Have you ever looked at your coffee table and thought it just didn’t look right, but couldn’t figure out why? Or maybe you were installing a light fixture above your table and weren’t quite sure how high it should hang. I’ve asked myself those questions so many times but then came across one of my all-time favorite design books, Design Rules: The Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator by Elaine Griffin.
In additional to providing design advice in a very approachable manner, so also gives great Rule of Thumb measurements for everything from the correct height of your bedside lamp to where to hang curtains in relation to the window! For example, did you know that coffee tables look best when they are 1″-2″ less than the height of the sofa’s seat cushion? Or that you should leave 1 1/2″ -2″ of spacing between pictures in an art grouping?
- You need 26”-36” clear as a pathway to walk comfortably through a room or 36″-48″ for an airy feeling
- If you’re covering the entire room with one area rug, leave 12″-18″ clear all around to the wall. In smaller rooms, 7″-12″ will work
- Choose side tables that are about 2” less than the height of the sofa arm
- Coffee tables should be 1”-2” less than the height of the sofa’s seat cushion
- In a small grouping, 15″ by 24″ or smaller can be a great size for a coffee table
- For art groupings with more than one row, spacing between the images should be 1 ½” to 2”
- If using art above a sofa, fill at least 50%-60% of the 5-foot high space above the sofa
- Wainscoting should be about 36” – 48” above the finished floor
- Chair rails should be 34”-36” above the floor
- Dining tables should be 30” high
- Allow 18” of table width per person
- For rectangular tables, you’ll need a table that is at least 48″ long to seat 6 people, 72″ for 8 and 96″ to seat 12 people
- Dining seating should be 16”-18” high from the floor to the top of the seat
- To pick the right size light fixture for above a table, you can either
1) divide the width of your dining table by two to get an approximate chandelier diameter OR
2) add the room’s length and width in feet; the sum equals an approximate chandelier diameter in inches
- Chandeliers should hang 30”-36” above the table surface
- In general, center sconces’ back plates between 60”-64” above the floor
- If you have space for a bench, box, chest or trunk at the end of a bed, it should be slightly lower than the height of the bed and no more than 15”-21” deep
- For most beds, 24”-27” is the ideal height for a nightstand
- For a King-size bed, nightstands should be at least 36” wide
- Area rugs underneath beds should extend 6”-12” beyond the outer edges of the nightstands and the end of the bed
- Swing arm lamps above bedside tables should be mounted no farther than 3” out from the edge of the headboard with the bottom of the shade about 20” above the top of the mattress
- Table lamps should also have the bottom of the shade about 20” above the top of the mattress
- Use a 47″ tall headboard if you don’t want much headboard to show above your pillows or 52″ and up if you want to show more headboard above the pillows
- Curtain width should always be at least twice the width of the window for fullness. For modern rooms, just twice the window’s width or even just 1 ¾ times for a really sleek look (if you’re using multiple panels, purchase an even number of panels that equals at least twice your window’s width for fullness)
- Extend the curtain rod by at least 6”-8” past the outer edge of the trim on each side of the window
- BONUS: This is not in the book, but for reference, always hang curtains as close to the ceiling line as possible to help elongate the window and add anywhere from 2″-8″ to the length if you want the curtain to have the puddle look
So does this mean that if you aren’t following these measurements your design is wrong? Of course not! If it feels good to you and you like how it looks, that’s all that matters. But if you’re unsure as to where to begin, these measurements provide a good starting point.
If you’re interested in reading the book’s description or purchasing it, you can do so via Amazon by clicking on the book’s cover below.
I hope you’ll find the Rule of Thumb guidelines as useful as I have!