My 9-Year-Old Architect

I love drawing floor plans–even though I failed to become an architect–so I looked forward to illustrating my article about how we rearranged our home to make space for our new baby Lydia.  I thought this also would be a great opportunity to learn to use TouchDraw, a drafting app I’d bought for my iPad months ago but had barely gotten to play with.

Unfortunately, a mere 15 minutes of attempting to make those drawings taught me that TouchDraw sucks.  As best I can find, it can’t draw an arc–so how could I draw a door?  Its lines seem to be looking for every opportunity to jump just slightly away from being perpendicular when you lift your finger after drawing.  Its help files are laughably incomplete, set up by someone with good intentions of writing the help files someday.

Rather than spend time seeking a better drafting app, I decided to do the drawings by hand and then photograph them and post the photos.  Of course, I already have a hand-drawn scale drawing of every room in our house (doesn’t everyone?) that I made as soon as we bought the house so that we could use the scale model paper cutouts of all our furniture to decide how to arrange the rooms.  (We used it again to figure out this current arrangement.)  I would simply tape that drawing to the table, roll out some of the proper architect’s trace-paper that I still have, trace the room, draw in the furniture, and make handwritten notes around the perimeter as necessary to explain details.  I looked forward to doing this some night when Lydia went to sleep before I was totally exhausted and after I’d finished all my crucial chores.

Well, that didn’t happen any night last week!  When I got up on Saturday morning, I explained the situation to my nine-year-old son Nicholas and noted that I would need to spend a couple of hours during the day working on my drawings.

“But Mama,” he said, “What about Room Planner?”

Room Planner is an app Nicholas asked me to get (he doesn’t have his own tablet or computer) last month after hearing about it from one of his friends.  It lets you draw a room or a whole house and fill it with furnishings that you choose from extensive menus.  You can view your room in 3D.  Although I’d admired his creations and spent a few minutes here and there playing with the app myself, I’d been thinking of it as “one of his games” rather than a useful tool!

We quickly agreed that because Nicholas was a much more experienced Room Planner user than I, because I’m the one who can nurse the baby as well as hold and entertain her, and because he really really wanted to help, he would do the drawing while I gave instructions.  This worked very well.  I hardly minded that I wasn’t getting to do the drawing myself because I enjoyed being “the client” and watching all my wishes carried out.  (Nicholas isn’t always so good at accepting direction, instead of doing his own thing–but this time, he was very consistently helpful.)

From the outset, Nicholas had a plan for labeling the drawings the way I wanted: He would save the images from Room Planner to Photos, and then he would be able to import them from there into another app, ArtStudio, in which he could add text and use his finger to draw arrows.  Then he would save the labeled image to Photos.  This worked perfectly.

My experience as a computer user also was helpful in the process: When Nicholas finished drawing the room (walls, doors, and window), before he did any of the furnishings, I insisted that he save a copy.  He didn’t fully appreciate the wisdom of this until he was ready to draw the second version of the room arrangement and could start with an empty, ready-to-furnish room instead of starting with a blank screen and drawing the room again.  The drawing above took about an hour to complete.  The one below took only 25 minutes.

We did experience a few glitches where Room Planner did not do what we wanted–but most of these are visible only in our 3D models, not in our plans.  Our biggest problem was drawing the part of the wall that sticks out behind the china cabinet: We couldn’t find a way to make a wall that sticks out in the middle like that, but only to stick it out starting from the corner like we did for the closet.  Nicholas eventually had the idea of drawing a plain box standing against the wall and then changing its color to black to blend into the wall.  That’s how we learned that when you change an object’s color in Room Planner, you’re only changing its appearance in the 3D view–the sides of the box turned black, but the top didn’t!  Nicholas colored it using the Fill tool in ArtStudio.  We also saw in 3D that the box doesn’t come up to the ceiling, but that doesn’t matter in the plan view.

Another, merely entertaining glitch: The potted plants are not standing on the table under the window; they’re on the floor, growing up through the table.  Same goes for my bedside lamp, which is just a smaller version of the floor lamp.

It wasn’t until the drawings were saved and uploaded and I was making final edits to the text of my article that I realized we hadn’t labeled everything we might want to label.  The distinction between the low shelving units that have the stereo and record player on top (light beige) and the tall bookcases (golden tan) was unclear.  I’d meant to give more detail about what is stored where.  I put some of this information in the article…and maybe some of those details aren’t necessary.

Having my kid do my architectural drawings worked for me!  We got the job done, we had fun together, we both learned more about what we can (and can’t) do with the iPad, and we didn’t neglect the baby to get it done!

One thought on “My 9-Year-Old Architect

  1. Pingback: Top 10 New Articles of 2014 | The Earthling's Handbook

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