Steps to designing your new home

While every project is different, the process is similar. Most of my clients have not undertaken a large remodel or built a new home and wonder, “Where do I start?” It can seem overwhelming, but there is a process that’s been around for a long time and has standard practices that guide decision-making, design and construction.

  1. Needs Assessment

Before starting design, we need to determine your wants and needs. I encourage clients to write down as much as possible and then review the list and prioritize it. This list does not need to be complete; I will interview you when we meet. Often my questions, objective observations and experience will uncover things you may have not considered. We will also discuss a preliminary budget to understand if it matches the scope and quality of the project.

During this phase, I will also need to get a plot plan showing all setbacks, easements, sewage design, etc. so we know what we have to work with on building footprint.

What you can do during this phase:

  • List all of the things you want/need and then prioritize them.
  • Gather images that inspire you.
  • If possible, have a Builder/GC involved to get their input on construction practices
  1. Schematic Design

During this phase, I develop drawings that illustrate the spatial relationships, scale and form of your project. These drawings are often at a small scale (1/8 equals 1 foot) and often don’t have a lot of detail so that we can keep the focus on the overall design, orientation of rooms, and how they flow together and function. They are based on realistic information about functional and construction sizes so they are accurate but abstract at the same time.

I then take your comments, make changes and add more information and we discuss the design again. Depending on the size of the project this process might be repeated a few more times or we might quickly nail down a design direction and be ready for the next step, design development.

Deliverables include foundation plan, floor plans, sections(details), elevations, and roof plan. Electrical plans can be provided upon request and are optional.

What you can do during this phase:

  • Set aside time to thoroughly review the drawings.
  • Understand that not all decisions will be made at this time.
  • Let me know your thoughts.
  1. Design Development

This phase builds on and refines the decisions made during schematic design. Window locations, sizes and types will be determined. Exterior and interior materials will be examined and presented for discussion. We will begin working with a structural engineer and details of essential elements of the design will be developed in conjunction with their input. The drawings will now be at a larger scale (1/4 equals 1 foot) and there will be more detail on the plans and elevations. We will continue to work with the contractor to estimate the building cost.

As part of my basic services, I will design and/or help you select everything that is typically built-in to the project from a curated selection of options. This includes kitchen cabinetry, bathroom vanities, bookshelves, etc. and large-scale drawings of these are part of design development. I help you select lighting and materials such as tile, wood flooring, carpet, etc. I will also help you select appliances and plumbing fixtures. I will bring samples and cut sheets to our meetings so that we can discuss  The drawings will show a basic furniture options layout, but if you’d like me to select furniture or stand-alone lights, I am happy to do that as an additional service or collaborate with an interior designer.

What you can do during this phase:

  • Make time for several meetings to review the curated options presented.
  • Visit showrooms to review appliance, plumbing, etc. options.
  • Sign off on the drawings to give approval for next phase.
  1. Construction Documents and Permitting

This phase involves adding technical detail, energy code compliance information and integrating the consultant’s work into the drawing so that a contractor has a description of the project to be constructed. While the drawings establish standards of workmanship, the contractor is responsible for construction methods and means. This set will also be used to apply for a building permit.

A note on permitting: It is difficult to determine the time it will take for the building department’s review. It may take weeks for them to get to a set after it has been submitted. Typically, they will request corrections—which is not a reflection on the quality of the drawings—and I will work with the code officials to address these so they can be resubmitted. It will then require another round of review. The deliverables at this stage include a set of construction documents.

What you need to do during this phase:

  • Make time to review the construction documents for a final time before permitting.
  1. Construction

During construction, I will be available for questions as necessary.