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Alla DIY Ally, space planning

Alla DIY Ally Project: Space Planning

As Alla DIY Ally, an online architectural services provider, I am frequently asked to help with space planning. DIY home improvement enthusiasts can benefit a great deal by turning to an architect in the effort to make the most of the space available. In this post I’d like to discuss a couple of examples that demonstrate the aforementioned benefits.

There are a few online space planning tools available. For instance, RoomSketcher. Their simple drag & drop interface makes drawing a floor plan easy. Integrated measurement tools incorporate dimensions. However, once you add windows and doors, it does not mean that you are done designing. Space planning involves a lot more than that!

I’ve written a downloadable how-to eBook DIY Like an Architect: 11-Step Method that guides you through design and planning process. It’s a good resource. Better yet, you can reach me directly online. I offer one-on-one assistance.

Here’s why asking Alla DIY Ally actually makes sense:

Example #1

A client emailed: “Hi, are you able to consult people in Australia? We are struggling to define the layout for our house (knowing it needs to change and expand by a room or two) and are looking for an online architectural services provider. We need Alla DIY Ally to spend an hour or so chatting with us about some space planning options. We are comfortable then drawing up plans and the details but literally don’t know where to put the rooms!”

Alla DIY Ally, space planning
Information provided

Attached to the contact request were the drawings above. Included was the original site plan, floor plan, and “a quick hand mark up of the extension” — one of the ideas her husband came up with.

In addition, she provided the following information: “We want to extend, and current thinking is to extend to the back right. I want to have 2 lounge spaces – one for us and one for the kids as they get older. For the main living space, I like open plan but I want a space for the kids that will allow me to close the door and not hear or see them! At the moment, we don’t take advantage of the amazing view from the front but would be happy to have a main bedroom on the front. We spend a lot of our time socializing out in the back, so I figure the kitchen/living space should be anchored there.”

She added that they are having trouble deciding and are relying on my help.

She paid $50 and wrote: “Can’t wait to hear from you, Alla DIY Ally!”

Upon making sense of her attachments, I was able to suggest something they have already described in words, but were not able to translate into a floor plan. It’s amazing how important it is to follow exactly what you say you need while space planning!

While space planning, ask yourself these questions:

What functions are served?

How does one move through?

Is there a logical progression from public to private?

Alla DIY Ally, space planning
Alla DIY Ally’s revisions

Example #2

A client emailed: “We are in the beginning stages of designing a custom home with our builder and struggling with coming to a final floor plan for the house. We need Alla DIY Ally advice. I’ve attached both the original plan, which is too large, and the latest space planning layout. The “reduced” plan becomes too choppy and eliminates a few items on my “must have” list.  This is our retirement home and we want it to be smaller but still have the common space areas to host family dinners with our children and grandchildren. Long story short we need help!”

Alla DIY Ally, space planning
Both versions of the builder’s proposed design (only the ground floor shown)

I (AKA Alla DIY Ally) took a look and emailed back with some questions of my own. I wrote:

“It seems to me that with some tweaks to the floor plan you will not need to make any sacrifices.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the following requirements:

  • Kitchen pantry: even in the second version it is drawn as if it were a closet. What do you plan to use it for? Is it possible to have the cabinets in the kitchen do the job?
  • Is your heart set on having the kitchen in its current location?
  • If we were to straighten out the staircase and have the kitchen run against that wall, you would really open up the family/dining room/kitchen areas. It would truly help upstairs as well. Any objections?
  • What is the idea behind a garage within a garage? Do you need that 10’-5”x6’-3” area?
  • Does mudroom require a closet? What if you took care of the storage with built-ins?
  • Storage upstairs? Seems to be quite impractical. What is it for?

I will be able to give you an alternative space planning layout once I know the answers to these questions. It will take approximately 2 hours to make the sketches and explain my ideas to you. If you would like to proceed, please make a payment through PayPal.”

Her responses gave me a very clear direction:

  • It’s not reflected in either drawing but I want very few upper cabinets in the kitchen. I want more windows.  I do want a large walk in pantry to store things I used to have keep in the basement. The Christmas dishes I inherited from my Mother, the waffle iron, crock pots, large baking dishes etc.  I wanted them all where they were easy to find and use.
  • Since I wanted so many windows I wanted the kitchen along an outside wall.
  • I’m fine with the straight stairs.  I am trying to keep some division between the living room and Dining/Kitchen area.  The living room will have the only TV (my husband is a TV addict) and I don’t want to be able to see it from the Dining/Kitchen area.
  • The extra storage in the garage was for a lawn mower etc…but it’s not a must have.
  • No I don’t need a closet in the Mud Room nor do I want one by the front entrance.
  • The storage upstairs is attic space not finished or heated.

As a result of this brief exchange over the Internet, Alla DIY Ally, trusted Online Architectural Services Provider, was able to produce a basic space planning sketch that used a smaller footprint, yet satisfied all of the outlined requirements. This particular client got what she wanted — her pantry, a place for their lawn mower, and extra closet space in the master suite. In addition, the cabinetry along the stair wall will give her extra storage in the kitchen. That way she will be able to eliminate the upper cabinets along the exterior wall and have as much light as she wants.

Alla DIY Ally, space planning
New space planning layout: ground and second floor plans
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