You’ve possibly arrived here bewildered at your discovery that when shopping for a rug in the United Kingdom you are confronted with very little choice in size. The three popular sizes you are likely to find are 80cm x 150cm, 120cm x 170cm and 160cm x 230cm. Whilst there are some variations of up to 10cm length and width in these sizes, this is basically what you find in most stores and websites. If you’re looking for something larger, there are some rugs produced in sizes around 200cm x 290cm and there’s an odd few made around 240cm x 330cm sizes.
Popular rug sizes are governed by several factors, including the average size of rooms in the UK, to the size that a rug store can physically handle and display. There is also a reluctance in many UK households to sit furniture on top of rugs. So, a typical 160cm x 230cm rug in an average UK lounge with a 2-seater and 3-seater sofa usually sits nicely without going under the furniture legs. This is what we generally class as a large rug. If you’re looking for larger rugs you are without a doubt going to be hit by many restrictions. You probably thinking, there must be thousands of homes with larger rooms or even households with average rooms that want to sit the entire three-piece suite on the rug. And you’d be right! But, for every house with a large room, there are literally hundreds with average rooms.
The size of our homes.In the UK the typical living room size for a pre-war semi-detached house with separate living and dining room is around 15ft x 12ft (4.57 x 3.66cm) which may also incorporate a chimney breast and a bay window. Houses built post war to around the 60s were often more compact and included a through lounge and dining room. In the late ’70s to the present day, the kitchen area became more relevant and we saw the design of homes including the dining area with the kitchen to make a kitchen/dining room.
Official figures show that an average UK living room size in the 1930s was around 16 square metres peaking at 25 square metres in the 1970s then reduced to a present-day 17 square metres. It’s fair to accept that semi-detached homes have been getting more compact over the decades. As there is no mention of dining rooms in the figures it’s likely that the style of new build homes no longer includes the dining area in the living room figures. Assuming this is the case then the living area in a standard semi-detached dwelling is still only around 16 to 17 square meters.
Flooring trends over the years.
Because of our historical use of fitted carpets in living areas, here in the UK, our demand for rugs over the years has been very different to our continental and transatlantic cousins.
While we are now seeing more and more hard flooring being used in the living areas, we look more towards rugs as décor for these spaces. We are still behind when it comes to using the rug to fill the floorspace correctly. Rugs were mainly handwoven until the introduction of broader Wilton and Axminster looms in the early 1900. These looms were capable of reproducing designs similar to Persian hand knotted rugs. In the 50s and 60s these broader looms were used to make large rugs to virtually cover the room, then they were adapted to cater for the latest trend, fitted carpets. Possibly because of the smaller room sizes and the added advantage of wall to wall insulation they offered, fitted carpet just became the norm in the UK.
Companies like BMK (Blackwood Morton and Sons of Kilmarnock) were still producing large patterned rugs in the sixties. By that time companies like Cyril Lord were entering the market place with plainer tufted carpets, which made fitted carpets even more affordable.
While the rest of the world moved to the plainer style tufted carpets, here in the UK the patterned Axminster carpet still dominated the market. Patterned rugs on a patterned carpet were a big no, so instead, we opted for smaller fireside and abstract tonal shaggy rugs.
In the 80s we were using more plain carpet in our homes but there was still a huge demand for traditional patterns. Technology had advanced and we were now printing designs on carpets while the Belgian rug weavers were developing faster face to face Wilton looms. In a repeat of the 50’s and 60s trends, these looms were also commissioned to make patterned fitted carpets for the United Kingdom.
The 90s saw a significant change in our demands for flooring, we were moving over to plainer styles of twist pile carpets while using more hard flooring in our living areas. This, in turn, increased our demand for rugs to decorate the plainer spaces, but our smaller average size rooms combined with our inability to imagine extra-large rugs in our homes means we still opt for smaller sizes.
In bygone days we did use larger rugs and were happy to sit our furniture on them. In many older houses, you can still see the remnants of paint on the floorboards at the edge of the room, there was often an unpainted square in the centre of the room where the large rugs would be seated. Are we ever likely to see an attitude change back to these older trends?
What are your options?
It depends upon the size and shape of the room but in some spaces, it is possible to use two or three rugs to good effect. The practice of using multiple rugs is commonly used in long narrow rooms where even extra-large conventional rug sizes refuse to fit.
The idea of using multiple rugs really comes from the Nomadic tribes who made and used rugs as furnishing for their tents. Because rugs are compact and portable, they were easy for the caravans to transport to the high mountain grazing pastures and in situ gave insulation from the colder higher ground. Layering rugs one on top of another not only gave additional comfort, but it also gave protection from the cold ground beneath.
If you can find a way to mix and match smaller rugs to fill your living space, this has got to be the easiest option. Making your own large rug by using broadloom carpet and cutting it to size, then edging it, is another option. This can be quite cost-effective, but you may have to buy extra and throw away the waste. Getting the edges bound can also work out expensive, especially with large sizes. The downside is you generally only have the option of plain colours and repetitive patterns, that just look like what they are, a carpet with a whipped edge. If you are on a really tight budget you can also upcycle your rugs from old carpet samples. It’s a lot of hard work and takes a degree of skill, but it can be done.
If you are wanting your extra-large rug to feel and look like a rug, you can always go for a bespoke option and have your rug custom made. Surprisingly it’s not as expensive as you may expect. At iwantarug.com you can pick your own size in widths up to 4 meters and lengths up to 6 meters. The software on the site will give you an instant delivered price, then you can choose from over 100 colour options. An extra-large rug is obviously going to be the main feature in your room, so it’s got to look a little special, hasn’t it? You can buy rugs made to your personal design or choose from the many design templates. If there’s nothing you can see online, simply send an email with your design ideas and iwantarug.com will take it from there.
With a bespoke rug, you are not confined to four square corners, many alternate shapes can be produced including circles, hexagons, octagons and parallelograms. Shapes can be weird and wonderful, designed to hug a curving wall or just whacky to suit your personality. Real designer rugs that are made specifically to your requirements start at iwantarug.com.