Friday, April 13, 2012

Space Planning

Furniture design and space planning are my favorite things to do when it comes to designing a space, but it can become a disaster if you don't know what you are doing. I have seen some interior designers & architects doing poor space planing in commercial and residential spaces. I think this problem is because they don't have a sense of space, and what I mean by this is that they don't know how a dimension looks and feel in actual 3D.

There are certain guidelines when it comes to clearances when you are space planing, but for this particular case I will only refer to the 36" traffic clearance between two objects. This is a minimum clearance guideline that usually works, but it might not work in certain scenarios, keep in mind that this is a minimum, so the more inches you have to spare the better. The following example should explain better what I'm talking about.

The clearance between your the dining table edge and the wall should be 36" minimum (not ADA compliant.) This is perfect if you have a small space. Now go to your dining room, take your measuring tape out, and make this clearance happen. Then sit down on your dining chair in this clearance, and  try to scoop your chair back as you get out of it at the same time, you might realize the following:
  1. If your chair is compact (most modern styles are) and you are a fit person, you should be fine.
  2. If your chair is compact (most modern styles are) and you are a curvy person, you might start realizing is a bit tight, but might be still ok.
  3. If your chair is chunky/heavier (most traditional styles are) and you are a fit person, you might realize is a bit tight and uncomfortable to maneuver, or you are having problems getting out of your chair already.
  4. If your chair is chunky/ heavier (most traditional styles are) and you are a curvy person, this clearance will not work for you. The same goes for big arm dining chairs regardless if you are fit or not.
This is why this clearance is a guideline and not a rule, because it can be modified to fit your needs. And this is where some interior designers and architects make mistakes, they take this clearance and others as a rule without taking into consideration the size of the person and/or size of furniture.

A great book that helps a lot when it comes to understand and figure out dimensions is Human Dimension and Interior Space: A Source Book of Design Reference Standards by Julius Panero and Martin Zelnik. This book is clear, easy to understand and apply. I believe it should be a part of every design professional's library or student's required reading list.


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