During my many years in the interior design industry, I’ve encountered a common design mishap over and over again – a spacious room with a miniscule rug, aka the “postage stamp” effect. Not only does this decorating blunder cramp the room’s style, but it also has the unfortunate effect of making the entire space feel smaller than it is. Conversely, a rug that is proportionate to the room has the transformative power to open up the space, creating an illusion of grandeur – and who wouldn’t want that? Selecting the right-sized area rug is not as difficult as you may think. You just need to follow a few simple guidelines.
When determining the appropriate size rug, you need to consider the placement of the furniture. There is more than one right way to approach this. You can place all furniture legs, front and back, on the rug, or you can put only the front legs of the furniture on the rug. These are both very acceptable options. What you want to avoid is a scenario where none of the furniture legs are on the rug, hence the postage stamp look.
Note, there ARE acceptable variations. Your sofa may be on the rug entirely, while your chairs may only have their front legs on the rug, or vice versa, and ditto with end tables. Just make sure your furniture isn’t wobbly if it’s half on / half off.
Perhaps you have an extra-large room, or a long narrow room, or a room where a standard size rug (ie. an 8’ x 10’) just won’t fit the space properly using the guidelines outlined above. In these cases, you can use the “room border rules” instead. A “room border” is the stretch of bare floor space that is visible between the edges of the rug and the walls. Ideally the border should be roughly 12” – 18″ wide. But how does one achieve this with area rugs available only in standard sizes? Here is where the beauty of customization comes in. Instead of selecting from standard sized area rugs, consider opting for a carpet, aka broadloom, that can be custom-cut and bound by your supplier to perfectly match the unique dimensions of your room. I love the flexibility this provides! For example, let’s say your room is approximately 12ft x 16ft. The carpet should be approximately 10ft x 14ft, allowing a 1ft perimeter, or border, around each side.
A custom-cut carpet is a great solution when you have a uniquely shaped room, a bay window, or a niche as the rug line can follow the room’s perimeter. In the photo above, we used the border rule and followed along the line of the fireplace hearth. We made it a tighter fit around the line of the stone, leaving about a 4 inch border between the carpet and the hearth. In my experience, I have found that custom-cut carpeting is a great option even when a standard size area rug would work.