Wednesday Word on Interior Design

Recently, I have been tackling some tricky space planning projects, so I thought I would share some of the simpler concepts.

Space Planning was required in our interior design program at Fairfield University.  It ended up being one of the most challenging but worthwhile classes.  In order to be licensed, interior designers take an exam that includes a large space planning assignment.  The class was designed to prepare us for this exam.  It’s focus was primarily for commercial office spaces.

But space planning applies to residential projects as well.  And there are some great rules of thumb.  So if you are thinking about shifting around the furniture in one of your rooms, the following is a quick tutorial.

A good starting point is sketching your room on a piece of graph paper.  First measure the room’s overall dimensions.  Then measure locations of windows, doors (don’t forget showing which way the door swings), the fireplace etc.  Note where electrical outlets, TV, cable, telephone etc. are located.

Then measure each piece of furniture and draw boxes or circles that represent each one and label each one.  Cut out each piece of furniture.  Don’t forget area rugs.  Now you can move each one around on your plan.

Some Quick Rules of Thumb

Make sure to leave about 36 to 48 inches of space as walkways in any given room.

For living rooms,  leave about 14-18 inches of space from the coffee table to the couch.  Leave about 3 inches from the wall for sofas etc. and 3 inches between end tables and the sofa.

For dining rooms, allow for about 18-24 inches of space per person around the dining table.  Leave about 30-36 inches of space from the table outward so that when a person is sitting down, another person can get around the chair.

In kitchens, leave walkway and work space of at 40-48 inches around the island.  Be sure to take into account door swing of the refrigerator and freezer as well as the swing of the ovens and dishwasher.

In bedrooms, be sure to leave about 36-48 inches between the bed and the dresser to get by and to open the drawers.

In your home office, be sure to leave about 48-60 inches between your desk and your credenza.  You need room to back up your chair, turn around and open the filing drawers.

These are just a few of the pointers that interior designers learn when studying space planning.  Of course, there are space planning kits out there, if you are uncomfortable drawing yourself.  And every situation is unique, so it is always best to have a trained professional interior designer, especially if you are working on a complicated project like a bathroom or kitchen.

And if you just plain find the whole process overwhelming, contact me and I will help you get started.

(image from – drawing not to scale)


4 Responses to “Wednesday Word on Interior Design”

  1. Wanda Horton Says:

    Great post, Catherine! Space planning is so important in that not only manages the client’s traffic flow and comfort, it helps to create balance in the room. By knowing where key pieces will be, one would be able to plan for what would go up the wall, too. If a patterned sofa will be near a window, for example, consideration to the window treatment fabric would be important. Hiring you, as their designer, would allow the consumer to have a trained visual expert, for all of the elements, and would be a long term savings on potential errors.

    • averydesigninteriors Says:

      Wanda, Great to see you again here at my blog.
      Of course, you bring up such an important consideration regarding the sofa being up against the windows.
      I debated posting about the vertical space planning as well, but thought that for most people just making a floor plan is a big first step. As you know from years of working with your clients, visualizing a room in 3D is much easier for professionals.
      Having seen some of your beautiful rooms, I know that your clients are lucky to have you to see the vision and bring it all together for them!

  2. Olga Adler Says:

    Very good post, Catherine.

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