Emily Henderson

stylebyemilyhenderson.com · Apr 18, 2018

Bedroom Design Rules

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

We started our “design rules” series a few weeks ago with ‘living room rules‘ and ‘dining room rules‘ and today we are heading into the bedroom. Your bedroom is your safe space, your haven, your retreat from everything else at the end of the day. So the last thing you want to be doing is banging your head against your bedside sconce because it is in the wrong spot or wondering why something feels visually off, which is where these bedroom design rules come in. As we have mentioned before, the purpose of these posts is not to give you hard rules to follow (or reprimand you if you don’t follow them) but more to give you guidelines that can assist you in helping the room feel as pulled together and as harmonious as possible. Think of these posts and this series as the cheat sheet for what your dining room should be doing. There are always exceptions to the rules (just as in life) but in order to break the rules and do it right… you gotta know them first.

Let’s start with one of the most troublesome areas for a lot of people and the source of a lot of emails we get with the subject ‘how big should my bedroom rug be?’ Rugs can be tricky in bedrooms but here are a few of our rules and guidelines that should help you out.


Photo by Sara Tramp for EHD

RULE: Ideally your rug should have at least 24″ on all three sides of your bed. Our typical sizing rules are: for a Twin go for a 5’x8′, a Full 6’x9′, a Queen 8’x10′ and a King 9’x12′.

If you have the room for a rug in your bedroom then you will want to make sure that you have some space on either side of the rug once it is tucked under your bed. If it is similar in width to your bed then it may look too squished and small for the size of your bedroom. If you don’t have room for one of the rug sizes that we suggest above, then you could always try doing two smaller 2×3′ rugs on either side of the bed or some sort of sheepskin throw if you are looking for extra comfort.

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: A good rule of thumb is to have the legs of your footboard be on top of your rug.

This rule is one that can be broken depending on your room and how it is laid out, but typically you will want a good portion of your bed on the rug (and at a minimum the front legs). You can float a rug in front of your bed if you have a long narrow room but a large rug that fits under the bed will help to ground the room and keep the rug from looking like an afterthought.


Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: 24”-27” is the ideal height for a nightstand but just keep the height 5″ higher or lower than the top of your mattress.

Nothing worse than reaching over for a glass of water and having to crawl out of bed to try and find it on a super low nightstand. The same goes for one that is too tall that causes you to have to reach up and grab it. Ideally, your nightstand will be around the exact same height as the top of your mattress so that you can easily access it.

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: Keep your nightstand in the scale with your bed. The average nightstand is 20″x20″ which will work for most beds. However, for larger beds (like a King) you can use a larger nightstand (up to 40″) and smaller beds (like twins) maybe go a little smaller.

Design is all about scale. If your nightstands are too large next to your bed then it can look odd and the same happens if you have two tiny little nightstands next to an oversized large bed. When picking out nightstands also think about how it looks next to your bed. If your bed is more solid and heavy like above then something like the white nightstand with four legs helps keep things from feeling too visually heavy in the room. If you need a few suggestions for bed and nightstand combos, HERE are some of our favorites.


Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: Space permitting you ideally want at least 36″ around your bed and all walkways to comfortably get around your space.

This rule applies to dining rooms, living rooms, and just about any other room. If your room is tight and doesn’t allow for a good amount of space to walk then you could consider pushing the bed up against one wall or downsizing your bed to fit with the scale of the room. Getting up for a midnight snack is MUCH easier when you have at least 36″ of walking room during your sleepwalking.

Chandeliers and Overhead Lighting:

Photo by Bjorn Wallander for EHD

RULE: Measure your room’s length and width in feet. Adding those two measurements together will determine what size diameter you will need for your chandelier. For example a 10′ x12′ bedroom requires a 22″ diameter chandelier.

This again goes back to scale. All of your lighting, whether a table lamp, chandelier, or pendant should be the correct scale for your room. This will help the light from feeling too large and grand for a small room or too small and bitsy for a larger room.

Photo by David Tsay for EHD

RULE: Like in our other “Rules” posts, the bottom of the chandelier should hang no lower than 7′ above the floor, but if you do have tall ceilings (over 8 feet) just add 3 inches of hanging height per foot. So if your ceilings are 10 feet tall, the light fixture should be about 8.5 feet from the floor.

