Welcome to week one of How to Create a Decorating Plan. This week, we’ll cover Step 1 – Understanding Your Room. Before you can decorate a room, you need to understand the physical aspects of the room. Things like it’s size and shape, where the doors and windows are, and how how the ceilings are. Secondly you need to understand who uses the room and how they use it.
Lesson 1: Measuring Up
Knowing the measurements of a room helps you estimate quantities, and plan the layout accurately and easily. Everyone is different with how they perceive space. You might be good with spatial awareness and just need a few key measurements, you might get by with a rough sketch, or you may need detailed measurements drawn to scale to help you ‘see’ and plan your space.
Here’s a guide to measuring up a room.
- A4/Letter paper – plain or grid paper
- Retractable steel measuring tape (8 metres) Longer tapes are better. The fewer times you have to move the tape, the more accurate the measurements will be.
- Pen/pencil and ruler
- Camera or smartphone to take photos
- Step ladder for measuring heights
Sketching the Floorplan
- Identify your feature wall. This is usually the main wall you see when you enter the room. That’s wall A, then work clockwise around the room.
- Sketch and measure the walls (in cm or mm)
- Start by making a rough outline sketch of the room. Don’t worry if it looks out of proportion.
- Add doors (which way they open), windows and other built-in elements such as fireplaces, and built-in furniture
- Electrical – lights, light switches, power points, air-conditioning, fans
- Plumbing – mark where plumbing taps and drains are
Make a note of the natural elements of the room
- North, South, East, West – which way does the room face?
- Natural light, breezes – which direction does the natural light and breezes come from?
- External views – do you have a view you want to highlight or hide?
- Seasons – how does the room change from summer to winter?
- Start at corner 1 and run the measuring tape along the floor from skirting board to skirting board, keeping it straight and parallel to the wall you are measuring.
- As you take each measurement, record it on your sketch.
- Measure all the distances between items eg: corner to fireplace, width of fireplace, fireplace to next corner – check that individual measurements add up to the wall to wall total measurement.
- When measuring doors and windows, measure the width plus the door frame/architrave
- Tip for measuring ceiling height is to run the tape up the corner.
Sketching the Elevations
The floor plan gives you the basic dimensions of the room. The next step is to draw elevations of each wall. You will already have the width measurements from your floor plan, now it’s time to take all the height measurements, and add in any other details on the walls. Add details such as skirting boards, ceiling height, architraves, and built in elements such as cupboards, bookcases and fireplaces.
Lesson 2: Drawing a Scaled Floor Plan & Elevations
From the measurements you took, you can now draw floorpans and elevations of the room. It makes more sense when we view the plans and measurements to scale. A common scale for room plans is 1:20, which means 1cm on the plan represents 20cm in the room. Record the scale you use on your drawings.
Methods to convert measurements to a scale:
- Use a scale ruler (a special ruler that comes in different scales)
- Use a normal ruler and a calculator (divide the measurement you took by 20)
- Use floor plan software like SketchUp (free for personal use but you need to learn the software)
Use one of the above methods to convert the measurements of your room into scaled floorpans and elevations. I’m personally a bit old school, and just draw my plans up by hand with a scale ruler.
How to Calculate Area
You will need to be able to calculate the area of the floor, ceiling or walls to know how much paint, wallpaper, tiles etc… that you need to buy
To calculate the floor or ceiling area – use the floor plan – multiply the length of the room by the width.
If you have a L shaped room, divide the room into 2 rectangles then add the area measurements together
To calculate wall area – use your elevation drawings
Multiply the length of each wall by the width. Add all the measurement for each wall in the room together. You can also work out the area of doors, windows and other openings. You can subtract these measurements from the wall area for more accurate quantities eg: ordering wallpaper
Lesson 3: Photographing the Room
Having photos of your room helps you to create a decorating plan, plus they are great for before and afters.
Photos to Take
- Take photos straight on of each wall in the room – A, B, C, D etc…
- Take photos of each corner in the room – Corner 1, 2, 3,4 etc…..
