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aligning, centering, architect on demand, advice without strings

As DIY Ally, I never get tired of emphasizing the importance of aligning and centering. Last week I wrote about helping a client to design a reflected ceiling plan. This week’s installment is a sequel to that post.

Upon proposing a design, I found out that there were a few additional elements to consider. Namely, the existing windows and the openings from adjacent rooms.

My client emailed: “So I sketched up the room as best I could quickly… not to scale.  But I think we may need some assistance with the window layout and locations.  We purchased the bay window, which is 7’ wide x 5’ high.  The other double hung set of 2 and the 3 individual windows are all left over from this addition and we don’t have to use them all. I hope my sketch helps conceptualize the room. It will primarily be used as a glorified playroom for our daughter. My mother’s opinion is that there is not enough wall space using the current window layout, so I defer to your expert opinion.”

Also, he wrote: “We are not set on anything except the exterior layout and the openings into the other rooms. We want to reuse the headers as much as possible.”

In response, I mused about maintaining the central axis — arched openings working together with the bay window. I thought that the windows on two other sides should be symmetrical. Thus, I took the course of aligning and centering.

Aligning brings continuity and coherence while centering balances elements

My client wrote: “So my wife would like to maintain the two entrances, the reason I drew them as arched is because we have a large great room off the kitchen that has a 16-ft arched opening into it, so maybe the arch is very soft, not round…I think the 3-window side is too much window since that faces west and the windows will seldom be open or shades up etc. I guess some rough sketches of your ideas will help my wife decide.”

Here’s what I did. Please note that all of the dimensions are on center (O.C.).

aligning, centeringIn Plan:

  • Arched openings are centered on the north wall and the bay window is centered on the south wall.
  • Arched opening on the east wall is centered with the window on the west wall.
  • The window on the east wall is aligned with the window on the west wall.

aligning, centeringIn elevation:

  • At the top, all openings and windows are aligned.
  • Since there are 3 windows of one kind, we can use two on the west wall and one on the east wall.

aligning, centering

As such, I organized the reflected ceiling plan as follows:
  • The majority of the ceiling plane drops approximately 12” to create two lighting coves that run continuously along east and west walls. They stop about 2 feet away from the south wall with the bay window where the ceiling height is the lowest. It is flat there.
  • Wooden beams run across, as if supporting the floating plane of the ceiling. They “die” into the walls.
  • The beams correspond to the openings below, as if there were an imaginary grid. Every element falls into place.
  • In addition, there’s an actual grid of recessed architectural-grade 3” in diameter light fixtures. They are as inconspicuous, as possible.
  • Each row of recessed lights is centered between the beams in north-south direction. Running the other way, the three columns are centered on the opening s on the north wall.

Well, I hope this makes sense. In design, when facing a blank sheet of paper, the easiest way to approach it is to establish constraints or guidelines. Even if it’s as simple as making a decision about aligning and centering. Would you agree? If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask here.


  • Mia Kazovsky
    December 6, 2016

    I like the concept of “aligning and centering.” This concept if important to carry throughout all aspects of one’s life. Don’t people practice yoga and meditation to find alignment and become centered? Your blog posts are so relevant to all aspects of life! Awesome work, as usual!

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