibly forget that cute fuzzy toilet seat cover right? Actually yes, please, can we just forget those things? I’m still wondering how those ever trended.

Switch out your matching area rugs

Anyway, you get my point. Matching all the things can be a bit overkill and actually detract from the overall look of your room. So aim to coordinate rather than match. It might bring you a little bit outside of your comfort zone, but the next time you go shopping for some smaller rugs in your home try to coordinate the colors and patterns. It can be as simple as taking the colors or tones in your primary rug and finding one that similarly complements it.

I promise you won’t hate it, and it might even give you a boost of confidence to help in styling your home.

Mistake # 4 – Not knowing how to place an area rug

The two biggest rooms I see this occur in most often are the bedroom and living room. Most people will purchase area rugs to simply place everything right on top of it. But the problem with that is you can’t see it! You want to be able to showcase that beautiful rug.

how to place an area rug
proportionately sized rug for a large bed

Part of that process is making sure you choose a large enough area rug size. When in doubt, always go bigger. But equally as important is to not aim to cover the whole surface area of the rug. It’s crucial to leave enough open space on top of your area rug and avoid crowding.

how to place an area rug
Notice how only the legs of the couch are on the rug. This showcases the beautiful design

Pull that rug away from your wall a little, and away from your furniture. Everything doesn’t have to be situated directly on top of it. In fact, I personally like to style my rooms so that pieces of the furniture are slightly overlapping the rug and the bare floor. With the exception of the dining room of course.

how to place an area rug

The key to placement is making sure it’s symmetrical. Whatever you do to one side, do to the other. So if your sofa only has the front legs on the area rug, don’t go putting the entire love seat on the rug. It will just look off.

how to place an area rug
An example of symmetry on an area rug

learn how to place an area rug by rearranging your furniture around it

Get creative with it and anchor the rug in the center of your room with the edges of your chairs and sofa on the rug and watch how much bigger your room actually looks once you make this small change.

how to place an area rug
A simple change of placing the chairs diagonally on the rug so that they don’t extend to the hardwood floor when pushed out

You can also play around with different shapes and layering rugs on top of one another. You don’t always necessarily have to use a rectangle area rug for your living room. For example, you can have a large rectangle rug, but also layer a fun abstract shape on top of it such as an animal hide rug to add some texture to your room.

how to place an area rug
Area rug layered on carpet is a great option to add texture

Or make a simple change like altering the placement of your rug to have it sit diagonally in the center to add some interest.

To recap here are the top 4 mistakes I see most often when it comes to decorating with area rugs:

  1. Choosing a rug that is too small
  2. Buying the wrong type of area rug for your space
  3. Trying to match everything
  4. Not knowing how to place an area rug

And I promise, no judgment here, but do you make any of these mistakes in your own home? If so, what are you going to stop doing or even change with your own area rugs?

Be sure to check out the 25 most affordable vintage area rugs

25 affordable vintage area rugs

Drop me a comment below and let me know if this was helpful to you. It really means a lot to hear from you, because the content that I create is to help you have a beautiful home that you love and I want to make sure that I’m serving up the best tips and design tricks to help you do just that.

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And if you thought this post was helpful in getting started decorating your home, then you might want to check out my guide on how to shop for throw pillows or follow my Pinterest Decorating Tips below.

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3 Comments

  1. What a great resource about area rugs – especially for old house owners like myself who have hardwood floors but (for a variety of reasons) want cover a portion with area rugs. Thank you!

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