'It saves you time and money' - the brown paper method for room layouts explained

Martyn Lawrence Bullard, interior designer to the A-listers, tells me what he does to plan the layout of a room perfectly, and it’s super easy to replicate

Chloe Kardashian's living room in black and white with piano
(Image credit: Douglas Friedman. Design: Martyn Lawrence Bullard)

Now tell me if you relate to this. You’re in the furniture store, and you see something you love but are not sure it will fit into your house. You might have a tape measure on you (you get extra points for this) but when you get home with your measurements what do you do? 

Pull out your laptop and draw a floorplan? I doubt it. Or do you kind of clumsily try with your tape measure and your imagination to create a mental outline of the space the item will take? You might have thought to outline the shape of the said item of furniture with tape on the floor. But once it’s taped you can’t easily move it a bit to the left or right, or in a different position. 

I, for one, was guilty of trying out the ‘tape measure and my imagination’ method, until in a recent Martyn Lawrence Bullard interview the designer told me this one super easy tip that is so time-saving. 

This is how to easily check if the furniture fits 

black and white office with mid century chairs and artworks on walls

(Image credit: Douglas Friedman. Design: Martyn Lawrence Bullard)

I warn you this is one of those things that’ll make you wonder why you haven’t thought of it before. As far as quick decorating ideas go, this is very straightforward. You’ll still need tape (just don’t stick it to the floor), scissors, and some paper. That’s it. I’ll let Martyn explain the rest.

‘One of the things that we as a professional design team will do, we will make brown paper cutouts, in the size of the furniture, and lay them on the floor or on the wall of a room. So you can understand in real time, the actual size of something to see if it does feel too big, or too small. Or if it feels perfect. It's a really great trick,’ Martyn Lawrence Bullard says. He has designed the houses of numerous celebrities such as Cher and Alessandra Ambrosio, among others.

The reason I love this most is that you can just move the cut-out around so easily if you don’t like it. Push it back, pull it forward, and check there’s room to walk around it. 

It’s that easy. ‘If you go into a store and see an armchair you like, but you’re not sure if it's too big, just get the measurements, tape some paper together, cut it out, and then put it on your floor and see how does it feel? Can I walk around it? It's a very easy thing to do and it really solves so many problems.’

There we go. Problem solved, and I have no more excuses for not being able to fit that new impulse buy now that I know how the pros do this very quick check.

Raluca Racasan
News writer

Raluca is Digital News Writer for Livingetc.com and passionate about all things interior and living beautifully. Coming from a background writing and styling shoots for fashion magazines such as Marie Claire Raluca’s love for design started at a very young age when her family’s favourite weekend activity was moving the furniture around the house ‘for fun’. Always happiest in creative environments in her spare time she loves designing mindful spaces and doing colour consultations. She finds the best inspiration in art, nature, and the way we live, and thinks that a home should serve our mental and emotional wellbeing as well as our lifestyle.