I receive design questions every week — from clients, via social media DMs, and even in person. While specifying color is usually the most popular topic, there is another subject I get asked about constantly… measurements!
- What is the right height to hang pendants and chandeliers?
- How large should my area rug be?
- How high should my draperies hang above the floor?
In my experience, there seems to be a lot of uncertainty around selecting the right dimensions for furniture, rugs, light fixtures, decor, and more. And I love that you might have these questions, too — if you want a functional and beautiful space, it’s important to get the measurements right!
To help, I’ve pulled together a quick guide to sizing and dimensions for furnishings, light fixtures, and space plans. It’s full of measurements and tips for many (if not all) of the spaces in your home.
I hope you will give it a read, bookmark it, and come back whenever you need some clarity for your next purchase or installation. Let’s go!
The First Step in Designing Any Space
It would be remiss of me not to mention this one important step before you dive into the sizing guidelines below. Why? Because there’s nothing worse than purchasing a piece of art you love, getting it home, and realizing it’s way too small or too big to fill the intended wall. (Trust me, trying to remember the size of the space or “just winging it” will almost never work out in your favor.)
Preparing in advance is the best way to avoid this situation, and that means… measuring!
Measure the walls, the furniture (new and existing), the walkways, the light fixtures — everything. You could draw the floor plan on graph paper and write in the dimensions for easy measurements at a glance. Do the same for the walls and ceiling. Better yet, keep those measurements with you. (Apps that let you sync across devices are great for this, like Evernote, Google Docs/Spreadsheets, OneNote, etc.)
The next time you’re out shopping for a new sofa or fabulous wall mirror, you won’t have to guess whether it will fit your space. You’ll know and feel confident to make a decision on the spot!
Blakely Tip: Channel your inner interior designer and keep a mini tape measure on hand at all times.
How to Select the Right Size Drapery & Hardware
Now that you’re a measuring pro, let’s move on to our dimensions guide. First up: drapery. Choosing the wrong size draperies is a common design mistake, and one that can easily be avoided. When properly measured and hung, your draperies can make windows appear taller and rooms appear bigger, thus elevating your design.
Although we believe that custom draperies are a no-brainer, if you’re not currently working with a designer and want to freshen up your windows, you’ll want to take measurements yourself.
Rules of Thumb for Drapery
Draperies: It’s important for your draperies to hang at the right length. Too long or too short will make your space feel off-balance. We usually have draperies hung about a half-inch off the floor. This offers a clean look, especially if the ceilings or floors are not perfectly level. It appears as though they’re just barely off the floor.
Note: If your drapery is linen, they will stretch over time due to the looseness of the weave. In this case, we would start with a length that’s a tad shorter than a half-inch, to allow room for lengthening.
Rod: Center the rod between the top of the window casing and the ceiling, which is generally 3-6” off the casing, depending on your window size.
Brackets: As a general rule of thumb, rod brackets should be mounted 8-10” to each side of the window casing (less if there are obstructions). This allows each drapery to extend past the window, which will prevent the fabric from blocking the window when open.
That said, it’s also important to know the “stack back,” the width of the fabric when it’s open and stacked to the side of the window. For ready-made curtains, the stack back is about 10-12”. If you were to mount your brackets, 8-10” off the casing, your drapery would just cover the casing but not obstruct the view.
However, most ready-made drapery looks like a bedsheet (fully extended in front of the window) when closed. This is precisely why we do NOT like them! When we do custom draperies, we make sure there’s enough fabric for full closure, and the stack backs can be up to 24” thick. In that case, the brackets would be mounted far enough to accommodate the stack back.
These drapery rods are mounted next to the window, so maximum light can brighten this dining area.
The Best Sizes & Placement for Rugs
When it comes to rugs, bigger is almost always better. Think of the area rug as an anchor for the rest of the room. The rug size should be proportional to the room or it will get swallowed up and lost in the design. We want it to hold its own!
Rules of Thumb for Rugs
Dining Room: Make sure your table and all 4 chairs (when pulled out) fit comfortably on the rug.
Living Room: At least 2 legs of your sofa should be on the rug, if not all 4 legs, which is our preference. The same goes for any armchairs.
Bedroom: The bed should be about 2/3rds onto the rug, with the option to have the nightstands on or off the rug. The width of the rug should come all the way to the end of the nightstand, not hit in the middle of it. If your rug hits in the middle of the nightstand, then go up a size.
Also, we always want to make sure the placement allows for both feet to hit the rug when getting out of bed — not one foot on, one foot off.
Two examples of rugs following our rules — both sofas are fully on the rug in the living room, and just beyond, you can see the dining table and chairs with ample rug space.
Runner: A hallway or kitchen runner should stretch the length of the hall with 4-5” of floor exposed on each side.
Blakely Tip: When sourcing your rug, be sure to consider the amount of space underneath your door. Measure the gap and measure the rug pile. It would be a shame if your door got stuck on the rug every time you tried to open it! If you have found the rug of your dreams but your door is an issue, a contractor can shave a bit off the bottom of the door.
Rules for Furniture Layouts & Spacing
Creating a furniture layout is pivotal to designing a space that looks beautiful and works for your lifestyle (no more bumping into table corners). We complete the space plan for our clients in Phase I of our design process because it’s such an important part of the entire design. It is quite literally the design’s foundation.
With a space plan, you’ll be able to see how the room’s overall flow and functionality will work, especially regarding furniture size and space. It also sets the stage for when we source furnishings (or you, if you’re purchasing on your own), to make sure your pieces are the right scale.
Rules of Thumb for Furniture Spacing
Between Cocktail Table & Sofa: 16-18” of space
Between Dining Table & Walls or Furniture: 32” of space for chairs and walkways
Furniture spacing in a Major Walkway: 32-36” wide (36” is ideal)
Furniture spacing in a Minor Walkway: 24” wide
The table, sofas, chairs and ottomans are 16-18” apart for easy walking space but not so far that someone would have to reach to set down their wine glass. 😉
Blakely Tip: Use painter’s tape to map out the furniture layout on your floor. You’ll be able to visually see how much space you have for free movement before you make the purchase.
Ideal Dimensions for Light Fixtures
Choosing the right light fixture and determining the proper dimensions and hanging heights are the questions I get asked most often.
From sconces to flush mounts, chandeliers to floor lamps, it can be difficult to choose what will work best in your space. The good news is that it’s important to have more than one light source in a room — so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice!
Rules of Thumb for Light Fixtures
Kitchen Island: 30-36” of space from the counter to the bottom of the pendant.
Dining Table: 30-36” of space from the table to the bottom of the pendant, or lower for more intimate lighting
Bathroom: Bulb 6” above eye level
Table Lamps: Depends on scale of the nightstand, desk, or surface — when in doubt, bigger is better.
Pendants & Chandeliers: 7’ from the floor to the bottom of the pendant for open spaces (give or take a few inches depending on the height of those living in the home)
A perfect example of several of our guidelines at play — an area rug, seating arrangement, drapery, chandelier and even a table lamp stage left!
Blakely Tip: When in doubt, go bigger! Nothing looks more out of place than an under-scale light fixture. You can also layer your lighting at varying eye levels (e.g. table lamp, pendants, recessed lighting) for serving the different purposes of each space.
And that’s a wrap! If there’s a design or measurement question I didn’t answer, feel free to drop a note to us below.
Our Guide to Mixing Color & Patterns can also help you create a design that looks cohesive and feels bold and inspiring. Download it and start planning before you run out to find pieces you love! Until next time…