Behind the Scenes: Designing A Home

People often ask me: What is the design process? How do we get from an idea to a permit-approved set of plans? The answer varies depending the project’s location, size, and type. But there are few common denominators. Enter… drum roll please!… 

Behind the Scenes! A series of posts to help you understand what I’m doing back here. You know, behind the scenes.

Phase 3: Design That House!

So you’ve found a designer (Hi!) and I’ve researched your property, now it’s the fun part; designing a home!

 
Behind the Scenes: Designing A Home @MeldrumDesign
 

I could talk about this for hours. Literally. But I’m going to try to keep it quick and easily digestible. Here are the basic steps:

1. As-Builts

I’ll get your existing property into the computer (AutoCAD, yay!). For new homes, I’ll need property lines, Google Maps, and hopefully we have basic topography. For remodels, I’ll measure every inch of the house as-is. This includes wall locations (duh), window & door dimensions, ceiling heights, cabinetry, plumbing, and utility locations. These measurements will help me digitally “build” the existing condition.

2. Schematic Design (SD)

We’ll communicate back and forth until I have a solid idea of what you’d like to achieve. Then I’ll spend some time designing your schematic Floor Plans. Depending on the project, this phase may also include a schematic Site Plan, Demolition Plan, Elevations, and Sections.

These will have just enough information for you to understand the design. Minimal notation and almost no dimensions.

Then we’ll have a meeting (usually a video chat) and I’ll walk you through the space. We can talk through the plan and then you can stew on it for a little while. We’ll go back and forth with revisions until we have a design you love.

This part of the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years (seriously).

3. Find a Contractor & Other Consultants

If you read this article, you know I believe in getting the contractor involved very early. Sometimes even before schematic design. But usually it’s nice to have a basic design to guide your contractor interview.

I won’t go into detail on hiring a contractor because it deserves an article of it’s own. Stay tuned, that’s next time!

Along with finding a contractor, we’ll need to get our other consultants on board: structural engineer, civil engineer, energy consultant. The list is endless but don’t worry, I’m here to help figure out who we need.

Once you’ve welcomed your choices onto the team, they’ll be part of the next step...

4. Design Documents (DDs)

Now it’s time for more detail. For most projects (except the very simple ones), I’ll draw up the Site Plan, Demolition Plan, Elevations, and Sections (if that wasn’t done in SD) as well as a Roof Plan and Electrical Plan. At some point, there will also be a Dimension Plan. If you’ve hired me for Interior Elevations, we’ll get into those too.

We’ll also talk in detail about your enclosure (wall, roof, & floor assemblies), your mechanical system (HVAC), and your other utilities. We will have touched on it in SD but now it’s time to make decisions.

The contractor will get their chance to weigh in on all this and usually they provide invaluable recommendations. This is the time to ensure we’re at or below your target budget. *Many contractor do not charge for these consultations. I think that’s crazy. If they’re spending more than a few hours helping guide our decisions, they should be compensated for that time… Ok, stepping off the soap box now.*

DDs should give you a comprehensive vision of our design. Usually, they’re detailed enough for the contractor to start work on nitty-gritty pricing. But as with SD, there will be more back and forth between us until we get the details right. 

Additionally, I will wrangle our other consultants’ drawings and bundle it all up into one pretty package.

For some projects, where permits are a breeze & the contractor knows what they’re doing, skip to step #6. 

This part of the process can take anywhere from a couple months to a couple years (yep, seriously). 

5. Construction Documents (CDs)

If you live in a place where permits are tough or the builder needs extra guidance, we start in on CDs. Basically I add a crap load of detail (technical term) to these drawings. Depending on the project, this may include Construction Details, Fire Rating Details, Exterior Material Specification, and the many little notes required by code.

Luckily, not much is required from you for this part. I retreat into my AutoCAD trance and come out whenever I have questions for you. 

Depending on how busy I am, this stage can take a while. Anywhere from one month to a few months.

6. Permits!

If you live in a place where building permits are relatively easy, usually the contractor does all the permit legwork. They’ll let me know if there are any edits or design issues.

But if you live in a place where permits are a pain in the tail, prepare yourself for a frustrating process. I’ll put together a submittal package for whoever is “processing” the permit. Usually you or the contractor. We can also hire a permit expediting company.

We submit for permit, we get comments (requests for revisions) back. We revise and resubmit for permit. Sometimes we get another round of comments. And so on. Hopefully, a couple rounds of revisions get us our permit!

Depending on your building department, this process can take anywhere from 1 month to 1 year (for real). 

And that’s it! Easy right?

FYI, not every designer/ architect does it this way. I’ve spent the last several years tweaking this process and I believe it to be the most efficient for most of my projects. Not all, but most.

Has this got you thinking about your next building project? Contact me to see if we might be a good fit.

Next Step: Building Your Team

Last Month on Social Media:

Shopping for interior finishes is one of the best parts of my job. 🛍 This is a recent trip to Morningstar Stone & Tile. We're putting together all the pieces. Here's how I pick finishes, first to last: cabinets & countertops > flooring > backsplash tile. With plumbing 🚽 and light fixtures 💡 somewhere in there. It's a tough job but somebody has to do it. 😝

Shopping for interior finishes is one of the best parts of my job. 🛍 This is a recent trip to Morningstar Stone & Tile. We're putting together all the pieces. Here's how I pick finishes, first to last: cabinets & countertops > flooring > backsplash tile. With plumbing 🚽 and light fixtures 💡 somewhere in there. It's a tough job but somebody has to do it. 😝

More San Juan goodness!.. This photo is taken from the sidewalk outside. Old San Juan is full of buildings without windows. Rather, they use heavy, wood shutters. I peaked into this restaurant and realized I was looking at the bathroom! 🚽🤭 And what a beautiful sight it is. 😍

