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Planning tools
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Planning tools

Space planning is not something for astronauts or NASA scientists; instead, it is a key aspect of interior design that enables you to work out how you use your space. Planning tools, or programmes, used to be in the realm of design professionals and retailers; now, they are available to the general public online. Many of these are free, basic ‘domestic user’ versions of more technical and professional software.

Thanks to the internet, you can now access this software to help you with all elements of planning, from weekly menus and fitness schedules to wardrobe and kitchen design. Here we look at how they can help and any potential pitfalls.

If you have bought a sofa in recent years from one of the larger retailers, you might have been offered a virtual picture of your sitting room with the new sofa in situ. Furniture shops and DIY stores such as Homebase and Ikea use this tool to avoid potential and common problems such as not being able to get the sofa into your house or your sofa not actually fitting in your room. Kitchen shops have been using them for years to design kitchens and give customers a 3D visualisation.

You don't even need to go into a shop to try this out, as you can access much of this technology from home. Programmes such as SketchUp and Floorplanner have become far simpler to use - gone are the days when you needed to have a graphic design background. The free-to-use versions are aimed at the amateur and although some are trickier to use, there are often online tutorials to help.

Many of these tools, such as bathroom design software, allow you to put in your measurements and then drag and drop features such as windows and doors onto your plan. You can then drag and drop your bath, shower, toilet and basin to see how everything fits together before you fork out any money.

These programmes have a far bigger scope, however, and are really useful if you are planning a big DIY decorating or renovation project. You can plan a room layout and create a 3D image, which will give you an idea of any potential issues. Is there any furniture blocking the flow between rooms? Is the dining table too big to move around? You can even add colour to walls and floors.

If this all a bit high-tech for you, there are other ways to ‘space plan’, mostly involving a pencil, paper and ruler or tape measure. You can draw a plan on paper - graph or squared is best, as it helps you to draw to scale. Mark out features such as the walls, doors, windows and chimney breast and then draw and cut out the shapes for your furniture and move it around to see how it fits. This approach requires precision measuring if it is really going to be a planning tool, as accuracy is very important!

Alternatively, you can mark out items of furniture such as beds, sofas and tables in actual size using string or tape to see what fits where. This is the simplest way, although you won’t be able to ‘see’ what the end result will look like.

Mistakes happen when you are not careful with your measurements, so check and double check. Accuracy is the key to getting the best results. If you are buying large items, also make sure you are going to be able to get them into your house or flat. Think about factors such as staircases, ceiling heights and corridor widths.

Planning tools enable us to plan our space, avoid costly mistakes and create something truly bespoke and individual to meet our needs.

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