How to Read a Floor Plan. Space Planning for Beginners.

Using a 2 dimensional drawing to understand a 3 dimensional space can be tricky. Floor plans and blueprints provide builders and designers with detailed information about interior designs, but today they are often used to convey space more generally. Determining the qualities of a good layout begins in 2D, so understanding how to read a floor plan more accurately will ensure planning success.

How to read a floor plan and choose the best layout:

  • Cut the space off at 3 or 4 feet above the finished floor surface. That is what your plan is illustrating. Upper cabinets, soffits and other vertical elements should show up as dashes or faded shapes. Don’t be fooled by their subtly, most of the time these are right at eye level.
  • It’s easier to determine how efficient a floor plan is in 2D, but it is more difficult to visualize if the space will be perceived as larger or smaller in reality. Look at the amount of area used to get from one place to another (circulation) and search for ways to create open connections rather than hallways and dead ends. See the before and after plans below and notice how the walls were moved to increase the perception of roominess by allowing one space to be seen from another.
  • Consider the views. Windows are barely detectable on a floor plan but are extremely important for bringing in light. A small over-counter window will look the same on a plan as a large floor-to-ceiling window of the same width. Use the location of windows in a floor plan to begin a conversation about the direction they are facing, size and location on the wall.

Before

After

I am always looking for a few key elements in a successful floor plan. For example, a kitchen island rather than peninsula helps with circulation and allows more than one person to cook at a time. Or, leave enough space inside a bathroom to fully open the door without hitting someone standing at the vanity (key for shared bathrooms). When you don’t have the space, a pocket door on a slow glide with a hook-eye lock will do it. Lastly, seeing all the way from one exterior wall to the other creates bounds of natural light. When you can manage to create a floor plan in which two exterior ends are visible, light bounces off of every surface without any dead ends.