Angel and Blume


Space planning

We have recently moved house and a key feature of the first six months of living in our new space is the amount of time that I have spent walking around looking for something that I had very recently and that has since completely vanished. It’s not helped by the fact that there is a circular route through the ground floor rooms so I can literally walk round and round whilst trying to find the item in question.


What I take from this, as I design the layout of all the spaces in the house, is that no level of detail with the planning can be too much. A space functions effortlessly well (an electrical socket just where you need it, a clear surface when you need to put something down, knowing where an item is that you just had a moment ago because there is a place that has been allocated for it) when it has been rigorously thought through with those who are going to use it in mind.


The first step to planning your space, is not about the space at all, but about what you want to use your home for. There are some activities that are a given – eating, sleeping, washing – but many that aren’t and what I have learnt over the years is that we all live differently and a house should be created around how you want to use the space you have, not how the house has previously been used, or how it was originally designed.

Starting off by making a list of the activities that you want your house to be used for is key, and I would include as much detail as possible. This may include working from home, listening to music, playing musical instruments, reading, entertaining, hobbies, exercise and so on. Once you have a good list, it is then a matter of thinking about what you need for each activity (space, storage, furnishings etc) and how often you realistically do it. I would argue that only once you have your detailed list of requirements, that includes all members of the household including pets, are you ready to start designing your spaces.

A really good scale plan of your home is vital – this doesn’t have to be professionally produced, you can do it yourself with a tape measure and some paper and ruler, or basic computer software (SketchUp is easy to use and free) – and then with your list of requirements in mind, start thinking about how best to use the spaces that you actually have. Don’t start off with incorporating the current furniture you own, design the ideal so that you are not constrained at the start. It might be that changing an item of furniture makes all the difference but you won’t know until you allow yourself that freedom.

It is sometimes said that you can never have too much space but I disagree. Having the perfect amount of space is much better than too much and that involves all spaces being used and having a purpose. If the current space in a home isn’t working well, there is a tendency to immediately think about extending but many houses end up with an extension that is used all the time and other rooms that they rarely go into. I would always argue for seeing whether the current space can be adapted, even if quite dramatic changes are required, rather than extending as it will most likely be cheaper and will not leave you with unused areas of the house.

Once you have an idea of how each room is going to be used, it is worth taking a little time to think how spaces connect and flow. Just occasionally, changing the location of a doorway, taking down an internal wall or adding one, or even completely changing the interior layout of a space, can really improve how a home functions and how it feels, and isn’t always as costly as it initially sounds.

The details of each room will only become obvious once you know how a space is going to be used – where a radiator should be located, where you need light and sockets, what storage you need, how many people you need to accommodate and so on. On this last point, you may be incredibly social with guests dropping in several times a week or you may just have people over once or twice a year, but the difference will affect the layout of your rooms significantly. Spaces can be easily changed (soft seating, dining chairs etc.) to accommodate irregular entertaining so you don’t need to think in terms of incorporating a table for sixteen into your home, just because you find yourself hosting Christmas occasionally.

Finally don’t be afraid to make spaces work hard. A guest room that is used occasionally is important to have but what can it also be used for when you don’t have guests? A dressing room? A work space? A place to watch TV or play computer games? In the same way, it is worth thinking about whether your dining room can also be a place for books, a library space even? Can a corner of a room be used for a desk, or a quiet space to read, or a zoom meeting? Sometimes it is about separating out activities (TV and work space for example) in terms of their location, or even the time of day spent doing them.

As with all good design, you won’t notice that the planning of your home if it works well. It will just work well. You will however be very aware if a space doesn’t work and however beautiful you make it look, that lack of functionality will affect those who live in it and be felt by those who visit.