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Bedroom Design Rules

Black and white bedroom parisian apartment
Photo by 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.

Rugs:

blush and blue bedroom custom headboard
Photo by 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.

gold lamps neutral bedroom
Photo by 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.

Nightstand:

bedroom gallery wall
Photo by 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.

forest wallpaper white nightstand
Photo by 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.

Spacing:

white and blue custom bed bench roman shades
Photo by 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:

blue and white vintage bedroom blue chandelier
Photo byfor 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.

mustard yellow curtains bedroom
Photo by 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.

Sconces:

bedroom buffalo print brass sconce
Photo by 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:

navy blue bed
Photo by 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.

beachy bedroom gray and white
Photo by 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.

Curtains:

blue boy room bean bag
Photo by 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.

leather nightstand master bedroom
Photo by 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.

master bedroom vintage ceiling fan
Photo by 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.

Bench:

wallpaper master bedroom rattan bench
Photo by 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.

bedroom stools wooden wall hanging
Photo by 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.

Master bedroom neutral blue
Photo by 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.

guest bedroom vintage trunk
Photo by 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.

  1. I would LOVE a round up soon of twin beds and nightstands for a tween/teen girl!
    We’re moving this summer and redoing a room!
    Thank you so much for these rules posts. I feel like I generally have a good eye – but some of these things are a little tricky and it is so much better to know the rules ahead of time, than to purchase and then feel that something is “off”.

  2. Amazing bedroom designs, you know I’m living in a and now I’m gonna design that room just like the one I’m seeing in pictures. Thank you for sharing the designs.

  3. Help: I live in the Northeast, where many homes have baseboard heating. My current home (which I purchased a year ago and plan to live in a long long long time) has baseboard heating all along the perimeter of most rooms. Possibly overkill. But until we win the lotto to buy a Tesla roof and electric heat pumps, this feature is to remain. The question is: dealing with curtains sitting on these baseboards. I have typically sized the curtains to be right above and not touching the baseboards. My husband is adamant about them not ever touching. And really, I’m fine with the look. But what do YOU say to that? I never see baseboards in the homes you style and design. Also, this House was built in 1988 and has all its original pink and blush walls and tons of gold and brass everywhere. So dated but I’m enjoying it. Just bought some velvet-ish deep Navy “Sanela” curtains from Ikea to hem for the 1988 blush pink walled master, once I get around to finally tidying and styling it will share photos, it will be very EHD inspired! I live by your blog, LOVE it, love you, keep up the amazing work!

    1. Oh and I meant the homes you design and style never have baseboard HEATING (not being as prominent in CA homes, I imagine).

    2. Hi Jessica! I’m not Emily, but I do live in the northeast with baseboard heating. I actually skipped drapes all together and went with custom Roman shades that are fitted to the inside of my window trim. They look beautiful, block less light, and aren’t a fire hazard. 🙂

      1. Same issue- today I ordered rolling shades– I just don’t feel safe using curtains in the spaces (besides the fact that I have a toddler who would love to hang from them tarzan style lol).

    3. I have baseboard heaters, live in a cold climate and have curtains to the floor. The key is to have a electronic thermostat (programmable, doesn’t need to be a Nest or anything). Those thermostats send out electricity in a different way than the dial type that just are on or off. When the heat on a dial-type thermostat kicks in, the heater is fully on, and doesn’t turn off until the room reaches the required temperature. This extended full-on heat can burn your curtains. When you are using an electronic thermostat it sends heat out more in pulses, at a lower power level than the traditional “fully on”. It’s not as hot and not “on” for a long period of time. I also set the heat to turn down at night (probably the only time you have the curtains closed). I hope I’ve explained this well -it’s kind of complicated. But floor length curtains can be done! Just be smart about it.

  4. I love these posts. I have two questions!

    1. What are your thoughts on mismatched nightstands… for instance: In our master bedroom, we have one standard sized nightstand, and the other is a longer console table for doing my hair and make-up in the morning (small bathroom probs.) How would you decorate and provide some balance?

    2. What are your thoughts on double window coverings? I would love to have pretty trained white drapes in our bedroom but need blackout shades for light control. Is it okay to have blackout romans in a soft gray with white drapes or is that too much going on?

    I’d love your thoughts 🙂

    1. I just bought some white velvet blackout curtains from pottery barn teen that work great at blocking out light. Maybe they would work for you too? !

  5. Any tips for a long, narrow bedroom with low, dormered ceilings?! Our bedroom is (mostly) the whole of our second floor and makes for very tricky furniture arrangement!

