Custom Home Design

  • The quality of your experience is paramount to us
  • We are your advocate to control quality and budget
  • Our fees are not-to-exceed, based on scope of work
  • We design spaces around furniture so they are the right size
  • We like to combine uses and squeeze out wasted space
  • We study the constraints first to avoid wasting time
  • We let you know what to expect and manage proactively
  • We usually oversee bidding to multiple contractors
  • We stay involved until the end of construction

We love to design homes and this is an area of expertise for us. The personal nature of the relationship to the home and the joy of seeing the impact on a family’s life is a great source of satisfaction for us.

We want your building venture to be fun and not stressful. Our clients are often surprised by how rewarding the experience is. Creating a beautiful space that is tailored to your tastes and needs can be even more wonderful than you imagine. It will require that you spend a lot of time and energy, but if you make space for this in your busy schedules and view it as a pleasant adventure, it can be a great experience. We work hard to facilitate that positive outcome. Effective listening and proactive management are key.

How much is that experience worth? Our fees are usually between 8 and 12 percent of the cost of construction for full services (which are more comprehensive than the typical) but we do not base our fees on construction cost. Instead, we provide a not-to-exceed fee based on the scope of the project, and often save our clients more than this amount through effective management.

Let’s say we save you 10 to 15 percent by squeezing wasted space out of your floor plan while making your home feel even more spacious, elegant, and graceful. Spaces have a wonderful flow and they perform multiple functions. For years, we have been practicing the principles popularized in the Not So Big House books. We always draw the furniture to accurately study the function of a space so that rooms are just the right size. This also helps us to design for your experience while using each space. What will you see when you come in the front door or walk up the stair? What will you be looking at when seated on a couch or on a bar stool?

We can save another 5 to 20 percent by making efficient use of building materials and systems and by managing the construction process carefully. Our involvement during construction provides an experienced watchful eye and heads off a lot of problems. It is hard for builders to understand design intent from drawings alone. We work closely with the people building our projects and we are good at solving problems as they arise without compromising the design.

We have invested a lot in tracking and understanding building costs, which also facilitates savings. When builders know that we will be scrutinizing every cost it helps them to run a tighter ship. Clear and complete sets of drawings and specifications are also essential in this process.

If we re-invest these savings in your project by designing nicer spaces, with nicer proportions and details, and by thinking things through intelligently, how much does that add to the value? Often 10 to 50 percent. This is where we really pay our way; not only creating a great place for you, but providing you with the best return on your investment. We also act as your advocate in the whole process, which can add peace of mind, as well.

What follows is a detailed explanation of how the process unfolds:

We usually begin with an interview in our office where we lay out how the design process works and explain our tools. Once you have decided to work with us, or at least to go on to the next step, we set up a pre-design meeting at your home or building site.

Prior to the meeting, we send you a questionnaire about what you hope to accomplish in general and specific ways. We review this before we meet in order to make the best use of our collective time. Sometimes clients do not have many specific answers, but more general goals that they need guidance fleshing out. We also ask you to collect images to illustrate your ideas and we do a comprehensive search of the zoning and other constraints that will affect what can be built.

After the meeting, we diagram your house in 2D with generic furniture and dimensions to help you understand how big each room will be. We then add in space for halls and walls and put together a room-by-room cost analysis based on formulas that we’ve developed to check alignment with your budget. We also put together a detailed proposal for our services including the time and cost, and provide you with our standard contract assumptions.

Once we sign a contract we begin conceptual design and you can be as involved in this process as you choose. Normally, we start with hand-drawn plans and a 3D computer model to help you to grasp right from the beginning how the project will look and feel. Sometimes we sketch by hand on top of model print-outs or photos. Usually our clients love our initial concepts, and they only require a bit of tweaking. Sometimes we try a few alternatives before finalizing a design direction. Then we verify our cost assumptions again.

Next, we develop this concept in greater detail with plans and a more detailed computer model that you can fly around and walk inside. This process continues until every aspect has been resolved and it virtually eliminates unpleasant surprises. Most people can’t fully understand the 3D implications of 2D drawings, and we depend on your feedback to really customize the project for you. The model also helps us to solve technical problems, especially where different materials come together or turn corners.

On some projects these models are more detailed, and we use them to study alternatives of materials and colors and construction details. Because every element in a design influences every other, it is best to judge these with each part in its place. Ideally, this includes colors, textures, materials, lighting and furniture. The 3D computer program is an indispensable tool; it also allows for a design to be easily modified, and we can make our construction drawings directly from these models. We send you the model to explore on your own so that we don’t have to meet in person as often. This really works well for long distance clients or ones with busy schedules.

The process of design is a learning experience, and as new information comes in, it is natural for changes in needs and perceptions to occur, both yours and ours. It helps that we are good at juggling complex interrelationships. We are also flexible and happy to explore different solutions.

Once our design is complete, there is still some work to document all of it so that builders and building officials can understand it. We have found ways to do this very efficiently. 3D model images help with this, too, and can often clarify design intent when questions arise and can easily be emailed to the jobsite.

During construction, we usually manage the cost by setting up budgets, comparing bids against each other and against our extensive database of costs, and checking monthly builder invoices. Much of this work is done from our office, answering questions over the phone and by email. We also visit the site at necessary intervals and meet with the subcontractors to explain the project to them. Small things done in the interest of supporting a harmonious building team go a long way toward making the process easier, better, and more enjoyable for everyone. Managing expectations effectively is a big part of that, too. Finally, before you move in, we prepare a comprehensive list of items that the builders will need to complete before signing off on final payment.