In home construction and renovation, a design-build approach affords advantages over the traditional method of hiring an architect and a builder. A design-build firm provides integrated, collaborative teams: designer and builder working side-by-side and in sync throughout the life of the project. 

Each design-build company balances the two sides of the equation differently.


As a homeowner, it’s important to think purposefully about your own design priorities before you hire a design-build partner. It can be demoralizing to discover during the design of your home that the company’s emphasis on design doesn’t accord with your own.

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Build-first or Design-first?


hanging door

Not every design-build company prioritizes design. Some companies are build-first, rather than design-first firms. They approach their projects as home builders who also offer design services. The emphasis is on construction, and design comes as the means to get to the build phase. 

As a result, design is either a minimal process, or it’s expedited to get to the build process. Customers often have a limited set of choices and selections, which economizes the design phase as well as the build itself.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with a build-first approach to home construction and remodeling, the differences are significant. If you have a strong design preference for your home, it’s important to know how highly your design-build partner prioritizes and values design.

For some homeowners, a build-first company is entirely appropriate. For others, only a design-first company will do. You should hire a design-build company that prioritizes design if you: 


  • Have a sophisticated sense of design
  • Want a high level of design work
  • Have a fairly clear idea of the type of house you want


Finding the Right Design-build Company


How can you be assured that you’re hiring a design-first company to design and build your home?

As you’re researching companies, spend time on their website and their Instagram feed. Peruse their portfolio. Do you see samples of work that you find impressive and inspiring? Do you see examples of homes that are similar to the look and feel you want? Are you noticing a variety of designs, as opposed to several variations on a theme?

When you begin talking with a selection of firms, ask questions about their design process:


  • Do you have in-house design staff, or are you working with a third-party architect for designer? Is it one company that’s doing the design and the build?
  • What do you see as the value of good design?
  • What does that process look like?
  • How much discussion and feedback will I get to have with the designer?
  • How do you break up the design process, and what are the phases of your design projects?

Any firm that emphasizes design will have a lot to say in response to these questions, and they’ll approach the conversation with energy.


Giraffe’s Approach to Home Design

At Giraffe Design Build, we intrinsically value good design. It transforms a house into a home. Inspired design is an authentic expression and extension of the people who live there, creating a continuity between the owners and their environment. At Giraffe, design is almost an end in itself. That’s why our mission starts with design.

Our design process is highly client-driven. If we need to do so, we’ll slow down and explore other design options — even if this could delay the build. We don’t put clients on a conveyor belt for the convenience of a build schedule. Rather, it’s our intention to satisfy our clients by giving them the best design we can within their budget, at a reasonable time frame. Sometimes that means giving clients the freedom to extend or modify their timeline, if it’s in the best interest of their project.

Related: How Does the Design of Your Home Affect Your Wellbeing?


Inspired Design Demands Exceptional Craftsmanship


At the same time, we refuse to sacrifice craftsmanship and strong building. If you have an inspired design but execute it poorly, you haven’t fulfilled the vision. Every project, no matter how small, deserves to embody inspired design and excellent craftsmanship. 

In our view, when you value design, you take great care to bring it to life in the construction phase. A craftsman puts materials together with almost no mistakes and no wasted effort. It’s pure poetry to watch someone work who really knows what they’re doing.

You spend every day in your house and it’s one of the greatest expenditures of your life. Respecting that, it only makes sense to build it as robustly as we possibly can. We build something that will last for generations. That care goes from the foundation and framing to the HVAC/plumbing/electrical, to the smallest finishing details.

“Everything was installed with love and care, and I really appreciated that. And, in terms of the craftsmanship, it was beyond what I could have expected.” — Jessa, homeowner and Giraffe client

Project Highlight: A Spare Room Becomes an Office and Personal Oasis

Our goal for every project is to deliver inspired design with excellent craftsmanship that delights our clients with a final result that they will show off to friends and family for years. 


The Giraffe Experience

If your primary interest is finding a home that meets a set of functional criteria, a build-first company might be a good fit for you. However, if you lean into your new home build or renovation with an emphasis on inspirational design, then a design-first company will best suit your needs. 

Giraffe Design Build would be honored to be a part of your consideration. If you value nuanced design that will make your house feel like a home, and a collaborative partner throughout the design and build process, we’ll guide you from start to finish.

Let’s start a conversation today.