Get Up Close & Personal With Your Blank Room

Get Up Close & Personal With Your Blank Room

Dabney Frake
Oct 13, 2015
(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)
(Image credit: Lindsay Ribe)

Today’s Topic: Reflect on how you want to use your room, and document its dimensions and features for later reference.

See all the lessons! Apartment Therapy's Design School

Now that you are all inspired and gung-ho, it's time to think about the actual room you're working with. You want to take the pulse of the room, and get a handle on both the physical attributes you'll be working with, along with your own expectations and understanding of how the space will function.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Step #1: Make a Mental Map

Mental maps are your own internal understanding of your known world. For the purposes of Design School, your world is this one room, and it helps to be mindful about what exactly the space is now, and what you want from it. We're not talking about just its brick & mortar parts, but it's how you interact and engage with the space that really matters.

Wander around the space for a little bit today, and jot down some of your thoughts as you do. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What are you going to use it for?
  • Who do your share your space with? Are kids or pets involved?
  • If you are using the room now, what don't you like about it?
  • How do you feel in the space?
  • Do you need storage?
  • Is it a casual or formal space?
  • Is it somewhere that guests will see?
  • Does it get a ton of light?
  • What architectural style is the overall home?
  • Note what the room is like: Is it long and narrow? Is it wide open and spacious?

Jot down any thoughts you have about the space, or answer the above questions directly if that helps too. You'll want to keep these responses in mind, and even refer back to them, as you go through your design process.

(Image credit: Dabney Frake)

Step #2: Make a Floorplan

How great would it be if you could just go out and buy a bunch of furniture and decor, haul it to your house, and be sure everything will fit perfectly? Not gonna happen. At some point you have to record all the nitty gritty details about the space, then create a floor plan to refer to as you are designing your space. It might take a little bit of time, but it is easier to be objective about your room when you reduce it to a visual plan - it gives you some emotional distance. It's also helpful to have all your measurements in one place. Lastly, it will come in really handy when you are working on the flow of your room.

So grab a tape measure and go to town. If there's a bunch of stuff in your room, you'll have to climb around it, or push stuff aside. But do take the time to get what you need. Most importantly:

  • Length & Width of the Room
  • Ceiling Height
  • Both Width & Height of Any Windows
  • Any Important Features (like fireplaces, radiators, columns)
  • Each Section of Wall
  • Door Openings (you'll want to know if you can fit the furniture through!)


The actual floor plan can be done in many ways - just go with whichever method appeals to you most— from a simple sketch on graph paper to a computer-generated version or maybe even one created by an iPhone app. You can even make it pocket-sized to carry around with you when you shop in the future! Here are a few options!

Floorplan Apps: RoomScan, which lets you create a floor plan just by tapping your phone to the walls of your room, is intriguing. MagicPlan also has a high rating in the iTunes store.

SketchUp: This free application is like AutoCAD lite, and SketchUp lets you also make a 3D floor plan (if you want) that you can rotate around to see the room at different angles. There's a little bit of a learning curve, but it really is helpful to visualize a room once you've got the basics down.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Step #3: Take Some "Before" Photos

Snap some pics of the "before" space and keep them on your phone. You'll be happy to have these while you're out shopping and need help visualizing how something will look in your room. (Or if you have a hard time recalling what color wood your floors are.) Plus, they are also great to have once you are done, so you can show off how far you've come. (And we're always happy to see photos too, because we want to feature your beautiful room when you are finished!)

Share your impressions on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter! We'll have an eye out for your updates and photos and would love to see how you are doing and share it with the group. Be sure to tag with #ATDesignSchool so we can find you.

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