Friday, October 22, 2010

Old Dogs and New Tricks

I was doing some research the other day and came across a statistic that I thought I’d share: Ideas that are being explained with the use of verbal and visual tools are 6 times more likely to be understood than ideas being explained with verbal tools only.  I have know for a long time that the phrase ‘I just can’t visualize it’  coming from a potential client was one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. I can see the finished product very clearly in my head but I am not an artist.  So a few years ago I took drawing classes. I had to label the drawing I did of a shoe to explain what it was.   I spent hours learning how to draw simple examples of window treatments so I could better explain my vision but  they never were to my total satisfaction. 
As my business grew and my knowledge increased, it became more and more important for me to find a way for my clients and I to communicate on this non-verbal level.   About 3 years ago I found  software that fit the bill  and have  since been working with the program on and off.  A few months ago I took the proverbial bull by the horns, signed up for the advanced course and have spent the last 6 weeks with my nose stuck in my computer. The result is that my hair is a mess, the dust bunnies have grown up to full rabbit size and  the cat doesn’t know who I am anymore but I can now produce some really good renderings for my clients. I can, for example, take a picture of your living room, design some drapery on the actual windows and  fill them with the actual fabric you have chosen so you can actually SEE what things will look like after everything is done. Similarly, I can take a blueprint, or a floor plan and design the furniture layout in scale for you.   I can paint the walls a new color, add a new rug or  show you what the sofa will look like with a slipcover. 
I have my clients to thank for this. They are the ones who pushed me to get better, to find new ways to meet their needs.  It was one of the most difficult courses I’ve ever taken but I learned a really valuable lesson: You CAN teach old dogs new tricks.
Click on 'The Gallery' to the right of this post to see some of these renderings..

Floor Plan continued

Continuing with the floor plan.
If you’ve been doing the homework, you should now have a floor plan with the appropriate ‘seats’ in place.  This very simple exercise shows you where people will sit in the room and what type of furniture you need in that room.  Now you need to look balance and traffic flow.
In design school, we worked on floor-plans that we divided into 4 quadrants and  we really looked at how they related to each other.   Doorways have ‘weight’, they occupy space  equal to  the door swing and if the door opens out, at least 36 inches inside the room is considered door space.  Get your floor plan with the seats placed on it and draw a line through the center horizontally and vertically. This creates your 4 quadrants. Look at the placement of the seats. Are they all smushed into one half of the room making   one quadrant much busier than any of the others? If this is so, the room is not in balance and you need to give some thought to additions to the room that will help fix this. If you have, for example, a fireplace and seating in one quadrant, what is on the opposite wall to balance this weight?  Use a bench and a large picture, an armoire, some bookcases - something to counter the fireplace. The large picture window on one wall needs to be balanced on the other - again use furniture, or large accessories to accomplish this.  This takes some work and imagination, but it will be worth it.
You must also look at the traffic flow. How will people move through the room? It is not a good idea to have the main traffic flow pass between the sofa and TV, for example. Nor is it a good idea to force people to walk around furniture or plants to get from one side of the room to the other.  We are creatures of habit and we will find the path of least resistance, even if it means moving something out of our way.   I use the example of Frasier Crane’s living room on the TV show. Traffic was directed from the main door to the rest of the apartment  by the placement of the sofa and table in front of, but backing onto, the fireplace, leaving a clear pathway-  a natural direction for traffic instead of in front of the sofa;  between it and Marty’s TV.