Estate agents would estimate that 90 per cent of homeowners don't know the dimensions of their rooms. Most people base their calculations on an exaggeration of how they view their rooms.
So, they are surprised that the "box bedroom" is actually larger than they guessed, but a "spacious conservatory" is often smaller. This mistaken view reinforces another truism of interior design that "box bedroom" clutter makes a space look smaller, while "conservatory" light creates a feeling of space.
Measure up and draw a plan
Before making any changes to the room itself, measure up and draw a to-scale floor plan. Drawing a room floor plan will clearly outline the kind of space available:
- Small - if either dimension is less that 3m (10'), then the room would be classified as small, but don't panic, efficient use of space and a few design tricks will overcome this.
- Long and thin - if the length of the room is more than three times the width, then this is known as the "corridor" effect and, if there are windows at each end, inventive use of lighting will be needed to "open up" the space.
- Large - most homeowners see large rooms as a blessing, but if either dimension is greater than 9m (30') furniture placing will be vital to overcome the un-welcoming "warehouse effect".
Note the immovable
The key to successful design is to detach yourself from what is currently in the space, however, some things can't be moved without a great deal of extra work, so note the position of doors, windows and radiators on the plan.
It is also important to mark "sweeps" on the plan - the space required to open doors or French windows. Be careful not to place furntiure in the path of sweeps. The same is true if the furniture has drawers or doors that need space to open. Power points, telephone and aerial sockets are less important, but may influence some decisions, so it might be a good idea to note them on the plan.
If large items of furniture must remain in a room, but you would like to experiment with locations, measure the item and cut a card to scale, move this around the floor plan to assess the options. It's a lot less tiring than physically moving the furniture!
Function and traffic
Consider carefully what the room is actually used for and how frequently different areas of it are used. For example, a dining room is likely to require a table, but the space may double as an office and the room may serve as a walkway for access to other areas. So don't place a table where it will block traffic and remember to leave space for a work station. There are more specific tips on these principles in the room sections.
Creating a floor plan in this way ensures you are aware of the correct dimensions of a room and the constraints of power points, radiators and household use, but it frees the imagination to completely re-arrange the contents of a room.