Person sketching an apartment floor plan

Whether you’re in a cozy studio or a spacious penthouse, figuring out the best size and placement of furniture and decor for your home can feel overwhelming. When I started planning out my first apartment, I quickly realized I had no idea about the proper dimensions for anything. How tall would my bedroom nightstands need to be? How much space would I need to leave around my dining table? If you can relate, have no fear: as a numbers girl, I was slightly fixated on making sure everything in my apartment was the “right” size, and now I’m here to help.

The Decorate by Numbers series is my complete guide to key measurements for creating comfortable, balanced, and functional spaces in your apartment. Together, we’ll explore sizing and spacing standards for different furniture and decor pieces in living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, and more. To kick things off, let’s dive into some of the concepts that will recur in the series. We won’t go into any of the furniture and decor measurements yet, but we will discuss the Two-Thirds Rule and the Walkway Rule, two key principles to keep in mind throughout this series.

The Golden Ratio and the Two-Thirds Rule in Home Decor

Furnishing and decorating your home can make you feel sort of like Goldilocks, on the hunt for the perfect items that are neither too big nor too small. As it turns out, a bit of math can be the key to this puzzle. The golden ratio, which you may remember from high school, is a not-so-secret trick for designing harmonious interiors.

If you need a refresher, the mathematical relationship of approximately 1:1.618 is known as the golden ratio, which can be found in patterns throughout nature and art. Objects with proportions that match the golden ratio tend to be pleasing to our eyes, so it’s no surprise that interior decorators take inspiration from this ratio to create visually appealing homes. However, decorators typically use a roughly equivalent ratio of 2:3, which is where the Two-Thirds Rule comes from.

But how exactly do you “use” a ratio? Specific applications of the Two-Thirds Rule will pop up throughout this series, but, basically, the ratio of 2:3 — which can also be thought of as 40:60 — can help guide your decisions about the scale of your furniture and decor. For example, to style a room that doesn’t feel over- or under-furnished, experts recommend a 2:3 split between negative space and furniture. In other words, leave around 40% of the floor space clear and the other 60% covered by furniture or decor. As you’ll see later in this series, you can also use the Two-Thirds Rule to choose the appropriate sizes for a sofa and coffee table in your living room, a pair of nightstands in your bedroom, or wall art and light fixtures in any room.

Like most “rules” in the world of interior design, the Two-Thirds Rule is more of a guideline, but it’s a great tool for designing cohesive spaces in your home. Essentially, the Two-Thirds Rule makes it tangible to reach that Baby Bear sweet spot, where the scale and proportions of your home decor feel “just right.” So keep the Two-Thirds Rule in mind as you follow along in this series!

The Walkway Rule of Space Planning

Negative space is an important aspect of picking the size and placement of your furniture. Leaving enough room to move around comfortably in your apartment is vital to creating balance and flow in your home. The Walkway Rule is a simple guideline for how much space you should leave available between large pieces of furniture or between furniture and walls when you want to allow room for foot traffic.

Ideally, you should aim for a comfortable 36 inches of clearance, just like standard hallways, to provide room for easy movement. However, the minimum recommended clearance is 24 inches, which should be reserved for small apartments or low-traffic areas. In other words, leave 2 to 3 feet of clearance anywhere you’ll need ample room for walking, such as around a dining table or behind a floating sofa.

The Walkway Rule ensures that your space remains not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional. It can improve the overall look and feel of a space, making it feel less cluttered and more inviting. Just like the Two-Thirds Rule, the Walkway Rule will also come up again in this series, so follow along to learn when exactly to use it!

Conclusion

In the upcoming posts, we’ll delve deeper into simple guidelines and formulas for arranging furniture and decor in specific areas of your apartment. Get ready to explore space planning tips related to furniture measurements for your living room, dining room, bedroom, and more. We’ll also dive into sizing and placement standards for plenty of decor items, including wall art, rugs, and lamps.

Don’t miss out on the rest of this series! Subscribe to my newsletter to be the first to know when a new post is available. Together, let’s create comfortable, balanced, and functional spaces in your home!

Happy decorating!

Uzma
Decorate by numbers: the golden rules of furniture and home decor

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