Space Planning in Interior Design
Whether you’re just starting your career as an interior designer or you’re an expert with decades of experience, you’ve likely discovered that while many projects are different, there are some basic principles that apply to all design work. These principles are essential because they help you make critical decisions about project details from the highest level down to the smallest aspect.
Space planning is one of the most important skills to hone throughout your career. Understanding how to guide a client from the first meeting to a successful project outcome is what will ultimately help you grow your business and get more satisfaction from your work.
In this article, we’ll outline a clear and proven process for space planning that covers all required questions and helps the client understand why you’ve made certain decisions. Additionally, we’ll offer 15 principles and tips for mastering space planning that you can start using today.
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Image Credit: HGTV
What is space planning in interior design?
Space planning describes the process of determining the purpose, functional requirements, and basic layout of specific areas in a home or commercial building, and it is an absolutely essential part of the interior design process.
Rather than allowing stylistic preferences or personal tastes alone to dictate the layout of a home, space planning requires interior designers to take into account other aspects of proper design, which include at least the following considerations:
1. The types of spaces in a specific home or building, which generally fall into 4 categories:
- Social (living room or dining area)
- Private (bedroom)
- Work (home office)
- Storage (closet, shelving, etc.)
Each of these categories will have implications for the home design, layout, furniture placement, and design of the finished room or area.
2. Intended room usage, which requires asking important questions about what kinds of activities will be done there, what features will accommodate those needs best, and how these needs should affect the space layout and design.
- For example, the interior designer will need to consider things for an interior space like storage (both open and closed options), tablespace, lighting, cleaning needs, areas, sleeping arrangements, bathing, access to other rooms, or interior and exterior entrances, and much more.
3. Foot traffic and circulation patterns within a home or building. Understanding and mapping where foot traffic will naturally flow should affect things like wall placements, furniture choices, door position, and many other critical interior design decisions. There may also be safety considerations about access that is needed depending on industry regulations (for commercial spaces) or personal preferences with private clients.
4. Multifunctional requirements for a space. Each area within a home might serve one primary purpose, but there could be several requirements that need to be considered to ensure that the purpose can be realized. Think about the example of a music room that has an area for storage (instruments and music), seating, space for large instruments like a piano, doors to close off the space, etc. Choosing the primary purpose of the room (music storage and practice) raises another series of key questions about how to achieve a good design and accommodate basic functionalities.
Read also – 6 Steps To Design Your Dream Home
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Why is space planning important for effective interior design?
Without effective space planning, projects or entire homes and buildings can lack a cohesive sense of form and function that makes them attractive and usable. Functional spaces can be over-decorated, which is a common error without proper space planning.
These mistakes might be obvious or they can be more subtle, slowly reducing a client’s joy in their space because it’s not best suited to their needs or because it makes routine activities more difficult. While the issues addressed by space planning might seem obvious, it can actually be a simple misstep to overlook that part of the process.
Space planning will help interior designers make and explain decisions that might not otherwise be intuitive – especially to clients. These decisions could include things like the following:
- Lighting placement, fixtures, and brightness.
- Furniture selection and orientation.
- Material choices. Tile vs. carpet in an area with high traffic, or where shoes will be used.
If those decisions have been informed by careful and intentional space planning, you’ll be much more confident that the end result truly meets client needs now and in the future.
Read also – 10 Best Client Management Tips for Interior Designers
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What is the best process for space planning?
In general, you should think about space planning as a process of slowly working from general principles to specific decisions while taking into consideration the client’s needs, preferences, and principles of effective, sustainable interior design.
The first step is to use a rough floor map (especially if you’re floor planning for a completely new building or space) to designate zones with conceptual uses. These conceptual uses will be based on the 4 aforementioned categories. Does this mean that conceptual decisions will be high-level, and usually involve determining if a space is to be social, private, storage, or dedicated to a specific type of work?
Next, move from the conceptual to the real by making floor plan decisions about layout, square footage, design aspect, etc. If you’ve determined where the social space is going to be, then decide if you want that area to be directly adjacent to a more private section, or if it should lead to another social area like the kitchen or dining room. These decisions will practically affect how your client entertain guests, and how comfortable they feel in their own homes.
From these high-level designations, additional decisions can be made showing how the room might break into specific functions. For example, what does a workspace need to be fully functional? Your client might also need a desk, seating for clients, storage, and more.
Once the requirements (both conscious and subconscious) have been further refined, then you can begin to make specific decisions about how to meet the requirements. If you determine that a home office needs storage, now it’s time to offer specific suggestions about how that should look. Should it be built-in bookshelves? Does it need to be a locked filing cabinet?
This 3-step process from the conceptual to the specific will help you understand exactly what clients are looking for without asking them to commit to a specific design from the very start.
