designing a custom home

Sensible Tips for Designing Your Custom Home

Building a custom home is a process.  There are many steps to consider when designing your custom home including land selection, architectural design, value engineering, budgeting, and fleshing out a time frame just to name a few.

Today we’re going to take a closer look at the design process and what that should look like when you’re building your custom home.

Develop an Architectural Program

Before you consider hiring an architect you need to start an architectural program.  An architectural program is essentially a statement of goals for your custom home and offers a starting point from which to begin.

Some things to consider when you’re putting together your architectural program include:

  • Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon. Go big with your ideas from the start and then scale them back to meet the budget, timeframe, and other aspects of the building process. Don’t wait until the end of the design process to explore changes. Each step – from floor plan layout, to elevations, to roof structure all build upon one another.
  • Force yourself to prioritize your ideas.Separate your wants and needs and be honest about their importance.
  • Be sure to consult your Builder and Architect. You may have a very clear vision for your house, but they have years of experience that you should take advantage of as much as possible! If not from a design point of view, consider their expertise on the functionality and ‘buildability’ of the project.
  • Collect images of what you like and don’t like. There are plenty of social media outlets such as Pinterest and Houzz to find examples of just about anything.  Having those images ready for an architect can help them visualize what you’re thinking and save time.

Sketch Out a Floor Plan of Your Ideal Home

Start by sketching out a basic layout. Use circles to represent different rooms such as the kitchen, great room, and master suite. You don’t need walls or room sizes – this is a conceptual exercise to begin imagining what rooms will go where, in relation to one another.

If you want to take it a step further, jot down some basic room sizes and information, you don’t need to be an artist.  Think about the flow from one room to another.  You can let your imagination run wild here and have some fun.

It might be a good idea to look online for some ideas for inspiration.  Check out some magazines or drive around town and find some houses that inspire you.  Social media sites like Pinterest can also be a great source of ideas and inspiration.

Design the floorplan to your lifestyle.  If you have any hobbies, create that hobby space you’ve always wanted.  If you have lots of children, design that playroom they’ve been begging you for.  This is your dream home so design it around your needs.

One thing you want to consider is the property, and the limitations that it represents. Generally we want to design a house that takes advantage of great views, or avoid putting a big bathroom window facing the neighbors’ Great Room.

This design principle is equally true for property with big grade changes. Your Custom Builder and Architect should be instrumental in helping it all make sense.

Structural Features and Design Choices

Each room in your new custom home will have some sort of functionality.  From lights and appliances to windows and stairways, there are several choices to make in the design of each room.

Let’s consider your kitchen, for example.  How much counter space do you want?  If this is a social space for your family will you want a large island or a corner nook?  What size and kind of appliances will you be adding?

In terms of design, think about the accents and materials you’ll want to use in the home.  You should think about the color palette not only for each room, but for the entire home in general.

Don’t forget the special features that are not always apparent from a set of plans. For example the fireplace layout,, a central vacuum system, and anything Audio/Video related for a sound system or theater room.

Your Builder and Architect will appreciate the time and thought you have put into the process before starting. It will get you to the finish line quicker and with better results. All that precious mental capacity can then go toward working out the many details that will need to be addressed.

Assembling Your Home Building Team

Whether you select a Builder or an Architect first, it is important to have them both involved from the beginning.

When evaluating Architects, you want to find someone capable of translating concepts and ideas from your head into a working set of blueprints.

Certainly everyone knows how to do a google search, but another great place to start looking for an Architect is at your local construction industry association. They will have suggestions and contact information readily available. Consult with your Builder (if you have one selected) or drive around and look at new construction in your area. Pick out the ones you admire and don’t be afraid to ask about them!

Set up a meeting to discuss your vision and your sketches in more detail.  A good architect will ask the right questions to turn your dream into a reality.  Be prepared to ask the tough questions too. Questions about cost, process, and timing.

Once you come to an agreement, the first stage is to build out a workable floor plan. After approving the floor plan layout, the architect can begin working on elevations and a roof plan. Don’t expect it to be perfect from the beginning. It is common to have several drafts before landing on the perfect combination. Once the design is complete, the Architect can move on to the actual construction drawings and get an Engineer involved. Think long and hard about each milestone. Once you pass it, it becomes much more difficult to make changes because so much design work is built upon the work that came before it.

In the end you’ll have a set of blueprints that reflect your vision while also featuring the necessary ‘value engineering’ that makes it possible to build.

The main reason to get a General Contractor involved from the beginning is to have someone that can offer advice and direction from a construction and budget point of view. Be honest with your budget, a good Builder and Architect will take you serious and design accordingly.   It’s like putting your dream home through a reality check.  A good contractor can offer ideas and suggestions that will speed up the building process. It will also allow him or her the opportunity to get subcontractors involved and discuss timeline with them.

When hiring a general contractor some things to consider are:

  • Ask about referrals and people they have worked with in the past
  • Learn more about the subcontractors they use and who will be working on your home.
  • Ask about their fee or how they get paid
  • Look up their license number to see what information is available. In Oregon, you must have a license to be a General Contractor and it can be searched on the CCB website.

There are other team members you may consider hiring in the building process.

As you start to think about all the design decisions that need to be made, you might realize the need for an Interior Designer – someone to add to the ‘team’ who can help with tile design, color selection, light fixtures, and other finishes. Many neighborhoods and subdivisions will require a landscape plan as part of the design review process. This means getting a landscape designer involved too.

Monitor The Building Process

Once the building process starts it’s not time to sit back and let the magic happen.  Planning is half the work, and execution will become much easier and quicker the more effort that is put in from the beginning.

Ready to start designing your custom dream home?  Call Black Label Design Group today and let’s get the conversation started!

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