Planning a Kitchen Renovation Using SketchUp

By Sean Headrick
San Jose, California

Recently I was contacted to renovate a kitchen in Petaluma, California. It's a beautiful town in the North Bay with lots of great examples of turn-of-the-century architecture. Unfortunately it is about an hour and a half from my shop in San Jose. I thought this would be a good opportunity to demonstrate how, with SketchUp, I can create a virtual environment to design the new kitchen in without having to drive to the job to check a measurement or the clearance for a cabinet door or drawer. Even if you are designing a kitchen that is under the same roof, I think you will find SketchUp can be a powerful tool in designing your project. This process is for modeling a single room. Some of the techniques would not be the same for modeling multiple rooms or a whole house.

First thing is to model your building environment.

  • Measure the widest dimensions of the room you will be modeling
  • Lay out construction guides to determine the walls of the room
  • Use the rectangle tool to draw the floor
  • With the offset tool create the thickness of your walls
  • Then Push/pull the walls up to your ceiling height

Note:   All of the tools in SketchUp show the value of their operation in the measurements box. If you don't see the measurements box on your screen, you can enable it by clicking on View>Toolbars>Measurements . Just about every time I use a tool, I input a value for that operation. It is not necessary to click in the measurements box to enter a value. After using a particular tool, simply type the value and press enter. SketchUp will recognize any format of measure regardless of the format you are currently working in. For example, while working in inches, you can type 35mm, and SketchUp will convert to inches. You can also input values other than what is represented in the measurements box. When drawing an arc, the value indicates the bulge distance from a line drawn between the two ends of the arc. By typing 3'r Sketchup will create an arc with a radius of 3 feet.

  • With the construction guides, lay out the doors and windows in the room
  • Draw rectangles where the openings are located and push/pull through to the opposite face. You will see this cuts a hole through the wall
  • For your last step use construction guides to determine the position of wall switches and outlets

At this point I like to make a group of the room geometry. By making things in your model into groups you can edit the different parts more easily without affecting other parts of your model. A good rule to follow would be when in doubt , make it a group.

To create a group, select all the geometry you want to include. In this case, triple clicking on the room will select all connected geometry. Right click on the selection and choose Make Group from the drop down menu.

In order to have an accurate modeling environment you will want to detail your model with all the trim details. Since the width and thickness of the molding is most important, you could make all your molding as simple rectangular profiles. However if you are as detail oriented as I am, you can try out your modeling skills recreating the profiles in your project. You may find a profile match in SketchUp's 3D warehouse. There are a number of standard molding profiles, as well as plinth blocks, rosettes, and door casings. Once you have finished all the molding as well as doors and windows in your model, you should make them all a group. With the select tool while holding down the shift key to select multiple items, select all the trim and mill work in your model, right click, and choose Make Group . To edit a group, all you have to do is double click on that group. When you see all the rest of the model faded you are in the edit mode for that group.

Create Your Appliances

For a kitchen, it is my practice to model the appliances first, then build in the cabinetry around it. You can often find appliances in the 3D warehouse. Several manufacturers have created models of their product lines for you to use in your models. Even if you can't find the exact model you are looking for, you can find something that is close and to the correct dimensions. If you still can't find a suitable model, here are the steps I use to model appliances for a kitchen.

  • Find a web page that has a good image of the appliance as well as the dimensions of the product you are modeling. I try to get images that are a good front view, not an isometric view. Right click on the image and choose "Save image as...." from the drop down menu. Save the image somewhere you can find it. Your desktop is always a good place. Once you have the image saved, you can right click on the file and open it in "paint" or a similar program. With the image open in paint , I like to use the select tool to crop out any negative space around the image I am using. This step is not critical, but it makes placing the image much easier.
  • Using the dimensions given for the model you are building, draw a square that matches the width and depth. Then use the push/pull tool to raise it to the proper height.
  • To add a photo texture, choose File>Import from your toolbar. A dialog box will open where you can locate the image you saved. Locate and select the image and choose "Use as Texture" from the choices at the right, and import the image. To place the image, click once in the lower left corner, dragging the image up and to the right to enlarge, and click again to finish.
  • At this point you can either use the model like it is, or as I like to do, using the textured image for reference, add details like knobs, handles, etc. for a better model.
Whenever I finish making an appliance or other useful model, I like to make it available to other SketchUp users by uploading it to the 3D warehouse. In the latest version of SketchUp (SU7), it is easier to share components. You used to have to save a component to a new file and upload that file to the 3D warehouse. Now once you create a component in your model, right click that component, and choose "Upload Component" from the menu. I assure you someone will be quite happy to find the
30" Viking Professional gas stove you just built so they won't have to. [You may have to sign up or log in to SketchUp for access to the 3D warehouse.]

Next month I will continue this project and show you some of the methods I use to model the cabinetry, and set up views to make navigating your model a little easier as well as sharing your designs and ideas with others.

Sean Headrick, a former Atlantan once seen frequently at Highland Woodworking, now lives in San Jose, California where he does woodworking and design. His website is . Sean was interviewed by Wood News in 2007.

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