How To Make A Floor Plan With Graph Paper

We recently shared how we Dryloked every surface of the basement to completely waterproof it (days of monsoon-ish rain have proved to be no match for our newly sealed basement- there’s not an ounce of moisture down there!) and painted the floor a nice rich chocolate color…

… and now we’re back to get to the fun stuff: floor planning and picking the right storage pieces. Of course we still have some small logistical projects to complete (cleaning up the hatch door that leads to the crawl space, rewrapping the water heater more neatly, building a divider to block the view of the water heater from the door, snagging a dehumidifier to keep moisture in check down there, etc) but we’ll get to those a bit later.

And for our floor planning sesh, we even got a little matherrific and whipped out some old school graph paper to create a to-scale drawing of the space, which really helped us pin down what we needed (and definitely helped us eliminate a bunch of things that we didn’t). In fact, John’s hands were cast in the starring role of “graph paper method explainer” in this video (watch it below on Vimeo or check it out on YouTube):

But for those of you at work who can’t exactly sit back and watch a quick flick about how we did all of our floor planning/storage-piece evaluating right now, we also remembered to snap a few photos of the process to detail how it all went down. First we descended into the basement with a measuring tape to take down the dimensions of the space (being careful to note exactly how far from the left wall the water heater is, where the windows are placed, etc). Then to whip up a little to-scale drawing all we did was decide that one square on the graph paper would be equal to 6″ and before we knew it we had a little sketch of the space that was completely accurate (just a lot smaller for obvious reasons). Then we used the same one-square-equals-a-half-foot method to sketch out little rectangles and squares to represent all of the Ikea storage systems that we were considering (their measurements were easily found online) which left us with a pile of confetti-esque shapes that looked a little something like this:

You might notice that we labeled each piece with its quirky Swedish name (for identification purposes) and the price (which also helped us evaluate which items would give us more bang for our buck and which were too rich for our blood). It was amazing how a slew of storage options that had our brains spinning suddenly became a lot easier to evaluate once we could compare their footprints and truly experiment with where we could put what. In fact, to knock a bunch of options out right away we quickly made a list of the items we hoped to store down there (seasonal decorations, bikes, sporting stuff, extra cords, wires, hoses, old yearbooks, etc) and then opted to sort our storage options ruthlessly to see which ones would accomplish that (and which ones wouldn’t really help the cause). On the left side we put the pieces that we thought would offer the most function, and on the right side we put pieces that certainly wouldn’t hurt, but might not be as fabulously efficient. Here’s how the split-em-up method worked out:

We easily identified that the Aneboda wardrobe was cheaper than the comparable Pax wardrobe but would still afford us the same amount of concealed storage (and we could snag two of them for $100 less than the cost of two Pax wardrobes). Then the decision was easy: Aneboda in, Pax out. We also decided that the Expedit Workstation would work overtime since it’s just $120 for a desk and an eight-slotted shelf that we can kit out with baskets and bins to store smaller objects in a somewhat organized way (thanks to all the compartments). It was definitely more of a plus for our space than the larger Expedit shelf without the desk (which was more expensive at $160 and didn’t provide a surface to set things down and sort through boxes like the Workstation did). We also realized that Billy bookcases wouldn’t be of much use to us because seeing them all sketched out to scale, we realized how little depth they offered (so we quickly deduced that we could store way less on such shallow shelves).

In short, evaluating things when they were all drawn out and comparing prices & shapes really helped our brain go from scrambled and uncertain to “hmm, we might just have a plan here.” Then we got to move our best contenders around on the actual floor plan to see what felt best where. Here’s the winning floor plan:

We love that it’s a combination of surfaces where we can set things down when we’re sifting through boxes to locate something, but there’s also tons of open and concealed storage that we can maximize without blowing the budget (since we already own the Torsby table we only need to purchase three large pieces from Ikea and we’re set!). We also really liked the dimension and visual separation that the Expedit Workstation’s peninsula created (which still allows for a 30″ wide passageway between the divider that we’ll be building to obscure the water heater).

But let’s back up. We definitely landed on a few less functional (and more spendy) floor plans first. Like this one which didn’t offer the added desk space of the Expedit Workstation but actually would have cost us more in the end. We also thought it looked really basic and bare (like someone with a gun told all the furniture to get up against the wall). It’s a perfect example of how spending more money doesn’t always mean you get a more complete look in the end…

We also tried this plan, but again it would have been substantially more money and we liked placing our bikes on the left wall because we actually have an artsy little idea that we’d like to implement behind them (and if the larger wardrobes are on that wall instead, we’ll lose the opportunity to create a focal point that can be seen upon entry)…

We also tried this arrangement but again liked the bikes on the opposite wall (this layout would also have been substantially more moolah than our winning floor plan):

And lastly we tried this floor plan but everything felt a bit crowded (especially with the bikes shoved in between everything) and it was the most expensive solution yet. By a long shot.

