Sketch Up

In the course of the move to my current apartment in June 2010, my living room filled with upended furniture. How best to arrange the couch, chair, bookcase, and tables? I measured out the floor space, sketched cartoons, contemplated the feng shui, and solicited the advice of exasperated co-workers. Furniture became Tetris-style blocks that fit well only in a few arrangements. The long brick of the Rondo transformable sofa could likely only lie against the right wall or under the window. As I winnowed down the possible parameter space, the furniture sorted itself into a tight but pleasing arrangement.

Years passed and life changed. I had my ups and my downs. I bought a second rug and another end table. I went through a break-up and reconsidered all arrangements in my life, personal and furnital. My father built me a bench and a bookcase and sent them west by truck.

It is spring 2013 and time to rearrange the living room furniture, if only to view my home with a reinvigorated, changed perspective. What if that original arrangement was sub-optimal?

On hearing my proposed furniture sliding and pushing plans, Tom Landers recommended a software solution to arranging a living room. “Furniture moving can be arduous and dangerous,” he tutted. “Why not try Sketch Up?”

A small company called Trimble, now part of the Google empire, offers a free architectural program called Sketch Up that lets a user map out a room or a building and fill it with furniture. I watched the Sketch Up tutorials, measured my furniture again, and mapped out my living room on the computer screen.

Once the furniture got ported to a computer, I had a much easier time moving the bookcase around virtually. The albatross of couch could only fit along one of the three walls. Like a loyal side kick, the chair needed to stay alongside the couch. I wanted a virtual dining room with space for two chairs to make room for a dinner guest.

The current living room looked great, but I wanted to invert the room 180 degrees. When the downstairs neighbors announced that they would be away to Sonoma for the weekend, I took their absence as the opportunity loudly to slide around furniture, regardless of my busted left foot.

The rearranged living room feels more spacious but foreign. The black couch and black chair concentrate their blackness in one corner while the white, circular dining table and white chairs float in the opposite corner. The feng shui has changed perhaps not for the better: previously, all the furniture pointed towards the window and thus outdoors; now, the couch and chair point towards the kitchen and thus indoors. I’m more reticent to sit with my back to a window, but perhaps I am not yet accustomed to the new inward view. As my life turned quite introspective this winter and spring, perhaps this new furniture arrangement better suits my changed psyche?

Furniture moved, I confronted the annoying living things. The living room has just three electrical outlets, one of which is connected to the light switch. I restrung the tangles of extension cords and then found ways to hide the unruly piles of electricity. I can’t as easily as before open or close the window blinds since the couch is in the way. Much attention now is focused on the orange wall.

From all this consternation over the arrangement of my living room, you can tell the difficulty I have with larger life questions. I can quickly order off a menu, but choices of career and partner prove much more daunting. Fortunately with furniture, if I don’t like the arrangement when I return from Portugal in July, I will restore my apartment to its original configuration. I wish there was a similar reset button for the rest of my life.

Do come over for dinner and tell me what you think.