Smart Decorating Tricks for Any Space, Part IIFour designers share their expertise on interior decorating in this three-part series. These tips will help any new homeowner achieve the look and feel they want in any room.

Rules for the Living Room

The Floor Lamp

Sixty-eight inches is the ideal floor lamp height, since it conceals the bulb whether you’re seated or standing. Decorator Brad Ford’s tip ( Try a floor lamp on one side of the sofa and a table lamp on the other. “Having something slightly off keeps things from feeling contrived.”

Pattern Mixing

When it comes to prints, stick to one standout per room. Designate the boldest pattern (such as a botanical design) to one of the room’s three key components—walls, sofa, or rug. Then bring in two or three smaller, understated designs (like dots and stripes) that are at least half the size of the dominant print but in the same palette.

Rules for the Dining Room

Proper scale makes it an inviting gathering place rather than an untouchable showcase. Decorator Amanda Nisbet ( pulls up a chair to share her calculations.

Dining Table

Elbow room is essential. “You’re here to eat—remember?” says Nisbet. The table should be large enough for each guest to claim a 24-inch-wide expanse. Center the table, but if the room is very large, you might want to position it closer to one wall, for coziness.


Allow for at least a two-foot passageway between the wall and the backs of pulled-out chairs. But don’t fret if that’s about all the space you have, says Nisbet: “You want the room to be warm and intimate. Think of how people always gather in the kitchen.”


A chandelier’s lowest point should be 36 inches above the center of the table to avoid blocking anyone’s view. Don’t be afraid to go big: “You have to remember to fill the vertical void as well as the horizontal,” says Nisbet.


Look for a buffet that’s 36 to 42 inches high and just deep enough to hold a serving platter. Tailor its length to the room’s proportions and err on the side of too long.


“Rugs are important for buffering sound so you can hear dinner conversation,” says Nisbet, who likes to fill the dining room, leaving just a five-to six-inch perimeter around a rug’s edge.

The Mirror

You can give a sideboard some grandeur by hanging a large mirror about four inches above it. Make sure that the buffet is six inches wider than the mirror on either side.

The Tablecloth

A generous drape is the safest bet. Allow 15 inches or more of overhang on each side. But don’t go too long; the cloth can touch the floor but shouldn’t pool.

The Curtains

Nisbet’s number one curtain peeve? When the fabric doesn’t reach the floor. “Curtains should skim the floor or have a half-inch break,” she says. “Or add two to three inches if you want them to puddle and have some volume.”

The Sconces

Mount the fixtures at least five feet above the floor. If you’re installing them over a buffet, leave three to six inches of space between a sconce and the edge of the mirror or art that it’s flanking.

Stay tuned for part III!


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