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Floor Planning Design With Dimensions And Examples

You’ve started designing a room or house, and you’re stuck at the floor planning design stage, asking yourself, “what’s the right distance between the sofa …

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Floor Planning Design With Dimensions And Examples

Table Of Contents

Table Of Contents

You’ve started designing a room or house, and you’re stuck at the floor planning design stage, asking yourself, “what’s the right distance between the sofa and the side table?” or “how far should a sofa be from the tv?” As designers, there are typical rules of thumb that we use for the floor plan or what we call space plan in the design industry, and we use these rules of thumb every day, so much so that we forget that other people don’t know these things off by heart as we do.

Floor planning design is a mixture of information that we gather from experience as designers. The starting point is typically building regulations (called codes in the US). We add our design experience and best practise to the mix. Finally, the result might differ slightly depending on the client’s brief and individual needs (such as universal access – also known as disability, accessibility or ADA design), which typically require more space for manoeuvring and lower heights for easy reaching.

In this post, I have provided a schedule of typical distances and heights for you so that if you’re designing a residential or domestic property (E.g. A house), you have hopefully everything you need right here (and if you feel I’ve left anything out, ask it below in the comments and I’ll update the post for you)!

For those of you who want them, I have included the free CAD files in DWG as well as the PDF for download of the floor planning design examples shown in this post. You can download those at the bottom.
Download The Cad & Pdf Files From This Blog Post

I have shown two hypothetical situations in the drawn examples for each space based on different floor planning design approaches. Often as designers, we can’t control the size or shape of the room, so the first approach is when the walls of a small space bind you and shows a room with the smallest or minimal dimensions that should be provided. The second example for each section shows another approach when you have the freedom to create a larger room, say when you’re proposing the room size from scratch.

I have also provided measurements in cm (metric) and inches (imperial) so that you don’t have to do the conversion yourself. If you’re an architecture or interior design student, I have also included a list of floor planning design and space planning for interior design books for you as a reference list at the end of this post (you’re welcome!)

One last thing. These dimensions and rules of thumb for floor planning design can be used as a guide. Design should not be rigid, so I have provided you with a range to make the best decision for your space.

These rules of thumb come from designing and reviewing thousands of house plans and layouts in my career as an architectural and interior designer and mentor. I have also worked on a vast variety of projects globally, studying building regulations around the world, so I am confident in providing you with relevant information worldwide. If you have any questions, please comment or ask questions below.

How Do You Use These Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb?

I have split these floor planning design rules of thumb into rooms to quickly find what you’re looking for, starting with general floor planning rules of thumb; secondly, I have given you a range of sizes to work from, from smaller distances to larger ones.

Depending on how big the room is that you’re designing, the larger the room would mean that you would typically try to aim to use the larger figure and the smaller the room, use the minimum or as close to the minimum as you can (from experience I also know that, that isn’t possible all the time as some spaces are very small or historic houses can’t be altered in the way that requires these rules to work, so of course, there always are exceptions). Suppose you’re designing spaces for the elderly or people with special needs, such as those in wheelchairs. In that case, I suggest looking at your current building codes or looking at one of the books I have specified in the references below to ensure your dimensions are exact.

I have listed each room in alphabetical order and have provided a list of floor planning design rules of thumb in list format. I have also included a drawn example for each room showing how to overcome the complexities of the requirements.

As always, there is more than one way to make the room work, and of course, the result is always guided by an individual brief; however, what I wanted to show you here is the minimum size that most people have to work with and a preferred size if you have that luxury.

General Floor Planning Design & Space Planning Considerations

Consider that you’re always working with a problem to solve, either space limitation or furniture arrangement. Do the best you can with the space you’ve got. If you’re starting from scratch, you have much more freedom to design something considered good design but remember, even then, you’ll typically have some kind of problem to solve (locating windows and doors to make sense with the preferred arrangement). There is no such thing as perfect that suits everyone, but you can successfully/functionally (and beautifully) meet your brief, and that’s all that matters when designing homes.

