Do you ever wonder why furniture in some areas of your home looks awkward and out of place or why the new bedroom set you just purchased seems to overpower and dwarf your room? The answer is more than likely a lack of Space Planning.
Space Planning is the act of creating a layout of furnishings and items in response to and coordinated with the physical space of a structure while performing an analysis of design and spatial requirements for the occupants.
Ergonomics as it applies to interior design is the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements (such as furnishings). This science has defined specific guidelines with determined measurements that when followed will guarantee to create an appropriate flow and ease of movement around furniture and equipment.
Interior Designers are educated to follow a method and perform research during their "creative process" resulting in the creation of an interior space that fulfills their clients' needs while being functional and aesthetically attractive. In other words; interior designers go thru extensive training and study of ergonomics and proportions which are the essence of Space Planning.
There is a reason why all furniture, light fixtures, accessories, area rugs, and electronics have measurements printed on their packages or listed in their product specifications. Paying particular attention to measurements allows for proper space planning prior to acquisition and installation of items.
Professionals use architectural floor plans to figure out the best placement for items while determining what furnishings are needed in each room. If you are going to perform DIY Space Planning then here are a few tips to follow:
- Measure your space and draw it on a piece of paper; you will need to draw it to scale; i.e. 1/4 of an inch equals 1 foot; be sure to include the location of doors and windows on your plan.
- Take the measurements of all of the items of furniture you want to place in the room and draw them using the same scale that you did for the plan – you can draw them in simple square, rectangular or round form and you are better to make an error that the piece is drawn larger rather than smaller.
- Take your plan and the pieces of furniture that you have cut out and place the furniture pieces on the plan much as you would imagine placing the pieces in the actual room. If your plan looks overcrowded on paper then so will your room in real life thus you need to consider a different layout or other (smaller) furniture items.
- Another trick which is a little easier for people to visualize is to empty out the room you are going to furnish; remove all items and then with the use of masking tape create an outline of the pieces of furniture in the room using their exact measurements. This will allow you to physically move around the outlines of the furniture items to see if the items you are thinking of using are going to fit properly in the space.
Some general minimum measurements to use when you are space planning; i.e. 'measurements to live by':
36" is a magic number and typically the minimum width you want to have between a wall and an item of furniture. For instance if you are planning a bedroom you would want at least 36" of space between the wall and each side of the bed; if you have a queen size bed (typically 60" wide) then your room would have to be a minimum of 11 feet wide in order to accommodate a queen size bed.
18" is the minimum space between the edge of a sofa and a coffee table.
5'6" is typical "eye level" – use this measurement when hanging mirrors, art and even when you are thinking about the height of chandeliers over dining tables. You want to have 5'6" as your minimum height; you can then move the item higher from that point depending upon the height of your ceilings.
36" once again the magic number and comfortable width for passageways, walkways between furniture items and any other fixed or stationary item in a space. Use this as the minimum distance between a wall and a dining room table.
12" is the minimum comfortable distance for legs to fit under an overhang of a countertop or table when sitting in a chair or on a stool.
As you have probably noted from the defined terms used above space planning is not only an art form; it is a science that uses precise measurements and formulas. If you feel lost or frustrated with your DIY Space Planning project seek the help of a professional as the time and money you spend for proper space planning will save you from the expense of purchasing items for your home that simply do not fit.
Photo courtesy of Larry Kantor.