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Design Mistake #2: The ‘Too Small Rug’



America has been suffering for too long from ‘too small rug’ syndrome. In case you missed the other design related American sufferings here they are: Generic Art | The Generic Sofa | Painting a Small, Dark Room White | How To Hang Art Correctly | How to Hang Curtains | Bad Wood Finishes | Anything “Antiqued” or “Faux Old” .

But back to rugs. I see it virtually every day and it pains me, especially when it’s so easily avoided. I’ve been trying to figure out how this plague came to be I think I’ve finally nailed it:

1. Huge rugs can be expensive and can feel like such a scary commitment. 2. A 5×8 or 6×9 rug sound big even though they often aren’t. 3. Catalogs and magazines are misleading. I’ve styled a lot of catalogs where we have to use the sample size (months before the actual rug is available) and its only 5×7 so we ‘make it work’ and in the shot it’s okay, but in actuality that rug is way too small for the room. I also think that retailers know that 5x7s sell so much more because they are cheaper so they don’t stock 8×10’s in the store, so when people go to purchase they think, ‘Well, this must be big enough because its the biggest one’.  Also ordering and waiting is less fun, so people just snag up the 5×7. Lastly nothing is more annoying than getting a rug home and deciding it isn’t quite right, then having to return it – so I think people just don’t.

Click through to see 25 8×10 rugs under $500  …

A rug in a living room should really ground the whole seating around – it tells everyone that THIS is where the conversation is, this is the focal point of the room, and a too small rug makes it feel disjointed and really just cheapens everything.

Here are a bunch of pretty rooms that they’ve tried to convince us have big enough rugs. They don’t:

Rugs_too small_examples_1_with copy

Don’t listen to these rooms. They look fine in a photo because everything else is beautiful, but they are actually super awkward. If you have a beautiful rug like the one on the right (above) layer it over a huge sisal or another solid flat weave. I did that here and it totally worked.

These below are particularly funny to me because we are supposed to think that the people who own that art collection and that amazing loft space are fine with those teeny tiny awkward rugs:

Rugs_too small_examples_2_with copy

I think that the first rug might be a bathmat. It must have been some sort of product roundup shot because otherwise I have no idea why there is a task lamp on the coffee table or a collection of vessels on the bath mat.

Living rooms almost ALWAYS need at least an 8×10 if not a 9×12. You heard it. Unless you have a TINY living room, stay away from anything under 6×9. Considering a 4×6? Don’t. That’s fine for next to a bed, in a kitchen, entrance, etc, but a 4×6 will assuredly not work in your living room.

Here are the two exceptions – 1. If your living room is smallish and your sofa is up against a wall, then you can float a 6×9 rug in front of it. For some reason this doesn’t look awkward or too small, probably because the seating area already feels grounded and intimate because the room is smallish and the wall is helping ground everything. And 2. If you use a cowhide. For some reason because of the sculptural shape of the hide, it can be smaller and its still pretty.


But otherwise, your rug should be big enough for at least two legs of all your furniture to be on it, and ideally all four (but I know that is asking a lot).

My rule has always been to keep it consistent – don’t have your sofa completely on it if your lounge chairs are totally off of it. Its better for them all to be distributed equally, visually.

Rugs_right size_4

Often 8×10’s aren’t even big enough to get all furniture on it, so before you purchase make sure that your room can’t handle a 9×12 rug and if so, please get that. I’ve never walked into a huge living room with a big rug grounding a seating area and thought, ‘Woah, these idiots have such a big pretty rug!!’

Rugs_right size_2

You need to make sure that your rug is first and foremost proportioned to your sofa – if your sofa is 7′ long (standard is 7′ or 8′) then your rug better at least be 9′ wide so you have a foot on either side. AT LEAST!! But don’t think ‘Oh great, I can just get a 6×9’ because if your living room is pretty big then your rug also needs to be proportioned to your room. A too small rug can and will make your beautiful living room feel smaller, choppy and generally cheap.

Tough love, today, I know. I’ve just seen it so often and it saddens me. If you love your too small rug, please just layer it on an inexpensive LARGE sisal (Ikea and Target both have affordable ones).

Meanwhile to combat this syndrome, nay PLAGUE, we have done a roundup of 8×10 (OR LARGER) rugs under $500. Brady searched for days because well, 8×10’s for $249 aren’t exactly everywhere, but we feel confidant and happy to recommend these bad boys to you. We chose $500 because there are a lot of 8×10’s under $1000 that are easy to find but the $500 or under price point felt like a good challenge and within most people’s budgets.

