Around the bend: Renovations ‘virtually’ finished

You should see our new house. Or rather, you should see my imaginary remodeled version of our current house. I drew it up on a simple computer-aided design program we have that lets you draw floor plans and turn them into realistic 3-D renderings.
Using the program’s object library, you can decorate the house according to your taste. Then you can take a virtual walk-through of the house and show your husband, Mark, who is a builder, how you want him to make your real house look someday. (By chance, I have a husband named Mark who is a builder. You’re on your own.)
Mark hates the slapdash way I draw up fantasy remodeling plans. He uses the program, too, but his drawings are always dead accurate, based on the actual dimensions of our actual house. My drawings have a different sort of vibe.
I work quickly so I can get to the fun walk-through part faster. I guess at measurements and leave out tricky stuff, like stairs. And I refuse to be bound by reality when drawing rooms the way I want them to be. When it comes time for an actual renovation, I’ll leave it up to Mark to figure out how to fit my 14-by-20-foot dream bathroom into a 6-by-10 space.
He thinks I’m too sloppy, and I can’t deny it. My 3-D renderings usually look like something from the design team of M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali. Walking through them can give you vertigo. According to Mark, in real life you’d never see a window floating in the middle of the living room or a roof that randomly intersects the walls, giving you the unnerving sensation of being inside and outside at the same time.
But I don’t care about that architectural stuff. I like the part where I get to furnish the house with the CAD program’s extensive library of furniture, appliances and decorations. Oh, sometimes I accidentally place the refrigerator facing the wall or set a coffee table so it passes through the middle of a sofa, but I don’t let the details slow me down.
I wonder, however, what the designers were thinking when they chose which items to include in the object library. The furniture database offers 11 varieties of folding screen, but not a single entertainment center. There’s only one available model of woodstove — an industrial monstrosity that looks like something used to smelt iron — but over two-dozen soap dishes in various finishes and styles.
I’ll give the designers credit for certain elements of realism. You can, if you choose, decorate your house right down to the wet towel left on the floor of your teenager’s room. The rendering of the sink full of dirty dishes is spot on, as is the unmade bed. And, thanks to the cobweb placement tool, I’ve been able to recreate certain areas of my house with uncanny accuracy.
I have some trouble controlling the 3-D navigator, though. Rather than walking smoothly through the house I tend to charge into rooms and right out the far wall. And I don’t like the eerie outdoor cyber-environment, where the house sits on a square, 1-millimeter-thick lawn floating in an infinite blue sky. My real-life yard is much less tidy, but at least on my real lawn I don’t have to worry about falling off.
I play with the program every few months but have never come up with a workable floor plan that contains all the new features I want in our real house (oh, how I yearn for a mudroom) without sacrificing other handy elements, such as a kitchen. But somehow last night, it all came together: I drew up a design that satisfies everything on my wish list.
Mark even approves of it, at least in theory. (He knows the actual work is years away, so he chooses not to quibble about how the loveseat hovers four inches above the floor or how I’ve drawn the downstairs hallway 18 inches wide.)
I’ve learned a lot by experimenting with the CAD program. Not only has it allowed me to manipulate my real house, more or less, in a virtual environment, but also it has given me ideas I’ve been able to apply in the real world.
A carefully placed folding screen, for example, can completely hide the dirty dishes in the sink.

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