By Jason Ennis, Giraffe Designer

The dream you have for your home is the genesis towards realizing a living space that’s custom-made specifically for you. As an architectural designer, it’s my privilege to share your dream and translate it into a design plan that will guide the construction of your homebuilding or renovation project.

If this is your first home construction project, you may be wondering what to expect from your design team during a home renovation or new home construction. What will the process be like, how does it unfold, and what do you need to do? 

Broadly speaking, your home renovation design process will occur in three phases:

  1. Schematic design. Together, we explore all of the potential solutions to achieving your goal for your home. The result is a set of two-dimensional schematics. At this point, aesthetic decisions haven’t been made yet, but that comes next.
  2. Design development. During this phase, we’ll take the flow of space from the schematic design and develop it into a robust understanding of how the space will feel and function. This is the part of home design that most people think of. You’ll see three-dimensional drawings and things will start to feel fleshed out as we breathe life into the schematics.
  3. Construction documentation. Technical documents are drafted to communicate how to build the project. This is intended for tradespeople in the field, so they can accurately price their materials and understand the intent of the design. It’s not terribly exciting, and you’ll have the luxury of having a more hands-off role during this phase.

In the next three articles, I’ll walk you through each of these phases in detail so you’ll know exactly what to expect — and what will be expected of you. In this article, I’ll introduce you to the first phase of home design: schematic design.

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What to Expect During Home Design Phase 1

The schematic design phase can be an exciting time, because your project is full of wide-open possibilities, and you’re free to dream as much as you like. You’ll also spend a good amount of time getting to know your designer (and vice versa!), which is essential for a satisfying home build or renovation project.

If I’m designing a renovation or addition for you, I’ll probably meet with you in your home. It’s easier to see the space and get a sense of what we’re doing and trying to achieve. If we’re designing a new home together, there isn’t a space to meet in, so usually I’ll suggest meeting at a coffee shop or at the Giraffe office.

Our first meeting is primarily a formality — it gives me the opportunity to meet you, hear about the project, and get to know you a bit. I’ll ask a lot of questions about how you want to use the space so I can understand your goals and purposes for the project. Don’t expect to dig down into the look and feel, or style preferences at this point. It’s important to establish the functional solution before we begin addressing the aesthetic solution. 

Over the next several meetings, we’ll explore all of the potential solutions to arrive at your goals — the ideas you bring to the table, as well as possibilities you may not have considered. It’s an iterative approach that will ensure we arrive at the best solution for your home. 

We’ll begin with as many options and ideas as possible, to get a sense of how you might use the space. From there, we’ll narrow down this funnel, iteratively. Often, this process combines elements of several ideas. 

At the end of all that, I’ll present you with a schematic plan that has gained consensus. You might want to pop a cork and celebrate — we’ve just completed a major milestone towards realizing your dream for your home.

How Long Will the Schematic Design Phase Take?

It’s very important not to rush the schematic design process, although it can be tempting to jump into the aesthetic decisions as soon as possible. This first phase establishes a foundation that the entire design and build project will depend on.

At Giraffe Design Build, we take as much time as our customers need. Some homeowners know exactly what they want, while others need more time to process the options. 

Typically, a small project could move onto the design development phase in a month or two. Very large projects, such as a new house, could take four to six months. With such a large investment of energy, time, and money, you want to exhaust all the options — everything from the orientation of the house to the size and placement of linen closets. 

Related: How Long Will Your Design-Build Project Take?

Keys to Success

As your partner in design, it’s my goal to make the schematic design process of your home renovation project a great success. Here are some keys to ensuring you have the best experience possible.

Have a thorough understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve. Sometimes, it can take some deeper exploration to truly understand what it is that isn’t working for you. Is it the size of the kitchen, or simply the layout? What are the root causes of your dissatisfaction? How do you want your family life to be different in the day-to-day rhythms? 

Do lots of dreaming, getting as specific as you can in the details of your ideal home renovation.

Keep an open mind about potential design solutions to meet your needs. Even if you know exactly what home renovations you want to bring to your house, it can be tremendously valuable to consider possibilities that I’ll bring to the table. 

New ideas can help vet the solutions you have in mind, confirming that you’re choosing the best design plan for your home. Take advantage of every option that I present, and have fun exploring new ideas. 

Take time to build trust with your designer. While I might propose a design that doesn’t look like the one you had in mind, trust that I always have your best interests in mind. Cultivate relationships with me and the rest of the team on the project. This partnership goes beyond a contract — it’s very much a relationship that must be built on trust. 

You can help build that trust by being open with me about your opinions and desires. Vulnerable honesty can help achieve greater results than you originally expected. Be willing to let me dig deeper to understand why you want certain features. Talking about the why of your vision helps me to read the context and empathize with your wants and desires. 

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Design That Sparks Delight

I find a lot of joy in working with clients during the schematic design phase of a home construction or renovation project. It’s during this time that I have the privilege of getting to know you intimately. I’m invited into your home and take measurements of your living spaces. That’s a personal thing, and I treat it as a privilege. We all do, at Giraffe.

If you’re looking for a home design-build company that walks with you at your own pace through every phase of the design process, connect with us. You have our promise to find a design that embodies who you are and sparks delight.

Let’s start a conversation.