Rookie Mistake: Buying the Wrong Size Rug

Rookie Mistakes: a series of common decor mistakes made by rookies… aka US. And no we are not judging because, we have made (and continue to make) these mistakes too!

Rookie Mistake: Area Rugs That Are Too Small

This is not the easiest thing to admit but yes, I (Bridget) have made this rookie mistake… unfortunately more than once (or even twice)! And let’s be honest, buying the wrong size wrong for a space is seriously the worst because rugs are so expensive.

When I figured out that my living room rug was too small, I was so bummed because it was too late to return the rug and therefore I was stuck living with this mistake for a loooongggg time. So please, please, please take our advice today so you aren’t making this same mistake and getting stuck with serious design regret.

From most of the photos I share on the blog, our family room rug doesn’t look like a rookie mistake. You will quickly realize it was once you take a closer look…

I bought this 6×9 rug RIGHT when we moved in 5 years ago. I had no idea there were guidelines to find the perfect rug size at the time, so honestly my number one priority was cost. I wanted something neutral, but above all I wanted something affordable. I felt like I was “bleeding money” at the time and I was in sticker shock when it came to rugs. So instead of waiting until I could invest in one that was the right size (and more expensive because it was bigger), I bought one that would do the trick (smaller/cheaper) and have been regretting that decision ever since.

How Do You Figure out the Right Size Rug?

Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like that rug. I just don’t like the size in comparison to my large family room. If you have been in a similar situation, here are some guidelines you can use to avoid making this same rookie mistake again.

Guidelines to Buy the Right Size Rug

Family Rooms

  • In an open floor plan where none of the furniture is against a wall, try finding a rug large enough so all furniture sits on the rug. This will bring the space together and separate it from other “rooms” in that open concept.
  • In a regular room where furniture is aligned with a wall(s), you don’t need to splurge on a rug that is quite as big as in an open concept (although that would still look great!). For these rooms, find a rug large enough for the front legs of all furniture to sit on the rug.
  • Make sure your rug is 6-10″ off each side of your sofa.
  • In general, 5×7 and 6×9 rugs will often be too small for a living room space. Opt for 8×10 or 9×12 if you can make it work.
  • When deciding which way you should orient the rug, look to the room’s structure for your answer. For example, if the room is long then lay the longest side of the rug parallel with the longest wall.

Dining Rooms

  • In dining rooms, rugs should be large enough to fit all chairs (even when they are pulled out) on the rug. The traditional rule is making sure the rug is 36″ out from the table. The bare minimum is 24″.
  •  If you’re having a hard time figuring out whether the chairs will stay on the rug when you pull them out, go ahead and tape off the floor around your table and use that as a guide to calculate what rug size you may need.


  • Your rug should extend 18-24 inches on each side of your bed. If you have a queen size bed, an 8×10 should work. If you have a king size bed, try a 9×12.
  • You can pull your rug away from the wall behind your bed and neither nightstand will be sitting on the rug. This should allow there to be plenty of rug leftover at the foot of your bed. If you have a bench at the end of the bed, make sure the bench’s legs all sit on the rug.
  • If your rug is going to be in the way of a swinging closet door, be sure to measure the space under the door so that you can choose a rug with a short pile.

Other Random Tips


  • Don’t be afraid to layer your existing carpet with an area rug. This is an easy way to add a pop of color, texture and warmth.
  • Bigger is always better!
  • If you LOVE a rug but it doesn’t come in a size big enough for your space, think about layering it over a larger/neutral rug! That’s a great way to still get the look you love, but not fall victim to a tiny rug.
  • An area rug should never be touching a wall.
  • Rug pads are worth the extra cost. They’ll provide extra cushion, keep a rug in place, and will protect your floors.

Our Favorite Rugs


  • shawnna griffin

    hey girls! love the tips!

  • Hillary

    These are great tips, and just in time as I am ready to do some rug shopping! About how often would you say you swap out your rugs? I would assume it is different for different sizes, types and traffic areas… are there any you swap out seasonally? How long does it take before you see your rugs getting dingy/dirty and in need of replacement? I have a few older ones that I just love but need to let go of because they are not looking so bright and fresh anymore…

    • These are all great questions but honestly, we do think it depends on the rug, room and amount of traffic like you mentioned. Some of our rugs we have had for over 5 years and they are still looking great. Some have to be replaced approx. every year (like Casey’s kitchen runner or some of our bath mats). But for the most part quality rugs age well. Heck in some case of oriental rugs, more age is actually good for the look of the rug! So unfortauntely it all depends and we don’t have an “easy” answer for you. Plus, it kinda depends on your preference. Bridget loved her bedroom rug but now that it has seen some wear and tear, she likes it even more! But until she actually lived with it, she would have never anticipated that. Go figure!!

  • Great tips. I think all of the rugs in our house are pretty good sizes for the rooms, but since rugs can be expensive we have been buying them slowly. The house we are renting has tile through the whole thing so in the winter, the floor can get quite cold.

    Our rug goals:

    I’d like to get a pad to soften the carpet in the living room now that our son is a little over one years old and is trying to walk (and falling a lot) and a second little one is on the way.

    We would like to upgrade the rug in our dining room eventually since it doesn’t match the decor, but it was a freebie from my parents when we desperately needed something. (Three and a half years ago… We’re on a budget so we buy things slowly.)

    Our office still needs a rug but that will wait until after we finish the “big purge” and re-organize.

    • We are right there with you!! Slow and steady, right!? Not only does that help the budget but it really allows you to live with the space and figure out what you LOVE (and don’t love) before you splurge! Thanks for sharing Jacquelyn!!