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How to Design the Perfect Floor Plan

NOVEMBER 30, 2020
Photo credit: Design by Joshua Jones

When you move into a new home, one of the first design decisions you’ll need to make is your floor plan. Once you land on the layout of furniture, you can start shopping and make any architectural changes like adding built-ins, etc. A thoughtful floor plan is a key to a happy and safe home, but designing one is not exactly intuitive. It can be a challenge to figure out where to situate a bed in a bedroom full of windows, or how to make room for a party of 15 in a studio apartment—but it can be done!

Here to guide you on your journey to the perfect floor plan is Decorist Elite Designer Joshua Jones. With a B.F.A. in Interior Design from The Art Institute of Seattle and years of experience designing everything from homes and yachts to hotels and restaurants, Jones is one of our foremost experts when it comes to floor plans. Read on for our interview with Joshua on how to design the perfect floor plan.


What's the first thing you should consider when designing a floor plan?

There really isn't any one "right" floor plan; it's all dependent on what you need a room to do for you and how you want to function in it.  The feeling you want to have in a space also influences the floor plan.  So, I learn about my client first and how they live, or want to live, to start thinking about a floor plan, room design, and furniture layout. 


Design by Joshua Jones

What are the subsequent steps?

I'll brainstorm with my client some possible options of directions we can go with the space. Once we narrow down some options, I start playing with and exploring the space by building it in a drafting program. That allows me to easily change around walls, built-ins, or other stationary aspects and play with the furniture layout while giving me real-time, exact measurements. Often in your head you think that chair you saw in the store is going to work in your space, and then it actually doesn't when you look at measurements.


What general rules of thumb do you use in floor planning?

In a perfect world, I consider the ideal distance for traffic flow at 5 feet. Realistically, most homes I work with don't always have that option so we end up either 3 or 4 feet distance for the traffic flows. I don't recommend less than 3 ft clearance, or you get into issues.  Keep in mind, safety issues also come into play when I think about floor plans—for instance, routes of egress in case of needing to evacuate your home. For the kitchen, it is very important to make sure it will be functional and have a "triangle" of workspace (sink to stove to refrigerator). A kitchen that works for one person would have 42 inches from the countertop to the island. A two-person kitchen would be 48 inches apart. For bathrooms, I like to leave 3 feet of distance from the vanity to either wall or shower/tub. 


Design by Joshua Jones

How should electrical factor into one's floor plan?

In general, electrical outlets should be available on every wall. If you have a large room and want to have a seating area in the middle then you should design floor outlets for table and floor lamps.

With how we live now, you also need to consider cable and ethernet access into the floor plan. This also comes down to understanding how you want to live in the space. If you cook a lot and have a lot of countertop appliances, you may want extra outlets in your kitchen than a standard one might have.  When I design a floor plan for my clients, I think about what lighting should look like for each room, using a combination of recessed lighting, chandeliers, sconces, lamps, etc. I come up with a reflected ceiling plan (electrical plan for electricians and contractors) to show where wiring and outlets are needed for the space.   


What's the biggest mistake home decorators usually make when floor planning?

In most cases, I notice the wrong rug size and furniture placement too close to each other, impeding room flow and causing insufficient light. Rug size is important because it is the foundation for everything else in the space. Also, I notice decorators seem to fall in love with looks you see in magazines, which aren't always very functional. They look nice in a picture, but they aren't livable spaces, as far as how most people live. Lastly, you may fall in love with a particular light fixture, but it's not really providing the right light level for a room.  That's ok, as long as it's balanced with additional lighting; whether it's built-in or additional fixtures.


Design by Joshua Jones

Do you have any pro tips for measuring?

Stick with an old-fashioned measuring tape. No measuring apps will really measure the room accurately; I've tested many and they are frequently off.  Do it yourself with the tape and you won't go wrong.  


How can you make or should you think about making floor plans flexible for entertaining, etc?

If I am designing a living room, I ask my client to see what their goal is for maximum seating for entertaining. I then try to achieve this with different kinds of seating options, including movable and flexible seating like poufs. Sometimes it's not doable, but you can still have the room function for everyday living, and I have to be honest with clients about that. Dining rooms are more straightforward—a space or room fits a certain size table with a certain number of seats and perhaps a table extension.   


Design by Joshua Jones

Do you have any floor planning safety tips for families with small children?

No sharp corners or edges, especially as you first enter a room. Kids running into a room can easily hit that bookshelf built-in with sharp edges if it's right next to the door. If you have fragile collections, decor, or glass-fronted items like a curio, place them in corners or elevate them to keep them out of kids' usual routes or regular traffic flow. 


How do you know when your floor plan is right?

From a physical viewpoint, I'd start with overall measurement first, then measure all the details like window, walls, doors, etc. Add up all the measurements to make sure it is equal to the overall measurement. If it doesn't add up right then you will know the measurement is off. This is critical for spaces like bathrooms or kitchens when you need perfect measurements for cabinetry and appliances. After that, it's a matter of actually living in the space and experiencing it.


Design by Joshua Jones

What if you can't afford your dream floor plan right now? Any tips for transitioning as you purchase new items?

I'd stay true with the style that you want to have for your home and work with the space that you do have. I do a lot of designs for clients with an end-goal, but the pieces are purchased in phases. Even if you can't afford the new sectional or bed you want, decor, lighting, art, and color changes will dramatically transform a space until you can get that big piece.  


Any additional floor planning tricks-of-the-trade to add?

If you are working on the living room, start with the maximum amount of seating you'd like to have for your family and guests. Focus on that before you add any other pieces that take up floor real estate. 


Need help designing the perfect floor plan? Book a professional room design with Joshua and arrange a home that makes you happy!

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