Learn the Mathematics of Decorating

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Some living rooms just seem to be put together perfectly with the most appealing distances between items and the placement in height and width captures your eye. Learn the mathematics that will help you to decorate like a designer.

Learn the Mathematics of Decorating

When you learn how far up, down or apart something should be in your living room, you will decorate like a pro. Keep these numbers handy so you can reference them again when you redecorate. The objects with the most options are your window treatments and they can be quite tricky.


All rooms need something hanging on the walls to look complete. Your artwork can be paintings or collections of objects in shadow boxes for many small items.The height of anything hanging on your walls looks best if it is placed 56 to 60 inches high on the wall. This would be about eye level with the center of the artwork. When you are hanging multiple items, treat them as if they would be one large piece of work and hang the center point of each at about eye level. Hang the artwork so that there is about 2 inches of space between items that you hang on the wall in a grouping.If you are hanging an item over your couch, the ideal space above the couch to the bottom of your artwork is 4 to 8 inches. TIP: If your artwork is large and heavy, use the larger picture hooks, which can support up to 100 pounds rather than nails or screws. This will help protect your wall and your artwork.


Most all rooms look best with a variety of lighting in them and with the lights placed at different heights to establish separate areas with different amounts of lights. The best height for a floor lamp is 68 inches. The traditional floor lamps include a shade that conceals the bulb whether you are standing or sitting so it isn't too bright and in your face.Wall sconces should be hung at about 60 inches from the floor for the best results. This is a minimum height and you can hang them higher.Wall sconces should also have 3 to 6 inches between them and artwork or edges of a mirror that they flank. The minimum distance that a hanging light fixture should be from the ceiling is 7 inches. This allows people to walk under it.A light switch should be about 36 inches from the floor on the wall. Also, leave approximately 1 1/2 or 2 inches between the switch and door trim.


Arranging your furniture in a living room can be confusing and is a bit harder to make sure the measurements look nice.The ideal distance between the coffee table and couch is 18 inches.The best distance between the outside edges of an area rug and the walls in an average sized room can be anywhere from 10 to 20 inches.Your furniture should be placed about 36 inches away from the walls. If you have a pair of matching living room chairs, leave 42 inches between them so you can add a side table. In a smaller room, you can space chairs 24 inches apart if you don't have a side table.

Window Treatments and Curtains

This is the most difficult designer decision in a living room. You can follow some of the rules, but also, some of the measurements depend on your architecture and your room itself.


The best length for any type of curtains or drapery is floor length. If there is a deep windowsill or a radiator in the way, then choose a different length. The curtains should "kiss" the floor, meaning touch it but not be so long as they will bunch up on the floor.

Cafe Curtains

Cafe curtains are short panels that only cover the lower portion of the window and leave the top open for natural lighting. These should be hung so that the bottom just touches the windowsill. This works well in kitchens and bathrooms.

Breaking at the Floor

If you have floors that are uneven, such as in an older home or you are worried about measuring for curtains precisely, you can have panels that extend to the floor by 1 to 3 inches causing a pooling effect on the floor. This works great in a formal room and you can go up to 6 inches pooling on the floor. However, this is high maintenance because you will need to refluff the curtains every time you vacuum or if the pet lies on them.


Panels should look ample and drape well when they are closed. You should have a combined width that is at least 2 to 2 1/2 inches the width of the window. If you don't intend to shut curtains, you can round down to about 1 1/2 inches the window width.


Generally speaking, curtains brackets should be above and outside the window molding to look the best. There are other techniques that depend on several items though. If you have lovely detail on your window molding, you can use a tension rod and hang the curtains inside the window so the details can still be seen.

Maximizing Windows

Interior designers have two magical tricks for maximizing your windows. You can use one of the techniques or both on the same window or all of your windows.You make your window appear taller if you mount the curtain rod 4 to 6 inches above the window frame or halfway between the frame and the ceiling. If you extend the curtain rods 3 to 6 inches beyond the frame on each side of a window, if makes it feel more grand, allows extra light in a room when the curtains or open and seems more elegant. You can actually use this technique to display your beautiful window molding by placing the rod up to 12 inches on each side. Keeping all of these measurements in mind can help you to decorate like a pro and obtain the appearance you want in a living room or any other room in your home. All of your items will appear that they have been planned in advance to get the feel you desire without a feeling of being overwhelmed. You will likely get a lot of great comments from your guests as well.
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