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No matter how great something looks on the Internet, there’s nothing like seeing it in your own place. Spoak, the online platform for designers and enthusiasts, has been offering members the tools to create renderings or build source lists for a while now. The reality, though, is that it can still feel like a lot to process. Enter the platform’s new BeSpoak online design curriculum, curated by CEO Hilah Stahl and New York–based designer Lisa Galano. I tested out the series to learn the ropes of designing like a (beginner) professional—here are the biggest tips I took away from it.

Draw a Bubble Diagram

I don’t think it’s bragging to say that I know a room should be designed based on function. What the class on spatial planning did educate me on—under the masterful tutelage of Blobert, the slideshow guide and my new best friend—was how to draw a “bubble diagram.” These amorphous zones indicate where you would sit on a couch and where you’d cook at the stovetop. Drawing arrows through the blobs to show the flow of traffic from one to another helps you avoid creating obstacles, such as a too-big table (a pain to walk around) or white rug in the path where I’d be bringing red wine from the kitchen.

Follow the Numbers

Between cool DTC brands and a pandemic that makes me fear a crowded IKEA, I’ve been buying a lot of furniture online. The only downside? It’s difficult to envision how pieces will work together. BeSpoak and Blobert offer specific dimensions for the size ratio between a sofa and a coffee table (the latter should be ½ to ⅔ the length of the former)—although they make it clear that these numbers are a general guideline. 

Paper Over Those Gallery Walls

Over the years I’ve collected many plaques and honors (read: film posters and pictures) to display on my gallery wall. In previous homes I laid them out on the floor to see how they all looked together to determine the best layout. The course on art styling recommended going one step further: cutting out pieces of paper (or strips of painter’s tape) in the shape of each work and taping them on the wall. This way you’ll be able to see its size compared to the rest of the room, too. 

Style Your Finished Product Better

Honestly, part of why we dream of nice-looking apartments is so people will double tap on Instagram. While Blobert’s expert advice is clearly unprecedented, BeSpoak also brings in more seasoned members throughout the series to speak to other aspects of the design process. In the session about marketing and “putting yourself out there,” Julie Dumas shares some helpful guidance for photographing your finished interiors. By spacing furniture further apart than you normally would, you open up the picture—and keep your place from looking like one object is growing out of other furniture.