Your written brief will form the foundation of your entire house design. It is a description of your design objectives, which you will refer back to constantly and, as such, requires careful consideration.
The step-by-step process outlined below is the method I use to create briefs for every project I do. Whether you are designing a new house or extending an existing one, the approach is the same. Work through the steps, and by the end you will have not only a comprehensive and detailed brief but also a greater understanding of what it is you need rather than simply what you want.
Don’t worry about getting it right the first time; there will be plenty of opportunities to refine it later. What matters is that you get everything out of your head and down on paper so that the project can start to move forward.
1. Compile a list of “likes” and then analyze them. The first step in designing your own home is to establish the sort of house you want to create and why. You should begin by collecting images of all the things you like and that speak to you about the type of home you want to create. I find Houzz to be the best tool for this because you can easily share your list and collaborate with other family members.
Now this is where it starts to get interesting. Take each of the images you have chosen and look at it more closely. For each one, ask yourself what it is specifically that attracted you to the image, and note it down. It could be obvious, such as a particular material or shape, or it could be something less tangible, such as a feeling of comfort you infer from the image.
Can you picture yourself living in the room or house in the photo? If so, how does it feel to be there? Ask yourself what it is about that feeling that you want to emulate in your own home. It’s important to try to draw out the qualities that you want your home to have, rather than simply gathering shiny images of how you want it to look.
2. Look more closely at how you live. Now it’s time to look critically at how you live in your current home. It doesn’t matter if you own a house, rent an apartment or sleep on your parents’ sofa. We all inhabit space, and we all do it in slightly different ways.
Ask yourself the following questions about your current living situation. Spend some time on each one and be as critical as you can:
- What do you like about where you live and what don’t you like?
- Which rooms do you prefer to spend time in and which do you rarely use?
- What is it specifically that you like and dislike about these spaces?
- Which functions of your lifestyle do you feel are well-addressed and which ones are not?
- If you could improve just one thing, what would it be, regardless of cost and practicality?
Next, make a list of all the items you own that will require storage in your new home, including the amount of space required for each and the best location for it. Don’t underestimate storage; it can make or break even the best-designed homes.
Finally, sit and watch how people move around in your current living spaces. Can you identify any conflicts that could be avoided in your new home? This is especially common in kitchens and bathrooms, where a lot of activity takes place.
3. Draw up a list of spaces. You are now ready to start compiling a list of the rooms you hope to include in your new home. This is not as easy as it sounds. Lots of “what if” questions, doubts and uncertainty will start to crop up. This is normal and an integral part of the design process. Just keep going.
I would urge you not to dwell on these doubts for too long. Accept that you don’t have all the answers at this stage, and move on. It’s more important to identify the right questions so that you can address them as the design progresses.
Don’t worry about budget or practicalities just yet. There will be plenty of time to downsize if and when it becomes necessary. Be as extravagant as you like. This list is simply a draft of what it is you want — or rather what you think you want. It will be subject to plenty of adjustment before it is finalized, so don’t stress over it too much.
Be sure to consider the entire range of activities you would like your building to host. Think in terms of what the house can do for you, and try to envision any future needs you might have. Don’t forget to include outdoor living spaces in this list.
If you are planning an addition or refurbishment project, include both the existing spaces you want to keep and the additional spaces you want to create.
4. Analyze the list. Next, look at each of the rooms on your list in turn, using a separate page or document for each, and consider the following questions:
- What specific activities will normally happen in this space (for a kitchen, this may be eating or socializing in addition to cooking)?
- What furniture will you want to put in the spaces you are going to design? Include any built-in storage you think you may need. Look back at your storage list and make sure you include the storage requirements for each room.
- Can you categorize the room in some way? Would you call it a public or a private space? Is it open or closed, inward- or outward-looking? Will it be a primary or secondary space in your home?
- Can you combine two or more of the rooms on your list? Consider multifunctional spaces that can serve different purposes at different times. This is a great way to start to rationalize your list.
- Now revisit the qualities and feelings you identified from your list of likes, as well your analysis of the rooms you enjoy spending time in. What qualities do you want each of the rooms on your list to have? This may include access to natural light at certain times of the day, or feelings of spaciousness, comfort, warmth, serenity or cleanliness, for example. Think about rooms in your current home that you rarely use and make sure you aren’t simply replicating them in your new home.
5. Establish big-picture goals and priorities for the project. You should now have a good handle on the specifics of each room. It’s time to take a step back and think about the project as a whole. As with any project, it’s important to establish a clear list of goals from the outset. These goals will help guide the decision-making process as you move forward, and form a handy touchstone when you face difficult choices or conflicting opinions.
