Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with floorplanner.com and was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own :)

I love furniture layouts.  I've said it before; I'll say it again.

In the professional organizing and downsizing industry, I'm privileged to draft furniture layouts for clients who are transitioning into new homes.  It's so rewarding to help them visualize their new space through the use of digital modeling.  The model facilitates the planning process and helps clients to make educated decisions on what pieces to keep and which to relinquish.

SketchUp - Living Room Layout

In the past, I've used a software program called SketchUp for modeling.  I purchased the commercial version several years ago for a freelance project (there's also a free version available).  It's an incredibly versatile program; it's precise enough for architectural drawings but easy enough for the everyman.  What I love most about SketchUp is the 3D Warehouse.  This is a place where anyone can upload or download digital models.  You can retrieve everything from models of famous landmarks to individual pieces of furniture and objects.  Some corporations even upload scale models of their own products (ie: Pella windows).  Often, I'm able to find models of furniture that closely resemble pieces that my clients already own, further enhancing their ability to visualize their own items in a new space.  My only major problem with this software was the amount of time it was taking me to build furniture layouts.  Without purchasing additional plugins, it's a very cumbersome process to add windows and doors and furniture resizing had to be done manually using a scaling tool.  To achieve a realistic appearance, it was taking me an exorbitant amount of time to complete each plan.

When I got my most recent request for a layout, I decided it was finally time to test a different program.  I looked around a bit and eventually settled on floorplanner.com.  It's easy to use, specifically intended for furniture layouts, and generates pretty sophisticated 3D renderings if you purchase a monthly plan (I purchased the Pro plan since I'm using it for commercial purposes).  It's free to try.  Here's what the process looked like for my own home:

There are a series of icons in a box on the right hand side that allow you to do basic operations like draw rooms, individual walls or surfaces, and add text and dimensions.  On the right hand side, you can search through and drag in structural elements (windows, doors, etc) or furniture pieces.  Once items are in the model, you can click on individual elements to change dimensions, colors, and materials.  Doors and windows automatically snap to walls and can be easily moved and adjusted.

The model can also be viewed in 3D.  Most adjustments have to be made in the 2D view but switching to this view helps me get a better sense of how things will realistically fit.

Upper Floors

Lower Floors

When I export the 2D plan, it looks a little cartoon-y to me.  Still, I appreciate being able to easily distinguish rooms with labels and distinctive floor materials.  I also like that this view illustrates door swings, which people sometimes forget to leave room for.

Upper Floors

Lower Floors


Aesthetically, I much prefer the 3D renderings.  I love the dynamism and dimension that the shadows create.  I adore that when I export the rendering I can choose to automatically darken the tops of the walls (used to have to do that manually in Photoshop when I was in school!) so my client can still understand where the walls are.  Floorplanner.com doesn't apply labels in this view which is okay -- I can easily label them myself later (plus the items in each room are a pretty good indication of what's what).

To finalize the plans, I export a rendered image into a SketchUp-affiliated program called Layout.  Here I can label rooms or individual pieces of furniture, as well as add whatever dimensions I feel will be useful for the client to see.

Altogether, I'm so pleased with my decision to switch to floorplanner.com.  I love the results and most of all, the time I save.  Anyone need a furniture layout? :)

Dwell With Dignity Inspired Makeover

Two years ago, I was privileged to spend a few days with the incredible women at Dwell with Dignity (DwD) in Dallas, TX - a non-profit that is “inspiring lives with design.”  They partner with other organizations, designers, and companies to transform spaces for families going through difficult life transitions.  Volunteers and staff members spend hours repurposing donated furniture, creating art, and collecting items to make gorgeous, meticulously designed spaces that make their clients feel nurtured, hopeful, and ready to tackle all of life’s challenges.  My experience there only served to solidify my understanding of how significantly your physical environment impacts your life.