Best Rugs under $500_budget rug_modern_midcentury_affordable_roundup_emily henderson

1. Criss Cross Rug | 2. Dot Tile Rug | 3. Wool Sweater Rug | 4. Yellow Striped Rug | 5. Grey Stripe Rug | 6. Mystic Blue Wool Rug |  7. Chunky Woven Jute Rug | 8. Elizabeth Blue Rug | 9. Gaser Shag Rug | 10. Fresno Shag Rug | 11. Royal Area Rug | 12. Mirage Diamond Rug | 13. Pattern Hemp Rug | 14. Grey Moroccan Rug | 15. Purple Wool Kilim | 16. Braided Wool Rug | 17. Navy Moroccan Rug | 18. Grey Striped Rug | 19. Neutral Morocco Rug | 20. South Padre Rug | 21. Overdyed Red Rug | 22. Blue Leather Rug | 23. Alvine Yellow Cross Rug  | 24. Montauk Blue Rug | 25. Panja Rug | 26. Black Diamond Rug

For additional tips and rug size info check out this video I made years ago.

May your living room feel more pulled together, grounded and proportioned. Good luck, friends.

This public service announcement was brought to you by every designer ever in the world and probably your mom, too. 

For all of my design mistakes check out: Generic Art | The Generic Sofa | Painting a Small, Dark Room White | How To Hang Art Correctly | How to Hang Curtains | Bad Wood Finishes | Anything “Antiqued” or “Faux Old”

Fin Mark


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thank you for keeping to a high standard of a quality post every day. you’re the only one of my favorite top bloggers who is walking the walk. i appreciate it.


THANK YOU for giving the first and best comment of the day. 🙂


It’s so true, Emily. You and your team obviously put TONS of effort and thought into these posts. It’s really the best of the blogs that I read! THANK YOU and keep doing what you do!



Sarah Beth

I love love LOVE this design mistake series. I have only bought one rug ever– 8×10, which I LOVE and works so nicely and creates a little runway of pretty wood floor that really grounds my room, but my tricky part was getting the rug laid out evenly and neatly and under the furniture. Do you have any tips for laying down the rug in an already furnished room?


These might be my favorite posts. I love it when you talk firmly and authoritatively to me. I’m a design novice, and I want to be told what to do!! Thank you!


Have you been watching 50 shades? 🙂


Haahhah Emily! LOL! I wish you were my friend, I would so much enjoy hanging around with you! You always make me laugh!
Love from Cyprus xx

Me too!! I wish you were my friend Emily!! You are so much fun.
By the way I subscribed to your posts about a week ago or so and I’m not getting there, I clicked twice on the link saying the I subscribe and nothing I also checked my inbox.Thanks


ugh. years ago we made the decision to get a rug that’s a 5’5″ x 7’5″. this was about 7 years ago, and it did HONESTLY work for the space because we do have a small living room, Our couch sits against a wall and it fit perfectly in front of the couch, and the side chair. But now that we have a dog, and we do spend a lot of time on the floor…. we’re acutely aware of the fact that we need a bigger rug. we’re trying to get a 6×9 but pattern has made us have a… Read more »


Ahhh you have two #14’s and I love the second one. Could you share a link for that one please and thank you?


UH OH. So Sorry. We’ll fix it ASAP!!!

i second that! love that kilim looking one but it goes to 14(1). would love to know where 14 (2) is!


Thank you!!


We recently upgraded from a 5×8 to an 8×10 (it’s actually #18 on your list), and it is AMAZING. What a difference a bigger rug makes. I feel like we doubled our living room size with just that one change.

I actually pulled the trigger on that purchase after watching your rug video from last year, so thank you!


Yeah! Thats awesome. I should probably link to that video, right? It feels like years ago but i’m glad its still informative. xx


I just used that video two weeks ago as I was looking for a living room rug! I ended up going with kind of a weird size — 7’6”x9’6” — but it works beautifully in the room! And, come to find out, any bigger and we wouldn’t be able to open our bathroom door. So, win! (Also, who puts a bathroom right off the living room?)


I used that video too. It convinced me to splurge on a larger rug. I
t does really anchor the whole room!


Uh oh. I confess that I have a tiny rug in my living room. But if it were up to me I’d have none at all. The only reason that one is there is to keep the legs of my coffee table from scratching the wood underneath. I love my beautiful floor and how easy it is to clean and move furniture around (which we do a lot). I also work out in my living room and I don’t want to roll up a rug every single day, nor do I want to squat and lunge all over it and… Read more »


There’s a post over on Apartment Therapy today that is a roundup of living rooms without rugs, it’s totally possible to make it look good! Just get those little felt pads to stick on the bottom of your coffee table legs.