They might be environmental goals, such as minimizing energy use or water consumption, or economic goals, such as maximizing affordability and minimizing ongoing maintenance costs. Your goals could also be personal ones, such as allowing for flexibility toward any future lifestyle changes or creating the perfect place to hold lavish dinner parties. Think of your goals as the values you want your final design to embody.
Finally, consider what relationship each room might have to another one. You might want a kitchen to be close to a dining area or to open onto the garden, for example. Alternatively, you might want to locate the bedrooms away from the main living area to ensure that they are quieter and more private.
Note it all down; you can’t write too much on all this stuff. Be as expansive and as specific as you like, but prioritize each item into “nonnegotiable,” “important” and “nice to have.”
6. Finalize your list and address common mistakes. The last step in this process is about bringing it all together. You should have an overview of the rooms you think you need and their relationship to one another, as well as a fairly detailed description of what each room should contain and how it should feel.
There are, however, some very common mistakes people make during this process. Take one last look at your list to make sure you aren’t guilty of any of the following:
- Focusing too much on aesthetics. Instead, think more about quality, comfort and functionality. Trust me, looks can come later.
- Thinking purely room by room. Be sure you have set real goals and values for your whole project from the outset. A good designer is able to focus on the little details without forgetting the bigger picture.
- Not considering all family members’ thoughts and feelings. Although you may be the one leading the design, don’t forget the other occupants of your home. The more they are invested in the process, the richer the design will become.
- Trying too hard to “keep up with the Joneses.” Just because your neighbors have a hot tub on the roof doesn’t mean you have to have one too. Stick to your specific needs and those of your family, and forget what everyone else is doing.
- Not considering the future. If this process is going to be worthwhile, your design needs to have flexibility to allow it to grow with you and your family. None of us know what the future holds, so aim for a design that can easily adapt should your circumstances change.
Get the house you envision — and even enjoy the process — by following this architect’s guide to building a new home
Whether building new or renovating an existing structure, creating a new home is a journey of discovering who you are, what you want, how you want to live and where you want to be. It’s a chance for you to define your relationship to the world, to your family and to yourself. Creating a home is more than building “three bedrooms, 2½ bathrooms.” It is so much more than the sum of a few parts.
As with any journey, you’ll want to do some research and plan your trip. You’ll want to have a sense of what the end result should be and how much it’ll cost. And while you’ll no doubt be able to go it alone, having a seasoned and experienced guide show you the way will likely mean a more enjoyable, more enriching and overall better journey.
Let’s look at the steps, in chronological order, involved in creating a home.
1. Set goals. Creating a new home for yourself is all about setting goals and taking the steps to achieve those goals. You’ll want to establish the answers to a whole host of questions so that you can set these goals.
Goal setting requires satisfying both left- and right-brain activities. So your list of goals will include two sides: a practical, meat-and-potatoes side and an emotional, ice-cream-and-pie side. Each is important, and each needs to be recognized so that the end result will reflect a totality.
Questions to ask:
• What do you want to achieve?
• Where do you want to be?
• What will this cost?
• Can it really be achieved?
• Does plan A make sense?
• What’s plan B?
2. Establish a budget. While a budget should be in any goal statement, it’s such an important piece that it’s included here as a separate task. When making your budget, of course you’ll begin with what you can afford, and how the cost of your house fits in with your overall plans for the future. When you’re ready to get down to details, include everything that will go into the project: the cost of the land, local fees and taxes, design and engineering fees, construction of not just the home but the landscape, plus furniture and decorating.
3. Find some land — or a neglected older house. Where do you want to be? How do you want to live? What are you looking for? Maybe you want that house in the mountains or with the ocean view, but it’s not in the cards right now, for economic or other reasons. No matter; you’ll likely be able to reinvent yourself later. For now, it’s the burbs with the good schools or some other place. The point is, find a spot on the globe that you can claim as your own and build what will be a home.
And maybe that land isn’t a few acres that’s never been trampled on. Maybe it’s an existing house that’s just old and tired and has suffered some neglect. The house whispers to you that it really does want to shed those avocado-colored appliances, that shag carpeting and those single-pane windows, and you know you’re the person to do that.
So take heart if you decide to transform that sow’s ear into a silk purse. You’ll be amazed at the transformation that can take place.
4. Assemble a team. While you might think you can go it alone, assembling a team of tried and true professionals is the better approach. After all, you wouldn’t represent yourself in court. So why wouldn’t you entrust your single largest investment to an experienced team that won’t be learning on your dime?
An architect and a builder (if not one and the same) are going to be your most important team members. These people will act as guide, therapist, advocate and counselor throughout the journey that creating your home is. And, as with all good professionals, the right guide can ensure that the journey is all the more enjoyable.
As you embark on this journey, you will likely want to add team members. A kitchen and bath designer, perhaps; maybe an interior designer, too. Certainly a landscape architect, who shouldn’t be the last person hired when all the money is gone; you want to create a beautiful yard that will complement the house.