When my friend Beth (a very loving, hardworking mom to 3-year-old Anderson) told me about her 1970s lime green bedroom, I could only imagine how that space was impacting her mood (and her eyes!).  In the spirit of DwD, I wanted nothing more than to give her a space where she could come and relax at the end of the day.  I shared my idea to bless Beth with a bedroom makeover with some mutual friends and came up with $500 to go toward a redesign.

Take a look at the psychedelic space we started with.

The walls, wallpaper, and carpet were ALL green (the two girls that grew up there in the 70s picked the scheme).

And the switchplate needed to be replaced also...

Here's the "after" following several weeks of shopping, planning, prepping, a fabulous crafting party, and one very intense weekend of painting, carpet removal, and installation with the help of some very kind and generous friends (thanks Beth, Mandy, Megan, Nathan, and Alex!).

Beth asked for light gray walls (SW 7015 Repose Gray) and a color scheme inspired by one of her favorite prints.  Here's the design board I put together.

Gray and Coral Origami Bedding by Nate Berkus from Target, coordinated with white furniture, feminine florals, and light teal/mint/gold accents, combine to create a fresh, sophisticated space.

In terms of the layout, I came up with two floor plan options.  This first option was roughly based on the way she had originally arranged her room, with the addition of a desk-turned-vanity and two matching nightstands.

The second option shifted the bed to the middle of the room, taking advantage of unused space on the shorter side walls.  Beth preferred this layout.

In the end, we were able to supplement Beth's existing furniture with a combination of new and thrift store finds.

$8 Ikea LACK tables are Beth's new nightstands, complimenting her new-to-her $10 painted thrift store headboard. Teal lamps from Target (purchased on a "Buy one, get one 50% off" special) and a painted thrift store mason jar (courtesy of our friend, Mandy) add pops of color.  

Market blooms and a thrift store tray (painted by Lauren M.) are ready for breakfast in bed.

On the other side of the bed, more revamped accessories and photos add personality.

Beth's favorite print gets a prime spot in the room, next to the window.  Underneath, a piece of pretty, teal wrapping paper becomes quick, affordable art.

A $35 vintage CraigsList desk, cleaned and painted white (Behr Ultra Pure White), provides extra storage for beauty products as well as a naturally-lit spot to get ready in the morning.  This $5 thrift store chair, painted a muted teal (SW 6478 Watery), is a fun pop of color in this corner.  On top - Beth's college sorority symbol, the anchor, adds a personal touch to an otherwise plain white IKEA pillow.

Beth chose this pretty, feminine mirror from HomeGoods (which I painted to match her chair) to hang over her vanity.  More clearance and thrift store finds complete this corner of the room.

Near the door, a gallery of smaller frames (filled with simple, geometric line drawings) create a larger scale art piece.

Beth's beautiful jewelry pops against the light gray walls on this accordion hanger she already owned.

This dresser, which Beth had already, coordinates with the other vintage-style furniture in the room as does the gold hardware.  A drawer needs repair, but the piece looks almost-new after being wiped down with dark wood polish.

More thrift store and clearance finds (including this Ikea bowl, updated by Brittany B.) continue to add color in the room.  Spray painted frames filled with stationary and a free print create visual interest.

Altogether, I think the room came together so beautifully.  Beth was involved in many of my choices but we banned her from the space once the painting was complete.  Part of our "installation crew" stayed and surprised her with the end result on Mother's Day.  I'm so grateful for our friends that contributed to this project in so many ways. We exceeded our $500 budget a little, but I'm so impressed with how far we stretched what we had.  This is where the money went:

Comforter Set: $85 (Target)
Bedskirt: $0 (Donated)
Sheet Set: $45
Headboard: $10 (Community Thrift)
Nightstands: $16 (Ikea)
Curtains: $20 (Ikea)
Curtain Rods: $20 (Ikea)
Lamps: $40
Ceiling Light: $30
Frames/Mats: $24 (mostly donated)
Desk: $35 (CraigsList)
Chair: $5 (Habitat for Humanity ReStore)
Mirror: $20 (HomeGoods)
Makeup Mirror: $10 (Marshalls)
TV Cabinet/TV: $0 (Already Owned)
Hamper: $4 (Goodwill)
Accessories: $35 (Goodwill, Ikea, Donated)
Toss Pillows: $30
Paint: $130
Craft Supplies: $10 

Total: ~$569

What an incredible transformation.  Anderson gives his approval with "two animal crackers" up.  Thanks again to all who contributed to this project, to Beth for allowing us to take over her house for a weekend, and to Dwell with Dignity for inspiring lives from Dallas to Pittsburgh.