General Floor Planning Design & Space Planning Considerations

  • Whenever you’re working on your floor planning design, always work to scale. Typical scales for space planning and floor planning in interior design and architecture are 1:50 in metric and ¼” =1′ for imperial.
  • When a room needs to provide more than one function (E.g., A living room that also needs to act as a family room/playroom, guest bedroom, relaxation space, and movie room), then you’ll need to prioritise the functions in order of what’s more important for the homeowner. You can see floor planning examples of achieving multi-use rooms in the layout examples below.
  • Placing furniture up against radiators affects the airflow. Try to leave at least 100mm (4″) if you don’t have any other option. Underfloor heating is an excellent alternative to radiators (if your home is suitable).
  • Consider the view/outlook of each room and consider if you want to focus on it, highlight it or position furniture to ignore it.
  • While working on your floor planning design, try to position furniture to allow the room’s primary function to work effortlessly.
  • Consider the size of windows and the amount of natural daylight and how it affects the space. Can you accentuate it/hide it/or reduce it depending on your brief?
  • If you’re designing a property from scratch or have the luxury of larger spaces, include ADA/Americans with Disabilities Act (universal design) dimensions as statistics show that all of us will at one stage of our lives experience a physical disability (either temporarily or permanently) so our homes should be easily adaptable and flexible to accommodate lifestyle change.
  • Always consider the number of people who will be using the space at once, as this usually means that you think about the space differently.
  • If you’re starting with existing furniture that you’re re-using, make sure you have the exact dimensions before starting (or else your results will be skewed).
  • Always think about where your services are going to go. Typically, these need space in the floor, ceiling or wall, but if you’re moving things or changing things around in a room, you might need to accommodate new pipes and drainage for heating, A/C, electrics and drainage, so building out the wall might be required.
  • If you need to build out the wall to cover boxing of services and pipes, try to make the boxing part of the design rather than leaving it as an annoying eyesore in the room! E.G., You can hide bathroom pipes by building the design into a frame around the shower or making an entire room bench to hide pipes at a low level (see the example below).
  • Consider the different temperatures required in rooms and see if there are functional and sustainable ways to overcome the variations. For example, when the function of the room requires you to sit for a prolonged time (such as in a study), the temperature of the room needs to be slightly higher than active rooms (like a kitchen), so see if you can position the desk near sunlight or a radiator.

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Bathrooms & WCs

When it comes to floor planning design and bathrooms, they can be challenging. This is because the location of existing drainage pipes set limitations as to how far items can be from them. In addition to this, the heights and relationship of things to each other can be critical to the functional result of the end design. If you have the luxury (often we don’t), do try to provide more space than the absolute minimum, as this allows for future changes, adaptation, and flexible arrangements.

A typical bathroom requires; A bath, a shower, a basin, storage at a reasonable level around the vanity basin as well as in the shower and bath, a shower screen or curtain, ventilation (preferably an opening window, although surprisingly, this isn’t a requirement in most countries), a towel hook or rail (can be heated) and a toilet with a toilet holder. The toilet can be in a separate cubicle or room – but in that case, also provide a separate washbasin).

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Bathrooms & WCs

  • Showers should ideally be approximately 90cm x 90cm (3’x 3′). If space is tight, try not to go below 80cm (31 ½”).
  • Always place a toilet roll holder within arm’s reach and at approximately knee height. You can fix or attach these to glass and other materials beautifully and safely.
  • Toilets require approximately 30cm (1′ either side) and 90cm or (3′) in front to allow ease of use and access.
  • Sinks/basins/vanities are typically at the height of 80-85cm (31 ½ – 33 ½”), but taller people might find this a little too low, and wheelchair users will find this too high!
  • A typical bath height is approximately 50cm (19 ½”). If you build your bath up and it’s too high, it might be challenging to get in and out of it.
  • Standard bath sizes are as follows: A small bath measures 70 x 140cm (27.5” x 55”), a standard bath size is 70 x 170cm (27.5” x 66.9”) and a large bath measures 80 x 180cm (31.5” x 70.9”).
  • If you’re providing a shower within a bath, try to find a bath size that is wider than the typical bath size (say 75cm / 29 ½” upwards) and ensure the end of the bath where the shower-head is to be placed is perpendicular rather than sloping inwards (or else it will be difficult to stand and shower in the bath). You can overcome this by placing the shower head above the middle of the bath (this is a traditional design for showers in roll-top baths).
  • The standard height to the top of the toilet seat is approximately 38cm (15″), but taller people might find this too low, and this doesn’t comply with accessibility. An accessible-height toilet, also known as a comfort height toilet, is approximately 45cm (or 18″) high, but this can be too high for children and shorter adults, so you can see that one size doesn’t fit all in this case!
  • Although many people don’t like it, a bathroom door should open outwards for safety and access reasons (if someone falls on the bathroom floor, it can be challenging to open the door to help them, and you can hurt them in the process of pushing/forcing the door open). However, an accessible bathroom is better suited for the ground floor (as on upper floors, the doors can often obstruct narrow landings and staircases).
  • If possible, plumbing should be hidden within walls. Exterior thermal elements of construction should never be penetrated, so it might be necessary to build out the wall into the room to accommodate soil pipes and plumbing. Typically allow for 11cm (approx. 4″) diameter pipe, plus wall build-up and insulation, resulting in an overall thickness of approximately 25cm (approx. 10″).

