Elizabeth Lavin

Interior Design

How to Keep a Room In Proportion, According to Dallas’s Best Designers

What size rug do I need? How high should I hang my curtains? Local pros weigh in.

This story is part of The Best Designers in Dallas 2021 feature. Click here to see the 2021 winners.

More art than science, good design isn’t as simple as plugging in measurements and painting by numbers. It takes a keen eye and creative intuition to know what’s right, what’s not, and where to break the rules. “This is why one needs to hire a designer,” says Michelle Nussbaumer of Michelle Nussbaumer Designs. “I could give you random numbers based on the room I might be sitting in, but that won’t work for the room you’re sitting in.” Our designers shared some general rules of thumb to follow when choosing pieces and hanging them in your home. But understanding that each home and space is unique, you should take these numbers with a grain of salt. “Formulas will only get you so far,” says Lisa Floyd of Baker Design Group.

How high to hang a light fixture:

30 to 36 inches above a table

“Leave room for flowers on the table.” Paul Duesing, Paul Duesing Partners

How high to hang your curtain rod:

0 inches from the ceiling (or crown molding)

Nearly all our respondents said as high as possible—“No exceptions,” says Philip Thomas Vanderford of Studio Thomas James—but Sarah Hargrave of The Collective is more lenient: “If you have low ceilings, hang them as high as possible, but if your ceilings are tall, we generally hang the rod two-thirds of the space between the ceiling and the top of the window casing.”

How much space to leave beneath curtains:

0 inches to the floor

“We like to say you should have drapes long enough that they ‘kiss the floor.’ You do not want them pooling, but you also do not want them to be high-waters.” Traci Connell, Traci Connell Interiors

How high to hang artwork:

60 inches on center

Jan Showers of Jan Showers & Associates advises, “Where it may be seen when sitting.” Adds Traci Connell of Traci Connell Interiors, “If a guy is hanging it, tell him to go lower!”

How high to hang a TV:

From the floor, approximately 50 inches to the base or 60 inches on center—or as close to eye level as possible when seated.

“If you have to crane your neck to see it, it’s too high. I am not a fan of televisions over a fireplace mantel for that reason.” Denise McGaha, Denise McGaha Interiors

How much space to allow between a seat and table:

10 to 12 inches (Standard seat height is 18 inches from the floor for a 30-inch table)

“You should have about 10 inches of room for legs between the chair and the apron of the table.” Lisa Floyd, Baker Design Group

The right size rug:

12 inches from the walls

Some prefer a little more, some a little less, but leaving a 12-inch floor border between your rug and walls was a good average. All our designers agree that people have a tendency to go too small; in the case of rugs, bigger is usually better.

“Too-small rugs never look right,” says Samantha Fisher of Samantha Fisher Interiors, who gives a good rule of thumb: “It’s not necessarily dependent on the size of the room, but instead the furniture sizing and placement. A rug should contain all furniture in a seating area, except for a media cabinet. For dining, you have to allow for moving chairs from under the table.”

The right size sofa:

84 inches is the standard

If you’ve got a wide range of heights in your home, realize that one size sofa does not fit all. Make sure the tallest person in your house can comfortably lie down. “It’s OK to order two matching sofas at different depths to accommodate a big range in heights,” says ML Interiors Group’s Michelle Lynne. “Trust us, no one has noticed that the sofas weren’t exactly the same when we do this on a project!”

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