7 Steps to Downsize on a Deadline

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with one of my favorite professional organizers, the talented Vickie Dellaquila, about the extreme challenges that confront our clients who are downsizing on a deadline.  Downsizing is stressful regardless of the circumstances but when the timeline is tight (due to financial issues, foreclosure, health problems, or otherwise), the situation can be downright paralyzing. 

3 years ago, due to circumstances far beyond our control, our family was facing foreclosure.  After a year on the market, our efforts to sell had proved unsuccessful. My parents’ home of 30+ years was about to be repossessed by the bank.  Within about a week’s time, we had to downsize from a 4 bedroom/4 bath 2,000+ sf home to a 2 bedroom apartment.  If you’re facing a similar situation -- I’m so very sorry.  I know from personal experience that it is not an easy process.  Everyone has to start somewhere, though -- here’s my advice on how to get things started.

First, a few disclaimers: 1) Because we had had our home on the market for some time, my mom and sisters had already gone through a few rounds of purging and a couple moving sales before we got notice from the bank that it was time to leave. 2) Downsizing is most effectively accomplished when you have time to make sound, well thought out decisions.  If you have the time, take it.

Dining Room c. 2006

Dining Room c. 2006

Purged Dining Room - Staged for Sale

Purged Dining Room - Staged for Sale

Here are my recommendations.

Step 1: Set a date.  Figure out when the last day is you’ll have access to your property and plan to move at least 3 days before so you have time to purge the leftovers.  Request time off, book your movers (weekdays are cheaper) or reserve your U-Haul, arrange for a charity to pick-up donations, reserve a junk hauler if needed, and rally your friends and family.

Step 2:  If you have already identified a place to move to, go take measurements.  Use a tool like floorplanner.com to figure out what furniture will realistically fit in the space and tag each piece with post-it notes or painter’s tape.  Use a consistent color.  Go through your necessities and start pulling household essentials (a list like this is a good place to start).  I like to consolidate “keep” items into one room or one corner of each room so I can gain a visual understanding of how much I’m keeping.  When you’re ready -- if you’re packing yourself -- box up your items, mark boxes with the same color post-it/painter’s tape, and label the contents.

Step 3:  Once you have everything you need packed to move (if you still have time), start going through room by room and identify what can be donated, what can be sold, what can be trashed, and what needs to be kept in the family.  Designate a post-it/tape color for each family member and mark large items.  Pack anything that needs to be shipped.  When we moved, I had one room designated for “sell” items, one room designated for “keep,” and trash was bagged and placed on our carport.

Purged Living Room - Staged for Sale

Purged Living Room - Staged for Sale

Downsized Living Room

Downsized Living Room

Step 4:  Move into your new place.  Get what’s most important (what you pulled out in step 2) out of the house and to a safe place.  If you’re facing bank repossession like we were, it’s important to make sure you have what you need before the bank changes the locks.  Having your furniture and boxes color coded will help you and your movers identify what goes and what doesn’t.  Shut doors to rooms they don’t need to go into.  In your new place, don’t worry about unpacking a lot initially.  Find your toothbrush and toilet paper and go focus your energies on getting the rest of your possessions cleared out.

Step 5:  Pack/ship/load/distribute items that need to be kept in the family.  These may be heirlooms, family photos, your grown son’s favorite childhood toy, or other items that are important to your family’s history but you can no longer have the space to accommodate.  If no one in the family is interested in the item, it’s time to part with it.

