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  • Writer's pictureStacie Benefield

Not sure how high to hang artwork?Much of professional decorating is a bit of a mystery—but some of it is just plain math.

Updated: Mar 7

Looking for some decorating rules of thumb? Check out the GREAT information shared here by Upscale Consignments! Many people might not think about math and design at the same time. Maybe you think these concepts are as far removed from one another as possible. But knowing some basic mathematical guidelines can be crucial to getting a look that works as well in your home as you envision in your head. Today, we are going to look at some of the time-tested math rules that can be found in every designer’s toolbox. Artwork

  • Most people hang mirrors and art much too high. As a rule, the bottom of your picture frame should be no more than 4′ from the floor.

  • For artwork or mirrors over sofas or chairs, hang them high enough so that you don’t hit your head when you lean back, the bottom edge should be 8 to 10 inches above the sofa back. But, you also want them low enough so that you see the sofa and artwork as one unit.

  • Generally, artwork or a grouping of art over a sofa should take up 2/3 of the wall space, position it so that its midpoint is about 60 inches from the floor and centered.


  • Look for a buffet that’s 36 to 42 inches high and just deep enough to hold a serving platter. Tailor its length to the room’s proportions and err on the side of too long.


  • A chandelier’s lowest point should be 36 inches above the center of the table to avoid blocking anyone’s view.

  • Your chandelier should neither overpower your table nor look too small. To calculate the perfect size, first measure your table (if it’s round, measure its diameter, if it’s a rectangle, measure its width), and then subtract 12” from that number.

  • A properly proportioned chandelier comes to within 6” of each edge of the table. Using this easy formula will help you achieve that balance. Some manufacturers offer oval chandeliers for extra long rectangular tables.


  • To accentuate the height of the room, hang floor-length curtains as close to the ceiling or molding as possible. Make sure the curtains touch the floor for maximum effect.


  • For table lamps near sofas and chairs, make sure that the bottom of each shade is at eye level when you’re sitting. That way you’re not seeing the harp when sitting and you and your guests will not be blinded by glaring bulbs. Ideally the middle of the shade should be 36 to 42 inches from the ground and the bottom of the shade should land at about shoulder height.

  • Floor lamps should not be so high that they don’t feel connected to the sofa. Sixty-eight inches is the ideal floor-lamp height, since it conceals the bulb whether you’re seated or standing. Try a floor lamp on one side of the sofa and a table lamp on the other. Having something slightly off keeps things from feeling contrived.

  • For sconces, mount the fixtures at least five feet above the floor. If you’re installing them over a buffet, leave three to six inches of space between a sconce and the edge of the mirror or art that it’s flanking.

Occasional Tables

  • A side table should be the same height or an inch or two lower than the arm of a sofa. Why? So that you’re not straining to pick up a book or put down a cup of tea.

  • The coffee table should be two-thirds the length of the sofa and a couple of inches lower than the seats (typically 14 to 16 inches high).


  • Paint coverage is stated on each can so you get the length and width of all walls that are going to be painted that color and get sq. ft and buy enough paint that will cover that figure. Length X width = coverage.


  • A rule of thumb for coming up with a cohesive scheme (in any room): Choose one color for 60 percent of the room, use two accent hues (15 percent each), and spice things up with a color that’s brighter than all the others (10 percent).


  • Generally, you want to limit the number of patterns to a room to no more than 3 patterns. Stick to one standout pattern per room. Once you have designated the boldest pattern (such as a botanical design) to one of the room’s three key components—walls, sofa, or rug. Then bring in two or three smaller, understated designs (like dots and stripes) that are at least half the size of the dominant print but in the same palette.


  • To create a smaller, more intimate space with your rug, measure the length and width of the furnished area and subtract 24″ from both measurements.

  • In the living room or family room, furniture should be placed entirely on or off the rug, with the exception of your sofa, which may have only it’s front legs on a rug that is 8 by 10 feet or larger.

  • For a rug under a dining table and chairs, measure the table’s length and width and then add 54″ to each measurement. This will provide 27″ on all sides, to allow space for the chairs to remain on the rug when they are pulled away from the table.

Space Planning

  • The distance between a television and seating should be three times the size of the screen.

  • Allow 14″ to 18″ between a coffee table and the front of the sofa.

  • Plan at least 24″ of clear space behind dining and desk chairs (measured assuming someone is seated).

  • Keep traffic patterns in mind. Leave at least 24″ for walkways and avoid forcing traffic through conversational spaces if possible.


  • A generous drape is the safest bet: Allow 15 inches or more of overhang on each side. But don’t go too long; the cloth can touch the floor but it shouldn’t pool.

Throw Pillows

  • For a standard seven-foot sofa, use three 20-inch-square pillows for a look that isn’t too perfect. Put two on one side and one on the other, an odd number works best. Try a different pattern for each, or pair a matched set (say, in a bold motif) with one that contrasts (in a subtle print, like a pinstripe). On a love seat, two throw pillows works fine.

As always, we hope that you enjoy this post and find it helpful in re-styling the place you live into the place you love!

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