Angela N

Thanks for this! We have a fairly large family room with a sectional and we recently purchased an 8×10 rug for it. I am planning on moving that rug to another room because it isn’t big enough. Im on the hunt for a 9×12 now. Now I have proof to show my husband that it is too small. 😉


Will you hate me if i tell you i found a rug almost exactly like the red one in the last picture in the attic of my house? The guy who came to buy all the furniture from the old lady that was selling the house did not want to put it in his van, it is so huge. My boyfriend was going to use it to protect the floors during some renovation (we never looked at it before), but realised its potential just on time.


Lucky score!!!!


Ack! An L shaped living room/dining room combo will be the death of me! If i get an 8×10 and run it lengthwise in living room, it encroaches on entry tile. If I run it widthwise, it encroaches on dining area. Square rugs don’t meet the all feet on rug mandate. This is why wall to wall carpet became popular, and I cringe as I write it.

We all need to hear the tough love more often! I’d be happy with any one of those rugs, although I think the Ikea one is the only one available to me in Switzerland. Sigh.


I think you’ve totally hit the nail on the head when you try to figure out why this plagues everyone. And I think you gave super helpful, firm tips on how to rectify the situation. I wish everyone would read this. There’s nothing like a too small rug to wreck a beautiful room’s look.


This post was quite timely. I was looking for a reason to cancel my rug order (it’s taking forever to get here and I’m just not in love with it). The rug pad has been here for weeks (thanks Amazon!), so after this post I realize I don’t like the way the rug pad fits. I have a teeny tiny living room and the 5x7ish just fits under the front legs of the sofa and chair. An 8×10 would cover the floor vent, but a 6×9 would be much better… so the search continues! I told my husband it’s your… Read more »

My living room needs a 9×12 and I’ve I haven’t been able to find one I like in that size. Someone suggested recently that I settle for an 8×10, and thought I was being unreasonable. I will be sending them this post!

I got a 9 x 12 years ago for our living room from Home Decorators Collection – I remember they had lots of affordable choices at that size. I agree with this post 100%! We’d always had the little 4 x6s, then we got this house and splurged on bigger rugs when we moved in. Best decision.

I LOVE LOVE this post! The design mistake series is SO helpful.
I’ve been arguing with friends over the fact that they need a larger rug for their space…. now I get to stick it to them – ‘Emily says so!’

Great work!


Hi Emily, love this post. Common mistake. One way that I have gotten around the issue, due to inheriting a menagerie of rugs, all sizes/shapes/origins (mostly Persians), is to layer them over custom seagrass rugs. I use, amazing company and free delivery. I order the seagrass 2 inches from the shoe moulding of each room and then layer the wool and silk rugs over it, sometimes I layer the antique rugs on top of each other on top of the seagrass…yeah, I am crazy like that. Nothing makes me sadder than bare floors and furniture that looks so lost… Read more »


That sounds awesome, and yes such a good solution. Congratulations on the rug collection. I’m very jealous.


Ahhh! Just what I needed! Now I can show this post to my husband and my rug purchase will be justified! Would love if you shared a post on good beds. I’m looking for a new one and some advice would be welcome!


Thank you for noting the two exceptions, it drives mad when the “rule” about all four legs on the rug is trotted out and no mention is made of exceptions. I have a very small living room (2.7m x 3m or 8’10 x 9’10”) and I originally bought a large flotaki from but it was way too big and just made the room look smaller. I actually cut the rug in half and the smaller size was just perfect. You can see floor all around it but it makes the room look much bigger and now I have two so… Read more »

Thank you for this list! You’re reading my mind! We got a great deal on a floor model 6×8 rug from West Elm last year and it took me a few months to begrudgingly admit that it was too small for our dining room. 🙁 Now I’m on the hunt for a giant one and man, is it a struggle. So pricy! And so many hideous designs and sad colors to dig through.


So what do you do if you have a too-small rug you love and are already layering over carpeting (that’s not going to be replaced with hardwood any time soon)? I can’t triple layer with sisal, can I… or can I?

Same question here! Could wall-to-wall carpet possibly be another exception since there is in fact rug that goes under all the furniture already? It feels a little weird just having one rug on the carpet, but it’s flatwoven and beautiful so it works ok I think. I would love some tips for working with wall-to-wall in a rented apartment where it’s not worth changing it!


I third this question. We have wall to wall carpeting in our living room and I bought a 6 foot round rug which is placed in front our section sofa that is backed up to the wall. I don’t think it looks terrible, but I’ve thought about getting a big rug, but the room is pretty small, then does it look like I am just trying to cover up the carpet?


