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Before my daughter was born, my husband and I spent hours playing with graph paper and furniture cutouts to determine the best layout for her nursery. It’s amazing how quickly a decent-sized room can become consumed with furniture — even when said pieces are pretty much just a crib, dresser and rocking chair. Add in details like flow and accessibility, and it’s time to get creative. (I think we tried putting the dresser in the closet at one point; little clothes don’t need much hanging space, right?)

Thankfully, everything fits and, for the most part, functions appropriately. But that is the challenge that everyone faces when planning a new space. At least we had the benefit of being able to stand in the space to really know how it felt and lived. If you’re moving to a new location, you’re forced to deal with the 2D representation of a floor plan. Or are you?

In trying to envision what your new space will feel like, find a room in your current home with comparable dimensions. This will help you visualize how much you may be able to comfortably fit in that room before putting pen to paper. If you’re using furniture you already own, you have the added benefit of knowing the exact measurement of each piece as you plan; if you’re going to buy new, pay attention to dimensions as you shop. Standards are a good guideline, but a deviation of even a couple of inches can make a big difference in certain applications.

You’ll also need to think about how to get larger pieces, such as sofas, inside your home. I recently visited a home in which the owner had to pull a couch in through an upper-level window because the stairway was too narrow. Talk about creative.

And, as I intimated not too long ago, there’s a wide variety of technology tools out there, too, to help you. A colleague recommended MagicPlan, which I’ve enjoyed playing with lately. (Using your iPhone or iPad, you can take pictures of a room, and it will map out the floor plan for you. Then you can use standard symbols to place, size and adjust future and architectural elements.) And there are plenty more for PC desktops and other devices.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced when planning out new designs?

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Comment by Whitney Richardson on May 7, 2012 at 10:22am

I love the tape idea, John -- very inexpensive but visual solution for the "spatially challenged," as you so aptly put it. Thanks for sharing.

Comment by John Duke on May 6, 2012 at 9:44am

When we were designing our kitchen, we used large sheets of butcher paper and cardboard cut into the shape of the cabinets and various appliances. We laid them on the floor in different configurations to get a better sense of space and organization. It was particularly helpful in the kitchen because so much time is spent in there and you want the layout to support the work. Another thing we have done is put pieces of masking or painter's tape on the floor to define space and to see if there will be room to move around properly. Our contractor and cabinet maker have gone so far as to construct 3-D models for us at times so we can get a better feel for things (see for some examples). It helps the spatially challenged.

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