Space planning and layout for your home – how to do it

This post is part of a series of tips on interior design and working with an interior designer.

So, if you’ve followed the tips in this series on how to get started and how to come up with a design concept and general inspiration, you should have:

  • a list of jobs to be done on the room
  • a shopping list of things to get for the room
  • some key images to shape the colour scheme and general aesthetics
  • some inspirational images of other rooms

Let’s put that all together to look at the space planning and layout of the room.

It would be impossible to cover in one little blog post all the aspects that should be taken into consideration when planning the general layout of the room, so let’s focus on the key points.  Here, we are considering rooms without plumbing – living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, playrooms, studies etc.  We’ll look at kitchens and bathrooms later.  We’ll also look at some more specific points for each of the room types in later posts.

Getting started

Space planningYou need to find some way to sketch out the different layout possibilities, ideally approximately to scale.  This could be literally by sketching, with a pencil and paper.  It could be by cutting out typically sized furniture in paper or card, and moving it around in a scale plan of the room.  Or it could be digital, with a program such as Sketchup (Sketchup Made is the free version), where you model everything yourself from scratch, or room planner software such as Floorplanner, Roomstyler or Homestyler, where you specify dimensions etc and it models the room for you.  There are free versions of each of these; some have more advanced versions for a fee.

I’d suggest picking one of these methods, and sketching out a layout as a sort of first draft, based on the basic list of things you decided you need in the room.  You’ll also want to record each of your options, whether that’s by doing individual sketches, taking a quick photo of a layout, or saving separate files if you’re using software.

Refining the layout

Once you’ve got a basic first draft, consider each of the following questions and refine it where necessary.

Activities – what will be done in this room and by how many people?

Radlett Family Home

Image by Sims Hilditch, seen on Houzz

Consider each of the activities that you identified in your initial planning.  You’ll want to make sure each of these activities can be carried out in one area of the room.  This is called zoning.  For example, in a bedroom, you might have listed sleeping, dressing, grooming.  Make sure that the clothes storage is all accessible in the dressing ‘zone’, and that you don’t have to traipse across to the other side of the room and round the bed to get your underwear every day, whilst everything else is in one defined area.  For grooming, make sure the supplies (hair products, make up, hairdryer etc) are near the mirror.

Right: A separate dressing area has been created behind the headboard of the bed.  This is a great example of zoning.


Flow – how will people move around the room?

Clarendon Road

Image by Sigmar, seen on Houzz

Make sure you’ve left enough space for people to move around, pass through, pull dining chairs out etc.  Consider the entrances and exits, and typical paths through the space.  Sometimes you may want to make someone take a more circuitous route, rather than leaving the straight line option open, but just make sure this is a conscious decision.


Focal points – what will the eye be drawn to in the room?

Oxshott 2, Surrey

Image by Designer Touches Ltd, seen on Houzz

What is the focal point in your current draft plan?  Do you want to change it?  Do you want more than one focal point?  Do you want a different one at night, when the room is lit artificially?

Right: The fireplace and mirror are the focal point, whether the fire is lit or not.


Problems to solve – does this layout solve the problems identified when we started the planning?

Is there something that wasn’t working in the room before – and is it better now?  Does the room maintain what was working before?  Does the layout address what you liked and didn’t like about how it looked before?

Aspect – how much light does the room get, and at what time of day?


Image by Ingrid Rasmussen Photography, seen on Houzz

If you tend to read the papers on a Sunday afternoon, would it be nice if you could sit in the sunlight?  Or do you tend to read at night, by artificial light, and thus don’t need to be near a window?  Will the room be in direct sunlight for a lot of the day, and thus silk would not be a good idea for curtains, cushions or carpet (silk rots in sunlight)?

Above: If your room faces north and doesn’t get much light, consider a dark colour scheme to create a cosy room.


Furniture / storage requirements – what is essential, what would be nice to have?

We started this process with the essential pieces of furniture – what was on your nice-to-have list?  Can you fit any of that in?

Services – lighting and electrical circuits, heating and cooling

If this is all being created to fit the new room, once you have settled on a layout you can look at where you’re likely to need sockets, radiators, underfloor heating etc.  We will be covering lighting in more detail later.  If you’re redesigning an existing room and not altering the electrics and other services, do you need to jig things around to make sure sockets are in the right place for lamps, hairdryers, TV, speakers, laptops etc?  Is there a huge radiator in the way of your sofa, which might cause a problem in the winter?

Keep running through these questions and altering your layout until you’re satisfied you’ve got the best solution for the space.  Then make sure you record it!

What to do next

Use the final layout to add to your shopping list and task list for the room.  You may be able to add things like lamps, accessories, nice-to-have items to your shopping list, and you should have a clearer idea of the work that needs to be done on the room.

Next we will consider how to use all the information you’ve gleaned so far to actually start choosing the items to go in the room.

Was this useful?  Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon – sourcing, specific tips for individual rooms, tips on how to use colour, choose floorings, wall coverings, paint…

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in this series, leave a comment or send a message via the website – I’d be delighted to help!

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