Furniture shopping with a laptop

Shopping for furniture to go in your home isn't an easy task, whether it is an apartment, house, mansion or anywhere inbetween. Will it fit through the door is one problem, how much space is left around it is another. Colours...well, that's another source of debate for many. The spacial problem is quite a difficult one to solve. One solution might be to build a prototype couch from cardboard and see how that fits in if you have a lot of cardboad left over. Another solution is to build a CAD model of the room(s) - this was recommended to me by a friend's wife who has studied architecture and is the path I decided to take.

The first step in going the CAD route (assuming you have the right software) is to build a model in your computer of the room(s) you will be decorating. During the week, I spent a couple of nights with a tape measure walking around and measuring various parts of some rooms. The hard part of this is my tape measure was only 2 meters long - many walls are often much longer. This was resolved with measuring in steps - not perfect but good enough. If you've got a good CAD program, you might also want to build a 3D picture of the spaces you want to fill. An important step here is to make sure you include things like air vents, air conditioners, etc, on walls so that when you place items around the room, you're not blocking important features.

Next comes filling in the room with furniture. At this point, I found it sufficient to just represent furniture by solid boxes. For round tables, a cylinder that matches the table's widest radius would be the go.

If you are comfortable shopping for furniture from home, on the Internet, it would be sufficient to just add bits to your model using the dimensions from the web sites of manufacturers.

If you're intending to do some leg work then you should be using CAD software on a laptop. The idea here being that when you walk into a showroom with a laptop under your arm, you can sit down and add in a shape to represent the piece of furniture you're interested in and test out how it fits in with everything else.

Using CAD software should also allow you to measure the distance between objects in the model, so that you can see if you put the sofa there and the TV over there then the distance will be X. This can be more important when you're making sure that the spaces left between things are wide enough for people to walk through.

How well did this work for me? Very well. I was able to instantly see how a table would fit in, including drawing out a circle to represent the extra space needed for people sitting down. It also let me compare the sizes of couches/sofas with respect to the space they occupied - I could use different coloured boxes for different ones and see what the different dimensions in length, width and height meant by comparison.

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