THE ROOM BY ROOM CHECKLIST

Before we sketch a single idea, we start our projects by asking questions. In architecture speak, this is called programming.

Whether you work with a design professional or do-it-yourself, answering these questions before you begin will put you on the road to home improvement success.

HOW IT WORKS: Click on the room type to see each checklist. Or download a user-friendly PDF when you sign up for our newsletter (in the sidebar to the right!).

Living Rooms, Dens, and Bonus Rooms
  • The first step is to think about what activities your room will host. Will kids be playing in the same space adults are reading? Should you have two activity zones? A formal side and casual side? Is half the room for TV and the other half for conversation?
  • Take inventory of your television, sound system, and other media devices. Where do you want each located and what are their storage needs? Think about power and data connections.
  • What shelves or built-in storage do you want for books or display items?
  • Do you want a fireplace or other architectural features? Window seat?
  • Do you sort mail in your living room? Plan space for this so you can avoid clutter.
  • Magazine storage?
  • If your front door opens into your living room, consider places for coats, shoes, and keys.
  • What art and decorative objects will be displayed?
  • Choose window coverings based on privacy and light control needs.
  • What existing furniture will be accommodated in the new room? What new pieces do you plan to buy?
  • Where will plants go?
  • Think about lighting. Floor and table lamps create a soft, intimate space. If you need a brighter room, consider ceiling lights on a dimmer. What activities will require task lighting?
  • Do you want ceiling fans?
  • Choose a flooring material. Will you need rugs?
  • What type of sofa will you have? Sectional? Straight?
  • Plan space for a coffee table and side chairs.
  • Do you need storage for games or toys? Can you plan a cabinet or storage bench so these items can be hidden?
  • Do you need a space for pet beds and toys?
  • Do you want a hobby and craft area?
  • Do you have a piano or other instruments that require space?
Dining Rooms
  • How many people use the dining room on a daily basis? What about special occasions? Can the room layout accommodate both?
  • Is your dining room formal or casual?
  • Should the room feel open and connected to the living room or kitchen? Or do you want the space to be more private?
  • Do you need storage for table linens, placemats, candle sticks, or centerpieces?
  • Will you have a separate seating area such as a bench or lounge chairs? A bench can provide extra storage and doubles as a buffet.
Kitchens
  • A big driving force in kitchen layout is your list of appliances and fixtures. Think about standard and specialty items:
      • Will you have an oven with a range? Or do you want a separate cook top? Do you want gas, electric, induction?
      • Do you want a range hood? Will the microwave provide ventilation over the stove? Or do you want a downdraft stove?
      • Wall ovens? How many?
      • Warming drawer?
      • Ice maker?
      • Trash compactor?
      • Fryer or smoker?
      • Built-in coffee service?
      • Standard dish washer or dish drawers?
      • Built-in microwave or microwave drawer?
      • Wine fridge?
      • A pot filler?
      • How many sinks and what type of faucets?
      • Water filtration system?
      • Garbage disposal?
      • Faucet spray nozzle?
      • Chest freezer?
  • There are a lot of cabinet options. You’ll want to decide:
      • Cabinet style, color, and finish.
      • Special storage cabinets for spices, knives, or food.
      • China cabinets or other display space.
      • Pots and pans storage.
  • Do you want an eat-in area or breakfast table?
  • Do you want a separate pantry closet? Or will a pantry cabinet suit your needs?
  • Will you have a bar area? Should you plan for wine and liquor storage or display space for glassware?
  • Do you need space for a cookbook collection?
  • You’ll need to choose materials and finishes for your counter top, flooring, and backsplash. Choose wall and trim paint colors.
  • How many outlets do you want and where should you locate them? Plan the arrangement of your countertop appliances.
  • Do you have live plants, herbs, or a kitchen garden?
  • Do you need compost storage? If you don’t have an outdoor compost, consider a self-contained system that can fit inside a cabinet.
  • Do you need a memo board?
  • Does your kitchen host other uses such as a home office?
  • Will you have a television in the kitchen? Where will it be located?
Bedrooms
  • What’s the style of the room? Is it a playful kid’s room with durable finishes? Or a relaxing retreat? Casual or formal?
  • What colors and finishes will achieve the look you want? Is there a good opportunity to do an accent color or special wallcovering?
  • Choose a flooring material. Carpet? Wood? Tile?
  • What existing furniture will stay?
  • What new furniture do you plan to buy?
  • How big is the bed? Do you need space for bedside tables?
  • What lighting is required and where do you want the controls located? A few lamps are often sufficient to light a bedroom. If you plan to do a lot of reading, add task lights where needed. Or plan for some recessed lighting in the ceiling if you like a bright room. Consider installing dimmers.
  • Will you have a television in the bedroom? Make sure you plan for power, cable, or satellite connections as required. Do you want the television concealed or exposed?
  • Do you want a sound system wired in?
  • What activities are planned for the room? Do you have a desk or home office? Need space for yoga or exercise equipment?
  • Do you want a seating area? Room for a couple of chairs? A window seat or built-in bench?
  • What storage will you need? Bookshelves? Linen storage?
  • If you’re designing a new house or rearranging rooms, think about adjacencies. How will you access an en suite bathroom or walk-in closet? Avoid putting doors and windows on every wall so you’ll have space for furniture.
  • Do you want amenities such as a fireplace or wet bar?
