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How Big Should a Bedroom Be?

Planning a bedroom is a fun exercise of managing dimensions, rules of thumb, and practical advice. Here are our tips and guides for how to size a bedroom.

August 25, 2011

Planning a house is a complicated melange of dimensions and rules of thumbs. (OK, all things fair, I just wanted to type melange.) There are all sorts of rooms in a house that need to be thought about to make sure they're big enough to actually function. Today we're going into your bedroom, and talking about size. ...Of the room.

When planning a bedroom you want to make sure you can fit in your bed, other furniture, store your clothes, and walk around. But besides these basic rules of thumb, there are also legal issues related to a bedroom. To be a room you sleep in, it needs to have:

  • Light. (Although, it technically doesn't have to be natural light, as many people think, a good ol' ceiling light works just fine, per the code.)

  • Fresh Air. (Again, a new technicality. Some jurisdictions are allowing this to mean a fan that pulls in fresh air from an adjacent room that has an actual window, meaning that the bedroom doesn't actually have to have a window, although it really, really, really needs to be there, in my opinion.)

  • It needs to be at least 70 square feet and at least 7' in each direction, meaning a 7' x 10' room. While that seems ridiculous, think of a small nursery and, suddenly, it seems very feasible.

  • And, while realtors will often scream that a bedroom needs a closet, that really is a real estate issue, and not a building code one. A great closet is always a good idea, but I'm always open to maybe a recess in the wall that is left open for a nice wardrobe or armoire, if you want to show off a great piece of furniture. You can always add a closet later for resale.

My other rules of thumb are pretty simple:

  • Make sure you have enough wall space to put your bed and some nightstands against. I have an old home with windows on every damn wall, and the only thing I could do was hang a big curtain across the entire wall so there was a consistent backdrop for my bed.

  • Leave enough space to walk around.

  • Get a bed big enough that you actually want to sleep in. For a guest room, stick to a queen-size bed at a minimum. A full-size bed is a failed compromise; avoid it.

  • Try and create a little entry area, either by locating the closet so it creates a bit of a foyer, or otherwise planning the layout of the room. It is never ideal to walk into the side of the bed. (Sorry to my previous house guests; old homes with existing bedrooms are what they are.)

  • Think carefully about extra space. Do you really need that huge seating area in your master bedroom? Or, would the space be better suited to a home office adjacent to your bedroom or maybe a nice dressing area? (Check out my thoughts on that.)

  • Make it fun! This is a constant theme of mine. When you give a tour of your home, each room should have something neat about it. Challenge your architect.

All that said, below is a basic cheat sheet plan with dimensions. This particular layout doesn't really have anything special about it, which would need to get added (maybe recess the bed into a nook in the wall, or create some built-ins somewhere), but it gives you the basic dimensions to reference. This is sized for a king bed, so drop the dimensions down accordingly for a queen. Dimensions of beds are after the sketch.

Bed Sizes (Don't forget to account for big bed frames!):

  • King: 6'-4" wide x 6'-8" long
  • California King: 6'-0" wide x 7'-0" long
  • Queen: 5'-0" wide x 6'-8" long
  • Full / Double: 4'-6" wide x 6'-3" long (Who is this sized for???)
  • Twin Extra Long: 3'-3" wide x 6'-8" long (Hello, college dorm rooms!)
  • Twin: 3'-3" wide x 6'-3" long

These are the rules of thumb to follow; nothing too complicated, but still complicated enough that thinking through all of the space planning issues carefully is worth your time. We've all spent a night in a miserable bedroom that didn't feel comfortable and we don't want to do that again.

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