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Space Planning in Interior Design


How important is it to properly plan space in interior design? What are the obvious mistakes often made when planning a space? This Space Planning blog article answers these questions.

Interior design is always evolving, but the basics do not change. One of those basics is ‘space planning’. Space planning is an in-depth analysis of how a space will be used.

This article explains space planning in simple language and shows you how to apply it to real-life projects.


What is space planning in interior design?


Space planning occurs before the actual interior design process; it is a plan for interior design. Every residential space interior has unique requirements. Room planning ensures that an interior designer adheres to the room’s purpose, functional requirements, and layout.

These 3 factors sometimes conflict with a client’s preferred style. Interior designers must apply the principles of space planning to bridge the gap between the best design and the client’s vision.


Before you begin, take into account these 4 fundamentals:


1. The category of space

Almost all spaces fall into one or more of these 3 categories.

  1. Private – spaces set aside for privacy such as a bedroom.

  2. Social – spaces meant for social gatherings such as the lounge and dining room.

  3. Work – spaces where work is done, e.g., a home office.

In some cases is also storage – spaces where things are stored, e.g., closet.


2. Primary purpose

Each of the 4 types of spaces described above can be used for several possible activities. For example, a bedroom can be designed for adults, teens, or preschoolers; a storage space could be a pantry or a walk-in closet.

In each scenario, the area interior design changes in accordance with the specific purpose. Designers also have to consider how lighting, flooring (for cleaning and/or safety), access to other rooms, and access to the exterior of the building affect their decisions.


3. Secondary purpose

Most spaces serve multiple purposes. The intelligent interior design weighs these purposes against one another so both primary and secondary needs are met.

For example, a kitchen table often doubles as a place for kids to do their homework. The main focus of the space design will be on dining but dual-tone lighting creates the option of a brighter setting more conducive to study.


4. Movement patterns

Think of door location, the position of furniture, and other functional and decorative pieces. Also about the size, shape, and placement of unoccupied areas.

For example, there should be ample open space around a home bar for milling around. There can be less space around a dining table as most people would be seated and static.


Purpose and objectives of space planning


Space planning humanizes interior design. It looks beyond rigid theory and logic and asks, “Does it work in practice? How can we make it better?”

It also considers the psychological needs of the people who will use it. One of the elements that contribute to those needs is a sense of cohesion. Well-planned spaces flow from one area to the next with a unity of form and function in what is termed ‘time and space design’.

Space planning brings order to the design process. Even the most talented and experienced interior designers risk overlooking crucial steps if they lack a clear plan of action. These lapses may seem obvious in hindsight, but they still occur.

Many interior designers enjoy the client interaction aspect of space planning. Remember, the client is the most important person in the process. A collaborative space planning stage sheds light on your thought process and design decisions.


The 5 stages of planning space in interior design

These 5 stages take you from a basic concept to a detailed overview of the space that you are designing. It creates a simple workflow of how your vision will transform into reality.


Stage 1 - Planning

Every successful project begins with a feasible and well-thought-out plan. Start with the 4 fundamentals listed above. Next, note down the client’s requirements and preferences. The overlap between these two lists overlap is the foundation of an effective space planning project.


Stage 2 – Rough Map

Next, consider the physical space you are designing. Start with a floor map - even a rough one will do. Mark out your ideas based on the 4 fundamental principles. This will reveal the conceptual use of each space and will serve as your guide throughout the design process.


Stage 3 – Conceptual Use

The conceptual use sets physical aspects such as floor area, layout, and theme. Consider the relative sizes of adjacent and adjoining rooms, as well their placement. For example, a bedroom or workspace should not be next to a social space such as a TV or billiards room.


Stage 4 – Sub-spaces

Next, divide each major space into sub-spaces. Sub-spaces are dictated by the primary, secondary, and tertiary purposes of an area. For example, a home office will have a work area, storage space for file cabinets, and perhaps a kitchenette.


Stage 5 - Detail

The next step is to add detail. Building on the home office scenario, it is time to decide between a straight table and an L-shaped one. Are shelves better or file cabinets? Will the kitchenette have a sink as well (and the required plumbing connections)?


Basic space planning tips


Here are a few space planning tips that you can apply to virtually every project.

1. Use what exists – not everything has to change. If something works, use it and complement it.

2. Be selective – don’t fill for the sake of filling every space. Empty spaces can speak louder.

3. Movement space – practical space helps imbue a room with a harmonious flow

4. View – unobstructed views into adjacent spaces and/or the outside are desirable.

Remember the principle “Divide and conquer” – break up large areas with walls, furniture, carpeting, and showpieces.


Effectiveness of space planning in interior design


Space planning is essential to good interior design. It fosters client satisfaction, which is invaluable if you are looking to create a name for yourself in the industry and expand your business footprint.

It is an opportunity to hone your craft. Questions from clients will help you think, rethink, and reimagine your perspectives. For professionals in the creative sphere, that is a reward in itself.

So, the next time a client asks you, “What is space design?” remember what you learned here and apply it. You will create a practical, vibrant, and beautiful interior space that your clients will love.


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