I fourth it! I have carpet in some areas and hardwood flooring is not in the near future. May I put a rug over it? Do I follow the same “larger is better” rule?


Hey! I might be crazy but isn’t the IKEA (#22) only a 6×8? Or am I reading this completely wrong? I love it!


When we bought our house last summer, I had to convince my husband to splurge on a bigger rug. Our room isn’t the widest, and it has a few stairs and the fireplace hearth. But we went with an 8×10. Honestly, your video from last year helped my decision tons! We bought it during one of the site’s 20% off sales, which helped with sticker shock. It is my absolute favorite thing in my house and I would buy it at full price in a heartbeat!

great post! also one of my pet peeves too when rugs are too small. post shared of course so everyone can fix their living room rugs!

This is an EXCELLENT series. Love it so far. Keep it up!

oh man, we JUST bought an 8×10 rug from after MUCH deliberation over whether we needed one that big, and we are SO HAPPY with it! i wanted to clap the whole time i was reading this because I AGREE. how did i ever think 5×7 was big enough?! #8x10forlife #preach.


Your blog has always been a favorite of mine, but for the past few months it has become the ONLY decorating/home blog I will even look at anymore. You are hitting it out of the park with every post! It is exciting, informational,realistic,and fun! Thank you! I know the effort it takes to achieve this level of blogging. Regarding this post…My husband and I started out in a teeny tiny (our sofa was a loveseat, ha!)so a small rug actually fit the space. But when we moved and got new furniture our rug turned into a postage stamp. The coffee… Read more »


I’ve been looking for the perfect rug for three years now, ever since I moved into a new apt. Think I finally found it yesterday @ HomeGoods; while it looks HUGE @ the store (9×12), (and my living area is fairly small), after reading your post I’m thinking it is just right. Now let’s hope it’s still there today…… Loved this post, Emily, so timely and you’re right, those ‘pretty rooms’ were pretty awful with those small rugs. Btw, that pic of Charlie with his action figures was too cute!!!


you’re the best!

what size would you recommend in a nursery? do all legs need to be off or all legs on the rug? any rules there?


…legs of the crib i mean 😉


Thank you so much for these design mistakes posts. They are the perfect combination of interesting and helpful with a splash of house eye candy. And I love your authoritative tone – it’s very useful!
Thanks for being a blogger who hasn’t sold out and is providing genuinely helpful material for us rookies. 🙂




So question!

I love the look of the layered rugs. If I have a 9 x 12 sisal, does it matter what size I layer it with? I was thinking 5×7, but will it look awkward?


i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it again. you are CONSISTENTLY my favorite place on the internet. everything you do is SO good. and thanks for making your roundup an actual range, instead of just having every option be $499 (as other folks sometimes do).


I try to tell people this All.The.Time. But nobody believes me.
Next, PLEEEEEEEEZE do a post about “hanging tiny pictures way up high near the ceiling” syndrome. I also try to convince people not to do that, either, but nobody believes me. Because I am not Emily Henderson. But YOU are and they will believe you. So, please, take up the cause! xoxo


Hanging tiny pictures way up high is my pet peeve too! When my husband and I would walk around the neighborhood at night I always wanted to ring people’s door bells when I would see their art hung way too high. (Am I the only creeper looking into windows at night if the blinds are open?) My husband would assure me that the person living there didn’t need my “expert advice” but methinks they did!


You are not the only one, Lena. I see that too, and so want to fix it for them. Or, suggest they read Emily’s blog. 🙂


YES YES YES. Good one. So crazy. People put them near the ceiling. Good call, folks. Will do.

Nina Bond

Yes please please please do a post on hanging pictures too high and have actual demonstrations of it. I will send your post to everyone here in Argentina. I actually tell people their pictures are too high but they ignore me.

Yes! I hate that!!


just upgraded from a 5X8 to an 8X10! I actually love the pattern on my 5X8 better, BUT, the size of the 8X10 is worth the trade off. ACTUALLY, i got the most killer deal at a West Elm Garage sale! $50 for a giant, gorgeous 8×10!

Please don’t judge when I confess I ALSO bought 3 other 5x8s for other rooms… but they were $30…


Oh my goodness–where can I find a West Elm Garage sale?

Emily–I love this series! Can’t wait for the next installment!


I second this…. Please do tell where we can find a West Elm Garage Sale!


Yes, yes, yes! I am in the process of trying to find an affordable larger rug right now, this post is perfect timing – thank you!

Great post, I’m pinning #16 for the imaginary room in my head I want to buy it for :). I waited three looooong years to get a rug for my living room so I could buy one the correct size (8×10!) and that wasn’t a horrible cheap shag. Then I randomly found one on super ultra clearance for $99 this summer! My living room is very thankful, and none of my chair legs looking like they’re falling off a cliff.