Although it is over your bed you don’t want the chandelier to hang too low so make sure you give you (and your head) enough clearance. This will also help to evenly distribute the light throughout the room.


Photo by Ryan Liebe for EHD

RULE: To get the ideal bedside sconce height sit in the bed upright and then have someone measure the height from the floor to just above your shoulder. Another way to find the right height is to measure 50″-60″ from the floor to the top of the fixture.

Adequate light while reading bedtime stories is essential, but having the sconce too close to the bed can have you feeling like you’re under a warming light at a diner. Make sure you leave enough space between the light and where your body lives while sitting in bed so that things don’t feel too close for comfort.

Table Lamp:

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: This rule depends on the height of your nightstand but make sure the bottom of the shade is around chin level when sitting upright in bed to avoid the harsh bulb light is in your eyes.

You don’t want to be blinded by the light when you flip on the switch in the morning, so having the bottom of the shade around chin level will prevent you from getting too much of a harsh glare from the bare bulb.

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: Your beside table lamp should be around 1/3 of the surface size of the nightstand.

We’ve all seen this happen. Where a lamp that is far too small for a nightstand is being used. Not only can it look too small for the space but it also will end up causing you annoyance when you turn it on and off and have to look directly into the light due to it being so low. Make sure that you get a lamp that fits with the size of your nightstand. Ideally, its shade shouldn’t be any larger than the width of your nightstand.


Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: Divide the space between the top of window and the ceiling into thirds. Then hang your curtain rod in the top 1/3 portion.

We pulled together an entire post about how to hang your curtains, but the rules are pretty simple when it comes to how far up you should hang them on the wall. Split the distance between window frame and ceiling into thirds and then mount them in that top third area. This not only elongates the window but helps make your ceilings look taller as well.

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: Curtain rod should extend 10″-12″ of the width of the window on either side.

Similar to the previous rule this rule is going to help visually elongate the width of the windows and it also means that when you pull the curtains all the way open there will be room on either side of the window for the curtains to live so that they don’t cover up extra window and block the light coming in.

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: The bottom of your curtain should “kiss” the floor. Avoid lots of pooling fabric or curtains that are too short.

Unless you live in an 18th-century French chateau leave the puddling of extra curtain fabric to someone else. We typically have the curtains just kiss the floor so that they barely touch without looking like they are floating.


Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: Make the bench is 6″- 8″ narrower than the foot of the bed either side. If you have a Queen that means your bench should be around 45″ wide and a King should be around 60″ to 65″ wide. The key here is having the bench be around 3/4ths the length of the bed.

We pulled together this post with some of our favorite end of bed benches, as well as our rules for this, but the bench should be slightly more narrow than your bed so that visually it doesn’t overpower the foot of the headboard and gives the eye a break between the two pieces.

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

SUGGESTION: You can combine two short benches or even a bench and a stool or basket. Whatever combo just needs to equal the 3/4ths rule.

If you have the extra room for some seating at the end of the bed a collection of small footstools or even a small bench and basket combo can give a bit of extra seating and life to that part of your room. Just adhere to the 3/4ths rule and you should be good.

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

RULE: A bench should be a few inches shorter than the bed or if the bed has a footboard then same height or slightly lower.

This helps with the visual aspect of your room. Just like it is visually more appealing to have different heights of serveware on a dinner table or credenza your eye wants different visual heights in your bedroom. Having the bench a few inches shorter than the bed will help with this.

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD

SUGGESTION: Choose a bench that slightly contrasts with the material of your bed, or vice versa. So if your headboard is upholstered, then choose one with wood or metal accents or if your headboard is metal or wood, then opt for an upholstered bench.

Mixing materials is something that we love to do so don’t be afraid to mix and match in your bedroom as well. As long as you stick with a consistent color palette of a few different colors then mixing materials will help to add interest to the room. In this case, we used an upholstered headboard with a vintage trunk (which served as a bench) to help keep things interesting.

Let us know if you have any other questions or things that are troubling you with your own bedroom below and we will try to get them all answered.

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