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Awhile ago, I wrote a column about Oriental rugs. Intrigue, history and tradition crafted into art. It’s a topic that could cover volumes of books and take a lifetime to write. But whether you have one of these treasures or a variety of alternative rugs, there are a few guidelines in choosing the best size for your space.

Unlike machine-made rugs, hand-looms do not come in consistent or predictable sizes. Even if the weaver finishes a piece measuring a standard 6 feet by 9 feet, it will stretch or shrink once it is taken off the loom, washed and dried by the sun. Machine-made rugs are designed in universally pleasing ratios, approximating the Golden Ratio, such as 3 feet by 5 feet, 8 feet by 10 feet and 9 feet by 12 feet. Both types of rugs can also be circular and square — but of course, the handmades will not be perfectly round or square.

What size and shape rug is best suited in your space? In a family room or living room with a conversation area, usually consisting of a sofa, chairs and accent tables, the rug should be large enough to lie under these pieces including at least the front feet of the sofa. The reason for this is that the rug connects this furniture together and defines the space. The shape usually results in a rectangle. It’s also perfectly fine if the rug lies under the whole sofa but this usually bumps up the size up and the price.

There are several different rules stating how much floor space should be exposed between the outer edges of a rug and the nearest walls. And because there are so many rules about this dimension, it seems to me that the correctness of each rule diminishes. So, I don’t pay any attention to them. I just make sure that a rug is not so small that it ends up looking like a postage stamp.

A rug under a dining table should extend at least 24 inches from the edges of a table. If a table is 3 feet by 5 feet, then the rug would be 7 feet by 9 feet. Although this is a standard table size, it is not a standard rug size. So, my own rule is to have the rug large enough to extend beyond the chairs, and ideally, enough so that the chairs don’t slide off the rug when pulled out.

When it comes to a rug under a bed, one that is large enough to also create a walking path around the sides and foot is ideal. But this usually means an oversized piece and one that can become a bit pricey. I typically opt for runners or smaller 3-feet-by-5-feet rugs placed in strategic areas.

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Caring for your rug will give it a longer life and, in the case of handmade pieces, may add monetary value when they become antiques (80 years). Rug pads lift them from the floor and allow particles to fall through. This prevents particles from becoming embedded into the fibers that may weaken the fibers and also leave permanent stains. Regular vacuuming is a must and when cleaning a stain, blot (never rub) with a white towel.

When choosing a rug, size is not the only important factor. While it defines a space, it can also add color and texture, and can even be a focal point. It can also underscore and strengthen the design you are creating. Lastly, like art, no two rugs in a space should be the same.

My column about Oriental rugs, “The allure of Oriental rugs: Tradition crafted into art,” can be found at

Patti L. Cowger is the Napa-based owner of PLC Interiors. For information about her interior design services, visit her website at, call 707-322-6522, or email Demystifying Design appears every other Saturday.