Our Dining Room “Rules” Cheat Sheet



We decided to break down some of the Dining Room rules you should be adhering to in your own home. 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 harmonious as possible. Think of it as the cheat sheet for what your dining room should be doing. As we mentioned last time, there are always exceptions to the rules but in order to break the rules… you gotta know them first. So let’s get into it. 

In case you need more design rules, check out: Bedroom Design Rules | Living Room Rules

Furniture Placement:

photo by david tsay for ehd

RULE: Give 30″ to 36″ of a walkway between large furniture pieces (if your dining room allows for it) if not then at least 18″-24″.

You know how when you are sitting on a flight and the flight attendant pushes that tiny little cart up the aisle basically bumping every single sleeping shoulder on her way up? Well, it’s not the flight attendant’s fault it is the space they have to move in. Don’t let your dining room be that airplane aisle. Make sure you have at least 24″ of space all the way around your dining room table so that people can move freely around it without having to bump everyone at the dinner party on their way to use the powder room.

photo by zeke ruelas for ehd | from: nicolette mason’s new home

RULE: Give about 24″ of space per person for maximum comfort and food enjoyment.

Here is a seat guideline for rectangle tables depending on size:

  • 48″long table: seats 4
  • 60″-72″ table: seats 6
  • 80″-87″ table: seats 8
  • 92″-108″ table: seats 10
  • 120″ table: seats 12

And for round tables depending on size:

  • 42″-48″ diameter table seats 4
  • 60″ diameter table seats 6-8

Similar to the last one. Rather than for the space around your table, this is for the space at your table. This isn’t a grade school cafeteria where you are all shoved on a table trying to scarf down your food. So, give your family and guests enough room to sit comfortably at their seat and not be curious which water is theirs because they are all so close together.

photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: setting the table with parachute’s new table linens

RULE: Chairs should be able to slide under the table with ease with or without arms. Ideally, there should be 7″ between the chair arm and apron of the table but that’s not a hard rule. Just for your reference dining chair seats are usually 18″-19″ high and dining tables are typically 30″ high.

This will not only help with flow when the chairs are empty and you need to move around the table, but it also helps those people that need to pull their chair in (little kids) easier accessibility to the table when they are eating.

photo by bethany nauert for ehd | from: lisa’s house: the dining room makeover

RULE: This one is more of a guideline than a hard rule. The back height of your chair should be similar in scale to your table. For example, if you have a small round 36″ table you should stay away from a super large scale 4′ tall dining chair because it’s going to look really off. In terms of how short is preferred it doesn’t really matter as much as long as scale-wise it looks right to the table and room. Benches are a great option and have no back:)

This rule can be broken and technically still look good, but use your best judgment when it comes to proportions between your chair and dining table and don’t make the chairs too tall for the size of the table.


photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: griffith park formal dining room reveal

RULE: Allow at least 36″ from the edge of your table to the edge of the rug. The average dining table will need a rug that’s at least 8′ wide. This let’s gives you room to pull out your chairs without falling off the rug.

Not every dining room needs a rug, but if you do have one make sure there is plenty of room to pull the chairs in and out without having the chair half on and half off the rug.

photo by david tsay for ehd

RULE: Give at least 12″ between the rug and wall if you have the space.

Rugs are rugs, not wall to wall carpet, so make sure that there is some breathing room between the rug and the walls so that it doesn’t feel too tight in there.

design by carli alves | photo by rusty williams photo | from: can anyone vault their ceilings and what does that cost?? (plus see carli alves’ dark living room get a bright makeover)
photo by tessa neustadt | from: a modern makeover with method

SUGGESTION: Flatweave rugs are in our opinion the best choice for dining rooms. They are the easiest to move chairs around on as well as clean. If you don’t want a flatweave then tufted or low-pile rugs can also work. We just suggest avoiding shags and thick piles. They will catch everything that falls off the table and are much harder to clean.


photo by david tsay for ehd

RULE: Pick a chandelier about half the width of your dining table. You can also is to add the room’s length and width in feet. That number in inches suggests an approx. size for the diameter of your chandelier. So if you have a 10′ x 12′ room your chandelier should be about 22″ in diameter.

Having the right scale light above your table will help the entire space to feel more pulled together. Unless your fixture is a more abstract or sculptural piece – stick with something that is to scale with the size of the table, otherwise, your room could feel overpowered by the fixture.

photo by david tsay for ehd
design by arlyn hernandez | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: arlyn’s moody dining room reveal is all about the insane power of paint

RULE: Center a chandelier or pendant on the table, not the room.

You would think this is obvious enough, but we are including it just so that it is clear. If you do have a junction box that is off-centered to where your dining table is then either swag the chandelier over or have the junction box moved so that the light is directly over the table.

photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: mel’s living room reveal

RULE: Hang your light fixture so the bottom is 30″-36″ above the table. This way no one’s vision is blocked and everyone can see each other:)

You don’t want to feel like you’re in an interrogation room with the light directly overhead, and you also don’t want to lose all sense of atmosphere. So keeping your light at the right distance from your table will help both worlds to work well together.

Photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a modern and organic dining room makeover

RULE: For rectangular chandeliers give at least 6″ from the edge of the table to chandelier on both sides.

Your chandelier should never go past the edge of your table in any direction. Anything bigger than your table and the room could feel top heavy.

photo by tessa neustadt for ehd| from: gather around … + target fall roundup

RULE: For multiple pendants above a dining table we recommend hanging them about 26 to 28 inches apart.

If you choose to do a few different pendants or a row of pendants above your table this rule will help you to space them so that they don’t feel too close and claustrophobic next to each other. It will also help the light to diffuse evenly around the room rather than in one spot.

photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: a modern makeover with method

RULE: Place wall sconces between 5′ to 6′ up from the floor. If using multiple sconces in dining room (or any room) space them ideally 48″ apart but at least 24″-36″.

This rule not only is for aesthetics but also helps to keep the light bouncing around the room evenly so that you don’t end up with any dark corners.


photo by zeke ruelas for ehd | from: dining room makeover

RULE: Your console table or credenza should be at least the same height as your dining table but ideally higher.

When you enter into a room, your eye wants to see the surfaces that objects are displayed on so having your credenza slightly taller than the height of your table will help things to feel proportional and well placed.


photo by mike garten for ehd | from: my house tour from good housekeeping

RULE: Art, whether it’s one piece or a gallery wall, should be at least 2/3rds the size of the side of the table it’s on but typically not any larger than the table.

This rule can be broken, but typically any sort of art on the walls will look best if it is slightly more narrow than the length of your table. If your collection extends beyond it, the proportions in the room can start to feel off.


photo by tessa neustadt | from: the design milk family room reveal

RULE: Keep centerpieces 15″ or lower so again everyone can see each other across the table.

This isn’t a gala, save the crazy centerpieces or floral arrangements for a party. When you are seated at the table you don’t want to have to try and peer around a centerpiece to see who you are sitting across from. And, last but not least and EHD suggestion when styling…

photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: setting the table with parachute’s new table linens

SUGGESTION: An EHD personal rule is to never have a tablecloth on a table unless the table is set. Instead, use a table runner for everyday casual use if you need something on your table.

Let us know if you have any other questions or things that are confusing you when it comes to dining room layout and design, and let us know which room you want us to talk about next.

Check out the rest of our design rules: Bedroom Design Rules | Living Room Rules

Opening Photo Credits: Design by Velinda Hellen for EHD | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Sara’s Living Room & Dining Room Reveal

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