Beginning the Process of Designing a New Home

So you have finally signed the papers for your new property.  You can almost see yourself enjoying your newly built dream house. There is only one problem, how do you get the builders to manifest a home from your imagination?  The answer is a simple but sometimes long set of steps.  Succinctly, you need to hire a professional designer.


There are plenty of home developers who claim to sell newly built custom homes, although most designers will tell you that the option of white or off white colored walls does not mean custom built.  A custom built home design starts with you sitting across a table with a designer and describing what you need and how you want it.  He or she will then build upon your wishlist to accommodate you and your lifestyle.  Once you understand the difference between a customizable tract home and a home designed for you specifically, you can start thinking about who will have the honor of conceiving your castle.


I will attempt to give you some advice on how to go about making this decision.


There are two main phases involved in choosing the right designer.  First is what we call the discovery phase, and second is the selection phase.


Discovery Phase:

1)      Write down wants and needs: Take some time to envision your dream, and write down as much as possible. Try to identify the things you need separately of what you want, but don’t ever think that one is more important than the other. A good designer will know how to accommodate both.

2)      Time frames; how long can you wait for you home to be finished. How long can you wait for a designer to start working on your project? Often times they will only work on a set number of projects at a time. Remember to be realistic, depending on the size and complexity of the home it could take from months to possibly years to before you can host your house warming party.

3)      Budget: This part is very important. Designers are highly creative people and if you ask for something comparable to Chateau Versailles, you will get blueprints for the largest most expensive residence in The U.S.  Make sure you know how much you want to invest. If financing, make sure to talk to a banker to get a general idea of what you will qualify for. Some banks will prefer large square footage to quality of materials. Your designer will know how to work with your budget.


Once the first phase is accomplished you will be ready to begin choosing a designer.


Selection Phase:

1)      Drafter, Designer Builder, or Residential Designer:   A residential designer usually has obtained a degree in Architecture, although since they are not licensed architects they can not use the “Architect title”. One of the many differences is that only a licensed architect can design commercial space, so if your project is commercial you must secure only a licensed architect (We are only residential designers at Studio Boise and not licensed architects) .  Drafters only draw plans to very specific instructions given to them, and offer not design or style feedback. If you already have a very detailed plan for what you want, a drafter might be the best route for you. A designer builder company usually has a in house drafter that works with the builders to come up with a plan oriented to cost and buildability, this usually turns into a faster easier project at the cost of design quality, style and personal touch. If design quality is your priority a residential designer is always your best bet.

2)      Interview the Professionals: Schedule appointments with several professionals.  Ask for referrals, and listen to why they can be your designer.  Make sure this is someone that you will enjoy working with.  To do this look for two things: first, a dedicated designer whom will meet with you for the first time free of charge.  Second, a passionate designer whom will sketch and dream with you not holding back suggestions just in case you choose a different designer.

3)      Ask for preliminary designs: Before you sign a contract and write a large check, make sure the designer’s vision aligns with yours.  An easy way to do this is by asking for preliminary designs.  Keep in mind you will have to pay for these designs, so perhaps set a spending limit somewhere between $1000 and $3000, and see what his or her first instincts look like.  In doing this, remember what a preliminary plan is; it is not what your home will look like but a starting point.  A preliminary design shows the direction in which your designer is moving.  Discussing a preliminary plan is also a good way to see if a designer is more committed to his own ideas or to your desires.

4)      Communication:  The time for which you pay your designer will be best spent if you can communicate your ideas well.  I have found the best way to communicate what you like is with pictures.  In the home design world, a picture is worth a million words!  Start saving magazine photos and online photos of everything you like: exteriors, porches, doors, kitchens, a fireplace, a window seat, anything that you really like.  Take a moment to make a note of what you specifically like and anything that you don’t like.  Dislikes can be just as important as likes., Dwell Magazine, House Beautiful,,, etc. are great places to go for inspiration.


Commencement of your new home design can feel at once overwhelming, exciting, stimulating, and impossible much like a child having to choose one treat in a giant candy store.  The key is to not learn and decide on everything all at once.  Instead, take the small steps described here.  Remember that you are hiring a professional so that you can sit back and enjoy the process.  If you need more time to decide on appliances, or you want to have more input on flooring and lighting, tell your designer.  In the end, a home designed just for you with your individual influence will be a dream come true.



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