Apr 10

ARE – Interior Layout Vignette

The ARE Interior Layout Vignette is one of the two sections that make up the schematic design ARE exam. This ARE exam division is unique because this is the only division that does not include a multiple choice section. Instead, candidates will be asked to complete 2 separate vignettes, dealing with separate planning issues.

The interior layout vignette is a significantly shorter section than the other schematic design vignette which makes it an even bigger challenge to pass this entire exam division. There are quite a few requirements for this vignette with very little time for planning and designing. Candidates are forced to make quick decisions in order to complete this vignette in the required time frame.


The interior layout vignette requires the candidate to create an interior plan, including furniture, that satisfies a variety of rules and accessibility requirements.

This section of the schematic design section gives you 1 hour to complete this vignette. Time is probably the most critical factor is this vignette (more than any other division) because there are so many requirements to include in such a short amount of time. Along with the high number of given requirements, there are a lot of software elements to include in this vignette as well.

As we’ll talk about later, there are up to 30 pieces of furniture that needs to be placed in this vignette. That part alone will certainly take some time for the candidate to do. With all of this in mind, you can only afford a little bit of time to actually design the space that follows all of the rules.


You will most likely be given the following information for the interior vignette:

– Existing floor plan of an interior space/building
– New rooms to be included (usually about 4-6 new rooms)
– Required square footage of new rooms
– Required furniture specific to each room (provided as furniture blocks in the software)
– Required code information

When it comes time to place the rooms in your solution, you don’t need to reach the exact square footage that the program states. A general rule of thumb for reaching the square footage in the interior layout is approximately 10% in either direction. This percentage is just an educated guess and you should try to get as close to the required amount as possible, but don’t stress if it’s not exact.

Elements To Include:

The ARE Interior Layout Vignette requires a lot of individual elements to include that can take some time to place in your solution in the right spot. It’s important to review the list of elements that are typically included in the furniture layout so that you’re not surprised come test day.

Of course, the following elements may change depending on the exam you are given that day but it should help you get a general idea for what to expect:

– New Rooms (with tags)
– New Doors
– Furniture per requirements (chairs/desks/bookcases/tables/credenzas, etc)

Although this does not seem like a lot of requirements, you can expect to see anywhere between 20-30 pieces of furniture on your interior layout vignette. This alone takes some time to place in your solution, rotate, and then move to the proper location.

Placing rooms in your solution can also be quite time consuming. You will most likely be asked to place at least 4-5 new rooms in your vignette. You are also likely to modify these rooms quite a few times as you work through your solution.

Even though there doesn’t appear to be too many elements to include on your vignette, it’s very deceiving because each element can be very time consuming if you don’t practice.


Since the interior vignette has so much information to include in such a little amount of time, there are a few tricks you can use to help save you some time. In addition to some of these strategies below, it’s essential that you practice with the NCARB program before taking your exam.

By practicing with the software, you can get a better idea on the specific sizes of furniture as well as how long it takes you to place and arrange all of your components. Try practicing this vignette a few times where you don’t worry about the time on the first try but then begin to time yourself to make sure you come in under the 1 hour mark.

In addition to using the practice NCARB software, here are some other strategies to help you pass the interior layout vignette.

  • Write down on the scratch paper the different furniture requirements for each room. You can use this as a checklist as you double-check your work instead of flipping back to the program screen. This will take some time at the beginning but by doing it on your scratch paper, it’s an easy reference to look at.
  • Insert all of the furniture into your layout BEFORE laying out your rooms. This will help give you a general sense of scale to help you lay out the rooms in the proper way. If you were to plan out each room first without knowing the size of the furniture, you may run into trouble later with adjusting the size of the room.
  • Keep the shapes of the rooms simple. You’re not being graded on the originality of your design so keeping a simple shape is critical. This will make things a lot easier when it comes to finalizing your furniture plan.
  • Pay attention to the code requirements for each room. Typically you will have to provide a 5′ turning radius in each room as well as a 3′ aisle to access each piece of furniture. Double-check the program on the actual test for final dimensions but it’s recommended that you use sketch circles to help verify that you’re meeting this requirement.
  • In addition to the clearances around the furniture, make sure you are not violating any door clearances. This will also be provided in the program but I’d recommend using sketch rectangles to make sure you’re not encroaching on the door space.
  • Think about all aspects of your solution at once instead of solving one issue at a time. As long as you’re thinking about the entire program and code while you complete this vignette, you should be ok. People often run into problems when they get fixated on solving one issue but by doing so, it causes more problems to fix.
  • Double-check all of your work at the end (if there is time). Since this vignette has so many components, there’s a good chance that you’ll miss one. By taking a few minutes at the end to re-read the program and make sure you’ve got everything.

Even though this is just one of the ARE schematic design vignettes, a lot of the same principles will apply to the building layout so it’s important to become familiar with these techniques. For the other vignette, you will have to apply similar planning principles but to an entire building.

The building layout vignette will ask you to arrange specific rooms and spaces according to different adjacency rules. There are also quite a few restrictions and codes for this specific vignette that are very similar to the codes you had to follow in the interior layout.

For a similar breakdown of the ARE Building Layout Vignette, see here.

Additional Tips & Practice Exams

For a full breakdown of the ARE Interior Layout Vignette, please see the ebook that I’ve created to help you out. This ebook consists of step-by-step instructions, practice programs, and personal thoughts and advice to passing this section of the ARE.

Personally, I believe that many people fail exam divisions because they don’t spend enough time studying the ARE graphic vignettes. Granted, the multiple choice is just as difficult and time needs to be spent preparing for that section as well, but many people leave studying for the vignette until the last minute. These ebooks have been created to help better prepare you for the graphic vignette sections of the ARE.

Please stay tuned for more information on how to access the ebook.