- Take photographs of furniture and decor items you already have that you will use in the room
Photo of the wall straight on – Wall A
Photo of corner 2
Tips for taking Photographs
- Take the photos during the day (avoid using the flash)
- Make the most of natural light – open doors and windows to let the light in
- Take in landscape and portrait format
- Take the photos between belly and chest height
- Clear the room of junk – keep it clean so you can see the potential
- If your photos are dark – edit them using PicMonkey or another photo editing software program.
The importance of before photos. It’s really important to see the progress you’ve made. Sometimes we don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere. Before photos remind us of how far we’ve come.
Lesson 4: Room Use
When I do a decor coaching session, one of the first questions I ask my clients is who uses the room and what do you use the room for. All rooms first and foremost need to be functional. A pretty room that doesn’t work is no good. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who uses the room? Include adults, children and pets
- How many people use the room at the same time?
- What is the room used for? Common activities:
- Watching tv
- Listening to music
- Using the internet
- Quiet study
- Children’s play
- Entertaining guests, parties
- Dining – casual or formal. How do you like to eat your meals? At the table? At the kitchen bench? Outside? On your lap in front of the tv?
- Do any of the ways you use the room conflict? How can you resolve this?
- Does the room need privacy?
- Does the room need noise blocking? Especially important in open plan living spaces
- What do you need to store in the room?
- Use each room for your own purpose. Just because it says bedroom on the floor plan doesn’t mean you have to use the room for that.
- What’s the traffic flow in the room? Where do you need to walk to or leave space around?
- In large or long spaces, subdivide different activity zones to give definition to each part of the room.
- You can create a bubble plan to allocate where the activities will take place in the room
- Based on your answers to these questions, what needs to be included in the room to make it work for you? Make a list based on your uses. For example: we need a sofa big enough to lie down and watch tv, a cupboard/unit for our tv and sound bar
The challenge is to accommodate all the functions in the room without sacrificing style and comfort.
Download the Room Use Template from the Resource Library to record your answers.
Lesson 5: Problems & Solutions
Rooms are rarely perfect for our needs. We need to understand what we like and don’t like about the room. What works and doesn’t work? How can we fix the problems in the room so it works for us? Ask yourself the following:
- What do you like about the room?
- What works?
- What don’t you like about the room?
- What doesn’t work?
Changes (solving problems)
- What can be changed about the room?
- What can’t you change? You may have to design and decorate around this. Can you live with it?
- Can you make structural changes to solve a problem? Move walls or doors? Add or remove a window? Change the location of electrical points or plumbing?
- Does your current furniture work? If not, why?
Download the Problem Solving template from the Resource Library to record your answers.
Common structural changes to rooms:
- Block or open up a fireplace
- Block or open up a doorway
- Move or add a doorway or opening
- Replace solid doors with glazed ones
- Knocking 2 rooms into one – remove partition wall
- Changing a window size – bigger, smaller, changing to a door.
- Adding/moving electrical items – power points, wi-fi, telephone/chargers, air-conditioners, fans, heating, dimmer switches (do you have enough power points and are they in the right places?)
- Adding/moving plumbing – sinks, taps
What is Involved in Making these changes?
- Trades – builder/carpenter, plumber/gas fitter, electrician, cabinetmaker, flooring installer, painter, tiler,
- Decide the priority order of the works
- Is there a logical sequence to the works? Eg: one thing has to happen before another thing can?
If you are going to make changes, these are best done at the start of the project – before you start decorating. This is not always possible financially – you may need to do the work in stages.
Brainstorm ideas for solving the room’s problems. Create an action list for any work you need to do to the room. Download the Action List Template from the Resource Library.
Decorating Plan – Step 1
Based on the lessons above, you can start your decorating plan for the room. At this stage, you decorating plan will include:
- Floor plans and elevations
- Purpose of the room (how you plan to use it)
- Problem Solving Ideas
- List of any structural changes to be made – organise jobs according to need, budget, trade and logical sequence
Next week, we’ll cover Step 2 of your decorating plan – Creating a Clear Decorating Vision. Have a think about what decorating styles you like. Make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter so you get access to the free resources and don’t miss a post.
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