Whether you are moving into a new house or wish to alter the existing living area and re-furnish it a -dummy run- on paper will help to establish what is and what is not practicable. The object is to transfer what is in your mind’s eye to paper and subject it to hard dimensional proof.
You really need to draw to scale two kinds of plan. The first is the floor plan. On this you should mark lengths, widths and heights throughout the room. On it too you should indicate door openings and swings, the position of windows, power and light points, and all such features as the fireplace and chimney breast. Alcoves, radiators, built-in cupboards, storage units.
Some such features you may wish to retain; some you may wish to modify (e.g. enlarge the windows); others you may wish to dispense with. So the floor plan should show to scale basically what the room as it is comprises, and the structural changes or additions you propose.
You can also use it to plan the arrangement of free-standing furniture (e.g., tables, chairs, sideboard) by making to scale cutouts of these and juggling them around on the plan to decide what will fit best where. Elevations. Since, both as regards storage and display, the way in which the walls of the living area are used is critically important, you really need a second kind of scale plan — an elevation of each wall in the room. On these floor-to-ceiling wall plans mark to scale the features proposed for each wall (e.g. bookcase, display cabinet, storage shelf, pictures).
Make cutouts of these so you can juggle them around without having to redraw. From the elevations you will obtain a fair idea of whether various features and objects blend well or badly, whether levels are pleasing or ungainly and, most important whether it all fits the wall space available. Note: Before making your “dummy run” you will have decided what functions the living area must serve and roughly how you would like to arrange things. Take account too, of the important factor of lighting, both natural and artificial. Which walls reflect most light from the windows? Can display features such as ornaments and pictures be conveniently spot-lit in the positions you propose for them?
- Fitments that you can assemble or make yourself, the re-arrangement of furniture and decorative ingenuity can greatly improve the comfort and efficiency of the living area, even completely change its role to meet changed family circumstances. No major structural alterations as such may be necessary. If structural changes are needed, give them priority.
- In each particular case, judge how far you really need, and can afford, to go. To open up the living room into the adjoining dining room, must you take down the whole of the partition wall or would enlargement of the existing door opening serve the purpose? Conversely, why erect a light-blocking partition wall to make two rooms from one when an open-frame room divider might do the job as well or better?
- The fireplace may be ugly but need it be dismantled? The hearth might usefully house a direct-action electric heater or solid fuel burner — a welcoming focal point in the room that could supplement the central heating on cold evenings. Or the fireplace could be blocked up and fronted with a decorative screen or display houseplants.
- If the windows give scanty light, is it necessary to enlarge the window area by cutting into an external load-bearing wall — a difficult, time-consuming and costly operation — or would replacing small panes with sheet glass within the existing window area be a satisfactory compromise?
- Where expedients cannot meet the problems, major structural alterations may be necessary.