Designing a space – a basic process for DIY’ers

When planning for a renovation the most important advice I can give to all you DIY’ers is DON’T WING IT.  Plan everything possible before you begin.  This includes selecting all your finishes and fixtures, and making sure everything works together both aesthetically and spatially. There are several reasons to do this:

  1. PROJECT MANAGEMENT – purely from a project management point of view having everything pre-selected helps to avoid delays. You won’t get stuck having to back track, or redo something to make the next element fit. By creating your full design with all finishes and fixtures selected you’ll be able to organize an installation time line.
  2. CREATIVE CONTROL – visualizing the space beforehand allows for more creative control of the project.  You can envision where to let negative space rule, and where some magic needs to happen.
  3. FOCUS ON FUNCTION – you can maximize function by completing a design and comparing it to what you’ve got.  Even doing a few quick drawings and then standing in the space with them can help you better understand how you use the space now, and what you’d like to improve upon in future use.


Start with a scaled plan view drawing of the room you are working on.  These don’t have to be pretty, or proper with perfect dimension lines, just something you can reference when making your selections.  With our bathroom, for example, I needed to ensure I fit the vanity to the space we had available, and that a new tub depth wouldn’t interfere with the toilet location.

In order to properly judge how much space you actually have you want this drawing to be ‘to scale’.  That means all wall lengths and fixture locations are proportionate to what is actually happening in the space.  Interior Designers will use technical programs to create exact drawings. These drawings are digital and can be more easily reworked as the design develops over time.  They also allow designers to readily communicate with other industry trades, and express detailed designs accurately to clients.

As a DIY’er you can create a simplified version of a scaled drawing for your own reference.  They don’t need to be as technical as industry drawings, but for your own purposes but they will definitely come in handy.  Drawings will help to avoid the dreaded, ‘it’s was perfect! I thought it would fit for sure‘ when you stumble across that ideal piece. It will also help you visualize how new pieces will fit in with existing elements.  Does it sit too close? Leave a useless gap?  By using a scaled drawing you can keep your space planning in line.  Check out this quick tutorial on how to draw your own scaled floor plan.



You might also find creating scaled elevations of the space to be helpful during the planning phase. Elevations are 2 dimensional drawings that show each wall, from floor to ceiling, in the space. These should also be to scale, and will allow you to visualize the space from another angle as you choose your finishes and fixtures.  Check out this tutorial on how to create simple elevation drawings.

I like to have some fun with elevations.  As long as my drawings are to scale, I use a loose style to sketch out how I want the space to look.  These really help you to see where you have space to add functional or aesthetic elements.  They’ll also point out if something just won’t fit where you’d hoped, or planned it would.  Having this secondary view also helps place elements vertically in a space. For example it will show how tall that vanity really is and how high you really do need to hang that light fixture.


A concept board, or ‘mood board’ serves a dual purpose in my mind. It is used to help visualize the aesthetics of a space, but also helps initiate a shopping list of items that will eventually need to be ordered and installed.  By pulling together images of all of the elements you hope to incorporate into a space you really get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

You can use these images to add detail to your elevations, but more importantly, once you have a style that works, you can create your shopping list get all the things.  I mean, ahem, order all your gorgeous fixtures and finishes.

By creating and using these three elements, you can pull together a design for a space without having to make costly installation errors or disappointing aesthetic mistakes.  While some may see these as extra steps, they really are tools that allow you to get the most out of your DIY renovation.  DIY renovation is not for the faint of heart. It is, without a doubt, a lot of hard work, but these steps might just help you out, my DIY rebels.

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  • Reply
    August 9, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Great blog post!

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