Room Planner

Ever notice how some homes have that “just right” feeling? Have you ever been in a home that just feels right? The furniture seems made for the space. No one needs to shout across the room to be heard or squeeze around a door or chair to get comfortable. Rather than expensive pieces or a professional designer, the secret to these rooms' appeal is often a carefully considered floor plan.

Floor plans are simply drawn-to-scale representations of rooms viewed from above and may be easier than you think to create. Although specialized software and tools exist, all you really need is a pencil, ruler, tape measure, and some standard graph paper. Follow these simple steps to create your own, custom floor plan and give your furniture layout new life.

Beginning a Master Floor Plan

In order to create a usable plan that reflects the real dimensions of your space, it's important to draw the room to scale. In other words, despite being smaller in size, each aspect of the room you are drawing should be the same size as the original in proportion to the rest of the room. Using one square of graph paper to represent one foot in your drawing will ensure its accuracy.

With a tape measure, start by finding the length and width of your room, including any built-in features or appliances that can't move. This will provide the basis for your master floor plan, a drawing of the room's size and shape without any furnishings. Use a straight edge to draw the outline of the room on graph paper. Add the size and location of any doors or windows in the space. To account for the area doors need to open and close freely, draw them open perpendicular to the wall and use an arc to show the space they will take up while in use.

Sketching in Furniture

Once your master floor plan is finished, you're ready to create some scale drawings of your furniture. Remember to take good measurements or look up the dimensions of online purchases for the most accurate representation. Don't feel intimidated by the prospect of drawing your furniture: no art skill or detailing is required for a floor plan, only the most basic outline. These models can be drawn directly onto your room plan or even cut from of a separate sheet of paper. This makes it easy to shuffle them around your master floor plan and consider new options without erasing and redrawing.

Selecting Furniture Placement

Next, consider where each piece will sit in your room to create a balanced, harmonious, and comfortable space. For good flow between furnishings, the most important concepts to take into account are visual balance, spacing, and focal point.

Cultivating Visual Balance

You've probably been in a home, hotel, or restaurant before that felt a little lopsided or simply off somehow. More often than not, these feelings result when designers don't account for balance. Visual balance is a result of how your eyes process images. If the eye is too attracted to one area of the room, it may seem visually "heavy" and out of step with the rest of the space.

To avoid this effect, divide your master floor plan into four equal quadrants. For a room to feel balanced, furnishings in each quadrant need to have a similar visual weight. Keep in mind that large, dark-colored, dense, contrasting, or complex items read as heavy to the eye. On the other hand, light-colored, small, delicate, matching, and simple ones seem lighter.

To create visual balance, pair a large, heavy item in one quadrant with a piece that is equally large and heavy in another, or use several smaller, lighter pieces. For example, placing two identical couches across from each other creates a symmetrical and pleasing look because they have equal weight. Alternately, putting a television, console, potted plant, and wall art across the room from a sofa instead can also have a balancing effect.

Perfecting Furniture Spacing

Leaving room to move comfortably can mean the difference between a design that looks good on paper and one that actually works in your daily life. To create a practical arrangement, consider how you naturally move in, out of, and around this room during regular use. As a general rule, leave about 36 inches of clearance on your floor plan in front of every door to avoid bottlenecks. Likewise, allowing 12 to 15 inches of space in front of windows, 18 inches between coffee tables and sofas, and between 3.5 and 10 feet separating different seating options will keep your rooms feeling open and spacious but still close enough for comfortable conversation.

Creating a Focal Point

Using visual balance doesn't have to eliminate drama from your space. In many living rooms, a fireplace, television, or gallery art wall creates a dramatic central focus, while dining rooms usually use the table and bedrooms employ the bed for this purpose.