9 Step Guide – How to Choose a Rug For Your Living Room

How to choose the right rug

You never think too much about rugs until you actually have to purchase one. When you walk into someone else’s living room, their rug is probably the last thing you’ll pay attention to. Most of the attention is drawn by the big TV’s, nice and cozy couches, or cool ottomans. However, when you start decorating, you realize that living room rugs are an awesome tool to bring the whole look together. Once you know that, you want to make sure you pick a rug that will fit your living room well. 

The overwhelming number of rug options you’ll find makes choosing one quite difficult. When choosing an area rug, you must take into consideration color, construction, price, pattern, material, and size. In order to make your life easier, we’ve broken down how to choose a living room into the following 9 steps:

  1. Establish Your Budget
  2. Visualize Your Living Room
  3. Measure Your Living Room & Couch
  4. Choose a Rug Size
  5. Choose a Rug Color
  6. Choose a Rug Material
  7. Choose a Rug Construction
  8. Choose a Rug Pattern
  9. Place the Living Room Rug

Step #1 – Establishing Your Budget

The first thing you need to do is to decide how much you are looking to spend on your rug. This number will vary according to your specific situation, so you should do some thinking before coming up with a range. If you have just moved into your ‘forever home’, then you’ll most likely want to get a nicer rug. However, if you have untrained pets or if you know you’ll be moving soon, you might want to spend as little as possible.

This should be your first step as prices of rug change greatly depending on size, material, and construction. So by deciding on your budget beforehand, you will make sure you can get a good bang for your buck.

How Much do Rugs Cost?

Area rug prices vary a lot based on their size, material, and construction. When you’re looking for a living room rug, you can expect to pay an average of $1.85 to $2.35 per square foot. That means you’ll pay on average:

  • $45 for a 4×6 rug;
  • $85 for a 5×8 rug;
  • $110 for a 6×9 rug;
  • $150 for an 8×10 rug;
  • $225 for a 9×12 rug;
  • $330 for a 10×14 rug.

The larger you go in size, the larger the price ranges you will find. We’ve researched the websites of 3 main sellers of living room rugs (Walmart, Wayfair, and Home Depot), and we came up with the table below. 

Rug SizeAverage PricePrice / Sq. Ft.Price – Lower EndPrice – Higher End

So how much should you spend on a living room rug?

Now that you have a better idea of the average prices of rugs, you need to decide how much you’re looking to spend. If you have a specific budget, we suggest you spend between 3 to 10% of your living room budget on a rug. That means that if you’re planning on spending $1000 total in your living room, you should look for a rug between $30 and $100.

Step #2 – Visualizing Your Living Room

Now, we suggest that you take a good look at your living room and draw a mental image of what you want your living room to look like. Take a good look at the wall and floor colors and pay attention to how the overall lighting is. Think about where your TV will go and therefore where you want to position your couch. Will you get a coffee table or an ottoman? Do you plan to host guests often? 

Once you have a pretty clear image of what you’ll be looking for, you can move on to the next step.

Step #3 – Measuring Your Living Room & Couch

Before you decide on what size of rug you need for your living room, you need to measure some important dimensions. The size of your rug will depend mostly on how large your living room and your couch are. 

So how do you measure your living room for a rug? All you need is to get a measuring tape and measure the width and length of the room. If you have an open floor plan, only measure the area where you’ll be keeping your couch and your rug. Once you’ve done that, go ahead and measure the dimensions of your couch and how far it will be from the TV. Make sure you write all the measurements down. 

Step #4 – How to Choose a Rug Size for your Living Room

After you’ve measured your living room, it is time to pick the right rug size. First, you’ll need to choose one of the following 3 layouts:

  • Layout #1: Rug covering all of the furniture
  • Layout #2: Rug covering only the feet of furniture
  • Layout #3: Rug covering only the coffee table/ottoman

Once you decide on which layout is your favorite, it is time to pick the rug size. These are the most common rug sizes you will find in stores:

  • 3×5
  • 4×6
  • 5×8
  • 6×9
  • 8×10
  • 9×12
  • 10×14

An average small living room for 4 or 5 people will measure about 10 ft. x 13 ft. So let’s suppose that after measuring your room in step 3, those are the dimensions you came up with. If you decided that layout #1 is your favorite, you should purchase a 9×12 rug. If you decided that layout #2 is your favorite, you should go with either an 8×10 or even a 6×9. Finally, if you decided to go with Layout #3, then you would buy either a 3×5 or a 4×6.

Step #5 – How to Choose a Rug Color for your Living Room

Like we have previously mentioned, the main purpose of the rug in your living room will be to bring the whole look together. So you need to choose a rug color based on the existing color palette of your living room. 

Should your Rug Match Wall Colors?

If your living room walls have different colors than the floor, you can choose a rug that matches your walls but in a slightly different shade. You can then buy a couch that has a third different shade of the same color and – voila! – you will have a room that ties together perfectly.

The image below shows a beautiful example of it. Notice how the walls, the sofa, and the rug all have different shades of the same color. The wooden floor provides enough contrast to make the living room look very cozy and welcoming yet still have personality.

