Initial meeting.

The first step is to sit down and have what’s called a “programming” meeting. In this meeting we will discuss your needs with regard to number of bedrooms, living spaces, and other specifics you want to see in the plan. We will also discuss house style and other exterior details. Understanding your construction budget and the level of finish will be important to ensure that the size of house and its design meet your financial goals.

One of the most important aspects of custom design is to understand your lifestyle, thus; throughout the initial meeting we will talk about how your family will live within the house, how you entertain and how often, how do you use certain spaces, etc. My goal is to design the home to be responsive to your needs and match your personality.

am9a6871Schematic design phase.

The next step is for me to analyze the information I collected from the programming meeting and begin the design process. Once I have completed a design concept, we will schedule a meeting in which I will present the design of the floor plans as well as a front view of the house. In this meeting, I will walk you through the concept and we can discuss your initial impressions. Understandably, you will be seeing a concept for the first time and that is typically a lot to digest. I always recommend that the client take a day or two to get comfortable with the design before we start making sweeping changes if necessary.

During the schematic design phase we will work back and forth modifying and tweaking the design of the plans until you feel the design of the house is perfect for your needs. This process may involve minor changes to the initial design or drastic changes if necessary. I do not charge by the hour throughout this phase, thus any changes – regardless of the extent – are included in the fee. I charge a fixed fee because I want to ensure that you place the focus and emphasis on the design and not the cost of the process. That said, it is important to understand that we do not want to move forward into the next phase if you are not certain that the design is complete.

dsc_1716-2Construction document phase.

Once the schematic design phase is complete, work begins on the construction documents phase.  Also known as CD’s, “Construction Documents” is a fancy term that essentially means the blueprints a builder will use for bidding, permitting, and ultimately construction of the house. Once completed, the CDs will be printed to PDF file that can distributed as necessary.


One of the more common questions I’m asked is “how long does the process take”.  The actual work involved to produce a design and subsequent construction document set is fairly constant from project to project.  The unknown portion of the equation is the time spent reviewing designs, making changes, reviewing changes, etc.  Obviously, the faster we create a design you like, the quicker the project goes.dsc_1535

Know that I take the subject of timing very seriously as I recognize that deadlines are critical in this industry. Be it impending seasonal changes, a close date on your current home, the reasons are countless but in the end – for whatever reason – meeting a deadline is crucial.

Being a one-man shop, I am not encumbered with the time consuming logistics of managing a staff. Details are not lost in translation to a designer or draftsperson invariably causing timely delays. This simplicity and direct connection to your project affords the most time efficient process possible.


Unless noted otherwise, my fees are typically based on price per square foot for finished space.  Garages, patios, and unfinished basement space is not calculated.  I do not typically charge on an hourly basis as I want to keep the focus on the process more than the clock. Through the design phase, this fee includes all changes, tweaks, modifications, etc. necessary regardless of how extensive they may be.  My goal is to ensure that the final design is everything that you hoped it would be.

Payment of the fee is broken down into two installments. At the conclusion of the schematic design phase, half of the fee will be billable with the remaining balance billable when the construction documents are issued.

Additional things to think about.

After the design phase is completed and while I am working on the CD’s, this is a good time for you to start thinking about the different components within the house and what you want to specify to the builder.


The #1 complaint people have about the building process is that their construction cost went over budget.  With that said, 9 out of 10 budget issues are the result of actual products selected costing more than the allowances provided in the bid by the builder.  Unless specified, builders can only include allowances in their initial bid that are estimates based on similar costs from other projects that are comparable in size and scope.  Problem is — each client has very different tastes, needs, and goals.

A typical kitchen appliance allowance provided by the builder may be $12,000 but you were thinking that you wanted Viking and Sub-Zero brand appliances that would actually cost $45,000.  That is not a very pleasant surprise in the 3rd month of construction.  To minimize this issue it is important to give your builder a sense of what level of finishes should be considered during the bidding process.  This can be done by doing some legwork on the front end of the bidding process.  You do not need to select the exact products, but narrowing in on brands, styles, product lines, etc. will give a builder a much better sense of what price point to consider when providing allowances in the initial bid.

Below are some of the major components that typically can have a very broad cost range depending on what is actually selected.

  • Kitchen Appliances. It is not necessary to specify the exact units, but you will want to let the builder know if you are looking at typical, moderate, or upper-end appliances.
  • Floor coverings. Specifically, where you want tile vs. hardwood vs. carpet, etc. Also what price point (quality) you are considering.
  • Cabinetry. You don’t need to pick out the exact cabinets you want, but it is helpful if you can narrow down the manufacturer and style.
  • Mechanical equipment. Geothermal, heat pump, conventional – there is a very expansive price difference between these types of systems. You will also want to consider what level of efficiency for the furnace and air conditioner units as this can have a wide swing in costs as well.
  • Interior trim and features. This is a discussion you will want to have with the builder before the plans are sent for bidding. If you have a specific style in mind for the interior, that can have an impact on the type of trim and amount of labor necessary. Also, you will want to mention if you want stone or brick work on the interior as well as any specific features that would not be typical.

Specifying the actual products will come at a later date, but this will help the builder project allowances that are more reflective of the features you actually want.