Items for our Yard Sale

Items for our Yard Sale

Step 6: Have a yard sale/estate sale/auction.  Sell as much as you can.  You may not have time to have things appropriately appraised but if you’re in a situation like ours, any extra funds are helpful.

Step 7: Box up any leftovers from the sale and have a charity pick them up.  Anything that isn’t appropriate for a charity (soiled furniture, general trash) can be taken by a junk hauler.

If you have sufficient funds, you may find the need to move things into storage so you have a more appropriate time to sort and make decisions.  Professional Organizers are also incredible resources for those going through the downsizing process at any speed - consider bringing one in if you can.

Living Room Progress & Process

Admittedly, I've been putting this post off.  Much to my dismay, my living room has not yet reached my unattainably high perfectionist standards.  My sheers haven’t been hemmed; the hand-me-down teak side tables look awfully orange; and my DIY upholstery job is still unfinished after more than a year.  Still, I've finally managed to convince myself that it’s good enough to share.  Along the way, I’ll tell you a little more about my design process.

Here’s where we started.



Beyond the doilies and the traditional draperies, this room has pretty amazing bones.  A large, nearly floor to ceiling wood window on the north side of the room lets in wonderful diffuse light all day.  The long, linear gray brick on the fireplace, though maybe not my finish of choice (my in-laws liken it to Hokie Stone), mimics the low, streamlined proportions that are signature of mid-century style.  Gorgeous original wood floors, which we had stained a little darker, provide the perfect foundation for this potential-filled space.



Near the front door, this quirky niche adds even more architectural character and, along with a change in floor material, delineates the separation between the entry and the living room.  The stone planter, though it also reiterated the separation of the spaces, seemed like more of a tripping hazard than anything.

After over a year of progress, we’re here.


This is how we arrived.

Initially, when I walked into this space I visualized the sofa across from the fireplace, with a sofa table behind (almost like this).

Initial Plan

Initial Plan

The more I processed my plans and thought about flow, I realized that this would be a much better floor plan. 

Final Plan

Final Plan

Here’s why: With the seating aligned parallel to the large window, traffic can easily flow from the front door, though the living room and into the dining room.  Knowing also that I would eventually open up the kitchen and have bar stools at one end, this arrangement facilitated the best sightlines for conversation.  If the sofa were placed parallel to the fireplace, it would become a barrier for traffic and conversation.                                                         

Once I had established a basic layout for the room, I started selecting colors/fabrics and shopping for furniture.  Before committing to anything, I like to start with an inspiration board.  I use tools like Photoshop and Pinterest to help myself visualize different elements of the room together.  My inspiration for the color palette was a painting by artist, Lindsey Oberg.  With that as a basis, I selected a paint color (Sherwin Williams Waterscape) and browsed online to find items that fit the room and my budget.

The current result is a carefully curated blend of both purchased and inherited vintage furniture that have been or are being reinvented.  The sofa is a long, low, streamlined 1960s Drexel sofa that we bought on CraigsList and had reupholstered in a menswear-inspired gray fabric from Sunbrella.  The chairs are also from the 1960s, purchased for $20 a piece, that I reupholstered in a commercial-grade teal fabric.  The teak side tables and trunk are all things that were passed down to us.  The floor lamp (Target), table lamp (Ikea), coffee table (Ikea - Vittsjo), curtains (West Elm), and rug (La-Z-Boy employee discount purchase) are all new.

Thanks to careful planning, I think the space is well on its way (even if everything in the room hasn't risen to my standards yet).

If you’re in the process of a redesign, here are some tips:

3D Modeling tools, like Sketch Up, are a wonder when it comes to these sorts of decisions.  By creating my room digitally and to scale, I was able to play around with the layout and make more informed decisions about my furniture selection and placement without any extra lifting.

Using Pinterest or Photoshop to create an inspiration board will allow you to be more intentional about your purchases.  Making sure that everything works together ahead of time will help you create a more cohesive space.  When you’re shopping, remember: if it doesn't fit your vision or your budget, don’t buy it.

