Take Measure, Take Pleasure

Take Measure, Take Pleasure

Designing an inviting living space not only takes creativity but also precision. That’s because looks, comfort and even safety depend largely on the proper placement of things, which calls for careful measurements. This A to Z guide of standard and recommended measurements makes this numbers game (almost) as easy as a-b-c.

A is for area rug.

“A rug does not look right if the front feet of the furniture pieces in a seating group are not on the rug,” says Ace Hardware’s home expert Nathan Fischer, adding that most living rooms require an 8-by-10-foot rug minimum and more likely a 9-by-12.

B is for beds.

With just two or three inputs, LandscapeCalculator.com figures out how many plantings and how much mulch is needed for flower beds.

C is for coffee table.

Allow for 18 to 24 inches of clearance between your table and seating. “I like to snug the furniture up to the coffee table for a cozy look, but you need at least 18 inches so it’s easy to walk through,” Fischer says.

D is for draperies.

Draperies should be one half-inch off the floor and extend 6 inches above the window. “That way from outside, you don’t see any pinch-pleats, just the folds,” says Sally Morse, director of creative services for custom window treatment manufacturer Hunter Douglas.

E is for end tables.

The top of an end table should be at or below the arm height of its adjacent sofa or chair.

F is for fit.

When measuring a room for furniture, “be sure to also measure entryways, doors, height clearances and stairways to make sure you can get it to the desired location, and take into account obstacles such as lights and railings,” says Faith Phillips, a La-Z-Boy design and trends expert.

G is for gutters.

Rain gutters and downspouts should channel and discharge rainwater well away from a home’s foundation. Six feet is a common minimum recommendation.

H is for hood depth.

A range hood should cover at least half of the front burners.

I is for island.

Standard kitchen island height is 36 to 42 inches. A taller island accommodates barstool seating and is more comfortable for prep work than standard 36-inch countertops.

J is for juice (as in power).

Measure a home’s annual energy use compared to similar homes using EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick at www.energystar.gov.

K is for kitchen triangle.

The sink, stove and refrigerator form the points of the triangle. The sum of the three sides should be no more than 26 feet, with no single side measuring less than 4 feet or more than 9 for maximum efficiency and comfort.

L is for lampshades.

For reading lights, “The bottom of the shade should be even with eye level when you are seated,” according to LampsPlus.com.

M is for microwave.

Since it is unsafe to reach overhead for hot foods, the bottom of the microwave should be 3 inches below the principal users’ shoulders.

N is for no space.

Adding larger windows or more windows, or even a skylight, are ways to improve lighting and make a room look bigger. Another design tip to make the most of space in the kitchen is installing deeper cabinets or a wider countertop. A galley-style kitchen is great for small spaces. Also, make upper cupboards 18-inches deep instead of the standard 12 inches.

O & P are for one gallon of paint

One gallon of paint generally covers about 400 square feet of wall, but since windows and trim affect coverage it is wise to use an online paint calculator to estimate the number of gallons needed for a specific space, says Kathleen Szczeniak, senior director of product innovation for Sherwin-Williams.

Q is for quality.

Thread count is the most relied-upon metric for the quality of sheets, but a higher thread count does not necessarily translate to better-quality bed linens. The cotton type is a better indicator, with Egyptian and pima cotton generally regarded as the best.

R is for root flare.

Tree trunks thicken at the base where the roots start to emerge, and this area, called the root flare, “is meant to be in the air, not under soggy mulch which is very bad for the tree,” says Bob Hursthouse of Hursthouse Landscape Architects and Contractors in Bolingbrook, Illinois. The root flare should be 1 to 2 inches higher than the surrounding grade, with mulch pulled away from the trunk.

S is for switches.

The standard height for light switches is 48 inches above the floor, but universal design for wheelchair users calls for a lower switch height of 40 inches.

T is for toilet.

Bowl heights are generally 14 to 15 inches from floor level (without the seat), but certain toilets rise to the level of porcelain “thrones,” with bowls as high as a standard chair (16 to 19 inches) for comfort and ADA compliance.

U is for universal design.

Most interior doors are 30 to 32 inches wide; however, door widths of 34 to 36 inches are needed to accommodate wheelchairs, with beveled floor thresholds not to exceed one-half inch in height.

V is for vertical space.

MasterBrand Cabinets recommends there be 18 inches between the kitchen countertop and the base of the upper cabinets, with some exceptions depending on countertop items and workspace considerations.

W is for wall hangings.

“Most people hang artwork too high, especially if they have high ceilings. They think they need to fill up the space,” says Fischer, adding that “artwork should be hung at eye level,” or about 57 inches from the floor to the center of the art.

X is for xeriscaping.

Xeriscaping, or water-conserving landscaping, precludes mixing plants with different growing requirements in the same beds. Sunlight calculators – light meters that measure solar energy – can help a gardener position plants and establish zones in ideal locations.

Y is for yardage.

Calculating the yardage needed for custom draperies is tricky because it depends on several factors including rod width and the fabric’s pattern repeat. An online drapery yardage calculator can help determine the proper size and fullness.

Z is for zero.

“Zero entry pools” offer gradually sloped access to the water and are popular because they evoke the beach and improve accessibility. They take up more space than a regular pool, though, so if backyard real estate is limited, consider “a beach entry that slopes gradually at first, but then lets you use steps to descend into deeper water,” PoolPricer.com advises.


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