  • What artwork will you display and how much space will it require? Do you want a gallery wall? Will you hang family photos?
  • Think about window coverings. Do you have neighbors close by and require sheers for privacy? If you like a dark room for sleeping, make sure your curtains or blinds are up to the task.
  • Do you want a mirror over your dresser? Or a full-length mirror?
  • Do you want a separate dressing area?
Bathrooms
  • Is this a master bath? Guest bath? Powder room?
  • Who uses this bathroom and how often?
  • Will you have a shower? Freestanding tub? Both or a combination unit?
  • Decide if you want a freestanding or fancy tub because this is often a sizable budget item.
  • Do you want multiple or adjustable shower heads?
  • Will the shower be a prefab unit or tile? If possible, plan for a built-in or recessed shelf in the shower. Do you want a seat or bench?
  • Think about the shower enclosure type. Do you want a shower curtain? Glass door? No door at all?
  • Do you want a heated floor?
  • What storage is required? Think about linens, towels, toiletries, a medicine cabinet, toilet paper, feminine items, baby changing supplies, a litter box, and cleaning supplies. Do you need lockable or child-proof storage?
  • Do you need a baby changing area?
  • How many sinks do you need? Would you like a pedestal sink or do you need the extra storage of a vanity cabinet?
  • How much counter space is required?
  • How many mirrors do you want? Do they need to be adjustable? Full-length?
  • Would you like a trash can that’s built in to a cabinet or concealed?
  • Make sure you plan for towel bars and toilet paper holders on the wall. How many are required and where should they be located so they’re within easy reach?
  • Should the toilet be separated from the vanity? Do you want it in its own room? Or can it be near the shower or bath?
  • Toilets come with a lot of options. Do you want a dual flush? Elongated bowl? Comfort height (it’s a few inches taller than normal)? Do you want a bidet or urinal?
  • How many outlets do you want and where should they be located? Do you want any outlets inside cabinets for rechargeable razors or hair dryers?
  • Ventilation – make sure you install a vent fan that exhausts to the outdoors.
  • You might want several types of lighting. Recessed ceiling fixtures provide overall, ambient light. Sconces on either side of a mirror are good for makeup application or shaving. Provide plenty of task lighting that suits your routine.
  • Windows in bathrooms should have moisture-resistant coverings. For privacy, consider sandblasted glass or blinds.
  • Do you want any sustainable features like a composting toilet or the ability to use reclaimed gray water to flush? Note: these features aren’t always allowed by local building authorities.
Closets and Storage
  • What are you storing? The answer to this question will help you answer everything else. For example, if you’re storing clothes, think about whether you have different wardrobes for each season, a large collection of boots, or need a display space for accessories. Create a master inventory list you can refer to during design.
  • What’s the purpose and style of the closet? Is it a luxury wardrobe? Or a utilitarian supply closet?
  • How does the door look from the outside? Do you want a concealed door that blends into wall paneling?
  • How many hanging bars are required and how long should they be? Measure what you have currently and adjust based on your future plans. If the closet is for more than one person, you may want to separate the bars so you have individual zones. Also check the distance below hanging bars. Are you hanging shirts or dresses?
  • What shelves are required? Can you fit extra shelves above hanging bars to get more storage space?
  • Should bars or shelves be adjustable?
  • Check the depth of your closet design. Make sure you have enough room for a coat hanger perpendicular to the wall (you’d be surprised how many closets ignore this dimension and end up too shallow).
  • Do you need built-in drawers? Or are you handling this with dressers and storage furniture elsewhere?
  • Do you need to accommodate any existing storage items like a jewelry box or foot locker?
  • Do you need lockable storage or a safe?
  • Are you storing valuables that should be monitored as part of your home security system? Do you need video or motion detectors?
  • Should your closet be climate controlled? When storing temperature-sensitive items like instruments or wine, you’ll need precise control.
Garages and Utility Rooms
  • Are you designing an attached garage or separate outbuilding? Which better suits your needs and the site? Local codes and zoning ordinances may affect this decision.
  • Are you parking a car or recreational vehicle in the garage? Or is it more of a storage shed?
  • What activities do you need to support and what are you storing? Think about the following:
      • Washer and dryer – how big are they? Will you need to run new water supply piping?
      • Do you want indoor clothes lines or drying racks?
      • Laundry sink?
      • Bicycles and sports equipment
      • Automotive supplies – keep volatile substances in a safe place. Think about whether you need childproof storage for hazardous chemicals.
      • Garden and potting supplies
      • Lawn mower and weed eater
      • Power tools
      • Pet supplies or a cat litter box

 

Outdoor Spaces
  • Think about the amenities you want and how often you will be using them. As with any indoor space, outdoor areas should be designed with the use in mind.
  • Do you want a grill area or outdoor kitchen?
  • Will you have a swimming pool or smaller water feature?
  • Will you have a patio or terrace?
  • Outdoor sound system?
  • Do you want a fire pit?
  • Do you have a garden hose connection and storage for the hose?
  • Should you plan an irrigation system?
  • Will your outdoor space be a low-maintenance lawn? Do you want ornamental plants and flowers? Or a vegetable garden? Raised beds?
  • Do you want a pergola, arbor, trellis, or gazebo?
  • Do you want game areas or courts?
  • Will your outdoor space be enclosed by a fence or wall? What privacy and security needs do you have?
  • Do you have a compost pile or bin? Can you screen it from view?