Design tools

by Alain Juneau


My girlfriend and I have been making some major changes in our home lately: we added a living room, built a new room for our eldest child in the basement, and redesigned my daughter’s existing room.

Just like with any family project, we all want to let our individual tastes and needs be known: compromising is a must. For example, in our new living room, my girlfriend would like to have an office space, my daughter would like an arts and crafts table, and I would like to have nice big armchairs for when we have friends over. So we were faced with a dilemma about how best to use our new space: how do we get the look we want, plus make sure we buy the furniture that will meet all of our needs perfectly, without overloading the space? We used a few tricks that I thought you might find interesting.

Scrapbook your ideas

Collect all of the magazine clippings, pictures of furniture and decorations, and samples of the paint and materials you intend to use in your new design. Just as in a scrapbook of your most memorable vacations, glue all of these items onto a large cardboard sheet. Laying out all of these elements together will allow you to properly determine the mood your room will give off.

Take a picture of your space

Take a picture of the space you are designing before you lay a finger on it. Pictures can help get your creative juices flowing. Put tracing paper over your chosen shots, and sketch whatever you would like to place in those areas. This is a quick little trick that can provide you with a useful starting point, so you can judge how esthetically pleasing a specific area would be, or simply get your first ideas down.

Good old graph paper

To draw a room to scale quickly, there is nothing like good old graph paper and a trusty pen. Using a scale of one-half of an inch to one foot normally works well for drawing a room (one square equals six inches). To size up varying set-ups, you could cut out furniture and other items that you would like to have in the room, then rearrange them as you please and decide which arrangement would work best. This method helps you quickly determine whether the chosen furniture fits, there is enough room to move around, and the room isn’t too crowded.

For a less hands-on approach: use computer tools

If you have more time and want a more realistic preview, there are plenty of great computer tools that render very good results, and some are even free. All such applications work about the same way. You first draw the floor to the desired shape and size. You can then roll in furniture, decorations and anything else you can think up. You can also add doors and windows to make it even more realistic. The results are interesting; however, the design possibilities are limited by the choice of items available on each site.

Here are two links for this type of application: