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One lesson I always impart to my students is the importance of standard or common measurements. We all measure furniture before buying it to ensure it will fit into the intended space, but what many people don’t realize is how awkward or uncomfortable over- or undersized furniture can be, even if it technically “fits.” That lesson has become even more urgent these days as the market is inundated with pieces that are not standard sizes! I would be remiss if I did not give you proper warning and arm you with some basic guidelines so you have clearer idea of what to look for when shopping.

Let’s start off this week with your living room.


80 – 95” long. A standard, straight sofa should be 80 – 95” in length. Anything shorter is a loveseat and anything longer will just be a really long sofa, which contrary to what you might think, does not actually equal more seating. You don’t want more than 3 booties on a sofa or it will be like frogs on a log all facing forward — not cool unless you’re watching the super bowl.   

34 – 37” deep. A sofa deeper than 37” is going to feel more like a twin size bed. Unless you’re above average in height, you’ll feel like you’re sinking in and have a harder time getting up. And sofas don’t typically come in anything less than 34” deep – that’s more like a bench. 

Coffee Tables

16 – 18” high. It’s become fairly trendy to use a trunk in the place of a coffee table, but it’s usually too high to serve its function. Anything taller than 18” won’t be comfortable to use.

Length and depth vary with shape. For round or square tables, look for something 30 – 36” in length. For rectangular tables, 24 x 48” is standard, but I find that to be too big for many apartments or even smaller living rooms in houses. I recommend taking that measurement as your absolute maximum dimensions and aiming for something closer to 18 x 36” or 24 x 36”.

Side and End Tables

24 – 26” high. Here’s where you really need to pay attention so as not to be deceived. I’ve been seeing items at West Elm and CB2 that are labeled side or end tables, but they’re less than 22” high. That’s actually much shorter than the arm on your typical sofa, meaning that you’d have to reach down to get the remote or put down your beverage. It’s so awkward! 

You want a table that’s roughly at the height of the sofa, give or take 3”, so between 24 – 26” high. This is especially important if you plan to put a lamp on top of the table, because how wrong would it look if the top of the lamp hardly reached above the sofa arm?

TV Stands

30″ high max. Often people try to repurpose a credenza or a buffet to serve as a TV stand, but please don’t even consider this unless the piece is less than 30” high. Anything taller will put the TV above eye level when you’re sitting on your couch. A good test is to make sure that when you’re sitting on your sofa, the center of your TV is roughly aligned with the center of your eyeball.

Longer than the TV. As for length, the only real requirement for a TV stand is that it be longer than your TV, otherwise it will really look top-heavy. 

That covers the key pieces in the living room. In the next installment, I’ll go over bedroom furniture, and in the final segment, we’ll tackle the relationships between items to make sure they all play nicely together. 

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