Space planning is a fundamental element of the interior design process and many interior designers offer a space planning service. It starts with an in-depth analysis of how the space is to be used. The designer then draws up a plan that defines the zones of the space and the activities that will take place in those zones. The space plan will also define the circulation patterns that show how people will move through the space. The plan is finished by adding details of all the furniture, equipment and hardware placement.
10 Points to consider when effective residential space planning.
Structure and Architecture
Think about the structure of the room, concentrating on the main focal points. These could be windows, fireplaces, doors or built in units. Consider the balance. If the space seems unbalanced, think about what you can add to the space to help balance the structure of the space. Remember that the human eye is drawn to focal points, and will scan a space when entering it.
Space and Volume
Think about the space in terms of volume, eg: if it were a fish bowl, if you add in a sofa, chandelier, sculptures, bookshelves, table, coffee table etc, you displace some of the water. Ensure that you don’t overfill the space.You can also “borrow” space from outside by ensuring an uninterrupted view of the outside world. Linking adjoining rooms by using the same flooring materials or adding in glass partitions or large doors and windows can also help.
Perception of space and effective space planning is based on body size. Different size physical spaces suit different size people and their cultural references, their own history and experience that they would like to create: one person’s claustrophobic box is another’s cosy nest.
In large or long spaces, subdivide different activity zones to give definition to each part of the room. Keep in mind what a person or people are actually doing in that space, how much room they would need and if the space is dedicated to more than one activity. You are aiming for the space to naturally flow.
Wallpaper with a square grid or tiling a room in squares will give the impression that it is bigger than it is – the smaller the grid, the larger the room appears. When furnishing small rooms, blur the edges of the room to break up the lines between floor and walls; draw furniture a little way away from the walls; buy furniture in proportion to the room; choose furniture with legs to give the illusion of more space.
Prospect and refuge
This refers to the concept that certain environments meet our psychological needs and therefore feel more secure. Aim to create both a prospect and a refuge in each room so you can feel enclosed, but also have a view beyond to the outside or natural world. “We prefer a shelter (refuge) with a view (prospect), because humans have their field of vision to the front (prospect), therefore needing some sort of protection from behind (refuge).”
Layout and flow
Plan your furniture with a scale drawing of your room or cut paper shapes to size and place them in the room to work out the best possible arrangement of furniture and accessories for the space requirements. Ensure that the circulation passageway through a room follows an easy and economic pathway from the door to all the other main activity areas.
Clutter closes down space and is an important part of planning and design. Edit your clutter to avoid blocking both circulation and reducing the perceived size of a room. This is also crucial to ensure that light can bounce around in the room. Clutter will absorb the light making the room feel darker than it could be.
Lighting and Decoration
When planning decoration and lighting, work with the principles that vertical lines draw our eyes up and horizontal lines draw them across to extend or reduce the proportions of a room. Think about this grid system when conceptualising your ideas.
The points above will highlight the problems that your space plan needs to solve. Think about these points when creating your space plan and try to find a solution that will work. You might find that you need to compromise on some of the points and that’s ok.
Once you have thought about all the points above, it’s time to ask yourself the following questions
Questions to ask yourself when planning your space:
- What are you going to be utilising the space for and will it be multi-functional? Eg: living/dining or bedroom/study?
- How many people will be using the space and will they all be using it for the same purpose? Eg: A family might use the same room; someone may be watching TV, while another reads and another is working.
- Do you have any existing furniture that you want to use in the space?
- Can furniture be moved into or out of this room from other areas of the house?
- How do you want the room to feel, space-wise – open and airy, cosy, minimal, serene?
- How much natural light is available and what kinds of lighting will be needed?
- What are the focal points of the room and how can you take advantage of them?
- Do you need to create focal points?
- Do you like balance and symmetry, the unexpected, or a combination?
- Is there anything else on your wish list for this room?
Creating and drawing a space plan
Now that you have gone through the points and questions, it is time to actually create your own interior design space plan and consider your design ideas.
I highly recommend doing the initial space planning or floor plan using paper and a pencil. Touching the paper and pencil will activate parts of the brain that digital isn’t able to. We will get to a point where we can digitise the plan, but having something physical in front of us connects our brains to the physical space better than can be achieved with a digital copy.
There is a time and place for digital planning tools and I cover this in my blog on which you can find the best free digital planning apps to use. For the first part of the planning process though, paper and pencil will activate something different in the body and mind connection and you will find it easier to really see and visualise the space on the paper rather than a screen.
How to create a Space Plan
The Bubble Plan
The way that I like to start a space plan is by roughly drawing out a map of the space and creating a bubble plan. A bubble plan is a simple diagram that will show you what activities take place in the space and the relationship between these activities.
For example, in an open plan living area, you might have 3 or more bubbles, 1 showing the kitchen, the other showing the dining area and another showing the living area. Using bubbles will help you to define these spaces. When you are clear about where the activities are going to happen in the space then you can move on to creating a scale plan.
A detailed Scale Plan
Try to get as large a piece of cardboard as possible to make it easy. I suggest getting a large A1/A2 piece of card and some pencils to do this with. You can then erase any mistakes you might make.
Draw your space to scale on the piece of card. Include windows, doors, built in cupboards/shelves, fireplace and lighting placements. You want to be able to see all the fixtures and features on the plan.
Keep moving the pieces around until you ‘know’ which is right for the space.
Make a list of everything you would like to have in the space and create scaled paper cutouts for each piece. You can then start placing these scaled pieces of furniture onto your space plan. This will start to bring your space to life and show you how you will be able to use the room.
Spend some time moving pieces around, this will help you to think differently about the space. Come up with a plan, and then swap all the pieces around, see what this does to the flow of the room.
Keep moving the pieces around on the paper or in the online tool you are using until you ‘know’ which is right for the space.
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