I'm one of those abnormal visual individuals that could picture my study guide while taking a test in school. Before you get too annoyed, trust that the down side to being so visual is my auditory learning is horrendous.
Preceding my interior design career, it was a random skill but I could walk in a room and picture different furniture layouts or envision the flow of traffic. BUT even with this skillset, choosing the right arrangement for a room is more about scale and exact measurements than "envisioning".
Though I could visualize a sofa floating across from the fireplace with a credenza lining the back wall, am I picturing a 85" or a 100" seating arrangement? Would there be a narrow 20" walkway or a generous 42" gap?
Design a Room
Many think that interior designers walk into a room and all the hard work is determined in their head. Sure, we have inspired moments and our livelihood relies on problem solving but often this happens behind the scenes.
One of my favorite influencers, Julia Marcum from Chris Loves Julia, often states that she's willing to move furniture endlessly to get the right layout.
While I admire her energy, my arms are not nearly toned enough for this sentiment nor do my clients pay me to guess when it comes to floor layouts.
What is Space Planning in Interior Design?
According to the Interior Design Reference Manual, space planning is the process used to translate programmatic needs and broad design concepts into a physical plan of the space by organizing major rooms and areas, determining circulation systems, and laying out furniture.
Woof. You intimidated yet?
Basically, space planning deals with the arrangement of spaces and objects, not with the particulars of materials, finishes, colors, or accessories. So, it's considering whether or not you will be able to feel the warmth of the fireplace, or if you are maximizing the breathtaking view out the window with the way you arrange the room.
This process may sound scary in theory but I'm here to give you a foolproof solution that doesn't even require a tape measure.
Room Layout Planner
Designers have access to a number of tools that help them in this process - including technical tools like CAD. But systems like these can cost upwards of $1,700/year not to mention all the hours of training needed.
While there is definitely a time for CAD in renovation planning, one of my favorite tools for simple room layouts is actually free and can be used on your phone - Realize (affiliate link). It's a free app for interior design that is also extremely user friendly.
The app will have you "capture" a room by walking around the space and clicking on objects like corners, floors, walls and features like doorways or fireplaces. Seriously, no measuring sticks needed.
Once the room as been inputed, they have furnishings that you can play with to see which space allotments maximize the space.
What I love most about the ease of this room layout planner is that you can quickly test all the room layout ideas that initially came to mind. A tool like this empowers interior designers and homeowners alike to think outside the box. Many times the visualization gives me the confidence of further creative ideas because I've done the research of knowing how the space will flow.
Room Setup Case Study
Here is the step by step planning that I recently used for my primary bedroom.
First step is opening the Realize app and capturing the room. The app seriously walks you step by step in the intake process - beginning with the baseline and finalizing with all the features of the room.
Below is are a few images of my primary bedroom before rearranging and what it looked like after I captured the space in the app.
Then, I added furniture that replicated my current layout.
Now, I've really been wanting to move the bed to face the two doors so I would have space for seating at the foot of the bed. I already knew that my current dresser is too long for the space between the two doors (along the lower wall) so it needs to stay on one of the side walls.
Below is what I found by rearranging the room in the Realize app.
While the bed and nightstands all fit on the top wall, the dresser on the side of the bed doesn't leave enough walk space. There is only about 14" between the front of the dresser and the bed which is too tight for a regular walk space.
Since my goal is to flip this room, I decide to sell our dresser for an upright one and invest in new seating that will maximize the area in front of the bed.
Now I know that we need to source a dresser that's 36" wide and chairs that are 28" wide each to create the optimal new flow!
This case study shows that in a room keeping all existing furniture, you can make quick decisions about new layouts. The app's power increases tenfold as you consider new furnishings or tricky spaces.
Conclusion: Space Planning without Lifting a Finger
Even if you’re a self-proclaimed design dummy who spends months trying to decide on a piece of furniture, you now can get creative in your space planning without the guess work. You may still need some research when it comes to standard allotments for walkways or wall art hanging heights but the heavy work of visualization is handled.
I hope you feel empowered and confident about testing the limits with spatial flow in your home. Let me know if there is a space in your home that has historically been a problem area that you're now going to tackle.