The first-floor planning design example shows a small space (typically the amount of available space that many dwellings have to work with). The second-floor planning design example shows the preferred minimum space based on having more room or a flexible amount of space when creating the size and shape of the room (as well as locating doors and windows if you have that luxury).

Download The Cad & Pdf Files From This Blog Post

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Bedrooms

Bedrooms typically require the following things to function successfully as a bedroom, so try to accommodate all of these when working on floor planning design in a bedroom; a bed to suit the brief, a wardrobe (which must be built-in in some places such as the USA), at least one door and window (you laugh, but I’ve seen it all…), space to circulate around the bed and wardrobe, bedside tables to store practical items and possibly hold an alarm clock/lamp, a safe way of exiting/escaping the room in the event of a fire and window furnishings that provide the ability to make the room dark.

Most of these are common sense, but it can be easy to forget something if you’re pushing to create something unique, so double-check that you’ve included everything before proposing your design to your client.

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Bedrooms

  • Typical bed sizes vary from region to region, so remember that if you’re buying a Queen size bed in the UK, this will be a different size from a Queen-sized bed in the USA. Always double check your dimensions.
  • Standard UK bed/mattress sizes are: UK Super King Bed Size 180 x 200cm (6’0″ x 6’6″), UK King Bed Size 150 x 200cm (5’0″ x 6’6″), UK Double Bed Size 135 x 190cm (4’6″ x 6’3″), UK Small Double Bed Size 120 x 190cm (4’0″ x 6’3″), UK Single Bed Size 90 x 190cm (3’0″ x 6’3″), UK Toddler Bed Size 70 x 140cm (2’3″ x 4’6″).
  • Standard US bed/mattress sizes are: US Super King Bed Size 293 x 249cm (80″ x 98″), US King Bed Size 193 x 203cm (76″ x 80″), US Queen Bed Size 152 x 203cm (60″ x 80″), US Full Double Bed Size 137 x 191cm (54″ x 75″), US Twin Single Bed Size 99 x 191cm (39″ x 75″), US Small Single Bed Size 76 x 191cm (30″ x 75″).
  • Your mattress size can differ from the bed frame size, so always double-check the bedframe size. E.g. A Queen size sleigh bed will be considerably larger than a simple framed queen-sized bed because of the extra padding on the end of the bed, making the same bed size bigger in the room even though the mattress is the same.
  • You’ll need to leave ideally 90cm (3′) on either side of a bed for circulation and ease of use. For ADA or accessible design, you’ll want 1m (39″) on either side and a turning circle area of 150cm (59″).
  • Locating a two-way light switch by the bed might be worth considering (so that you don’t have to get out of bed to turn off the main light).
  • If space is tight, proposing shallow cupboards or sliding doors might help. Just note that sliding doors with drawer packs can be annoying to use so might not always be a viable option.

The first-floor planning design example shows a small space (typically the amount of available space that many dwellings have to work with). The second-floor planning design example shows the preferred minimum space based on having more room or a flexible amount of space when creating the size and shape of the room (as well as locating doors and windows if you have that luxury).

Download The Cad & Pdf Files From This Blog Post

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Dining Rooms

Separate dining rooms might be considered a luxury these days as many apartments and smaller homes combine them with other areas, such as the kitchen or living room. I’ve also seen many removed altogether as the space at home is prioritised by other rooms such as home offices, tv rooms or playrooms. Suppose you do have the luxury of having a separate dining room. The items you’ll want to place in a typical dining room are an appropriately sized table for the brief, two extra chairs for guests, and a buffet sideboard where placemats, trays, and some crockery can be stored.

