Use SketchUp to Preview Proportions
Of all the variables of design, context is the easiest to miss. That is one of the powerful things about using SketchUp, you can easily compare one piece to another, add a human figure to the model or place the piece in a room setting. Seeing is believing and knowing is better than guessing. Yesterday I presented three wardrobes and invited readers to guess at their size.
That was inherently unfair on my part because there was nothing in the images to give a sense of scale. The two wardrobes on the right appear much larger than they really are. This is something that designers in the early 20th century, guys like Gustav Stickley, Harvey Ellis and Charles Greene were really good at. These pieces have a commanding presence when viewed in isolation, but in real life appear quite different. The two cases on the right are nearly identical in size, yet one appears short and squatty and the other appears to be tall. The piece on the left has the same footprint as the one next to it, but is 18 inches taller.
Way back when I was in design school, one of the lessons was to always explore variations, even if you were absolutely certain you had a great idea going in. Messing around with things you don’t think you like will teach you a lot about what you do like. Different arrangements of elements like doors (and the stiles, rails and panels) make a huge difference in the end, and this is another benefit to using SketchUp. The lines you see in the model might be fully detailed parts, but they can also be quickly drawn lines. In my SketchUp classes, we make a box the overall size of a proposed project, make several copies, then experiment. It’s a quick way to see if the original idea holds up, or if there are better alternatives.
Yesterday there were several guesses that are represented in the box at right, taller and wider than the actual pieces. A case that size would really dominate the average room, would use a lot more material and would be a lot harder to get up the stairs and into the bedroom. With SketchUp, we can try different things with no investment in materials and a minimal investment in time. The results are better furniture.