Decorating Math

For some, creating aesthetic balance comes naturally, for others, it may be a challenge. If you’re in the latter group, you will enjoy this month’s column, in which I’ve included some quick tips and easy mathematical formulas that will help take the guesswork out of decorating your home. Grab your note pad, calculator and measuring tape and let’s get to work!

Calculating paint quantities – Take the length of all the walls of the room you’re going to paint (the perimeter) and multiply it by the height of the room to get the total square feet you are going to paint. Next, take the total square feet and divide it by 400. This will give you the approximate gallons needed for one coat coverage. (Allow more for multiple coats.) Also, be sure to check out this handy dandy calculator by Benjamin Moore.

Lighting – Dining room chandelier: It’s best to choose one with a diameter equal to one half the width of the table. Also, keep in mind that the bottom of the chandelier should be at least 2 1/2 feet above the table. Use a dimmer switch to soften the light when entertaining and brighten the area for homework or hobby-related tasks.

Breakfast room pendant: Normally, a decorative pendant or a fixture with a down light will do the job. As with the formal dining room, use a dimmer. Again, the bottom of the pendant should be at least 2 1/2 feet above the table. Normally 100 watts of light is sufficient for these areas.
In interior design the “rule of three” applies to almost everything. Lighting is no exception. If you have one lamp, you probably need two and if you have two lamps, you should have three. It’s important to distribute light to all the seated groupings in a room; typically, this will create a triangular shaped pattern.

Sofas, coffee tables, mirrors and artwork – Coffee tables should be 2/3 to ¾ the width of your sofa or loveseat, and should be placed at least 12-16 inches from the sofa to allow for knees and legroom.
Artwork above a sofa should at minimum be 2/3 the length of the sofa. That does not mean you only use ONE piece of artwork above a sofa. What it means is your collection or the one piece you are using must be at minimum of 2/3 the length of the sofa. If you are thinking of extending the artwork or collection beyond the sofa or piece, there must be something to relate it to; otherwise it will seem very top heavy.

The basic rule for positioning a picture or mirror: Hang it so that the eye of the viewer looks into the main area of interest. In living and dining areas, the viewer is usually seated. In hallways and foyers, the viewer is standing.
Optimum television viewing distances:

30” – 6.25 feet
45” – 9.4 feet
60” – 12.5 feet

The Golden Mean – And finally, perhaps the most interesting mathematical presence in decorating is the Golden Mean. The Golden Mean is a ratio which has fascinated generation after generation, and culture after culture. It has been used extensively in art and architecture. It is present in the Venetian Church of St. Mark built early in the 16th century, and has become a standard proportion for width in relation to height as used in facades of buildings, in window sizing, window treatment designs, in first story to second story proportion, and at times, in the dimensions of paintings and picture frames. The easiest and most useful place for do-it-yourselfers to use the Golden Mean in decorating is in the placement of tie backs for draperies. If you use the ratio in placing a tie back, you will see that it creates pleasing line of division. So where is this magical line? It falls somewhere between one-half and one-third or approximately .618 of the way down from the top or up from the bottom of a treatment. (Just for fun – measure the height of your chair rail molding in your dining room as it relates to your ceiling height. Notice anything?)

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