The Design Process


My goal as a designer-builder is to design a home for you that corresponds to the ideal image of a home inside you. While listening to your needs and expectations, your dreams and the reality of your financial situation I will attempt to help you visualize an image of your ideal home (verbally, or through pictures or actual sketches), and translate that image into possible designs for your home.

The design phase is the most important time spent on the house. It’s a time to think about how you live, ways you might want to change your life, and how the spaces of your home might help you do that. It is not a time to proceed on a fast track just to get the plans finished and to the building department for permits. The design is an exciting time. It’s the ultimate shopping trip, a guided fantasy into the land of make believe, a time to reflect on your past, organize your present, and imagine a future. It’s a time to let your creative juices flow, to be totally self-indulgent, and at the same make a statement of your values. Through the use of materials, the way the house is placed on the site and the way the architectural language of a home is used to draw attention to itself, what is important to you can be expressed in the design of your home.

The Interview: Developing a Program

The design process is tailored to the needs and personalities of each individual client. Some clients come with a clear idea of what they want. They have spent a lot of time on their own thinking about what they want in a home. Their ideas, scrapbooks and sketches are used as seeds for the design process. Preliminary discussions are geared toward developing a common language and deepening the ideas they already have. Other people come with a sense of what they want but they don’t know how to express that sense. With these clients, I help them focus on what they want, listen to them and then try to picture for them an image of their home.

A number of different methods are used to help clients undercover that image. Clients talk about where they have lived or places that have impressed them. They make scrapbooks, or look through magazines and books from my library. They might work with "Pattern language" or feng shui or some other vocabulary that could have some meaning for them. They might use values that excite and have meaning for them like energy efficiency or ecological design. These ideas can be used as part of a design language that is developed between us.

For most people with whom I have worked, designing a home has been an exciting time, filled with fantasy and creativity. When someone becomes personally involved in the design of their home they feel a greater connection with their home when it is finished and they are living in it. This is an obvious but important statement. When someone sees their decisions and intentions in each aspect of their home, the connection they feel is obviously more personal than if they moved into a generic house plan designed to appeal to a broad segment of the consumer market. I try to facilitate this feeling of connection by respecting the individual nature of a household’s vision.

Some clients might want a more pragmatic approach to design. They might differ in how much time they want to spend making decisions. With these clients I try to keep our meetings focused on the important aspects of the design and not overwhelm them with details. I respect each person's vision of what they want in a home and how they want it built. A great deal of what happens in the first 3 to 5 meetings is trying to understand what that vision is.

The Site

Another phase of the process that needs to happen simultaneously with our initial conversations is the selection of a lot. If you have a lot already we can discuss strategies for placing the house on the site. If you are still looking, I have a real estate license and access to multiple listing database of available lots. Finding a lot can be difficult in Portland. There is very little buildable land left close in and land prices have increased greatly over the last several years. However it is still possible to find an individual lot here and there and there are lots in subdivisions that can offer some interesting possibilities.

Information discovered in the interview will help determine if a lot is right. The spirit of the site is extremely important and it is essential that the spirit of the site you pick coincides with the spirit of your ideal home. They both combine to create a place that you can truly call home.

The site is analyzed to determine what is the best way to orient the house and what is the best structural system for the house on this site. With this information it can be determined if this particular site will meet the requirements of the client's program and the budget.

The Design Phase

Once a lot is found and the visions of an ideal home have been communicated, different preliminary designs are explored. Clients are encouraged to become as involved in the process as they want. At this stage the drawings have little detail and can be discarded and a fresh start made if the design is not going in the direction you want. The goal is for you to have the feeling that the design is coming from you.

There are some biases or values that are evident in my designs. First and foremost it is important to make sure the design is sensitive to its surroundings, respects the architectural styles of the houses around, and fits the site efficiently. The form of the home should ideally seem to rise up naturally out of the site. It is also important to design and build a structural shell that is efficient in its use of materials, that makes sense for the site and plan and provides a setting for interesting interior spaces,Each new project is approached with a resourcefulness, creativity and sense of adventure. The focus on the plan of the house is to have the spaces flow together in ways that coincide with the lifestyle of the owners,

Contract Documents

After a preliminary plan is settled upon, the working drawings are drawn. This takes from one to two weeks, and there is still the opportunity for you to make refinements. Next the plans are given to the engineer for work on foundation and vertical load (if needed) and lateral analysis. The information from the engineer is then put on the plans. The plans are now ready to be taken to the building department for permits and to the lender for an appraisal.

During the design process we have gotten a chance to know each other and evaluate our different styles. If we both feel comfortable we can explore the possibility of entering into a building contract. .