6 Simple Rug Placement Ideas That Work in Any Living Room

updated Mar 27, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Marble coffee table in neutral toned living room.

When it comes to decorating and planning the layout of a living room, rugs are arguably one of the most important foundational pieces — they set the tone for the space overall and help designate zones for certain areas. Plus, whether you’re styling a brand-new home or just redecorating your current living room, it’s often best to work from the ground up by prioritizing buying a rug before any big-ticket furniture items. That way, you don’t have to worry about maneuvering your couch and coffee table to lay the rug down later.

While size and color play an important role in finding the best rug for your space, a rug’s placement in your living room can also really change the look. Should yours go flush against the wall or sit in the middle of the floor? How do you layer two rugs or style a round design? There’s no right or wrong way to position a rug — it all comes down to your living room setup and style preferences — but we broke down a few layout tips and ideas below.

Tips for Styling a Living Room Rug

  • Because every living room layout and decor arrangement is different, there’s really no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to style or sizing. That said, look for a rug that complements your existing furniture and is durable enough to keep up with kids or pets, if applicable.
  • In small spaces, you can either size down with a rug that extends at least 6 to 12 inches past your coffee table on all sides, or fill the whole room with a big rug to create an all-over carpeted look.
  • If you have an open floor plan or studio apartment, one large area rug will help define the living room space and separate it from nearby areas, like the dining room or kitchen.
  • Rather than splurging on an oversized area rug that spans the full perimeter of the room, consider joining two smaller rugs side by side for the same amount of floor coverage. These can be identical styles, or you can mix and match designs for an eclectic touch.
  • Measure your living room and use painter’s tape to outline various area rug sizes. This will help you visualize certain dimensions and placements before buying — because no one wants to deal with returning the wrong size rug.
Credit: Design: Apartment Therapy

Living Room Rug Placement Ideas

All Legs On

If you’re working with a lot of square footage, you’ll want a large, appropriately sized area rug to fill out the space. To prevent this accent from dominating the entire room, though, you can layer all your furniture on top of the rug to help break things up visually and anchor the vignette. This coverage also gives you more freedom to play around with bold colors and patterns, as your seating and coffee table will layer directly over it and diffuse the look.

Front Legs Only

If you don’t have the budget for a massive 9′ by 12′ or 12′ by 15′ style, or if your furniture rests against a wall, you can size down slightly with a rug that accommodates the front legs of your seating only — whether you’re working with two sofas or loveseats, a sofa and two chairs, or a sectional paired with one chair. Just make sure the rug is low-pile, such as a wool or cotton flatweave, so that anything positioned partially on the rug doesn’t wobble.

Credit: Erin Derby

Floating Between Furniture

Another placement idea that allows you to work with a smaller rug? Floating it in the middle of the living room. This works especially well for L-shaped seating vignettes or if you have a particularly long couch that would require an extensive rug to cover the full span. Bonus: This setup makes it easier to clean a rug, too, as you don’t have to navigate underneath sofa legs with a vacuum or duster.

Credit: Lula Poggi

Round Floating Placement

I love the juxtaposition of an oversized round rug against traditionally hard-edged sofas and tables, but these can be tricky to style in small spaces. Try centering a round carpet in line with your sofa or sectional, whether it’s big enough to partially tuck underneath or is simply floating out in space with your coffee table.

Credit: Sarah Ehrich
Living room.

Layered Rugs

For added texture and pattern play, consider stacking two rugs in different sizes. Just make sure that the ratios of the dimensions still feel proportionate — a small 3′ by 5′ rug might look like a postage stamp layered over something that’s quadruple the size — and that the top style extends well beyond your coffee table on all sides.

Credit: Ali Hewitt
The living room, with a view of the maple tree's just-barely-there leaves. In the winter we have a mountain view, and in the summer, it's a solid wall of green. This room also includes my work-from-home station, a spot I use once or twice a week.

Vertical Alignment

Who says rugs always have to be placed parallel to your sofa? Forego the conventional styling method and rotate an area rug so that it runs length-wise in your living room. This works well if you’re trying to fill out more floor space in a narrow or compact space, but as a rule of thumb, make sure the width is still big enough to accommodate your full sofa.