Designing Your Dream Custom Home

Designing a luxury custom home can be a lot of fun but it takes time to do it properly. You should allow three to four months for the design process, which will normally begin with a series of meetings with your architect. A good architect will know how to interview you to draw out what matters most to you from the style and scale of your custom home to the way you want to live in it. Ahead of time, it’s always helpful to research online the home styles and features that most inspire you. Instagram, Pinterest and Houzz are great places to come up with ideas. You should also think about how you and your family live on a day-to-day basis and throughout the seasons:

  • How do you and your family eat? Do you need a formal dining room or are you looking for a large dining area by the kitchen? Do you eat breakfast on an island in the kitchen?
  • How often and on what scale do you entertain? Do you want a large outdoor entertaining area for the summer? Will you need a large indoor entertaining space for the cooler months? Bar area?
  • How much livable outside space do you want – i.e. is a covered loggia with a fireplace important to you?
  • Do you want a space for a playroom that is visible from the kitchen? Or do you want a hidden away living area for teens?
  • Is a first-floor primary bedroom important to you? Is one closet sufficient or are you hoping for his and hers?
  • How many other bedrooms and do they all need their own bathrooms?
  • Where do you want guests to sleep? On the same floor as the family bedrooms or in a basement / loft guest area? If it’s adult kids and grandkids coming to stay, what set up do you want for them?
  • Do you need one or two office areas? Where will kids do their homework?
  • Is a laundry room near the bedrooms important? Do you need laundry facilities in the mud room for dirty sports kits?
  • What will you keep in the mud room? Do you want to store all your family’s coats and shoes there? Where will school bags go? How much space do you need for that season’s sports kits?
  • What facilities do you want for pets?
  • If you plan on having a pool, where would you like swimmers to access the bathroom?
  • What garage space will you need now and when your kids drive?

Architects will often start by sketching floor plans with you. Some will approach the home design more holistically, drawing sketches and bubble diagrams of how interior spaces relate. Once the principles have been agreed, the architect will create CAD drawings for you to review. You may love these, in which case you will refine the interior floor plan together and the architect will begin designing exterior elevations, or you may want to start all over. Either way, the process will take time and the more you think about the details of how you live and where everything will go, the less likely you are to panic midway through the build when you realize you’ve missed something vital to you.

Once the excitement of the design process is complete, the less fun process of obtaining permits begins. The builder will submit the site plans and permit drawings to the city, which can take several weeks to review. In addition to city building permits, you may also need county permits for driveways and soil erosion and even state permits if there are wetlands nearby. More permit hurdles exist if there is a home to demolish first. To obtain demo permits, you usually need to submit proof utilities have been disconnected and air conditioners have been removed by a certified company. Some cities will only allow you to apply for demo permits if you are submitting building permit drawings at the same time.

While building permits are under review, the builder can start pricing out key elements of the job, lining up sub-contractors and preparing documentation for the construction loan, if that is how you will finance the home build. You, meanwhile, can start thinking about selections with the designer and thinking ahead to the landscaping.

July 12, 2021.

Coming soon…finding a landscape architect.