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The Importance of Interior Design Space Planning

How much is it worth getting the plan right? 

A number of years ago, I received a call from a gentleman about to build a new home; a pretty substantial new home. The home designer had referred me, so the gentleman invited me to come meet he and his wife to discuss working together.  He emailed me the preliminary plans, and then asked me to let them know when I came over, if there was anything I would change on the plans.

Eager to impress, I dove into a pencil furniture plan study to see what space planing issues may exist. The great room was open to the kitchen.  When we met, I explained that with typical  upholstery, the great room was 2’ too narrow; there wasn’t enough space to walk behind a sofa or sectional with hitting the counter stools at the kitchen island.  Confident I had proved my value, I gave them my fee for handling all the interior design services for the construction of their new home. Heard nothing.  2 weeks later the architect called me to let me know that the house revisions were almost completed. I was a little surprised and asked what revisions? He said he was told to make the great room 2’ wider.  I told him that I hadn’t been hired yet.  Later I learned they hired another designer who was less expensive.

After all these years, I still think, what was the value of getting the space planning right for the heart of that home?  For sure, I learned a very important lesson that day; don’t give away your intellectual property.  However, what continues to greatly concern me is how many homes, very expensive homes, continue to be built without someone performing a deep dive into the complete space plan of the home. 

A complete space plan includes lifestyle questions and  a furniture plan.  Yes, I’m sure there are some Frank Lloyd Wrights out there; architects who just don’t design the shell, but everything that goes in it. However, typically, this doesn’t happen. So either the architect/ builder has an interior designer(s) on staff, or the homeowner(s) hire a designer directly.

In both of those situations, the complete space plan interior study should happen with preliminary architectural plans.  Approved revisions go back to the architect to continue with construction drawings.

And then there is the third scenario; no one is doing a deep dive into the homeowner’s lifestyle and furniture/cabinet layout until after the home is almost built.   Hopefully, everything is workable and the great room isn’t 2’ feet too narrow.  

Often flaws in the plan reveal themselves when decorating begins and people move in.

At that point, it’s a “make it work” situation.  There are so many decisions to be made when building a home; lighting, flooring, cabinets, finishes…. those things are expensive to change if you are not happy.  But walls, especially bearing walls, you really want to get those right at the beginning.


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