Interior Design How-To Guide: Selecting the Right Ceiling Fan

In Design Planning, How To Guide, Interior Design, Residential Design by Gail Mayhugh

Christina Toole Sr Interior Designer

By Gail Mayhugh,
Sr. Interior Designer
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No matter what part of the country you live in, almost everyone uses ceiling fans. So choosing the right size ceiling fan is important; otherwise, it won’t properly cool a room.  Knowing your room’s square footage will help you determine the proper size. A fan that’s too small for a room might not offer enough air, and one that’s too large could create excessive air movement. You’ll also want to consider the room’s shape, amount of windows, furniture placement, and how cool you want it to be.

With so many variables and options, choosing the perfect ceiling fan can be a bit daunting. So here are some guidelines you can follow.

What size ceiling fan do I need Residential Design Tribe Online Interior Design

Photo Courtesy Minka-Aire® 

What size ceiling fan do I need?

The American Lighting Association’s general guidelines are as follows. Rooms up to 75 square feet should have a 29 inch to 36 inch fan.  Medium sized rooms up to 144 square feet should have a 36 inch to 42 inch fan. Rooms up to 225 square feet you’d want a fan that is 50 inches to 54 inches. For larger rooms look for at least 60 inches or consider using two fans.

Canyonlands Ceilling Fan Residential Design Tribe Online Interior Design

Canyonlands Ceiling Fan - Photo Courtesy Hunter Douglas® 

What size downrod should I use?

The standard downrod length is 3 inches to 6 inches, but longer lengths can be purchased. In general, you want to mount the fan 8 feet to 11 feet off the floor.  National building codes require the fan blades of any ceiling fan be at least 7 feet from the floor.

If you have a ceiling, less than 8 feet, consider a hugger or low profile, which mounts directly on the ceiling.  Hugger ceiling fans, also known as flush mount or low-profile ceiling fans, offer a solution because they are installed flush against the ceiling without the use of downrod.

For ceilings over 15 feet look for a fan that is specifically designed for that height.  Manufactures make more powerful and sturdy fans for tall ceilings. Also if you have a sloped ceiling, confirm that the fan can be installed on a sloped ceiling or if they offer a sloped-ceiling adapter, also called an angle mount

A method commonly used to find the right downrod length is to take the ceiling height minus the height of the ceiling fan, minus the desired hanging height (usually 8 feet). For example, if your ceiling is 10 feet in height and your ceiling fan is 12 inches in height, you will need a 1 foot downrod to mount the ceiling fan 8 feet above the floor. The more space between the ceiling and the blades, the better the air flow and circulation, so aim for at least 12 inches.

Low Profile Ceiling Fan Residential Design Tribe online Interior Design

Minimus Low Profile Ceiling Fan - Photo Courtesy Hunter Douglas® 

Do I have to match the finish to my room?

Ceiling fans can complement your décor, but the finishes do not have to match.  Long gone is matchy-matchy décor.  But the style, as well as the finish on the housing and blades, should coordinate with your room’s décor.

There are so many amazing fan designs, so why not make a statement, especially in a larger room.  Now in smaller rooms, you don’t want it to take over, but it should still add style.  If you want it to disappear, select one that is the color of the ceiling.

When looking at the finish, many fans come with reversible blades, so you get two options.  If you can’t find the color you’re looking for, keep in mind they can be painted or stained.

"Ceiling fans can complement your décor, but the finishes do not have to match.  Long gone is matchy-matchy décor."Gail Mayhugh
Bold Ceiling Fan Residential Design Tribe online Interior Design

Bureau LED Ceiling Fan - Photo Courtesy Hunter Douglas® 

What kind of light fixture should I use, and do I need one?

You don’t have to have a light kit on your fan, but I feel we can never have enough light.  The light kit is used more as general lighting versus a specific function, except when over a table or work area.

Personally, I like a frosted bowl style light, I don’t like seeing the light bulbs.  A simple bowl light kit can be used in any style décor, whereas you do have to be selective with glass shades as most have a more distinctive style. If you have a high ceiling look for a fan that also has an uplight, it adds a nice accent effect.

Today there are more options than ever. Many of today's ceiling fans work with energy efficient LED bulbs. Some are even wifi-enabled, allowing the fixture to be operated via an app or smart home system. And if you haven’t seen them, there are even ceiling fans with retractable blades. So you can have two looks in one.

Subscribe to our blog below for design tips and tricks. If you’d like help selecting a ceiling fan as part of your interior design project, please feel free to schedule an ONLINE DESIGN CONSULTATION



Gail Mayhugh is a Certified Interior Designer and Color Expert and received her interior design education from the Interior Design Institute in 1992. Since then she has run a successful interior design and architectural color consulting firm, working with over 2,000 clients, both nationally and internationally on over 6,000,000 square feet. Consulting on design and architectural color decisions for both interiors and exteriors, Gail collaborates with homeowners, business owners, property managers, architects, painters, contractors, builders, realtors and homeowner associations.

Areas of Specialty:
Residential Design
Color Consultation
Real Estate Staging

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