Monthly Archives: March 2014

Designing Functional Floor Plans


There are a multitude of tools available online to assist with planning functional floor plans. However, there are a number of factors that need to be considered before planning a layout.

Who will be using the space? Is this a family space for members of the family to congregate and/or entertain? How many people will typically be in the room at one time? Do we need to provide seating for all of them? For example, in a great room or main living area we are usually required to provide seating for the members of the family, as well as having adequate seating available for a certain number of guests. This requires anywhere from 6 – 10 easily accessible areas for seating/entertaining in the given space. Whereas in a bedroom, this is typically a private space that may only require seating for 1 or 2 people. Who will be in the space dictates our space planning.

The next important consideration is how will the space be used? Is it an entertainment room, watching TV or movies, visiting with friends, or is it a music room for practicing and studying? Does a larger room require a separate area to have a piano area? Is there a desk required in the bedroom for homework and studying? Quite often we must plan for more than one type of usage in the space. All requirements of how the family uses the space must be taken into consideration when designing the floor plan. 

Natural traffic flow patterns exists within any given space. Particularly if a room has more than one doorway or access to another room – a traffic flow pattern is often created as this frequently acts as a pass thru between other adjoining rooms. The natural traffic flow pattern must be kept open and free of obstacles. This is particularly important if it also acts as a means of egress to an exit in case of fire safety. Designing a furniture plan that keeps a minimum of 3’ width walkway clear of obstacles is not only smart, it is also safe in case of emergency!

Next we need to consider any natural focal points in the room. This could be anything from a large picture window, to a fireplace to a TV. The focal point is often (but not always) tied to the main function of the room. Typically your furniture placement is designed to maximize the use of the focal point in the room. Seating is often planned for TV viewing or seating is planned around the fireplace in a sitting room for visiting with guests or for the home owner to read while enjoying the fireplace. 

Finally we get to the selection of furniture and final placement. Now that we have determined the natural traffic flow patterns and focal point, we can plan the furniture placement in the remainder of the room. We need to determine the actual measurements of the remaining space, so go ahead and get out your tape measure. It is critical to ensure you measure your space before you select furniture. It is always a good idea to draw out the space using the perimeter walls of the room. ¼” = 1’ is standard scale for residential drawings and is consistent with most graph paper. So draw out the space, include where your windows and doors are located. Make sure you draw in your focal points. Then you can see exactly what space you have left to plan any seating arrangements. It is critical to know what space you have available before you shop. This is when you want to begin to designate multiple functions into different areas of the room. For example, if you have a seating area with TV but also need a 6 seating dining table, you will plan a division in your open space using your furniture placement. Just make sure you know what space you have to work with, length by width. Always ensure you leave adequate walkways around furniture for easy access.

Now you are free to shop for furniture. I prefer to shop on-line first. It helps narrow down my selections and gives me the exact dimensions of most furniture pieces. This way I can plan exactly which pieces will fit and which need to be ruled out because they do not fit. Remember, furniture can be too large but can also be too small for a space. There is nothing worse than falling in love with a piece at the store getting it home and finding it just doesn’t look right in the space. That is why space planning for any room is critical. Take some time, get a nice cup of coffee or tea, grab a tape measure and some graph

Managing a Design Budget

dollor images6MUYZMUK

Every design project has a budget. Some are firm budgets with little to no flexibility, while others have a considerable amount of wiggle room. Budgets are a crucial starting point for any project. It is critical to have a budget in mind before you start a project, and to clearly communicate this budget to your designer.

Unfortunately, some people are reluctant to give me a budget, or they want me to give them a number. Reality is that I can re-design a bathroom on a shoestring budget or completely gut and re-do the exact same space for tens of thousands of dollars more. The materials and design we choose is dictated by your budget! What do you want? Do you want a jaw dropping room that makes a statement at every glance? Or do you just want an update to your existing space? Both can easily be achieved, the difference is your desired plan and your budget!

Once we have the budget finalized, we begin to plan the design layout or floor plan. What if anything, is staying in the space? Are we re-using furniture, flooring or lighting that you recently acquired and still love? If so, we need to know so we can incorporate these items into the design and allow more room in the budget for other items. If we do not need to replace flooring, that can be a significant savings especially on a smaller budget. It is also imperative that we take the remaining items into account when planning the design. We need to ensure the new design blends well with the existing style and color scheme of items to remain. So let us know what you want to remain in the space, or use from other areas of your home before we begin planning the design and allocating budget dollars.

After the floor plan/layout is approved, we begin to make decisions on the large and most expensive pieces. These are normally your more permanent and high impact items; cabinetry, flooring, appliances and large pieces of furniture. Typically items that are purchased with long term usage in mind. We also must allocate budget dollars for construction labour costs. I usually advise my clients to get what they really want when it comes to these items. You’re most expensive, time consuming, and permanent selections should not be compromised if at all possible. You would rather do the renovations once. It’s easier and less work to upgrade secondary items than to go back and change major design choices.

