The Preliminary Design Process

So we have selected our home site, the perfect team, established realistic expectations and from that created our wish list. Now we are ready to start the preliminary design process. The preliminary design process is critical to the success of the home’s design and function so it should not be rushed. You and your design professional need to work closely so that they understand your expectations completely.

Also make sure your design professional has researched and understands all zoning requirements. Including code restrictions as well as any community guidelines that may limit or restrict the design.

I have found that for myself and my clients it is best to begin sketching the initial floor plan together. This way I can get instant feedback about relationships of rooms to one another. When creating the prelims one has to think of the entirety of the design including the exterior appearance. Usually at the end of a two to three hour session we walk away with a rough concept of the desired floor plan and sometimes even the elevation.

I then take the sketch and refine it for presentation to client. This is a time when I encourage the client to spend time studying and reviewing the floor plan. More or less getting acquainted with it as this home will be a constant companion for many years so it needs to be well suited to your needs.

Another important consideration for the design is how well it fits the site. Does it take advantage of views, avoid undesirable views (i.e.: neighboring homes, power poles, etc.) and address the street properly. We always show the preliminary floor plan on the actual site plan to get an understanding of its relationship to it. Evaluating proper room size is a critical task. Either working with your designer or an interior designer to look at furniture placement in each room to ensure the room functions as desired. Will that dining room accommodate a table for 10 people? Can two full sized beds fit on that wall? Etc…

Refining the Preliminary Design

Once we’ve arrived at a satisfactory floor plan, we can now work to refine the exterior elevation. Creating the front elevation is the icing on the cake. Most clients have difficulty reading a two dimensional rendering. Trust in your designer is important. Your design professional may employ three dimensional modeling which can be very beneficial in understanding the actual home better. I am still a dinosaur and create designs on paper. However we have offered clients the ability to have an outside source create a perspective rendering to help them reach a comfort level with the actual design. Nothing can be worse than to find that you are less than thrilled with your new home’s exterior.

Once you’ve finalized the preliminary design process you can talk with your builder to get rough estimates of building costs before moving into working drawings. You mayneed to get preliminary approval from your Architectural Review Board (ARB) if you live in a planned community.

Proper planning can ensure a successful and rewarding home building experience for all.

This is the fifth blog in a nine part series entitled “Custom Home Design’s Rewards and Challenges”. Dan F Sater II FAIBD/CGP is an award winning and internationally recognized residential designer. He has designed tens of thousands of homes and received over 500 awards in his thirty-five year career.

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