better homes than yours · DIY · Renovation

Go ahead and mock.

I have a vivid memory of a page in my grade 5 math textbook. It was describing different ways to solve a problem. One of those ways was “build a model.”

Really? I thought, “Isn’t that kind of cheating? You don’t have to calculate, just build and measure? Aren’t calculations kind of the point of math?” I don’t know about you, but for me building a model is orders of magnitude easier than many calculations.

Fast forward twenty-five years (give or take.) I have a reasonably good imagination, and I’ve made plenty of decor and home design decisions from paper plans. But sometimes I just have to be able to see and touch it.

When I was designing our kitchen before the renovation, I was pretty sure the measurements would work and the kitchen wouldn’t be too small; but so many people disagreed that I had to try it out. A normal person might tape lines on the floor to show where the cabinets are. Me? I built a cardboard mock-up right in the space where the kitchen would be.


Then I called everyone in and asked them to mill around asking for snacks and just generally standing in the way. With six people in it, the kitchen still felt roomy enough to work, so I decided that this layout was a go. Perhaps not surprisingly, the mockup was pretty accurate. See?


More recently, I’ve been working on the playhouse under the stairs. I know what materials we’ll be using, and I have a general sense of how I want it to look, but I wanted to make a template so it would be easier to measure the siding.


Then I realized that I wasn’t sure what I wanted the roofline to look like, so I mocked up a couple of possibilities. Definitely a shed roof coming out from the wall, but how about a gable over the door?



Tall gable (the brown cardboard one)?










Or short (the white paper one)?






After mocking up both options, I made up my mind. Which one do you think I chose? You’ll have to wait to find out. Construction starts today!



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