Then we begin to blend our main design choices with other selections. Paint colors, should only be chosen after major permanent items like flooring and countertops have been finalized. Countertops – again if it’s not in the budget to do granite, laminate is an option that can be easily upgraded at a later date with minimal mess and cost. Accent tile – if not in the budget, can easily be added later with minimal cost and mess. Nice lighting fixtures; high end faucets; and fancy knob pulls can all often be added down the road. These secondary choices are all items that can be upgraded if there is more money in the budget. Depending on where the most expensive items come in, we can often find something that is more mid-range for secondary items until more money becomes available to upgrade. This is where it is critical for the Home Owner to communicate what is their top priority when allocating the budget. If granite countertops are a must, but accent tile and a high end faucet can be added later, then that’s how we allocate the budget. 

Then we move on to the final details and accessories. This could be artwork and décor, accent pieces, area rugs, small furniture etc.  Whatever is required to complete the initial design. We have considerable flexibility in the budget here as well.  I can find area rugs or artwork for $5000 or $500. It’s all based on what is most important to the home owner and their budget. Once we have finalized these items we can then see if there is any room left over to upgrade some choices. This is where we might find that instead of the mid-range faucet, we can choose the high-end faucet. Or we do have money for some really nice accent tile instead of the lower cost option we had selected! This is the time when we review the selections we’ve made and upgrade where necessary and where the budget allows to complete the final design to the home owners’ specifications. 

One small note about labour costs; it is always crucial to keep a contingency budget for “unknowns”. Once we open a wall – we may find we need to move or upgrade plumbing or electrical; there may be additional work required that could not be seen until the wall was opened up to expose the “hidden” secrets behind. I try to allocate approximately 10% of the budget for this. As the project moves forward, I can re-allocate that amount if we have not run into obstacles by upgrading to nicer material selections. So I usually have a first choice and a second choice for certain materials – depending upon the budget. This way there is complete transparency for the project budget and the home owner is usually covered for any “issues” that may occur from the original budget. There is nothing worse than having to go back and ask for more money, so I try to budget conservatively with what they give me originally. It’s so much more pleasant to go back and say, we have some extra money – how would you like to spend it? 

Happy planning and happy renovating!


Design Planning for Beautiful Spaces

kit1 kit2 kit3 kit4So often I am asked to assist with on-going renovation projects that have already begun. The design selections are made from materials that are available and can meet the required delivery for the project to move forward. This always saddens me. If time for proper planning is spent before the project starts, you end up with a much more beautiful space completed with products and materials you really love!

When design choices are made as the project moves along, you are limited to the delivery schedule of the materials. So if you really love that flooring, or that particular appliance, but the delivery is 8 weeks away and your contractor needs it in 3 weeks – you are often forced to settle for something that is a 2nd or 3rd choice. Certainly not the best scenario when you finally get to do the renovation you’ve been dreaming about for years!

Another scenario is changing your mind part way through a renovation and removing or altering the design. This is simply a waste of precious renovation dollars. Once you have the finances in place, it is critical to ensure you have your design plans also in place, before the first hammer swings! This way your dollars are spent making your design a reality, instead of spending the budget twice on the same area because you changed your mind because you didn’t like it … this is where 3D drawings really help a design project and save money. You can see the finished space before any construction starts, that way you can change or alter designs on paper or in the computer long before it starts to cost you BIG dollars to make those changes!

I encourage my clients to finalize their design long before the renovations ever begin. Our 3D design process allows us to complete the floor plan with furnishings and accessories along with all the materials you would like to use. You can see in full 3D “walk through” exactly how your space will look before you do anything. This is the time to change the paint color, or the appliances, or the flooring if you find you really do not like it. This gives you a realistic look at your new space, tweaking it, until you are completely in love with the space.

Once the design is finalized we prepare the budget based on the materials selected. The budget is taken into account in the initial design stages. Obviously I will not use exotic hardwood flooring in the design if your budget only allows for a mid-range hardwood floor. However, the beauty of 3D design is once you have your budget finalized, if you find you have some wiggle room and wish to upgrade flooring, it’s a simple click away to see your space with that gorgeous exotic hardwood flooring you’ve been dreaming about!

Once we have the materials finalized, then we begin to address the timeline. When is your contractor planning on starting? When does he require the various materials on site? What is the lead time required for the various materials? I usually try to order a little in advance to avoid delivery delays. This allows your project to move along, with minimal delays, with the materials you really want!

The final result, is the beautifully renovated space that you have always dreamed of! So when it comes time to begin planning your BIG renovation, take the time to plan the design and materials before you start demolition. In the end, you’ll be grateful and rewarded with the perfect new space for your family to enjoy!