Read also – 20 Client Presentation Ideas for Interior Designers
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5 Principles for space planning:
What do you need to remember each time you start the space planning process? Aside from the 3 steps outlined directly above, here are 5 key tips to guide you through the space planning portion of your design.
1. Remember the prospect and refuge theory. Put simply, we think of spaces as having two distinct functions and these can either be augmented or limited depending on what the client wants and/or how much space is available. Prospective spaces look out into other areas or outside and refuge areas are designed for rest and retreat. Sometimes a space can include both functions.
2. The design needs to be human, which means it must include more than just interesting decorations or architectural decisions. Instead, it also needs to fulfill psychological needs and help promote good mental health, physical health, etc.
3. Layered lighting is a great way to give rooms multiple uses and easily change the appeal within the room with the simple flick of a switch (or roll of a dimmer knob).
4. Consider more than just a single room at one time when space planning. Sometimes the relationship between multiple rooms will be partially decided for you due to their proximity or connection to other rooms that have a very specific purpose or access to another room. For example, you likely wouldn’t use a room adjoining a kitchen as a library, especially if they are directly connected. Instead, it’s more natural for this area to be a dining room.
5. Write everything down before you start planning! This will make it easier than trying to go back later and move things around to fit in an important request that was previously forgotten. Catalog your client’s requests and the decisions that you’ve made together so that they can be referenced whenever needed.
Read also – How 3D Rendering Can Increase Profits in Your Interior Design Business?
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Top 10 tips for space planning:
Here are ten expert tips to help you think differently about space planning and impress your clients with the expertise that will help them enjoy their space more than they thought possible.
1. Understand how you can plan around what currently exists as a natural focal point in the room.
2. Find out if you need to create a new focal point, or remove obstructions that can increase the functionality or versatility of a particular space.
3. Balance the space appropriately. Don’t fill it just because it’s empty and doesn’t overcrowd to provide as much seating, storage, or table space as possible.
4. If you have access to the physical space in which you are working, take advantage of your proximity by more closely estimating how much space furniture or other elements could consume. Consider marking off space on the walls or floor with tape to get a more real sense of the size and impact.
5. Leave ampl walking space to and from the entrances to a room. Ensure that storage is available where it would be expected. When someone first walks into a home, they (perhaps even without realizing it) have an expectation that there will be a clear place for their shoes, coats, and various other personal items.
6. Embrace large spaces by creating defined sections or areas. Even if they are not separated by physical walls, the layout, decoration, seating, and countless other thoughtful design additions can make their intended use clear.
7. Human-centric design means conforming the room to healthy human habits, not vice versa. Make sure you consider how many people will be using the space as that will change how many types of rooms you need to add (e.g., bedrooms). Lastly, keep considerations about the budget in mind as well.
8. Provide unobstructed views into other rooms or, ideally, to outside where possible.
9. If you’re frustrated by the limitations of a small room, try finding pieces that can simply be scaled down. Smaller windows, lighting fixtures, or seating can still provide some of the functionality that your client wants.
10. In multi-purpose rooms, can staple components of the room be used for more than one function? Using construction techniques like half walls or glass doors can help close spaces off and add privacy while still making them feel somewhat open to other areas.
Here’s one bonus tip that may or may not apply to your situation. Determine any specific needs that your client might have pertaining to physical limitations, disabilities, special needs, or elderly family members (or customers) that might be using the space. Differently-abled people, or those with constraints for their living environments, will have very specific requirements about things like hallway space, stairs, etc.
Accommodating those needs will ensure that the space is safe and usable for all.
Read also – 14 Top 3D Rendering Issues That Every Interior Designer Has To Face
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Resources for learning and skill development
Where else can you learn about key interior design skills alongside other passionate freelancers, professionals, and experienced business owners? Foyr has developed the leading community for interior designers, and the best part is that it’s free to join. The Foyr community was built specifically for helping interior designers gain more confidence and grow their opportunities, with features like the following:
- Comprehensive learning module with courses from established and reputable interior designers. These classes cover topics like how to grow your business and design principles.
- Networking capabilities with other interior designers where you can connect with like-minded people and share designs and inspirations.
- Job boards where you can find new work opportunities or post jobs.
- Join the Foyr community today and start growing together!
Try Foyr Neo for your next interior design project
Foyr Neo is an online interior design tool built specifically for designers. As you begin to walk your clients through space planning exercises, Foyr Neo will allow you to bring design ideas and floor plans to life in a snap. With just a few clicks you can present your client with a beautiful 4K render of their dream home or commercial space. Seeing a photorealistic rendering will help the client decide if the planned space truly meets their needs and desires. You can try Foyr Neo for yourself with our 14-day trial.