How to Plan Your Room Using a Scaled Drawing

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Ok, I’m not going to lie. Planning isn’t always easy, and it’s not as fun as spontaneously and haphazardly going into stores, drooling at all the beautiful things. But do you know what isn’t fun? Standing in line returning things. Or spending your hard-earned money purchasing things you can’t return and end up storing or selling in a garage sale for dimes because you don’t know what to do with it.

There is something to be said for preparation and planning. The rooms that I’ve finished and have been the happiest with are the rooms where I planned and focused on that one room. Focusing on one room at a time helps me gain more momentum than trying to furnish and decorate my entire house at once. Planning for the room, even though time-consuming at first, generally saves more time in the end, helps focus purchases, which cuts down on the amount of time spent returning items, and usually turns out better than the unplanned rooms. Five years later, I have finished rooms that I’ve planned, but the unplanned rooms are still a work in progress!

There are applications out there that can help you plan a room, but I have found many of them to be cumbersome to use and learn, and they don’t always make it easy to include actual items you’re interested in purchasing.

I use a couple of processes to help me plan a room:

  • Scaled drawings—This method is helpful when you have no idea what furniture or wall treatment might work. It allows you to see how a wall might look before purchasing and putting holes in the wall.
  • Kraft paper estimates—This method is helpful for seeing the item’s footprint in the room, which helps with determining furniture placement and flow of the room.

Materials for Scaled Drawing Method

Here’s what you need:

  • Computer with word-processing or other application that lets you do line drawings (Example: Microsoft Office or LibreOffice)
  • Internet access
  • Measuring tape
  • Printer
  • Scissors
  • Ratio calculator downloaded here
  • Camera
  • Scratch paper and pencil

Step One: Create a Scale Drawing of the Wall

  1. Measure the dimensions of your wall and write it down.
  2. Make note of outlets, switches, or other architectural details.
  3. Maximize your print space in your word-processing application by setting your page margins as small as they will go, but not going smaller than the margins that you can print.
    The print area for an 8.5” x 11” page is usually around 7.8” x 9.8”. Fit your drawing within that space.
  4. Find your Scaling Number by dividing the largest dimension of the wall by the largest dimension of your printable width.
    Example: If your wall is 18’ wide, divide 18 by 9.8 (printable width) and you get 1.8. This is your Scaling Number. This means every 1 inch of your drawing is about 1.8 feet in real life.
  5. Download the ratio calculator here.
    *Alternatively, see the steps at the bottom of this article for the full calculations.
  6. Enter your Scaling Number in B1 of the ratio calculator spreadsheet.
    This number converts the actual size of something into scaled inches for your drawing.

    Enter Your Scaling Number in Ratio Calculator
  7. Enter the measurements of your wall into the ratio calculator spreadsheet under the Input Object Size column.

    Enter Real-Life Height to Get Scaled Size
  8. Using the line tool in your word processing application, draw the shape of the wall according to the calculated numbers in the Output Image Size column.
  9. Draw any features in the room like electrical outlets or a fireplace mantel by taking the physical measurement and inputting those dimensions into the ratio calculator.
    Note: You can estimate the spacing and sizing by setting the measurement of the lines you draw to a specific length. Here’s how to do it in Microsoft Word 2016: Create a line by clicking Insert, Shapes, select Line, and then drag your mouse across the page. After creating a line on the page, you can move it and change the length by adjusting the shape width (for a horizontal line) or the shape height (for a vertical line). You can find the Size section of the ribbon on the top right after clicking the line.
  10. Print the page.
    You might get something similar to this.

Step Two: Create Scaled Objects

The hardest part is over! Now that we have created a wall of the room, we’ll find and create objects that we can use to make arrangements.

  1. Shop for items online by going to your favorite stores’ websites and typing what you’re looking for in the site’s Search field.
    Tip: Find the picture with a straight shot of the item against a white background.
    Note: If you want to use existing furniture, you could take a picture of the item straight on.
  2. Save a picture of the item.
    Tip: Save the picture using the name of the item, size (for frames), and an abbreviation of where you found the item. For example, if an item came from Hobby Lobby, type the item description and at the end put “HL” for Hobby Lobby. That way, when you need to know what the item was and where you found it, you can look back at the file name for that image.
  3. Crop the image as close to the object as possible.

    Crop Image of Item
  4. Find its real-life measurement on the website.
  5. Using the ratio calculator, type the dimensions of the physical object in the Input Object Size column.
    The Output Image Size (Inch) column will calculate the scaled size.
  6. Adjust the height or width of your cropped image to the scaled size you got from the previous step.
    Note: Keep the box checked to keep proportions. If you adjusted the height, the width might be slightly off, but it should be similar. Since we’re estimating, measurements don’t have to be exact.
  7. Copy onto the page as many of that item as you want.
  8. Repeat these steps for each item until the page is full.
  9. Print the page, and cut out each item.

Step Three: Create the Look You Want

  1. Arrange the pieces on the page of the wall until you get a look you like.
  2. Take a picture of the arrangement and continue arranging the pieces on the page and taking pictures.
  3. Choose your favorite look.
  4. Go shopping!
  5. Arrange items in the room according to the plan.

Here’s an example of how it might look in process:

This is a picture I used for our formal living room wall. I played around with a lot of pieces from various stores without needing to physically visit any. I also sent pictures of my favorite arrangements to friends to get their opinion.

Check back later to see how our formal living room turned out, and tune in next week where I’ll cover the Kraft Paper method for estimating sizing for furniture or for creating a gallery wall!

* If you prefer the full-blown math conversion instead of downloading the calculator, or you just want to do some brain exercises for fun, this is how you convert life size to scaled size:

  • Divide the object’s real-life dimension in feet by the Scaling Number.
    Example: For a 15” x 24” item, you would divide by 12 to get the dimensions in feet. That would give you 1.25’ x 2’. Then you would divide 1.25 by 1.8 (Scaling Number) and you get 0.69”. Repeat for the 24” measurement or make sure you select lock aspect ratio when resizing images.

One thought on “How to Plan Your Room Using a Scaled Drawing

  1. Elvie says:

    Thanks for all the tips for planning any room or wall by creating accurate ways to “see” how the decorating will look before buying. I can see how it would definitely be a time and money saver.


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