So that’s how we played around with little paper squares for about 30 minutes…

… to suss out the right combination of storage pieces for our little basement makeover (here’s the winning floor plan again to save you from all that scrolling):

Now our shopping list is pretty straightforward:

  1. Expedit shelf (included in the total Expedit Workstation) -$120
  2. Torsby table (already owned, so it’s free!)
  3. A woven basket or two – $17 each
  4. Two Aneboda wardrobes – $100 a pop
  5. A few white storage boxes – $12 for two
  6. And a few green storage boxes to keep things interesting – $12 for two
  7. Expedit desk (included in the Expedit Workstation) accounted for above

Grand total: Somewhere around $361. Not bad for a large 19′ x 13′ room full of storage (that was previously a bug graveyard). Especially when you consider that one armoire is usually around $500-$1000. And of course the floor plan could change once we have everything in the space, but it’s great to have that well-researched confident feeling that we’ve gained from our little graph paper experiment. You know how stepping into Ikea can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t have a serious plan? Now we have one. Oh and it bears mentioning that the above image isn’t a complete mood board as we plan to introduce art, lighting, other accessories, and DIY projects to round out the look. But it’s a great start for taking an utterly useless room that used to look like this…

… and turning it into something totally efficient and polished. Stay tuned for more updates after we snag (and build- ugh!) all of our Ikea furniture. Fingers crossed we survive hours of allen wrenching! And while we’re on the subject of building Ikea furniture, do you guys have any favorite Ikea systems or pieces in your home (the Malm bed? the Lack shelf? the Expedit bookcase?). Do tell.

Want more floor planning fun? Check out the graph paper madness here and here over on All Things G&D.


  1. says

    My boyfriend and I have the (very) large expedit bookcase. We’ve had it for years and we love it. It doesn’t hold all my books, but to be honest, no bookshelf ever would, however it looks amazing. Once we move into a larger space, I plan on purchasing another one so I can finally get some more books out of storage!

    BTW, the floor looks amazing! It looks very similar to a porcelain tile that my company carries. Kudos to you! Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  2. says

    Under $400 isn’t bad! That’s great! Don’t you love Ikea?!?!? I really like the Aneboda wardrobes for $100, that’s an awesome deal. Now I need to talk the Honey onto a trip to Ikea. …..”Honey I need to go to Ikea, they serve Swedish Meatballs, which better than the popcorn in Target, and I promise not to walk to fast that I lose you again”….

  3. Rosa says

    I thought this space was just going to be for storage, will you be working down there to? (I see a desk) is it heated?

    • says

      Hey Rosa,

      Nope, it’s not heated and cooled down there, and we do just plan to use it as a souped up storage space. Those desktop surfaces will just come in handy when it comes to sorting through boxes and storing things off the floor in an organized way with some desktop solutions, so that’s the plan. Hope it helps!


  4. says

    Wow, your basement is really coming along! I’m jealous of all the extra storage you’ll have. :)

    I have two of the monstrous Expedits in my house. We’re not lucky enough to have an IKEA nearby, so one day my husband and I made the 8 hour round trip to purchase them. I knew I wanted one for my scrapbooking room (it is seriously the only thing that stores 12×12 scrapbooking paper easily) and the one in the living room is actually the one that is supposed to hold a flat panel television, but instead we use it to hold the turtle’s tank (box turtle = not much water = not too heavy). We have a projector instead of a large television, so when we want to watch something we just pull the ceiling-mounted screen down in front of the Expedit. It rolls up and out of the way when we’re not using it, and most people don’t even realize we have it until we point it out. Did I mention we did all this in a tiny 1238 sf house? :)

  5. says

    We have two of those Aneboda wardrobes in our “stoffice” (my office/my husband’s music studio) and they are great. One houses my husband’s clothes. (yes, I kicked him out of the closet in the master. But in my defense, it is a small closet) We use the other wardrobe as a linen closet with the help of some hanging storage compartments, because our apartment has almost no storage. They worked out great for us and we always have people asking us where we got them — after they look past the mess that is the rest of the room :) At $100 bucks a piece, I’d say that’s a whole lot of bang for our buck!

  6. Jason says

    This is so great! Everything you’ve done up till now is awesome. Now you are showing us how to plan layouts and do storage that looks nice enough to be on our main floor let alone our previously buggy zones.

    My dank crawl space may not afford me the room for IKEA wardrobes, but on my IKEA must have list is the Kvartal Curtain Rod system, it’s the only truly functional(curtains don’t hit the bracket when you move them) way I can figure to deck out my really mind boggling living room corner windows without using hospital track on the ceiling. I have to drywall first, but you know…

    Delaware – J

  7. Jamie says

    do you guys ever consider scouring craigslist for IKEA stuff before buying it new from the store? Not sure how it is in Richmond, but here in the SF area you can find almost anything from IKEA on CL, you just might have to be willing to drive a little ways to get it.

    • says

      Hey Jamie,

      Yup, we definitely love to find Craigslist deals and even buy Ikea stuff from thrift stores (that’s where we found our Ikea armchair in the den for $25!) but we did a quick search yesterday night after out planning and only could come up with the larger Expedit shelf (no Workstation) and no Anebodas to be found. We certainly will look again a few more times and will happily report any deals we snag along the way. Plus it’s good to know that we won’t have to wait indefinitely to find them for sale since Ikea prices aren’t half bad in the end. Hope it helps!


  8. Alicia says

    I love it! I use the graph paper to arrange my room too :) It’s so helpful!

    Jamie is right about using craigslist. I’ve gotten a TON of IKEA stuff from there! Almost half off too!

  9. Wendy says

    Love it! Can’t wait to see the finished product!! :)

    P.S. G&D did a whole post about using graph paper to design a room. You should give the mommy-to-be a little shout out. :)

  10. says

    That screen to cover up water heater is a great idea! I’ve been trying to come up with a solution to cover up ours that would make our laundry room a little bit more than just a utility room, and that would definately help. Thanks for the idea!

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