The right size & height for art & decor

January 21, 2014

I compiled a bunch of frequently asked size/distance questions and my advice. These aren’t rules cause I don’t believe there should be any rules when it comes to decorating your own house. But they are guidelines to help you make things look and feel “right.”

First up, the headboard. I’m asked a lot about the size of our DIY headboard:

DIY tufted headboard

I wanted the width to be just ever so slightly bigger than the bed. So I went with about 77 inches wide. For the height, I hung it so the headboard was about 57 inches high off the floor. I’ve read that 48 inches is a standard height for a headboard but that’s too low for me. I wanted to be able to sit in bed and have my head rest comfortably. Our old headboard was shorter and that drove me batty.

The height depends on your room, the ceiling height and the look you’re going for too. Some want an exaggerated, high headboard for the drama of it, which can totally work.

Now, let’s talk lights. First up – the size of the light. The general rule is adding up the dimensions of your room and that will determine the width of your light. So if your room is 15 by 15 feet, you’ll want your light fixture to be at least 30 inches in diameter.

Of course there are exceptions to that too – we have an open kitchen/family room so I went larger in there, even though the nook isn’t big at all:

How high to hang light fixture

I err on bigger instead of smaller for my lights, at least now. I’ve had smaller lights in that spot and they never felt right to me. This one feels right, but it’s also a fairly “light” fixture – not heavy feeling so that helps it from looking massive.

Also, if you have super high ceilings you can throw those dimensions out the window and go pretty big.

Where you hang you light matters too. The general advice is 30 to 36 inches above your table. I’ve also read a standard 66 inches from the floor to the bottom of the light, but I like to base it off of the table, not the floor.

Here’s the thing – I hung our dining room fixture (this room looks completely different now) at 36 inches above the table:

Chocolate brown dining room

And I find that WAY too high. It has always looked awkward to me. I prefer a lower light. The light above our kitchen table is only about 25 inches above the table and I love it so much more at that height.

Again, on this one I say err on too low instead of too high. Not too low that you can’t see each other across the table of course, but low enough that it kind of grounds the space.

And when you hang a light or have someone do it for you, make sure to leave enough wiring up inside the ceiling so you can adjust it later. I’ve cut so many too short and can’t change the length or move them around. (You can add wiring but I prefer not to do that.)

The experts -- I read it in a Pottery Barn catalog ;) – say bathroom sconces should be at about 66 inches off the floor, but again, I kind of buck that advice. In our powder room I wanted to clear the wall treatment so I went higher, about 77 inches:

Wood planked walls in white

Because here’s the thing – at 66 inches off the ground you’re lighting the sink and the floor, not you. I wanted the lights to shine down on our faces, so I went higher and I really like it:

Sconces in bathroom

I did the same in the basement bathroom – you want to work off where the mirror will comfortably go:

Sconces in bathroom

Those are about 75 inches from the floor. This is one that you’d have to play around with to see what works for your family.

Hanging art is such a personal preference too. Overall the advice is to hang the middle of the art at eye level:

How high to hang art

The thing is, I’m 5’9” so my eye level is a few inches taller than most of my friends. ;) So again, it’s a personal thing. We have nine foot ceilings in most of the house so I feel like I can go a bit higher with the art. Otherwise there’s an awkward amount of space above it that I don’t care for.

Of course gallery walls throw all that out the window. :) On our basement wall I went all the way to the ceiling and filled the whole wall:

gallery wall wood planked wall

Again – it’s your house. Do what you want. :)

Finally, the rugs. OH, the RUGS. They are hard, right? I think so. At a dining table the advice is to make sure the chairs can be pulled out and stay on the rug. So the rug should be big enough that the chairs don’t fall off when someone is sitting at it.

For other rooms, there should be a good foot, preferably more, around the room where you can see the floor. Otherwise it looks like wall-to-wall carpeting, you know? Unless that’s what you’re going for!

But at least in our family room, I’ve learned over the years that a bigger rug is better:

graphic rug family room

I thought it would make the space feel cramped and it did the exact opposite. I don’t know what it is about a smaller rug, but at least in here it made the room feel much smaller than it was.

The general “rule” is that at least the front parts of the furniture should sit on the rug, but I’ve heard many say all of the furniture should comfortably sit on it. I tend to go for the former. As long as some of the furniture is on it I’m good.

Ugh, so many rules. This is why I say take this all with a grain of salt. Most of the professional advice has not worked for me in this house. It’s been ten years of trial and error to figure out what works and I’m always tweaking as you know.

Do you ever wonder about these? Any I didn’t cover?

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  1. Why couldn't this have come sooner:) We were hanging a new light in our dining room and I was going through post after post looking for one that you'd done a while back about how high from the table you hung your own light. This would have been perfect just three weeks ago! I love your blog. It's kind of funny that you seem like an intimate friend- and we've never met and probably never will! Thanks for helping me get ideas to copy and personalize in my own heaven. You're the best!

