When I was looking for an affordable space to buy in New York City, I devised strategies for envisioning how I might tailor the various spaces I was considering. I ended up teaching these strategies to several friends who were “stuck” when trying to design a new kitchen, study — any room at all; these simple approaches helped them unplug the creative flow of ideas, and ultimately find solutions to their design dilemmas.
The first thing is to figure out all the things you need a space to do or have, and make a list. In my case, I was looking for a live/work space that would/could encompass A LOT:
-an open kitchen
-an office that could hold lots of file cabinets and have a big work surface, but could be ‘out-of-sight’ when I was not working
-at least one separate bedroom
-an unobstructed view of something great
-a real bathtub
In NYC, getting ALL these elements is not easy on a limited budget. I spent many Sunday’s looking at real estate listings, scrutinizing virtual tours and pictures, trying to imagine potential spaces. I figured if I could find one that had good bones, it would be worth doing work to make it what I wanted.
I’d print one out, then used a white-out correction pen to erase the walls, cabinetry and elements I thought might be moved. Sometimes, I’d white-out EVERY non-loadbearing interior wall, so I could start with a true blank slate and discover hidden possibilities, unhampered by what already existed…
Then I’d print the whited-out plan and roughly sketch ideas on it:
I did this process with many apartments, often making several iterations of plans, like the one above. Trying ideas out on paper helped to envision the space’s viability. Ideas that didn’t work could always be erased. They often inspired new ones.
Then I found a tool that allowed me to test my ideas out more accurately (once I got serious about a space): Home Quick Planner: Reusable, Peel & Stick Furniture & Architectural Symbols. On the plastic grid, you can block out walls, fixtures, and furniture to scale, and then move them around as new ideas strike you. (I’m not crazy about the “style” of its furniture, but it works fine as placeholders, trimmed with a manicure scissors.) The planner facilitates drawing a design “from scratch” if you don’t have a plan to start with. Working with my hands to fashion the space proved much easier and more fun than using a computer program.
Here’s an early iteration of my plan for the space I bought (the first cookie cutter plan above), with an office and minimalist bedroom that open onto an atrium.
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