Monthly Archives: February 2013

Mock Up Your Project

Mock Up Header

Whenever I set out to do a project that requires some planning and we have options that will affect the outcome of a project… I try to mock the project up to get a good visual of what the completed project will look like.  My wife has many great qualities, but picturing what something will look like when it is done is not one of them.  Mock ups make a HUGE difference for her (being a visual person), and saves lots of re-do time for me.  Not only do these mock ups help to visualize the look of something, they also help determine if the function of the project will work in the house.  I thought I would share some ways I mock-up a project, including the use of cardboard, Google SketchUp (a free 3D modeling program from Google) and even graph paper.  Here are a few projects that I have mocked up:

Kitchen Counters (cardboard mock-up)

We knew from day zero that the kitchen counter tops were going to be replaced in our new house.  Besides the obvious problem of the existing counters being made of builder grade bathroom tile (seriously… they couldn’t have spent an extra $50 to get some better/bigger tile????)… there were a few others.  The kitchen island had an overhang on 3 sides where you could theoretically seat people, but the overhangs were not big enough.  On one side, you could sit there, but had to lean over to reach the counter.  The overhangs on the other two sides were completely un-usable for seating and while increasing counter space, blocked off floor space.  Another problem was the shape of the counter tops.  Most of our house was “rounded”.  Rounded arches, rounded windows, rounded wall edging….  The sharp angles of the existing counters did not fit.  Could we make better use of the counter space?  Would it look good to have the corners rounded?  How big should the radius be?  We planned on putting in granite, and really didn’t want to have any (expensive) regrets afterwards.  To make sure we would be happy with the new counters and we broke out the cardboard, utility knife and tape to mock up our ideas.  We lived with “cardboard” counters for a few days to allow the look and function to settle in.  While living with the mocked up counters, it was clear that some of our ideas were not great and other ideas needed only slight modification (with a utility knife).

Mock Up - Kitchen Island

Our kitchen island before and after – It is hard to tell, but adding a couple of inches on 3 sides of the island counter made a world of difference.


As you can see… some of our ideas worked out great.  By extending the counters by just a few inches on 3 sides of the island, we had use of all 3 sides for seating.  We were able to extend the counters without creating a tight squeeze in the walkways around the island either!

I had a great idea to extend the pass through counter top by creating an overhang into the dining room side of the pass through.  It turned out that the overhang made it difficult to reach the cabinets above the pass through and just stuck out like a sore thumb when viewing it from the dining room.  We settled on a slight extension so that we could have a rounded edge without affecting access to the cabinets.

Mock Up - Kitchen Passthrough

Pass through from the kitchen to dining room – My idea for extending the counter into the room was a flop after mocking it up.


Overall, mocking up our counters allowed us to extend the seating in our kitchen without tightening the space, make our counters fit the rest of the house and most importantly… avoid expensive regrets.

Fireplace Mantel & Hearth (cardboard mock-up)

We had an idea that we wanted to have a square mantle and hearth on our new basement fireplace.  How big should the mantel be?  How tall should the hearth be and how far should it stick out into the room, or should we even have a hearth?  The mantel was pretty easy to figure out (really just figuring out how thick), but we really wanted to avoid taking up a bunch of floor space with a hearth.  A few cardboard boxes, some packing tape and about 15 minutes of my time… We figured out a 4″ thick by 8″ deep mantel was just about perfect and a 10″ deep hearth was deep enough to look good without taking up too much floor space.

Mock Up - Fireplace

Mantel and hearth made out of cardboard – This was very useful in figuring out how big the hearth should be.


Other Project (using SketchUp)

Both these projects have yet to be completed (actually… they haven’t even been started).

Our house has a great view out the back, but has a small deck (with the Trex decking installed incorrectly).  I would like to rip off the deck and build a bigger one, so I mocked up a bigger deck in SketchUp to get an idea of what it would look like.  The nice thing about doing a 3D model is that I can easily make changes to the design using layers without having to erase previous designs.

Mock Up - Deck

Deck Mock Up – This is not totally complete, but gives me an idea of how a bigger deck will look proportionally on the back of my house.


For whatever reason, I was staring up at the space above our kitchen soffits one day and had an idea.  What if I build a wine storage cabinet that would fit perfectly in the soffit space above our cabinets that store our bar stuff?  I used SketchUp to come up with several designs for the wine storage.

Mock Up - Wine Storage

Wine Storage Options – Done in Google SketchUp


Other Projects (using other methods)

I don’t have pictures of everything that I have mocked up, but here are some descriptions of ways I have figured out the final outcome of a project before doing any work.

  • Drawn Scale Models – I have used graph paper countless times to draw a scale version of a room and the components we want to put in it.  My best example is using this method to draw a scale version of our workout room, then cutting out scale versions of our workout equipment to arrange in the room.  Moving workout equipment 20 times just isn’t very appealing to me.
  • Testing Paint Colors – I highlighted the Sherwin Williams paint visualizer in this post and wish I would have found this tool earlier.
  • Use existing floor plans – When laying out the basement finish for our new house, I contacted the builder to get a PDF of the floor plans they print up when selling new homes.  My house had long since been discontinued, but they had the PDF in their archives.  This saved me tons of measuring time and drawing time because I didn’t have to re-draw the space.  It also gave me an idea of what the builder had in mind when selling a prospective home buyer the basement finish option.

Mock Up - Header Vertical

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