It started as an experiment, promise! I desperately needed a genuine project to test whether any of the CAD programs I had tried out over the last couple of weeks would be any use in creating a vision for a client. The programs I looked at, for example, Floorplanner, Homestyler, and Roomstyler, are all accessible online, and free of charge. They are probably not the best ones out there, but as you will see below, are still surprisingly good in supporting the initial design process. Moreover, I found them easy to learn, intuitive to use and versatile. Now I wanted to see whether they could really be used to do something real. But where to look for a project?
I got lucky. At the time, a close friend of mine was thinking about redesigning his Southern Californian home. We “cut a deal”: I would develop a design for him, provided he could get me an as-is floorplan, some guidelines as to what he wanted to accomplish, and under what constraints. Unfortunately, I soon learned that there was no floorplan. This meant that my friend had to do a survey (I could not do it since I was half a world away in Hong Kong) to collect the necessary information: room dimensions, window/door positions, as well as the location of the fireplace, in-built closets, and so forth. Both he and his wife were dreaming of a beach-style home but wanted to keep some of their old furniture (among other things, a pair of dark wicker chairs, and an Ethan Allan desk complete with matching bookshelves). They also wondered whether they should remove the wall along the passage between house and garage (breezeway) to enlarge the overall footprint of their home (see floorplan below).
I then began “remodeling” the place. Since there was no budget I had to deal with (so much for trying to be realistic! ), I went all out. I took out the kitchen walls (after discussing with two architect friends whether these were load-bearing or shear walls) to open up the space. For the same reason, I also removed the wall separating the main living area from the bedroom section. Other major (… probably structural…) changes consisted in the integration of the breezeway into the footprint of the home, enlargement of the window front leading out to the deck and the relocation of the door to the master bathroom.
The new (AFTER) floor plan reflects all those changes.
The only room that I did not touch was the guest bath (located in the upper left-hand corner of the floor plan). I liked both its color scheme and retro look and so did my friends. Therefore, rather than redesigning it, we decided to use it as the point of departure for the development of the overall design.
Some Roomstyler idiosyncrasies you should know about
In case you wonder why the new floor plan features brown stripes … I decided to add rafters (mostly for cosmetic reasons), but also to hide some I-beams necessary to support the roof after taking out some of the walls. Unfortunately, Roomstyler displays them that way in the floor plan. I wished it would offer layers (floor layer, ceiling layer) to avoid this kind of thing. But that’s the price you pay for paying nothing! The light-blue camera icon shows the location of the virtual camera to take a snapshot of the design from a particular angle. You can move it around freely and even adjust its height and vertical angle, plus choose between “zoom”, “normal”, and “wide-angle”-mode. The picture below is the snapshot I took from the camera location shown in the floor plan.
BEFORE and AFTER
Below you will find a number of room-by-room examples of how I used Roomplanner to turn my friend’s home into a cute beach-chic abode. Personally, I was pretty impressed by the almost photo-like rendering quality of the design. For ease of comparison, I matched the angle of the virtual “camera snapshots” to the angle of the “as-is” pictures that I had received from my friend.
The Living Room Area
The first slideshow (email followers: pls go to website to view the slideshows) shows the new design of the living room area. Taking out the kitchen wall to create an open plan design would make the house appear brighter and less cramped. The heavy leather furniture would be sentenced to a trip to the salvation army, and be replaced with smaller wicker and reclaimed wood pieces. The distressed white wood flooring lends the room a casual feel. The color scheme is based on neutrals, white, and pops of color in turquoise (following the original design of the guest bathroom).
The redesigned kitchen would become an integral part of the living room. The kitchen island could serve double duty as a work surface (my friends love cooking!) and a place to eat.
The Master Bedroom and Bath
The master bedroom and bath would undergo a major redesign as well. As mentioned above, I moved the door to the bathroom such that it would only be accessible from the master, turning it into an ensuite creating more privacy and making more efficient use of the limited space.
As shown in the AFTER floor plan above, I enlarged the guestroom by pushing out its exterior wall towards the garage (integrating the breezeway into the floor plan) and added a door for easier access to the garden. I did the same for the office.
Overall, this was a fun project. Both my friends and I liked the results. Although it still takes time to put a design together, the flexibility and speed that comes with the use of 3D-CAD is remarkable. Of course, an additional bonus is to have everything in electronic form. If you work remotely and need to share your designs via the internet, this can be extremely helpful.