Welcome to circlegdesigns.com!

Welcome to my new website!  Whether you're new or you've been following me on my Wordpress blog for awhile, I'm thrilled you're here.

So is Alex.

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Living Within Your Means

10 years of my 25 year life were spent in pursuit of a career in Architecture until I realized that a life spent drafting in front of a computer was not the life for me.  Last fall, after taking most of the summer off to soul search and renovate our kitchen, I was still feeling lost when my mom suggested that I look into working as a professional organizer/downsizing consultant since I seem to have a knack for spatial reorganization and furniture layouts.  In November, I was able to connect with a local Certified Professional Organizer/Certified Relocation Transition Specialist and have been working with her as an independent contractor (and loving it) ever since.  Thanks, Mom! I recently took another step in this direction and decided to join the National Association of Professional Organizers.  With this latest life development, I was excited to see this post from Apartment Therapy pop up on my RSS feed the other day.  I love how Amelia Meena of Appleshine Lifestyle Organization defines "living within your means."  I have always thought about this phrase in regard to financial means --- but it makes so much sense to apply it to your space!  I've seen so many episodes of House Hunters where families move to accommodate their excess possessions, sure to continue collecting more and more until they have to move again.  So many resources could be conserved if we all made a better effort to live within our means (and stay organized!).

Thanks Amelia, and Apartment Therapy, for sharing!

Alex in a Box

Happy Valentine's Day!  In celebration of my Valentine, Alex, I'm sharing some photos of his office at work -- a space I tried to tailor to his unique personality. If you know Alex, you know that he is a passionate, educated, earth-loving, sports & gadget-obsessed, Civil-turned-Energy Engineer.  And no, I'm sure his 6'4" frame does not easily fit in your average box.  That's not what happened.  What did occur --some time ago now -- was an experiment where I unsuccessfully attempted to artfully arrange items that I thought were representative of him in this black photography box/tray.  Clearly, he could not be contained.

AlexInABox copy copy

Items that I selected included a vintage Erector set and mechanical design books (for his engineering spirit); a bowl made of recycled paper, recycled beer bottle glasses, and recycled light bulbs (ever the conservator); mementos from his time at the University of Virginia and travels; a golf box and sports poster (the sports enthusiast); his diploma and certifications; and of course, a picture from our wedding.

All of these items were earmarked to go with him to work.


Before - Desk

His office, which is far more generous than your average cubicle, was relatively bare to start.


Before - Wall


Before - Entry



With the addition of his things, it's feeling a bit more like Alex in there these days.


Pops of red around the room help add some life and color to the space.


Items like his childhood coke bottle collection and diploma distinguish the room as his own.


And, my favorite part of the room by far are these hanging recycled light bulb vases.  Because he deals with energy at work (and loves to recycle), this just seemed like a perfect addition to the space.  To make them, I followed this tutorial from sheknows.com.  To hang them, I carefully tied and secured string to each bulb, suspended them from the drop ceiling, and filled them with a very minimal amount of water.


Unique touches for my unique husband.

Made with Love

In celebration of the soon-to-arrive Valentine's Day, a piece of art, made with love. Awhile ago, I had the idea to create something I would call an "ancestral collage" - a self-portrait comprised of features inherited from my parents and grandparents.

Image: Self-Portrait, (c) Lauren G. Chapin

Based on this image of myself from 2 years ago,

This is who I am made of:

My father's family (left to right): Pappy (my grandfather) with cousin Allison, Gamma (my grandmother), Uncle Tom, Aunt Linda with cousin Franklin, Dad, Mom

My dad (left) with his best friend, Howie (right)

My father's face.

My parents

His nose, smile, and chin.

My maternal grandmother, Kay

My grandmother's eyes and "drip" on the end of her nose.

A hint of my mother's jaw, her cheeks, and her "swan neck."

Knit together in my mother's womb, fearfully and wonderfully made.