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Dining Rooms

  • You will need at least 75cm (or 29 ½“) behind each chair to pull the chair out comfortably. However, this doesn’t allow for circulation around the chair once it’s in use. You would want an extra 90cm (or 3′) ideally if the spaces around were also to be used as circulation simultaneously (such as in an open plan living area). Hence, as a guide, at a minimum, allow 75cm (or 29 ½“) from the edge of a table, but if you have an open plan, you’ll need a minimum of 150cm (59″) from the edge of the table.
  • How do you know what the right sized table for the space is? Typically, you’re working with an existing room, so the room governs the maximum size of the table. Still, if you have the luxury of more space than required, then a good rule of thumb if the brief doesn’t request otherwise is a space for everyone at home plus the ability to accommodate two more heads.
  • A standard table sizing guide is; A two seater table measures 76 x 107cm (2’6″ x 3’6″), a four to six seater table measures 76 x 152cm (2’6″ x 5′), a six to eight seater table measures 91 x 183cm (2′ x 6′), an eight to ten seater table measures 107 x 244cm (3’6″ x 8′), and a ten to twelve seater table measures 137 x 305cm (4’6″ x 10′).
  • A reasonably sized dining room measures approximately 380 x 380cm (12 ½ ‘) – see our diagrams below. But a good rule of thumb if you’re designing a room from scratch is to aim for (approximately 420 x 488cm (approx. 14 x 16 ‘). However, you’ll find that many are much smaller, especially in new build developer properties (I’m seeing this more and more not just in the UK but also in Canada, Australia and the USA).

The first floor plan design example shows a small space (typically the amount of available space that many dwellings have to work with). The second floor plan design example shows the preferred minimum space based on having more room or a flexible amount of space when creating the size and shape of the room (as well as locating doors and windows if you have that luxury).

Download The Cad & Pdf Files From This Blog Post

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Kitchens Utilities & Pantries

Kitchens can be pretty complicated because a few different functions need to work simultaneously. Don’t forget that a kitchen can be beautiful and functional, and sometimes leading with the beauty can help place items (even if they don’t follow all of the “rules”). So keep an open mind as there are endless solutions to any problem.

A kitchen typically requires; a sink and some space next to the sink, an oven, a hob (if separate from the oven), an extract fan, a fridge, a freezer (if separate from the fridge), a bin, circulation space, a window (although not required in some countries), storage space for food as well as pots and pans, preparation space and serving space.

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Kitchens Utilities & Pantries

  • Try to group your functions into these five zones; Preparation zone (worktop space, sink, bins & proximity to consumables zone), Cooking zone (worktop space, sink, ovens & hobs and proximity to non-consumables zone), Cleaning zone (proximity to sink, dishwasher & bins), Consumables zone (storage of food including fridge, freezer, pantry and cupboards), Non-consumables (storage of utensils, cutlery, pots, pans and plates etc.)
  • The distances between objects will vary depending on the layout and size of the room, so try to make the distances proportionate to the space. For example, don’t cramp everything together if you have space to breathe.
  • Try to aim for a perfect working triangle between the sink, stove/oven and fridge (although it’s not technically a bad design if this doesn’t work out!)
  • There needs to be a minimum of 30cm (approx. 1′) on either side of a stove/hob for practical usage.
  • When placing an oven, try to locate it on an external wall if possible, as this makes it easier to extract the ventilation directly outside.
  • Kitchen cupboards are typically square and measure 60 x 60cm (2′ x 2′). If you have larger appliances such as large fridges or cooking ranges, you’ll need to increase the depth by 10cm (approx. 4″)!
  • Kitchen units are typically 90cm (3′), high to the top of the counter, but taller people might find this too low and wheelchair users too high, so it’s okay to move the height depending on your brief/client needs.
  • If you’ve got an island, ensure a minimum of 90cm (3′) on either side for circulation and 120cm (4′) between the island and the opposite counter. You can have less; this is optimum to allow cupboards and drawers on either side to be used simultaneously. For ADA or accessible design, you’ll want 1m (39″) on either side and a turning circle area of 150cm (59″).
  • There needs to be enough space between cupboards that face each other so that the doors don’t hit or fingers don’t get caught. For this reason, corner cupboards and facing cupboards need extra space (typically add a 1/3 of a cabinet extra, so 20cm or 8″).
  • Cupboards above the benchtop shouldn’t be lower than 45cm (18″), or else appliances won’t fit under them, but too high (over 75cm or 29″) and you won’t be able to reach the items in the cupboards or shelves.
  • Having multiple sinks might be beneficial depending on how the client uses the space (one for cleaning and a separate one for food preparation).
  • Extraction hoods will need to be placed about 30cm (1′) higher if you use gas cookers.
  • Bar ledges require a minimum of 30cm (1′) overhang.
  • A typical bar stool will be too tall for a typical countertop! Make sure if you plan to have a bar that you think about raising the bar area higher or ensure you know that you’ll need to buy shorter or custom-made bar stools!
  • Your sink and dishwasher should be located close to each other (if you need to take two steps, it’s too far!)
  • Drying racks can be placed in concealed cupboards above the sink (typical in Scandinavian homes).
  • Freestanding washing machines are much larger than front loading or integrated ones. For this reason, you’ll need to make sure that there is at least 90cm (3′) in front of it to function appropriately.
  • Remember that appliances will typically have a plug (and possibly a skirting/baseboard) behind them so that they will be pushed forward by at least 5cm (2″).
  • Hanging pendants over an island should not compromise visibility or practical usage of the island; therefore, an average height above the counter of between 75cm-90cm (or 30 -36 “) to the bottom of the pendant is a helpful guide (of course, it depends on the light fitting too and the look you’re going for).
  • Avoid pendants over gas hobs as these may be a fire hazard.

