Make the best use of your space so that you can enjoy it by analyzing how you use it first. This post contains tips for planning your room layouts around your life.
While designing a room according to how you use it may seem like a very basic concept, often rooms end up being designed for their desired or named purpose instead. For example: a dining room that is furnished with table and chairs but the family always eats in the eat-in kitchen. Depending on the family, it might make more sense as a music room, or home office.
Connecting the design of the room to the use of the room can be especially challenging in living and family rooms. As a family’s needs and wants change, their activities in the home change as well.
In the title photo, for example, the “before” shows a former nursery turned into a junk room. Other than the new door and paint colour, the library was created entirely by rearranging furniture from other parts of the house. The big change in both look and function was accomplished for a very low cost!
Step 1: analyze your needs and wants
These questions will help you identify how your space is being used, and how you want to change it:
- What actually happens in the room?
- It’s important to start with what you actually do in that room. Whether or not you want to change how it’s used, make sure you note down the main activities you actually do in the space.
- What do you currently do or have that you want to maintain?
- Focus on the room itself. If you have something that you want to keep, but it doesn’t matter where in the house it goes, don’t list it here.
- What do you want to do that you can’t do, and what is in the way?
- If the room is used for its purpose but always messy and uncomfortable, you may want to take some time to analyze the clutter before continuing. Before launching any redesign you need to sort through the stuff to see what needs to stay and what needs to go either out of the house or into another room. Otherwise you’re going to be designing for clutter not the purpose of the room.
- What do you want to have that you don’t already have?
- Things like storage space for toys, bookshelves, a fireplace, a bar, or an adjacent bathroom.
- Who is using the room?
- In particular, are the people using the rooms the intended ones? For example, do you have a living room that you want to be an adult space but its over run with kids toys? Is there a family room where the kids can’t do their homework because the TV is always on?
Step 2: Trial runs
Once you’ve analyzed how you use your space, you’ll have a good sense of what needs to change and how hard those changes are going to be.
If your space needs rearrangement but not renovation
If you think you can fix the problems you’ve identified without renovating, then you may want to do some “trial runs” before making any large purchases or doing the decorating.
To do a trial run, move the things that support particular activities to spaces where you use them. So, if you always play board games in the living room but they’re stored in the basement, move them first and then see how that works before buying a new storage system.
Similarly, if you want to create a dual purpose space, like a guest room / craft room, or a home office in a bedroom, set it up with what you have first, and then repeat your analysis to see what you need before investing in desks and storage solutions and so on.
Tip: If you are thinking of adding a larger piece of furniture to a room but are not sure if it will work, you can try using painter’s tape on the floor to get a sense of how room will feel with a new bed or desk or whatever item it is that you are considering.
Once you’ve worked with the new space arrangement for even a short time, you’ll know whether you want to move forward with your redesign yourself, or whether you want to consult a designer.
If your space needs renovation
If you have identified issues that you think will require renovation, consulting a designer before your renovate is a good idea, even if you plan to do the actual renovations yourself. However, there are a few steps you should take before you call the designer!
First, if you can do even a little bit of rearranging for a trial run, you should do so. Second, you should also answer the project planning questions as well as you can before calling in the designer
Step 3: Project Planning
This is a short version of the information I gather when making quotes for clients. You don’t have to have everything figured out, but answering these questions before starting will help the project go forward quicker and smoother. Don’t worry about the HOW yet, just worry about the WHAT.
- What is the budget?
- What is the date you want the project FINISHED by
- Who is going to use the space?
- What activities will you be doing there?
- What do you like or dislike about how the current space works?
- What kinds of things do you want to have in the space? (board games, DVD’s, seasonal blankets, firewood etc)
This can snowball into other rooms. If your space has become a dumping ground, or you decide to move an activity to another location, you may find a similar issue in another room.
During you initial thinking and research stage, take a walk around and see if there are spaces or rooms that will work for the relocated items, activities, and people.
If you can’t think of where or how to relocate things, this is the kind of issue you can bring to a designer. The solution might be as simple as a furniture rearrangement to integrate the overflow activities and items to a new location, or you may need to rethink your plans.
Using a designer for space planning and room layouts
Some designers, like myself, will offer an hourly rate for short consults. Even if you want to do it yourself, it is good to hire a designer for an hour or two so you can discuss your space analysis and the solutions you’ve identified.
This is especially important if you’re planning renovations. While furniture layouts are low-risk solutions that have few consequences if you get them wrong, renovations that miss the mark can be costly, time consuming, and miserable.
The great news is, if you’ve gone through the first three steps listed here, you’ll be able to make great use of a one or two hour consultation: you’ll know the WHAT and you can get the designer’s advice on the HOW.
Bonus Tip: If you are moving to a new home
Do a space analysis of your existing home if you are moving to a new one. This will help you figure out your must haves and want-to-haves, as well as keep you focused on how the living spaces you look at will support your life and the things you love to do.
Get in Touch
If you’re ready for a designer’s input, or if you have questions, get in touch!