Sized up: 3 Home Essentials to Measure Thrice

Wondering how interior designers get a room looking just right? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Aside from our innate creative instincts and in-depth product knowledge, our decorating choices are often guided by some simple math that you can apply in your own home. Here are three interior essentials where measurements matter most.


Lighting is essential in every room, from its functional contributions and aesthetic value to the ambiance it creates. Proportion is key to achieving that desired impact. To determine the appropriate size of your ceiling fixture, measure the length and width of the room in feet, and add the two values. That number, in inches, represents the ideal diameter of your light fixture. For example, a room that measures 15 by 20 feet would require a light fixture measuring 35 inches across.

Another measurement to pay attention to is the suspension height of your light fixtures. This number is relative to the context of the fixture. If it will hang above a table or counter, the gap between the bottom of the fixture and the tabletop or countertop should be approximately 30 to 36 inches. Otherwise, the space between the bottom of a light fixture to the floor should measure between 6 and 7 feet.


Seating is a factor in virtually every room, in some capacity, but in the living room, it’s everything. This is where we do most of our sitting, as we relax, entertain, talk, and listen. It’s where some of us watch television, work, and eat. The seating gives the living room purpose, so hitting the right proportions is key to function, comfort, and style.

The sofa is the centerpiece of every living room. Standard sofas measure about 84 inches long and 38 inches deep, but they commonly range from 72 to 96 inches long, suited to smaller and larger rooms. The seat height of most sofas and armchairs is 18 inches, so keep this in mind when choosing side tables and a coffee table, which should be about two-thirds the length of your sofa. When positioning your seating, give each piece enough breathing room. The ideal gap between seats should be anywhere from three to 10 feet. The gap between the sofa and coffee table should be ideally about 16 inches.

Area Rugs

This lower extremity is often left until last when decorating, which can be a big mistake. A rug forms the base of a furniture grouping, such as a living room sitting area or a dining room suite, so these measurements should be factored into the design plan from the outset.

If a room has one express function, such as a dining room, then the rug should be chosen relative to the size of the room and should accommodate the entire furniture grouping to create a cohesive look. Leave a gap of 12 to 24 inches between the edge of the rug and the wall.

If you’re choosing area rugs for a large, open-concept area, sketch out a floor plan and layer in all the individual “zones” that are planned for the space, like the sitting area, the reading corner, the television area, the office nook, et cetera. Adding rugs to these areas helps define them within a large, open space, acting as a visual anchor. Each area rug should be large enough to accommodate the furniture grouping related to that particular area, with about eight inches of rug peeking out from beneath furnishings.

Standard area rug sizes are three-by-five ft., four-by-six ft., five-by-right ft., right-by-10, and nine-by-12. If these don’t work for you, consider getting a custom-cut rug that’s made to measure.

Shop Like The Pro: A word to the wise: measure twice.

Guess-timating furniture size never ends well. Showrooms are usually bright, expansive areas will high ceilings and lots of breathing room – and not always reflective of a true “home” environment. Be sure to measure your space and the furniture itself, to ensure it fits in the room, not to mention through doorways, down hallways and stairwells, or if you live in a condo, in the elevator.

Make note of the position of entrances, windows, and paths of traffic, to ensure your furniture works within that set of parameters.

Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and there are exceptions to every rule, but they are a good starting point. Of course, if you’re still challenged with getting your home “just right,” connect with me, and let us start the conversation.