More San Juan goodness!.. This photo is taken from the sidewalk outside. Old San Juan is full of buildings without windows. Rather, they use heavy, wood shutters. I peaked into this restaurant and realized I was looking at the bathroom! 🚽🤭 And what a beautiful sight it is. 😍

My cousin/ client/ friend in Britain was having trouble visualizing the style of her new restaurant. 🤔 🇬🇧 She sent me a bunch of images and wrote me her ideas. After a few more messages back and forth, I created this Concept Board! 💚 Simple and effective. And not horribly expensive. She'll use this board to help shop for all her fixtures and finishes.  It's like I always say, you have style, we just have to turn it into a solid design. 👍🏻 Do you need help visualizing your new place? Message me! 🤗

My cousin/ client/ friend in Britain was having trouble visualizing the style of her new restaurant. 🤔 🇬🇧 She sent me a bunch of images and wrote me her ideas. After a few more messages back and forth, I created this Concept Board! 💚 Simple and effective. And not horribly expensive. She'll use this board to help shop for all her fixtures and finishes.

It's like I always say, you have style, we just have to turn it into a solid design. 👍🏻 Do you need help visualizing your new place? Message me! 🤗

BIG NEWS!! Meldrum Design HQ is under construction! 🔨🚧🧰 So excited for an office of my own. 😆 As usual, squeezing lots of function into a small space. 👌🏻 This is the corner of our daylight basement. ☀️ There's an "interior" window to let in heat from the woodstove. We're spraying the whole basement with closed cell spray foam. More on that later... For now, I'll be over here doing the happy dance. 💃🏼

BIG NEWS!! Meldrum Design HQ is under construction! 🔨🚧🧰 So excited for an office of my own. 😆 As usual, squeezing lots of function into a small space. 👌🏻 This is the corner of our daylight basement. ☀️ There's an "interior" window to let in heat from the woodstove. We're spraying the whole basement with closed cell spray foam. More on that later... For now, I'll be over here doing the happy dance. 💃🏼

You know that kickass bathroom I recently posted? This is that client's review. Lisa's was so awesome to work with. 💚 Tons of style and not in a huge hurry. Also just a lovely person. 😊 Check out her project on my website. http://bit.ly/2QNVmoL

You know that kickass bathroom I recently posted? This is that client's review. Lisa's was so awesome to work with. 💚 Tons of style and not in a huge hurry. Also just a lovely person. 😊 Check out her project on my website. http://bit.ly/2QNVmoL

Update on the Masonry Mansion: the sweater is off and repointing is done! 🧱 Check out that brickwork. 😍 The front elevation looks like new! But I also love that rear addition where, if you look hard enough, you can see the line between old and new brick. 👀 #signsofthepast

Update on the Masonry Mansion: the sweater is off and repointing is done! 🧱 Check out that brickwork. 😍 The front elevation looks like new! But I also love that rear addition where, if you look hard enough, you can see the line between old and new brick. 👀 #signsofthepast

This tiny bathroom felt so cramped when I first stepped inside. 🚽 We rearranged the whole thing to give the client a huge shower 🚿 , a toilet you don't have to turn sideways to get to, and a stunning vanity. (Now they have enough space for a bathroom dance party!) 💃🏼 This client chose a frosted glass bathroom door, have you ever seen anything like it? 😍

This tiny bathroom felt so cramped when I first stepped inside. 🚽 We rearranged the whole thing to give the client a huge shower 🚿 , a toilet you don't have to turn sideways to get to, and a stunning vanity. (Now they have enough space for a bathroom dance party!) 💃🏼 This client chose a frosted glass bathroom door, have you ever seen anything like it? 😍

It can be so simple to turn a messy corner into a functional niche. 🚲 This was perfect for my client's one-bedroom apartment in Portland, OR. 🌲 Some ikea shelving, a big 'ole hook, and couple hours organizing... he's good to go! 👍🏻

It can be so simple to turn a messy corner into a functional niche. 🚲 This was perfect for my client's one-bedroom apartment in Portland, OR. 🌲 Some ikea shelving, a big 'ole hook, and couple hours organizing... he's good to go! 👍🏻

On a shopping trip with a client! She and her husband are remodeling their house at Sugarloaf. 🏔 She needed help figuring out her interior materials and fixtures. A lot of decisions to make... 🤔 cabinets, countertops, plumbing fixtures, flooring, tile, light fixtures... so we spent the day shopping together! 🛍 We knocked the bulk of it out in one day and somehow we still had fun.  Sometimes it helps to have a professional opinion when you're making these big decisions. Call me 📞 if you need help. I love this stuff!  ps. This is us in The KennebecCompany showroom. Check out that Craftsman style cabinet behind us. 😍Gorgeous!

On a shopping trip with a client! She and her husband are remodeling their house at Sugarloaf. 🏔 She needed help figuring out her interior materials and fixtures. A lot of decisions to make... 🤔 cabinets, countertops, plumbing fixtures, flooring, tile, light fixtures... so we spent the day shopping together! 🛍 We knocked the bulk of it out in one day and somehow we still had fun.

Sometimes it helps to have a professional opinion when you're making these big decisions. Call me 📞 if you need help. I love this stuff!

ps. This is us in The KennebecCompany showroom. Check out that Craftsman style cabinet behind us. 😍Gorgeous!

You don't necessarily need one big window to frame a view... this is one of the lookout towers in El Yunque National Park. 😍🌴

You don't necessarily need one big window to frame a view... this is one of the lookout towers in El Yunque National Park. 😍🌴