7 Steps to Success

You want to build a house or renovate the one you own, but you find yourself asking,  “Where do we begin?” and “What do we do next?”  Well, in this blog post we’ll guide you through the 7 steps of the residential design process necessary to get you from start to finish with success.










Step 1:  Initial consultation

This is where we get together to talk to you about your project.  We listen, ask questions, tell you more about us and our experience, and we learn about you, your needs and your budget.  Afterward, we go back to the office and prepare a cost proposal for our design services.  The proposal explains the scope of work your project will entail and lists the amount of estimated design time and the fee you can expect from us.  We send you the proposal and, upon approval, you sign the contract and we move on to step two, where the fun begins.

Step 2:  Planning, Programming and Measuring

At this stage of the game we have a general idea of what you want to accomplish with your project, but now we want to know more.  We want to understand why you want the things you want, we want to know how you live, how you entertain, how long you plan to live in this new home, and more. We ask questions, lots of questions.  It may seem a bit personal, but it’s a critical step that sets us apart and helps us translate all your hopes and dreams into a reality.  We develop a written outline of all the spaces you need along with descriptions for each space.  This written outline is called a “Scope of Work”.

If we are designing an addition or renovation we will also meticulously measure, photograph and document the existing condition of your home.  We, the designers, perform the measuring ourselves and do not leave this important process up to the homeowner, an intern or a contractor.  This will save time and money in the long run.  Trust us, we have tried to design projects from other people’s drawings or measurements and there is nothing more frustrating than having a design you love that won’t work because the initial plan or measurements were not accurate.

Using our measurements, we produce a set of drawings known as “As-Built” drawings.  These drawings accurately reflect the size, shape and appearance of your home as it was built.  Even if you have a full set of construction drawings, we will measure areas of the house to confirm it was built according to plan.  These tools are critical for the next step, schematic design.

Step 3:  Schematic Design

Now that we have our understanding and tools solidly in place, we begin to design.  We balance all of your needs and desires against the budget you would like to work within and develop a design or series of design options for you to consider.  These designs are typically done by hand as sketches.  Once we have created these initial concepts, we meet with you to discuss and review the designs.  If there are any areas you would like to see modified, or if there are other options you would like to explore, we return to the drawing board, tweak the design and meet again to review the updates.  More often than not, our initial design is right on target, but if need be, we continue this process until we have the perfect design for your family.


Step 4: Preliminary Pricing

This is a phase that many architects, designers and contractors will skip; however, we recommend obtaining a preliminary estimate from a qualified contractor before proceeding into the next phase.  Most clients come into a project with an arbitrary budget based on a range of factors such as the amount the bank is willing to lend them or the amount their neighbor paid for a similar project.  The budget may not be in line with their design goals, and although we work diligently to lead our clients on a path that will give them what they want for the amount of money they would like to spend, only a qualified contractor has the resources necessary to provide a construction estimate.  By obtaining an estimate at this stage of the game, clients have the information necessary to make some critical decisions before the design process continues.  The estimate can confirm that the project can be done within or below the budget; it can tell us that the project needs to be modified to reduce cost; or it can tell us that the budget needs to be modified to accommodate the project as designed.  In any case, the preliminary estimate helps us and our clients develop a project that can satisfy their needs within a realistic budget.

Step 5:  Design Development

This phase builds upon the schematic designs by allowing us to further refine and develop the design and details.  Communication is key at this stage.  We will have frequent discussions with you to fine tune the designs and assist you in making some critical decisions about a wide range of selections such as appliances, plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, flooring, tile, countertops, door and cabinet hardware, siding, roofing, insulation, cabinet styles, and many, many other items.  We begin to design cabinetry, trim, wainscoting, built-ins, fireplace surrounds, special floor, ceiling, or wall designs as well as handrails, balusters, fascias, soffits, columns, beams, coffers, dormers, and chimneys to name a few.  These are the details that set our custom homes apart from the cookie cutter look of a builder or plan book home.  They bring your home to life and give it an exquisite character and timelessness that you will love and appreciate.  The amount of work we do during this phase depends upon the your individual needs and whether you prefer a basic or expanded set of construction documents.  The difference between these sets is explained in the next phase, construction documents.

Step 6:  Construction Documents

Construction documents are the technical drawings used by the contractor during the construction process.  This is what people often refer to as “blueprints.”  During this phase we further refine the designs by adding all the technical information necessary to build a successful project such as notes, dimensions, elevation tags, and door and window sizes and types. The number of drawings included in the construction documents depends on the scale and complexity of the project. We typically produce either a Basic Set or an Expanded Set of construction drawings.  The Basic Set contains general information about the design intent, including dimensioned floor plans, a site plan and exterior elevations. An Expanded Set of documents contains these same drawings plus more detailed information about all facets of the design and construction, including interior elevations, molding profiles, cabinetry details; schedules for flooring, wall and ceiling finishes, electrical and lighting plans, wall sections and details.  The amount of information contained in the construction documents can determine how smoothly a project will flow.  More details and drawings mean more information available to the contractor and less guesswork required during construction.  It also means less stress on you since critical decisions have been made ahead of time and it greatly reduces the probability for change orders to occur.


Step 7:  Bidding or Negotiating

Once the construction documents are complete it is time to find a contractor to build the project.  This can be done by selecting a single contractor to negotiate a price with or by giving the documents to several contractors to provide a construction bid.  Dullea + Associates can recommend qualified contractors or you may know some you’d like to use. Either way, once you have selected the contractor you are most comfortable with, it is time to begin construction and you will enter into this exciting phase fully satisfied with the design, budget and timeline of your project.

Hopefully, this helps clarify the process of designing or renovating a home and helps you see that with professional guidance it may not be as daunting as you first thought. The most important thing to remember is that it pays to ask questions and to be open and honest with yourself and your designer. Through the years, we have led countless clients through these steps from start to finish with outstanding results.  We would love to help guide you through this exciting process, too.


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