Blog Post

Tools for Planning and Visualizing Your Home Office Build

You might have seen in my post last week (5 Inspirational Workspaces) that I’m planning on building a new home office when I move later in the year. One of the things that struck me about the workspaces that I admire is that most of them required detailed planning.

What tools can you use for planning a home office build?

Graph paper and pencil

I used this technique while planning furniture purchases for our rather small living room. You decide on a suitable scale, measure the room and then plot it on the paper: the walls, doors, any immovable objects and useful things like power outlets:

My living room plotted on graph paper
My living room plotted on graph paper

You can then cut out shapes that correspond to the dimensions of the furniture that you’re considering purchasing or building, and then see how it fits into the room.

While I really enjoy the “hands on” nature of working with pencil and paper, it doesn’t help you visualize your space in 3-D. With the more complex build I’ll need for my home office I’ll need something that lets me plan the space in three dimensions, which brings us neatly on to our next two tools.

Ikea Planner

If you’re planning on using Ikea office furniture (don’t mock — a couple of the great spaces I covered last week were constructed largely using Ikea furniture), then grab the Ikea Planner, a free (Windows-only) download. The tool enables you to plot out your room — including windows, doors, heating, electrical points etc. — in a 2D plan. You can then populate the room with Ikea furniture. Finally, switch to a 3D view to get a full visualization. You can even get a shopping list to print out and estimate the cost.

Ikea Planner

Ikea Planner is very easy to use, but it’s not flexible, and not very useful if you’re not using Ikea furniture.

Google Sketchup

Google Sketchup (s goog) is a free, 3-D modeling package, available for Windows and Mac. Because it’s more complicated than paper or the Ikea Planner, there’s a learning curve to overcome, particularly if you haven’t used any 3-D modeling software before. However, as a full modeling package it’s much more flexible than either of the above options, and if you’re planning on building something complicated, it’s well worth the effort of getting to know it. There are plenty of training materials and a helpful community to get you going. You can even share the models that you create with others in a “3-D Warehouse”; there are lots of models available to use a starting point.

Google Sketchup
Google Sketchup

I think I’ll be using Google Sketchup to plan my build.

What tools did you use for planning your home office?

17 Responses to “Tools for Planning and Visualizing Your Home Office Build”

  1. @someguy yes – making sure that you have enough space around objects is a good one. That’s why I like 3-D visualization tools: it’s much easier to see if you haven’t allowed enough space.

  2. someguy

    Lots of thoughts come to mind.
    You could use some free CAD software like QCAD

    In the past, I’ve also used vector drawing programs like Illustrator and PowerPoint (or their open source equivalents). Heck, even images on layers in photoshop might help.

    If you have a copy of Visio lying around, there are some stencils to help you with that.

    None of those ideas are 3D, they are simply a more refined step above plain paper. However, you might be able to fake it if you draft both the top and profile views of the areas in question. Use software you have and know.

    Make sure you don’t forget about traffic paths and ensure you have enough space to move around objects.

  3. Thanks for this Simon! Right now I’m working on rearranging and redecorating my office. The setup I have invites too many distractions – the pets and the toddler living with us can just walk in freely. I’ll be setting up a divider and rearranging the furniture layout. Great tips :)