Know Your Numbers

Photos By Cortney Hostin, Cortney Dani Photography

A Designer’s Guide to Industry Standards

by Susie Robb @fromsusie

Not all rules are meant to be broken and good designers know where to toe the line. However, there are some industry standards that will prove very helpful to you if you know them and stick to them. This is especially true when it comes to the numbers on your tape measure. I’m outlining all the common measurements you’ll need when creating a space that is both beautiful and functional. After all, there is a method to the madness and I’ll tell you why these rules apply.


Clear the Path

Walkways around furniture and walls in every room in your home should be a minimum of 36 inches. This means in your bedroom you should allow walkway clearance of three feet around your bed. In the kitchen you’ll need three feet around all sides of the island. The dining room is where things always get tight, but you truly need 36 inches around the table and chairs to allow room for seating. Creating ample walking space makes a room look larger and creates natural flow throughout.


On the Walls

Lone artwork should be hung with the center of the picture at eye level (usually 60” from the floor). If you’re hanging a group of photos or large artwork over a piece of furniture, aim for the bottom of the grouping/artwork to hang about 4-6 inches from the top of the furniture piece. Another great tip here is that what you hang above the furniture should be about 2/3 the width of the piece below it. For example, a 36” wide console table should have artwork that is 24” wide above it.


For the Television

TVs should be hung at eye level, but you’ll need to keep in mind that viewers are typically seated while watching TV. Eye level for a seated viewer is about 42”. This means hanging the TV over the mantel isn’t the best idea unless you have an open concept floor plan and viewers might be standing in the kitchen. Always keep functionality in mind.


From the Ceiling

Chandeliers should hang 36 inches from the table top. This is also true for pendant lights in your kitchen. The reason for this is that you want to allow a clear line of sight for you and your guests. This will also give you plenty of room for tabletop displays and food service without a light fixture getting in the way. The 2/3 Artwork Rule can apply here too. Long dining room tables look balanced with a fixture that is 2/3 in proportion to it’s length.

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Around the Windows

Curtain rods should be hung 1/2 to 2/3 the distance between the top of the window and the ceiling. This will give the illusion of taller ceilings and balance the room. You’ll also want to hang them 6-10” wider than the window. This creates the appearance that the windows are bigger than they are. Drapery should be hemmed one inch longer to allow for the perfect “kiss” when it touches the floor.


Take a Seat

Make a mental note that you need 12 inches of clearance under a table for seating. This means that your dining chairs should have a seat height of about 18 inches for a standard 30 inch table. If you’ve ever wondered if you need counter stools or bar stools, the same math applies. Standard countertops are 36 inches and bar height countertops are 42 inches tall. Counter stools will provide a 24 inch seat height that is perfect for standard countertops. Bar stool seats are 30 inches high to accommodate the bar top.


Within Reach

Consider comfort in the bedroom by matching the height of your nightstand to the mattress top. This provides ease when reaching from the bed. End tables and side tables in the living room should be as tall as the adjacent arm chair height to allow for comfortable access to the table when seated. Your coffee table should be as tall as your sofa seat height. It should also be placed 18 inches from the furniture. This is the only exception to the walkway rule because your coffee table and sofa are viewed as a pair.


These industry standards are here to help you create rooms that are aesthetically pleasing and function well. Your designs will be pleasing to the eye and create maximum comfort if you follow these guidelines.

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