  6. What about pendant bedside lamps? how far above the nightstand should they hang (similar to a pendant light above the dining room table).

    while the lights I’m going to use aren’t 100% pendant, they’re a combination sconce/pendant. I have MCM teak swing arm lights with drop down Verner Panton flowerpot pendants. I can place the swing arm at a similar height to the sconces but then I have the pendant hanging down, so I’m curious to know how high the pendant itself should be above a bedside table because I can then adjust the either the height of the swing arm or the length of the wire.

    Thanks!

    1. I would also like clarification on this. Is there a rule on the placement of the bulb, or are there too many variables? Great series, very helpful.

  7. Moving into a new apartment soon so these bedroom tips are super helpful. Thank you for the suggestions!

  8. Do you recommend a bed size for a guest room? I currently have a full, and am wondering if I should upgrade to a queen or a king?

    1. It depends on how much space you have and who usually visits, but IMO, go as big as you can. Bigger beds are more versatile; a single person can sleep in a queen, but it’s hard for 2 people to sleep in a twin, you know?

    2. If you only ever have single visitors, your full is probably fine. If you often have couples stay, then I would definitely recommend a queen at least.

  9. what about sizes of art above a bed + hanging height??!

  10. My bedroom has windows that are recessed about a foot or so from the wall. I currently have curtains hung on a tension rod across the openings; should I move them out of the nooks so I can put them higher and wider than the windows?

    I really love this series of articles.

  11. What about placement of pot lights in a bedroom – Our room is really dark with small windows, I’d like to put some in over the bed, but I”m not sure where they should go.

    1. JP, I have pot lights in my bedroom and I absolutely HATE them. They are harsh and in your face. Would much rather have multiple light sources around the room, chandelier, etc. Can’t wait to get to this on my to-do list.

      1. but maybe they’re in the wrong spot, with the wrong bulbs? I don’t know. I need Candice Olsen and Chico. When I what light to get dressed, I don’t want to run around the room to flick on all the lights and then do it again when it’s time to turn things off.

        1. Hahaha I just remembered him. Chico was great!

        2. Try putting them on a dimmer!

  12. I have 12-foot ceilings and massive windows. I make my own curtains, and it’s still expensive af. Top third rule above window still applies?

  13. FANTASTIC RULES‼️ I’m very detail oriented when it comes to designing/decorating my room. I research, take pictures, walk around my spaces, etc. — so I have figured out some of these rules on my own. Others I had no clue they existed. Now I can check my work. Thanks so much😀.

  14. Great post! Would love to sleep in every one of these bedrooms…

  15. Hi, as a design pro am very impressed that you put these “rules” up. It helps clients get the basics off right. If you don’t have space and proportion right, then no amount of color or pizzazz is going to make the room look good. Keep up the god work!

  16. Excellent tips, thank you! So helpful as I consider a house addition for new master suite. I bought a lovely hammered copper headboard and cannot wait to use it and relieved that my other pieces should work really well here.

  17. Hi Emily! The burning question for our master bedroom is if a canopy would work in it. We have 7 1/2 foot ceilings and I wasn’t sure if it would make the room feel cramped or the ceilings feel even lower than they already are. The actual room is a great size – enough for a seating area to the left of the bed. I would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks so much!

  18. This post would be so useful but I wish you Americans would catch up with the rest of the world and use metric, haha! I can’t deal with these measurements.

  19. Right, BUT WHAT ABOUT DRESSERS?

    This has been my constant “WHAT DO I DO?” question for years. What are the rules for picking a dresser that is cohesive with my bed frame AND nightstands without being too matchy-matchy? I have no trouble finding nightstands to match my bed frame, but when I look at what dresser to buy to go with it — I’m stumped! HELP! 🙁

    1. I have an upholstered bed from Pottery Barn and a wide wooden dresser with matching nightstands from Ashley Furniture. Not too matchy matchy at all and the slightly more expensive bed makes the dresser and nightstand look way more expensive than they were.

    2. In my personal opinion, there’s nothing wrong with matching furniture. I was recently agonizing over the same thing (trying to find a dresser to coordinate, but not match, a bed and nightstand), when it finally dawned on me that I actually love the dresser that matches the nightstand. So, why was I trying to find a different dresser? I think the whole matching furniture sets can be over done. But, if your bed is different, then matching nightstands and a dresser won’t be too matchy-matchy.

      But, in general, I think the same rules apply when trying to find a dresser as they do when trying to find a bed/nightstand combo. You want the room to feel balanced. So, if you have an upholstered bed with dark wood nightstands, maybe try a lighter wood dresser? Or if you want more contrast, a white dresser?