Rug, couch and walls with different shades of the same color

On the other hand, if your walls and flooring have the same color, you should pick a living room rug that will stand out. Otherwise, the room will lack personality and it will be difficult to decorate. 

You can see an example below. Since the majority of the living room has the same colors (floor, sofa, walls, curtains), it is advisable to pick a living room rug that stands out like the one in the photo.

Photo of rug not matching walls

Color Tips

  • Choosing a light-colored rug will make the room look bigger;
  • Neutral colors (light grey, beige, white) will create a more relaxed, welcoming atmosphere;
  • If you’re looking for a more vivid, energized look, choose brighter and bolder colors;
  • When in doubt, follow the ‘Rule of 3’: three of the larger ‘items’ in the room should have different shades of the same color (i.e. walls, rug, and couch).

Step #6 – How to Choose a Rug Material for your Living Room

The material of your rug will dictate how much you are going to pay. It is important to keep in mind that your living room is considered a ‘high-traffic’ area, so people will be stepping on your rug often (and sometimes with their shoes still on). You want to purchase a rug that will look good but still last for a good time. 

The best materials for living room rugs are:

  • Wool

Wool is the most common material used for rugs, as it is both soft and durable. It can provide the comfort you want for your living room and still stand the test of time. Wool is also pretty water-resistant (a.k.a. good for spilling drinks). If you’re looking to purchase wool rugs, you can also expect to pay a premium since they are more expensive than the materials below.

  • Jute & Sisal

Similarly to wool, these are natural fibers that are considered to be very durable. That also means that they are usually chemical-free. These rugs are usually not as comfortable as wool rugs, so they won’t provide the same comfort. These rugs are usually significantly cheaper than wool ones, so you might prefer them if you’re on a budget.

  • Viscose & Nylon

These are synthetic fibers that are made to feel and look similar to natural ones. They provide decent durability and comfort, yet they might look more simple. They are easy to clean and good if you have kids and pets. They are also usually slightly cheaper than jute and sisal rugs.

  • Cotton

Cotton is also a pretty common choice. It is comfortable and relatively affordable, but they are usually not as durable as the materials above.

Materials you want to be careful with:

  • Silk
  • Leather
  • Sheepskin
  • Cowhide

While these materials might be fancy and complement your living room, they require extra care and are usually more expensive.

What Kind of Rug Is the Softest?

The best, softest rugs for your living room will be made out of wool, cotton, or faux fur. They provide enough comfort that you can almost sleep directly on your rug.

Step #7 – How to Choose a Rug Construction

While it is not that common to hear about a rug construction, this is something that will determine the quality of your rug and how long it will last. Rug construction refers to the way the rug is made. Below are the most common constructions you will find for living room rugs:

Rug construction method table
Hand-knotted rugs are expensive but their quality is also better

The construction of your rug is going to depend on your budget and on your lifestyle. Once again, if you’re looking for a long term rug, aim for hand-knotted ones. They’ll provide the best quality and durability. However, they’re more expensive as well. If you’re looking for the cheapest one possible, machine-made rugs will be your best bet. 

Step #8 – How to Choose a Rug Pattern

There are so many rug patterns available that it would be impossible to list them all. When choosing a rug pattern, it comes down to what you prefer. The one principle to follow here is that if your furniture or your walls are already patterned, you want to choose a simple, one-color rug. Adding too many patterns will make the room feel overwhelming. 

If your living room doesn’t currently have patterns, feel free to get a rug that has them. The rule of thumb here is that the main color of the rug should be selected using step #5, and the accent colors of the rug should match other items in the room. For instance, if you own a navy couch, you might choose a grey rug with navy details. 

Step #9 – How to Place Your Living Room Rug

You should place your living room according to the layout you have chosen in step #4. If your rug is smaller, you should position it so the end of the rug is right at the beginning of the couch and other seaters. If your rug is medium-sized, you should position it so the front legs of the couch are inside the end of the rug. If your rug is large, you want to position the couch and other chairs so that all the legs are on top of the rug and there is still about 6 inches left of the rug on all sides.

How to Place a Rug Under a Sectional Sofa

The same principles above apply to when you have a sectional sofa. You need to pick a layout and then make sure everything is aligned. The one thing to pay attention to is that the rug ends at the same spot where your sectional ends. You don’t want to have your living room rug extending further than your couch, as that can disharmonize the room.

Bonus Questions

Should Living Room and Dining Room Rugs Match?

Your living room and dining room rugs do not need to match. In fact, none of the rugs in your areas technically need to match. You want to pick the rug that best fits each specific room. However, if you have open floor plans, you should choose rugs that will complement each other. For instance, if there are no walls between your dining and living room, you should have rugs that will complement each other. 

What Makes a Good Rug?

A good rug will be one that you like and that will complement your house. There are no strict rules when it comes to decorating, so what works for someone might not work for someone else. The features that will have the greatest impact on the overall look are size, color, and material. 

Gui Hadlich

Hi there! I'm Gui. I've had to move 12 times in the last 6 years, and I've learned a thing or two about moving, decorating, and buying and selling furniture. I've started Budget Friendly Furnishing with the intent of helping people furnish their homes in style without having to break the bank!

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