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2011 - Volume 2 Issue 1
Casas Bonitas
Designing a Custom Home
Article: Bob Skolnick
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In researching this article, a group of licensed architects, architectural planners and interior designers were interviewed. We thank them for sharing their insights built on years of experience and many satisfied homeowners. Additionally, the feature home articles in this edition of Ventanas reflects the work of six of them. We will feature the work of others in the next several Ventanas editions. Collectively, they provide great insight into the design and building of a new home. At the end of this section of the article, you can find a contact directory for these professionals. This article is developed with the premise that you will be building a brand new custom home. If you are planning to remodel an existing home, there are similar and different considerations. We will address planning a remodel project in our next edition.

    “In our profession, managing expectations is the most important thing. If people understand what they’re going to get, they’re going to be happy.”

Jason Clark,
Studio D
  “...proportion is important – I think there’s an innate sense in people's minds when they walk into a room that proportional feels right."

Chad North,
CGN Designs
  “Architects, I think, need to be very good askers of questions.”

Jeffery Huff,
The Design Alliance
  Our special thanks to these Architects, Architectural Planners and Interior Designers for their assistance in preparing the articles in this edition of Ventanas. We strongly endorse their services.
  Architects & Architectural Planners

Carrera Group
Javier Carrera

CGN Designs
Chad North

Design Alliance
Jeffery Huff, AIA

McCormick Architecture
Edward McCormick, AIA

Steve Newby Architects
& Associates

Steve Newby, AIA
Richard Haas , AIA
Ron Campbell, AIA

Studio D
Ron Nimms, AIA
Jason Clark, AIA

Interior Designers

Anne Steele Interiors
Anne Steele

Fran Timbrook, ASID

The Studio Design Center
Connie Hines

Designs by L.L. Power
Lynda Power, ASID

LMC Design Group
Lori McQuaig, ASID

Jean Norris Interior Designs

Jeannie Norris

Sher-wood Cabinetry
Wayne Hilton
The Decision to Build a Custom Home

A well-designed and decorated home is an expression of your personality and lifestyle. The decision to build a custom new home, rather than purchase a pre-designed and pre-constructed home or remodel a home for resale, is most often driven by a desire to have the home conveniently provide optimum comfort and functionality specifically suited to your family. Occasionally, acquiring a lot with spectacular views prompts the decision to build a new home. The decision to build new gives you the freedom to have it your way, but there are responsibilities you assume with the decision to build a new custom home. It is important to understand you are the CEO of the design and build process, and must be both available and knowledgeable of certain processes so you can make the many decisions that only you as the future occupant of the home can and should make. Your involvement enables your vision to become reality and you as the final decision maker can have budgetary control, which will allow you to bring the project in on a budget level you can sustain.

Allow Enough Time for the Design and Construction Process

Regardless of the composition of the professional group of people you engage to design and build your new custom home, there are fairly predictable time lines. They are driven by a series of incremental decisions that have to be made in a specific order to get to a detailed building plan ready to submit to the city or county for a building permit. Once the permit is issued, then you will go through the various stages of construction. As a rule, the larger the home, the longer the design and planning stages. Your accessibility to your professional team to answer their questions and your ability to make decisions on many design and building elements greatly impacts the time lines.

The selection of the lot for your home is a big part of the decision making and can lengthen the time for the design process. In order to select your lot, you need to go through the design planning process to determine the approximate square footage needed to meet your family’s lifestyle objectives. We will address lot selection in detail later in this article. You can expect at a minimum to spend four to six months or longer to complete the design process and have an approved set or construction plans. The building process should take a minimum of six months and sometimes longer depending on the complexity of the design and the availability of inspectors to provide in-progress approvals of various building-stage completions.

Why Hire Professionals to Help with the Design and Building of Your New Home?

The design and building of a custom home is a complex process and requires a good deal of technical knowledge and experience in dealing with various issues that evolve from a unique design tailored to meet your family needs.

The temptation to manage the technical elements yourself may be driven by your ability to accomplish projects in your life or in your careers. Not only will doing these things yourself consume a tremendous amount of your time, but it may lead to mistakes that have to be undone, often at a great expense. You will also lose the problem-solving experience of a professional team and their access to purchasing materials cost-effectively, often at the wholesale level. It is our recommendation that you engage professionals to design and build your home. The money they save you through efficient design and efficient material sourcing will far outweigh their professional fees. A professionally designed and built home will hold a better market value and also will be less expensive to operate, which should be one of your key considerations in the design and selection of materials.

To complete your custom home, it is wise to assemble a team of professionals, an architect, an interior designer and a custom homebuilder. Each discipline brings its specific area of expertise and responsibilities. Often they have a common area of expertise that crosses discipline lines. Selecting a team of professionals that can work together will expand the problem-solving and resource capabilities available to you. Professionals in the custom home design arena are used to working and collaborating as a team.

There are several approaches to the fees associated with an architect and interior designer such as fixed amounts, hourly rates and a percentage of the building costs. The people we recommend in the contact directory in this article are all professionals interested in serving your best interests. They will give you a cost for their services after the size and scope of the building project is understood and their level of involvement defined.

Selecting an Architect and a Designer

When you are ready to select your professional team, visit samples of their work that closely relate to custom home design, interview them and most importantly ask for client references. Capabilities are a big part of the decision, but also your comfort in communicating with them is very important as you will be spending a lot of time together in discussing the design and making implementation decisions. Assess their availability to commit the time necessary to your project and their ability to work with others on your design and build team.You should start with selecting your architect to work on early planning and then lot selection. Traditionally, architects are trained as leaders and facilitators; they typically know how to get a diverse group of people working together in the same direction, diplomatically. The architect is engaged in a custom home project at the earliest stage, so it makes more sense to have that sort of continuity running through all the other disciplines that interact with the design or the building of your home. An architect brings experience in structural integrity and efficiency. He or she is adept at creating value-conscious solutions. The architect will discuss space allocation; consider structural and mechanical engineering, lighting, acoustics, surfaces, colors and more.

Initially, the architect will work with the homeowner on understanding the family’s lifestyle needs and converting that understanding into an early space requirement. Once the approximate square footage requirements are clear, you are able to define the size of your ideal lot and then match that lot size with desired views. It is wise to have the architect helping the homeowner select a lot. The architect is well-trained in examining all of the elements in selecting the lot and preparing it for the house placement. We will address lot selection in a later part of the article.

Working with the Professional Design & Build Team

Have your interior designer join the discussion during the design process. The interior designer is often included in the space allocation and space relationships planning. The interior designer should also be well versed in the styles and sources of interior materials, appliances, color relationships and design elements. He or she can augment the architect’s knowledge in these areas that will require numerous decisions on your part. Furniture and accessory selections to achieve a one-of-a-kind look are often left to the interior designer.

When the new home plans are significantly developed, the custom homebuilder needs to be engaged. The architect can develop a set of specifications and a copy of the working plans to provide to the custom homebuilder candidates for examination and cost estimating. Often the architect and interior designer, based on past experiences, can suggest a custom homebuilder with whom to discuss the project. While it is the homeowner’s decision on the custom homebuilder selected, the architect and the interior designer should assist the homeowner in evaluating the builder’s proposals. The architect along with the interior designer should be designated as the homeowner’s representative when working with the custom homebuilder, subcontractors and suppliers when purchasing materials directly.

A good custom homebuilder, architect and interior designer have got to work as a team on a weekly basis, on a daily basis, each having respect for the other’s input and work. Ultimately, the subcontractors are hired by the contractor; and it is up to the architect and the interior designer to help the custom homebuilder with subcontractor selection in certain areas of the construction phase. ///
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