Measuring Up: Dining Rooms

Interior design is as much about function as it is about aesthetic appearance. A home is first and foremost a multi-functional space that ideally gets lots of use and provides an equal amount of comfort. That’s why hallways are a minimum width, stair risers are certain height, etc. This applies to furniture too and the way you arrange it. In the dining room it can be the difference between making your guests feel relaxed and sociable or trapped and uncomfortable. A few basic rules of thumb for distance can prevent nuisances like banging elbows with your dining companions or not being able to get out easily because the legs of your chair are entangled with your neighbors. Here are a few guidelines from the designers at Minneapolis-based Room & Board.

Wall Clearance

Ideally, the edge of your table should be a minimum of 36 inches from the wall. This allows enough room for people to walk behind chairs and get in and out easily.


The size of your rug will depend on the size of your table. A distance of 24 inches from the edge of the dining room table to the edge of the rug should accommodate all of the chairs whether they’re pushed in or out from the table. Keep in mind that if your chairs are oversized, you may need a clearance of more than 24 inches.

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Overhead pendants or chandeliers are traditional in dining rooms. Hang them 30 inches from the tabletop to keep sight lines clear for your guests. Consider adding lamps or other fixtures to make sure lighting is adequate and flattering. You don’t want it so bright that your dining room feels institutional and your guests exposed, or so dim that you can’t tell the potatoes from the brussel sprouts and people are using their smartphone lights to check out the wine label.


A good general guideline is to allow for 24 inches of space for every person at your table. If you can’t swing that you might want to consider bench seating, stools or cubes which can often accommodate more people without having to account for lots of chair legs. If your dining chairs have arms you could also swap them out for armless versions which also require less space. Consider a pedestal or trestle table which gives you more space at the ends than a traditional 4-leg model.

by Laurie Junker

Photos courtesy of Anne Sage and Room & Board

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