How does that old saying go? "Measure twice, decorate once," or something like that. The spacing and placement of furniture is critical in any high-traffic living space. Doubly so for anyone starting with a small room. No more getting up to set a drink down or having to crane your neck to watch television— Keeping these guidelines in mind when planning a layout will always ensure a well-proportioned living space that's easy to walk and live in.
Don't forget, though: Rules are made to be broken! The most interesting rooms are always the ones that don't play it safe (just check out the art on the floor in this industrial loft's living room). Think of this post like a fundamentals class and take a tip from Pablo Picasso: "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."
Pictured above: Lori and John's Functional Modern Home
Distance Between a Coffee Table and Sofa
The general rule of thumb is to place the coffee table within about 14 inches to 18 inches from the sofa. That's close enough to reach for a magazine, but still offers plenty of leg room.
Height of a Coffee Table
Coffee table heights vary greatly, but keep it close to the seat height of the sofa (within 4 inches in either direction) for easy access.
Coffee Table to Sofa Size Ratio
The coffee table should be about ½ to ⅔ the size of the sofa, at least visually. It's almost impossible to measure, but "a little more than half the size" is a good rule of thumb when shopping for a center table.
Distance from Side Tables to Chairs
Side tables may sit closer to the chair or sofa than the coffee table would. The ideal measurement here is "close enough to set down a drink." Try sitting in each seat and imagine trying to set down your coffee or magazine.
Height of a Side Table
An end table should be no taller than the height of the arm of the chair(s) they're serving, and no lower than the height of the seat. The best height is one around 3 inches shorter than the arm. For chairs without arms, aim for a table top that's no more than 8 inches above the seat height.
The Height and Size of Sofa Tables
Sofa tables, the console table that sits behind the sofa, should be no taller than the height the sofa back. As for size, consoles can be anywhere from half the length to nearly the full length of the sofa (making sure to allow at least 6 inches from either end).
Distance Between Seating
There should be no more than 10 feet and no less than 3 feet between people seated around the room to optimize intimate conversation and everyone's personal space. People sharing sofas and love seats are the exception, but the people seated on each ends should be at least 3 feet from the next closest chair.
The Size of Pass-Through Between Furniture
You’ll want about 30 inches to 36 inches of walkway between pieces to avoid feeling like you're in a crowded movie theater.
The Size of an Area Rug
Generally speaking, area rugs should never be closer than 6 inches from the wall. The best distance is 24 inches from the wall in large rooms, and between 12 inches and 18 inches in a small space. In every room, though, rugs should be large enough to rest under two legs of the sofa and chairs.
Height of the TV
To minimize reflections and ensure a comfortable viewing position, people seated in the room should be looking slightly down at the television. An optimal height for the center of the screen is 30 inches above the lowest seat height in the room (the center of a 50-inch TV is around 14 inches from the top or bottom). If you're not wall-mounting, remember to make adjustments for the height of the TV's stand below the bottom of the screen when choosing an appropriate TV console height.
Distance from TV to Sofa
This will vary greatly depending on the size and quality of your television, not to mention your personal taste about how close to sit to the screen. A rule of thumb is to keep a distance between the TV and seating that is 1.5 times the diagonal measurement of the screen for the average viewer. The "average viewer" here could be the average distance of all seats in the room as measured from the TV wall, but you could also just measure from the sofa if that's where you sit most of the time.
Height of Artwork on the Wall
Pieces hung on the wall should generally be placed so the center of the piece is at standing eye level, about 57 inches from the floor (check out How to Hang Artwork and Not Screw it Up). Or alternatively, in a room where people sit most of the time, you may prefer to hang artwork at a seated eye level (which is 30 inches above the seat height). Either way, allow 6 inches to 12 inches of space between the edge of the piece and the ceiling, floor or wall edge.
(Image credits: Bethany Nauert; Michael Alan Hoy; Claire Bock; Liana Hayles Newton; Kim Lucian)