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The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game

Designer Kimberly Biehl shares her tried-and-true tips for getting it right with key decorating measurements that bring rooms into balance.

Lived-In Style

Interior designers get asked lots of questions, and I mean lots of questions. Many are hard to answer, as so much of design is about personal preference or style; if you look through any magazine, it becomes clear that there is no set-in-stone way to decorate a space. But that doesn't mean there aren't some important guidelines you should follow, in particular when it comes to design measurements.

Almost daily, I get asked questions like, “How high should my chandelier be above my dining table?” or, “How high should I hang my art?” For me, good design is all about improving our homes so that ultimately we love every single thing in each room, and each area of the house makes us happy. When you look around your home, if you aren’t crazy about something, it’s time to edit; make a note and start hunting for a special piece to upgrade that room. What better time than right now, when we are in our homes more than ever, to update your castle? When you get it home and are ready to integrate it into your space, here are a few tried-and-true tricks and dimensions I have used for over 30 years that work every time and really pull a room together.

Vintage art hung over vintage table with antique accessories.

HOW HIGH SHOULD ART BE HUNG? When a photo or painting is hung at the wrong height, it instantly throws off the proportions and balance of a room. The best rule of thumb for hanging art is to place a piece 60 inches on-center (in design-speak, that means from the floor to the center of the piece of art). You can go as low as 57 inches if you are a very small person, or up to 62 inches if you are a very tall person, but 60 inches is standard. Note: If you're hanging something over a sofa, the frame bottom should sit about 10-12" above it.

Antique curve-backed sofa with glass cocktail table in living room with vintage accessories.

HOW MUCH SPACE SHOULD BE BETWEEN THE SOFA OR CHAIRS AND A COFFEE TABLE? You never want less than a 12 inches of space between your sofa or chairs and the front edge of the coffee table, and the maximum distance would be 18 inches (depending on your height). If the table's too far away, you can’t reach it easily to put down a glass or even a remote control. My ideal spacing is 14 to 16 inches, which is comfortable for everyone.

Formal dining room with crystal chandelier, floral wallpaper and gallery art wall. Also an antique dining table.

HOW HIGH SHOULD A CHANDELIER SIT OVER A DINING TABLE? Before you worry about hanging it, you should know that the size of your chandelier should be about one-half to two-thirds of the width of the table it’s hanging over. Then, in a room with an 8-foot ceiling, I always put the dining chandelier 32 to 36 inches above the table; then I step back and eyeball it to decide what looks best and most proportionate to the space and table. The next time you are at a friend’s house or restaurant and the height of the lighting feels perfect to you, ask how high it is. Don’t be shy. I always carry a small measuring tape in my purse—I know that makes me sound like a crazy designer lady, but you would be surprised how often I have used it over the years!

PHOTOS Bob Coscarelli
WORDS Kimberly Biehl

Kimberly Biehl is a Los Angeles interior designer and longtime treasure hunter. Her Design Dig columns will appear periodically on Lived-In Style.

RESOURCES Shop some of Kimberly's fabulous finds on Etsy.