I just recently referenced last years post on rug size. In the comments you said you’d make a video about choosing the right size rug for a bedroom. Did this ever happen? I am still dying for some tips on choose rug size for a bedroom—various setups would be helpful. I’m currently redecorating the “kids/guest” room at my mother’s house and the bedroom is very small (NYC) with two twin beds against either side of a square room and a desk by the window between them. Is a smallish rug (like 4×6) acceptable between them or should I go for… Read more »


Oh no, i need to! That is a tricky situation. But yes a 4×6 rug is totally acceptable in between or next to a bed. Just not under one (obviously). I guess the border isn’t idea but I think it could work.


Thanks a ton for the reply! Looking forward to that post 😉


Agreed – I made the mistake of the 6×9 and it was just sad. Now almost every rug I buy is 8×10, sometimes 9×12.

I recommend RugsUSA – they are always doing 80% off sales, so i get my huge rugs for less than $300. And the quality is amazing!

Ohh I am so guilty of my dumb couch being the same EXACT width as my dumb, big rug! I love both, so I don’t plan on swapping either out soon, but I was so bummed when my husband and I rolled out our beautiful 8×10′ rug only to realize I didn’t measure the width of the couch, which was exactly flush to the rug. One edge of the couch butts up against a wall, so I was thinking I could cheat it a little bit to the left so there’s at least 1′ on the side that’s visible. Is… Read more »


Can you flip your rug the other way? So its 10′ wide along the 8′ sofa?


Love this post, and all of your posts lately! You have a great variety of content and posts that are really full of information/inspiration. Great work to you and your team!!


My friends just ripped out the carpet in their living room and replaced it with hardwood. Any tips on convincing a man why he should cover up his “perfect, expensive floors” with a huge rug, besides the fact that when you sit on their couch, it slides across the floor?


I actually bought 3 huge rugs last year and hated all of them for different reasons and returned them all, huge pain. And, now I still have no rugs. Thanks for this post. My biggest problem is quality. At this price point, I’m guessing a lot of those rugs are scratchy and made out of poor materials or have some other quality issue. I’ve just decided to save up and buy a really good one..someday.


Great post!
I really like #5 but the largest size is 5×8 🙁


Wait, I just checked to make sure and it says 8×10 or 9×12. I think you might have clicked on something else!


Ah, I just realized it must be because I’m in Canada and the largest size is 5×8 (probably due to shipping) when I changed it to ship to USA 8×10 becomes an option.

Ok, I have to say that I’m really loving that you’re not only giving great design advice, but also giving product round ups! Thanks Brady! I think a lot of people read your blog because they obviously love your style, and giving product round ups lets people get a little piece of emily henderson approved style. it’s like the good house keeping seal of approval 🙂


Thank you thank you thank you! This is a huge pet peeve of mine and I love how you gave such great examples and offered reasonable solutions. Love this list of rugs (saving for later!)


Love this design mistakes series! Really helpful rug roundup, too. Keep it coming! Thanks Emily & team!


Great post! And very interesting for a “no rugs” person like me… We have original hardwood floors in the house and 4 lovely children – wood floors are just easier for me to keep clean! And I also like the look… I thought about getting a rug for the kitchen but I just get worried that I would have to clean it every week due to a plethora of things spilling/squishing/falling on it!

Your posts lately are so awesome and amazing! giving us real advice and information. love it! keep up the good blogging work!!! xo

Sarah in OR

Awesome post. Thanks for making me smile and think this morning. You know, the thing I love most about your blog is that it is so distinctly you. If this post was put in a line up with five other blog posts, I could easily identify your voice. You’re special, Emily. Keep up the excellent work!


AHH, thank you. Very much.

Literally googled and pinned your post on “tips to choosing the right rug size” this morning. SO timely. xo

This was great and so helpful. I’ve been wondering — I have a long narrow living room, which will likely end up with two seating areas….would it be wrong to go with two different, but coordinating rugs in there? I’ve tried to find some pictures an inspiration, but seeing as how I haven’t found anything I started assuming I’d need two matching rugs. (The room is FAR from ready for a rug now — Our whole house is a reno project and that room seems to be taking the furthest back seat. But I ponder it a lot because it’s… Read more »


Not wrong at all. I’ve done that a lot. I guess just be careful that they work together. You could do two different persians, two different solids, or the same rug if its just a simple rug. You could mix one pattern one solid, but I wouldn’t mix two really different patterns – that could get scary. Does that help?

Yes! Thanks so much for getting back to me! 🙂

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