  20. Would love rules for how to decorate above the bed/headboard! Most of the pictures above have framed photographs–what are the rules on size/how far above, length compared to bed. Also, what are some other options besides framed pictures? i.e. I saw an African head dress recently that I loved!

    1. ahhhh you are not in calif! Most of us want NOTHING over the head of our bed! Earthquakes! A friend who survived the big Northridge one make that clear to me!

  21. I have been obsessing about bedroom rug placement for weeks now….this post is so welcome! I’m working on my son’s room which is small, so his bed is pushed against the wall for maximum playing-with-toys space. We have a 6×9 rug in there now which goes under half of the bed and then stretches out to the middle of the room, and I can’t decided if it looks weird or not.

    Maybe I should just get a small rug to fit just in the central “non-furniture” space in the middle of the room? Or maybe I should get a bigger 8×10 rug that goes under almost all of the furniture (but maybe not completely)? Or maybe the 6×9 is OK…. I welcome any guidance!!

  22. so the chandelier thing–my sense is that it should be centered on the bed width-wise, but not lengthwise (so, closer to the foot of the bed than the head). In my current space, that would put it almost perfectly centered in the doorway as you view our bedroom from the hallway. Does that sound right?

  23. What about having a desk in the bedroom? We have a two bedroom apartment, and with the second bedroom as the nursery we have no where else to fit a desk. As of now I have a desk that does double duty as a nightstand in the bedroom. I’ve thought of just getting rid of it, but it’s really not an option. Thoughts on how I can make it work? Right now I’m trying to figure out how to make the lamps and other nightstand all look like they’re supposed to be in that room with the desk.

  24. Please write about the rules of the dining – living room in small spaces.

  25. Your blog is my absolute favorite. All the post are well thought out and informative. Your style is spot on! There is so much good information. I just love it!

  26. But seriously: What about dressers? How wide, how tall, lighting, and size mirror above it? Please help

  27. if the room is 157″ and the bed is king size (65/70″)
    how much nightstand width is needed?

  28. Thank you for this lesson! I loved learning from you; you explain so well and your visuals are fantastic. Jane

  29. How about how to make a dog crate look like it’s not there?! Ha, just kidding (I mean, not really). Love this series.

  30. What is the point of a bench in a bedroom? I know that I see them a lot, but I’ve never had one in my room, and I don’t know if they have a function or just a decorative look. I take my shoes off way before I reach my bedroom!

  31. That black & cream wallpaper is driving me CRAZY!!! I have to have it! Please where can I get?
    Oh and I love your designs Emily…you’re one of my favorite top three designers!!!

    1. Lotus by Farrow and Ball

  32. These are great. I’m moving later this year, and am a bit apprehensive about setting everything up myself.

    You mentioned pushing the bed up against the wall (in the point about having 36” to walk in). Do you have any more rules for that?

    I’m thinking of building my own Murphy bed, from plans that have it attach to the wall sideways. It will always be up against the wall. I’ll keep pillows and duvet in a storage ottoman, so making the bed and putting it away should be easy. I don’t know where we’re moving yet, so don’t have room dimensions, but I’m guessing that the ottoman, an armchair and a vintage chaise can go across the room from the bed, with a large rug. Most of the time it will look like it’s just generously portioned for the conversational grouping, but when the bed’s open, it will extend over the rug.

    Can you comment on that, or on Murphy beds or beds pushed up against the wall in general? Thanks!

  33. Great post. What is the wallpaper that has all the foliage? The one in the picture that’s about nightstand scale? Or other similar ones?

      1. Thanks!

  34. Could you please provide the sources for the ceiling light fixtures in pictures 8, 12 & 15?

  35. Bank for a prepaid present prepaid gift card balance address associated with the card. Firstly, discuss with the highly regarded net web page is left to invest from your incentive card.

  36. This is the right site for everyone who would like to find out about this topic. You realize so much it is almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a topic which has been discussed for ages. Wonderful stuff, just great!

  37. Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Thank you for providing these details.

  38. Can you include a rule about the appropriate height of a bed and headboard based on the size of the room? I have a King bed in a room that is not very wide – have room for narrow night stands on either side, but am struggling with picking a headboard that wont make the room appear smaller than it is. Will a higher bed and headboard give the illusion of a smaller room in a narrow space or the opposite? Thanks for any advice!
    I am looking for an upholstered bed in the style of the CB2 one you posted in your previous boho bedroom post but struggling with the height issue.

    1. I think there is a typo in regards to the hanging height of the chandelier over a bed…

      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.

      Should it be 7.5 feet and NOT 8.5 feet?

      Thank you,
      Annette

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