  2. I did the same thing a few months ago when we put a new light in our dining room. I read so many pages to see what was "proper". But we ended up doing what works for us. It's a bit higher but because I usually have something taller on the table it works for us. Plus lower it was blocking our view outside.
    So in the end, do what works for you right? :)

  3. Luv t tips! Also luv the fact that you say take with a grain of salt. I agree with the light rule... you have got do what works for you and your home.
    My pet peeve... people who treat an area rug like floor art and have things surrounding it... like an island in the middle of the room. Get he furniture on the thing people!
    Luv your home!!

    1. Very funny, Gee! A pet peeve of mine as well. Rugs are definitely meant to be lived on and not just floated! :-)

  4. I wonder if the bathroom light suggestion of 66 inches is meant for sconces that send their light upward? You know what I mean? Cause otherwise, yeah...that would be way too low for us as well! All your rooms looks great! Its all about what works for you! (or me...or whoever lives there...)

    1. Bekah that could very well be! Good point!

    2. I believe when you hang a set of two lights over the sink, they should be on either side of your face to prevent shadows when you are looking in the mirror. It's really hard to tweeze when you just have light shining down on you.

  5. Sarah, this is completely off topic, but where did you get the chandelier light you have in the living area? Love it. I am looking for something similar and can't find anything I like. Thanks.

  6. great FAQs post! Your home looks beautiful!

  7. Another inspiring post! Love your blog!

    As a general rule of thumb, you want the rug to be 18-24" away from the walls if you are trying to 'cover' the floor. There's no right or wrong to the furniture placement - front feet, all on, half on/half off - it simply depends on the room and the look you are going for. :-) You want it to be consistent unless you're defining the space. For instance, if you've decided to fill the room with the rug, make sure you don't have a floater (that one random piece of furniture that's NOT on the rug) if at all possible. And as Gee says, don't treat a rug like a piece of art. It's meant to be lived on. It's meant to ground a room, bring color, and reduce energy costs. Hope that helps some readers. :-)


  8. Great post, girl. I am a big believer in going with your eye and what fits your room best. But the major thing I love about this post is seeing some of these beautiful spaces all in one spot. You are seriously talented. All really lovely spaces, my friend.

  9. All great tips...and (as always) I just love looking at all of the pictures of your house!!

  10. This is so helpful! And 5'9"! Lucky (said in Napolean Dynamite voice). That basement wall is gorgeous, by the way. Yes, my comment is all over the place.

  11. This is helpful. I am pretty sure my dinette light fixture is too small for the size of the room but eh, it works. Great tips. My dad makes fun of me hanging my pictures too low but I'm about 5'6" and try to do them at eye level for me. I read somewhere years ago to hang them eye level to the shortest person in the house. I guess it's really all preference. Love your advice!

  12. Lol, "As long as some of the furniture is on it I’m good" is totally my rule for rugs, too!! All of these really do make a huge difference. Here's one that's missing: curtains! It's always interesting to find the right balance between how high you should hang them and how much (if any) they should pool on the floor. I always end up going with something different.. :P I've had high rooms where I hang them up to the ceiling to bring up the room height, and others where that just made the room feel tiny. So funny how those little things add up!

  13. Sarah,
    How funny you are. You cracked me up when you said "Again – it’s your house. Do what you want. :)" But I agree most things are trial an error and personal preference.

  14. The rug part is so true! I had a smaller rug in a room and I got a larger one and it made the craziest difference. It made every other piece of furniture in the room seem a bit larger and a better fit for the room

  15. I would agree that the bathroom sconce recommendation is for the uplights. I think your solution would help minimize shadows better anyway.

    Do you have a post about your basement wood wall. I guess I missed that.

  16. I love your blog and would absolutely LOVE it if you would do a video post on parts of your home like a few other bloggers I have seen, so we can see how the rooms flow and go together! It would be great!!

  17. Usually after such wonderful and helpful suggestions I like to read comments. I learn so much from that besides the initial post. You're all right as it is your home, you know what works and doesn't. I've gone into so many people's home where they have their art hung almost to ceiling while they are short.
    Hanging it high was a very old premise since so many homes had high wainscoting and art was hung from ceiling. Not that way anymore, even if you are tall. If I'm speaking out of turn I can take a suggestion to mind my own business, lol
    When I went to visit newly wed son/dil she had hung her art way up high. Lots of small things so it looked like clutter on walls. I had to be very careful not to look at art while she was in room, didn't want her to feel like I was scrutinizing. Her and son are both very tall people. After I'd been to her parents house I saw why she hung her art high as their art was almost to ceiling and they had low ceilings, also her Mom is short. I'm wondering how her Mom got it hung so high. One day dil asked me if she had hung her art, etc. too high. I was quite cautious answering, but she really did want to know so we did a little rearranging, we pulled things down, put them in different places after having them on floor and moving them around. When son came home he was quite happy with placement and so was she. Their ceilings were high also. Phew that was a close one. Hey I've been a dil to very critical and not tactful mil so knew how our dil would feel.
    I was absolutely drooling at your beautiful home, wanna trade? You have a wonderful knack of knowing just how to decorate for yourself and your family, all gorgeous. Enjoy it. Happy days

  18. Sarah, I love the comforter, where do you get it?

  19. Great information Sarah. I will have to bookmark this blog. Love the plank wall in the bathroom. Do you have a blog on how you created that neat look?
    Audrey Z. @ Timeless Treasures


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