Monday, March 26, 2018


Here's the problem with a long, skinny room:
You can't furnish it in a way that's inviting.
Designing a floor plan involves a lot more than getting all the rooms in the right place. Beyond merely relating to other spaces correctly, every room in a house should also stand on its own as a complete design. In other words, it should have aesthetic integrity.

Usually, this demands a room plan that's based on a primary geometric shape or a simple combination of shapes. While rectangles form the basis for most rooms, octagons, circles, and other regular shapes can also be very effective. These days, you may recall, all kinds of crazy stuff is happening in a room that's oval. Since rectangular rooms are most common, though, we'll focus on those.

Avoid trying to hide ductwork with ceiling frou-frou—
you're not going to fool anyone.
In any room, good proportions are critical to avoid a pinched, railroad-car feeling. Smaller rooms, such as dining rooms or bedrooms, should generally have length-to-width ratios of about 1:1. Large rooms such as living rooms should be more rectangular, with a length-to-width ratio of about 1.5:1. If they're any longer than this, however, they'll feel more like two conjoined rooms, which will require several furniture groupings rather than one, and thereby lose any sense of unity or coziness.

Rooms shouldn’t be disrupted by illogical projections or odd angles that destroy the integrity of their shape. Bedrooms provide a common bad example—many designers start with a nice rectangular room and then, seemingly as an afterthought, add a protruding clothes closet into one corner. The result is an awkward L-shaped space with a nasty external corner jutting into it. Lesson: closets should invariably be recessed so that they don’t interrupt the room’s basic shape. That goes for structural posts, duct shafts, and other protrusions as well. If you can't pull that off on your first attempt—try again.

Double doors look great centered
on the wall of a formal room.
Single doors, not so much.
Doorways should generally be placed snugly into a corner, not just left adrift somewhere in the middle of a wall—particularly in the case of bedrooms, baths, and secondary rooms. Formal paired doors in dining rooms, dens, and the like can be centered on the wall provided they don’t interfere with furniture placement (remember, the doors will have to stow against a wall when they’re open).

Window location is also critical to room design. A good designer will place the windows to suit the inside of the room, not the outside of the house. Fortunately, the guidelines for placements are simple: the windows should either be exactly centered, or else should clearly favor one corner or another. Anything else is liable to look like a mistake.

Use odd numbers of windows so there's no mullion
at the center, and keep it simple.
In aesthetic terms, a few bold windows are usually preferable to a lot of fussy little ones—less expensive, too. Single, paired, and triple windows work well; however, even-numbered window groupings other than pairs are best avoided, since they necessarily have an obtrusive mullion in the center.

Ceilings shouldn’t have illogical changes in height, such as furred-down portions meant to conceal beams, pipes or ducts. If you find yourself resorting to such last-ditch camoflauge tactics, you should probably reconsider your design. Intentional changes of ceiling height are a different matter, but even they should serve some clear architectural purpose—for example, to create an intimate alcove, or to form a visual canopy above a dining room table.

The Swiss Cheese effect:
Lots of recessed lights, but why are they where they are?
Lighting fixtures are another common source of ceiling snafus. They should never be “almost” centered—the result will simply look like a construction error. On the other hand, beware of placing fixtures according to the furniture you plan to have beneath them. On paper, it might seem perfectly logical to have one fixture above a dresser, another over your favorite armchair, and a third over the bed for reading. In practice, though, your eye relates the fixtures to the ceiling, not to what's under them, so more often than not such an arrangement just looks haphazard. A better approach is to judge the fixture locations in the context of the ceiling plane. This is especially crucial with recessed lighting fixtures in order to avoid the dreaded "Swiss cheese effect".

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