The first-floor plan design example shows a small space (typically the amount of available space that many dwellings have to work with). The second-floor plan design example shows the preferred minimum space based on having more room or a flexible amount of space when creating the size and shape of the room (as well as locating doors and windows if you have that luxury).

Download The Cad & Pdf Files From This Blog Post

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Living Rooms

As a designer, you have more flexibility with living rooms because the functions are more relaxed. However, if in your floor planning design, you can separate formal from informal functions (guest spaces from private spaces), this makes for a much more successful solution as you’re not dealing with the crossover of zones.

Floor Planning Design Rules Of Thumb For Living Rooms

  • Coffee tables typically require approximately 30-60cm (approx. 1-2‘) around them so that you can comfortably move around and use the table itself. Use the higher end of the scale if the space is a large room and the lower end of the scale for a small room.
  • The height of a coffee table will need to relate to the height of the sofa seat. An excellent height is typically 40-45cm (16-18”).
  • You’ll need at least 120cm (4‘) in front of any useable doorway before placing furniture, or else the circulation won’t be practical.
  • If you have low ceilings (less than 230cm or 7 ½‘), opt for low backed chairs and seating, or else they will feel too heavy and overpowering in the room.
  • If you have an open-plan space, you can define the zones with flooring or ceiling treatments. Don’t forget the view across the room is essential in an open-plan space as tall furniture or obstructions can make the space feel enclosed.
  • When designing an L shaped living area, use zoning of the spaces to help you create a helpful layout (E.g., play area/tv space + living/sitting + dining).
  • Side tables should ideally be spaced within arm’s reach (max 55cm / 21.5“) from the edge of the sofa and approximately the same height as the sofa arms (if the table is not to be used by the person sitting on the sofa, then your design idea takes precedence over practical usage!)

The first floor plan design example shows a small space (typically the amount of available space that many dwellings have to work with). The second floor plan design example shows the preferred minimum space based on having more room or a flexible amount of space when creating the size and shape of the room (as well as locating doors and windows if you have that luxury).

Download The Cad & Pdf Files From This Blog Post

Floor Planning & Space Planning Interior Design Books For Interior Designers & Architects

For those of you looking for glossy design books for your floor planning design, you’ll be disappointed! The books I have specified below are technical reference books for working designers:

Floor Planning & Space Planning Interior Design Books For Interior Designers & Architects

  • Space Planning Basics, by Mark Karlen
  • Metric Handbook: Planning and Design Data Paperback by Pamela Buxton – Note this is more relevant for architects using the metric system. (Not sure why, but you can often find this book for free in PDF format on the internet.)
  • The Interior Design Handbook Hardcover, by Frida Ramstedt
  • Architect’s Pocket Book, by Jonathan Hetreed (Author), Ann Ross (Author), Charlotte Baden-Powell (Author) – Note this is only relevant for countries who use UK building regulations.

If you have any recommendations for excellent floor planning design books, please do let me know below!

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Floor Planning & Space Planning Interior Design Books For Interior Designers & Architects

Hopefully, you have found these floor planning design and space planning rules of thumb for architects and interior designers helpful in planning your home or project. Please remember that these are practical and functional requirements, but many times your design idea provides a reasonable enough argument for straying from the guide or breaking the rules. So don’t be too rigid in areas where the functional requirements don’t matter! The saying “form follows function” is a very utilitarian or functionalist way to design and is only the mantra of one movement throughout history (the modernist movement). So it’s not gospel unless you’re trying to recreate a mid-century modern design style.

As I always say to my mentees – start with your design idea and let that guide your original and authentic design. The function and design should be harmonious, not forced.

If you have any questions or would like me to add to this list, please comment below, and I’ll do my best to update this blog post for you. Thanks for reading!

Jo Chrobak

Jo Chrobak

Jo Chrobak is an architectural and interior designer and mentor at the Interior Designer’s Business School that trains interior designers to set up professional and successful interior design businesses and gain experience working on real projects. She is trained in architecture, interiors, business and life coaching and runs her architectural and interior design studio in London UK.
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