Top Interior Design Rules of Thumb

Top Interior Design Rules of Thumb

Creating a home that is optimally beautiful, functional and comfortable can be at once both exciting and overwhelming. To ease the daunting nature of this tremendous task, it helps to arm oneself with expert advice beforehand. Luckily, there are a plethora of interior design rules of thumb, expert tips and handy tricks to assist you through every step of the design process. We’ve curated some of the top ones based on the most common design principles, measurements and situations according to room.

Living Room

Furniture placement can make or break any living room space. Follow these general rules of thumb and suggestions from top designers.

  • When planning furniture placement, designer DD Allen suggests starting with the best room’s best seat and working from there.
  • To create a sense of warmth and flow, place seating arrangements away from walls—even a few inches works wonders.
  • Leaving a minimum of 15 inches between the sofa and coffee sofa is ideal for ease of movement and room flow.
  • To achieve perfect proportions between coffee table and sofa—choose one that is 2/3 of the sofa’s length.
  • Choose a coffee table that is the exact height of the sofa’s seat cushions (or 1 to 2 inches lower).
  • The ideal side table height falls within 2 inches of the height of the sofa’s arm. Side table depth should not exceed that of the sofa.
  • To avoid a ‘dance hall’ look, designer Brad Weesner says to float a sofa or lounge chair (with attractive back) in the room.
  • For wall mounted flat-screen TVs, hang at eye level when in seated viewing position. Suggested distance for optimal viewing is 1 ½ times the size of the TV.
  • When hanging a smallish artwork above the sofa, set it off center a few inches to the left to creative negative space, or ‘ma’.

Dining Room

The ideal dining room is balanced in both aesthetics and function. Allowing for the user’s comfort and mobility should be a top consideration when choosing and placing furniture.

  • Leave a pathway of 36 to 48 inches or more between the dining table’s edges and walls or other furniture. This allows for traffic flow and guests to sit and rise comfortably.
  • For ample dining and serving space, choose a dining table that is wider than 36 inches.
  • A dining table with leaves or extendable table are ideal for small dining spaces.
  • Leave 7” inches between the table’s apron and chair arm to allow chairs to easily slide under the table.
  • Space chairs to provide at least 24” between chairs to allow guests to sit, dine and stand in comfort.
  • Armless dining chairs are the ideal choice for small spaces as they don’t restrict movement and flow.
  • Allow each guest table surface space of 24 to 30 inches for optimal dining comfort.
  • Choose a chandelier or lighting fixture that is scaled properly to the dining room and table.
  • Center light fixture above the dining table leaving 24 to 32 inches between the fixture’s lowest point and the table’s top.


Creating a sense of comfort and calm takes high priority in the bedroom. Here’s some great tips and guidelines to help you do just that.

  • Ideally the bed should be no higher than 23 inches off the floor to create ease when getting on and off.
  • When hanging artwork or mirrors above the headboard use contrasting shapes—rounded headboard + square artwork or mirror and square headboard + round artwork or mirror.
  • For a cohesive look, hang artwork or mirrors 12 inches or less above the headboard.
  • The ideal bench or chest for the foot of the bed is no less than 2 inches shorter than the width of the mattress.
  • To keep bedtime prep to minimum, keep a total of sleeping and decorative pillows on the bed to six or less.
  • To compliment most beds, the ideal height of nightstands and bedside tables is 24 to 27 inches.
  • Bedside table lamps are optimal when the shade’s bottom edge lands about 20 inches from the mattress’s top.
  • King beds require nightstands that are 36” inches wide or more.
  • For utmost comfort, wall-to-wall carpet is best in the bedroom. To soften existing hard flooring, use silk or wool rugs.


From the powder room to the master bathroom, there are a bevy of design principles and tips that work for most bathrooms.

  • For ergonomics and comfort, designer Jason Bell recommends a bathroom vanity height of 36 inches instead of the 30 inch standard.
  • Avoid using a sconce fixture over the vanity mirror as it casts unflattering shadows. Instead, designer Rob Southern suggests a pair of ‘sconces flanking the mirror for a more realistic and flattering light.’
  • Choose a mirror that is no wider than the vanity or sink.
  • The bathroom ceiling height should dictate how far above the sink the mirror is hung.
  • Make a narrow bathroom appear wider and more spacious by using the same tile color on floor and walls.
  • Create a spa like feel in the bathroom with crisp white towels and shower curtain.
  • For robes and towels, mount robe hooks in lieu of a towel bar.

 Image Source: CozyLittleHouse

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