› Rug Buying Tips

Living Room Rugs, Part 1:
Buying Tips For Color & Size

living room rugs: a gallery of options

"Which living room rugs would look good in my AZ condo?"

Sharon's gorgeous, white, open-concept Arizona living room needed an area rug ...

... so she asked for tips to choose a good one! - Click a link for

  ♦  space & color;
  ♦  size & shape;
  ♦  design;
  ♦  price.

Living Room Rugs For A White, Open-Plan Space

Here's Sharon's living-room:

white Arizona living room

Hi Renate,

I'm thinking of getting a violet rug for my living room (or maybe blackberry or purple) to go with my chrome & black furniture.

I'm not a big fan of pattern, but I do think I could handle a black and white area rug if the violet looked truly awful.

I'm not sure I want the rug so large as to have furniture on it. Maybe a round 8' rug might pull the seating together???

The wall above the couch will eventually have two rows of my framed photos, mostly travel photography both in landscape and portrait formats.

Some input from you would be great!

Sharon (Arizona, USA)

Living Room Rugs, #1: Space & Color

A Few General Rules
For Choosing Rug Colors:

  • Make a list of all the colors in the room before deciding on the rug color. Blend the rug into the color mix.
  • Decide whether the room needs a color boost or a bit of toning down. Your rug color can do both beautifully!
      ♦   Great toning-down colors are neutrals as well as cool, dark and desaturated colors.
      ♦   And if you need a booster color, look for saturate, 'advancing' hues from the warm side of the color wheel. (E.g. balance a mild-mannered green color scheme with a rug in complementary red (cherry, bordeaux, rust, even deep orange).
  • Decide whether you want the room to appear lighter or darker than it currently is. A large living room area rug in a light neutral color can lift and brighten the entire room. On the other hand, a dark(ish) rug is a great way to 'ground' the living room furniture.
  • Pattern = visual clutter. The larger a pattern and the higher the dark/light contrast, the greater the 'clutter effect'. So if you already have patterned upholstery or loads of accessories and wall art, think twice about adding a heavily patterned rug to that. (More about pattern here.)
  • Small area rugs = visual clutter. The larger the room, the smaller the rugs, and the higher the color/value contrast, the more awkward small rugs can look.

white open concept living/dining room

In Sharon's case, the living room opens into her kitchen/dining area, which gives the space an airy, open feel.

So for her, the challenge was to create a distinct sitting 'island' in the lounge, a room within a room, if you will.

The dominant colors in the space are white/off-white, black, a few unobtrusive browns, and a blackberry color on selected kitchen walls. (Here's the color scheme she eventually chose for her living room rug!)

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Living Room Rugs, #2: Size & Shape

The right size for living room rugs will depend on at least three factors:

  • the size/spread of your seating,
  • the size of the room, and
  • the visual effect you want to achieve.

Using Sharon's living room as an example, here are three rectangular, solid-color living room rugs in a desaturated violet color.

a) 5x7 area rug:
This rug size does not take up a lot of visual space and leaves most of the living room bright and open-looking. Yet the dark grayish rug extends the furniture color into the room to create a visual unit. (By contrast, if the rug were white or a very light grey, the furniture arrangement would look much more 'skeletal' and less unified.)

white living room with purple rug and black furniture

b) 8x10 (or 8x11) area rugs ...
... are designed to accommodate larger groups of seating, or arrangements where the front feet of sofa(s) and chair(s) sit on the rug.  The advantage is that the group will look more 'together' because there is less underneath floor space visible in the color scheme.

white living room with purple rug and black furniture

c) extra large living room rugs:
These can help you create an "island", a room-within-a-room, which provides intimacy in an open living space.  However, extra large rugs represent sizable color fields that can impact a room enormously, particularly when they stand out against a white background (as this one does).

white living room with large purple rug and black furniture

Comparison: Let's look at the sofa from a different angle to see how the extra large rug (left) compares to a 5x7 (right):

comparison of area rug sizes in situ

This perspective shows how much more visual weight a large rug can lend to a space, even to the point of smothering it (as it does in the left pic). Imagine the impact if this rug were, say, lipstick red. It would dominate the entire room!

As it stands, though, the dull color palette screams out for a fresh, happy, bright color injection that can create the right psychological effects.

Round Shapes

A round area rug would beautifully complement the antique Japanese drum in front of the couch ...

round area rug under antique Japanese drum as a coffee table

... however, it doesn't do anything for the furniture arrangement. So let's try a larger, patterned rug in black/ivory (I've cribbed the pattern from one of the chair cushions ;-)

round b/w area rug under antique Japanese drum as a coffee table

Not convinced by this version either. You would need to pull the two chairs closer and around the rug to make the shape work, and would end up with a very unbalanced arrangement.

On the other hand, round area rugs are generally perfect for round dining tables (make sure the rug extends far enough beyond the back legs of the dining chairs!)

More Shapes ...

Don't feel restricted to rectangular, round, or oval living room rugs. Check out this article for additional ideas!

For More Living Room Rugs & Decorating Ideas,
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