5. Plan, plan and plan some more. Every large project I’ve ever worked on has had this one thing in common. The owner, whether a private developer, government agency or corporate entity, knew the importance of planning the project in detail before starting to build.
These owners knew that moving walls on paper is a whole lot cheaper than moving walls after they’re built. So embark on a robust planning and design phase.
- Play the “what if?” game. Sometimes the first answer is the right answer, sometimes it’s the 31st. Just remember not to settle until you’ve explored all the possibilities; you don’t want to say after the project has been built, “We should have done …”
- Go big or go home. And I don’t mean big as in size (that’s a whole separate discussion), but big as in big ideas. Building a home, be it from scratch or a renovation, is an exercise in making something that’s yours. So dream big and have grand plans. There will be time enough to deal with the realities of budget, zoning and codes. Don’t sweat the small stuff for now.
- Sweat the small stuff. Decisions, decisions, decisions. You’ll be asked to make many — more than you can imagine. Just remember that God is in the details, so make sure that the details are there so that your home will be uniquely your own and speak to who you are.
6. Accept the inevitable. You’ve made the plans, gotten the permits and secured the money; now the only thing left to do is build your house. You’ve accounted for everything, so it should all come together as smooth as silk. Easy, right?
Oddly enough, stuff happens. That’s a given. How you and your team react to these hiccups will be important. My advice is to stay calm, keep your sense of humor and work with your team to address the issue. This is where having the right team in place can pay dividends. An architect, a builder and others who can work together and share ideas without criticizing one another will go a long way to helping you keep your sanity.
Some tips for staying sane during construction:
- Don’t change your mind. Early on make all of the decisions you have to, select all of your finishes and don’t change your mind. Yes, you’ll be enticed by that new thing that comes along. Just remember that once construction starts, it’ll cost you time, money and perhaps a trip or two to a therapist if you change your mind.
- Turn a deaf ear to the goings-on. Every construction site is filled with workers complaining. After all, who doesn’t complain about his or her job? Who hasn’t wanted to vent about the boss? The best thing you can do is ignore it. Don’t worry; if it really is an issue, you’ll be told about it.
7. Enjoy your new home. You’ve worked hard and spent more than a few dollars to create your new home, so enjoy it to the max.
Revel in the way the light falls across a room and how it changes with the seasons. Find unexpected places to talk with family members.
Discover how this place gives shape to your life and allows you to become the person you want to be.
In the end you’ll be amazed that your new house is so much more than the sum of just its three bedrooms, living room and so on. It’s the place you get to call home and make uniquely yours.
Thank you to Houzz and
Ditch the fancy and fussy in favor of laid-back entertaining that leaves you more time to enjoy the fun
3. No crate? Use whatever you’ve got. An old wheelbarrow, a garden cart, an enamel bucket or even a toy dump truck can be lined with trash bags and filled with ice to make an impromptu drinks cooler.
6. Make beachy candles with mason jars and sand. Filled partway with sand, a mason jar of any size can easily become a chic candleholder. To make hanging lanterns, wrap the mouth of the jar with flexible wire and hang the jar from the branches of a tree. For safety, use battery-operated candles for hanging.
It’s officially here –– the first day of summer has arrived! As bright days laze their way into warm evenings, we’ve got our minds set on friends, family, food, and flowers. To start the season, we checked in with Eric Buterbaugh, The Bouqs Co.’s very own Chief Floral Designer, to talk dreamy summer tablescape trends. We styled the table with beautiful tableware and linen courtesy of our friends at Shabby Chic and Parachute Home. Happy dining!
At your next gathering, forget the extra fork. Instead, try adding a bud vase at each table setting to round out your decor. Using a single stem in each vase gives you a lot of bang for your buck, and each flower type lends a unique feel to your tablescape. The diminutive yet ultra-elegant nature of miniature calla lilies makes them a great option.
Featured Bouq: Juliet // White miniature calla lilies
Dread using the same runner for another year? Tap into the table garland trend by adding bright florals and cool greenery for a look that makes your summer table absolutely sing.
Start by layering the greenery together down the center of the table and steadying it with floral wire. Then toss in some focal flowers for a pop of color. The abundant spray roses and alstroemeria in our Bourdeaux Bouq are perfect for adding some season-friendly brightness to your garland. Just pull out a few stems and tuck them in, before featuring your Bouq front and center on the tablescape.
Featured Bouq: Bordeaux // Pink roses and alstroemeria
Floating Florals & Candles
In case you were wondering, Gerbera daisies are great swimmers! Before your next soiree, spare a few stems (our Cabana Bouq is a great option), add water to a bubble vase, and include the blooms for an easy, elegant centerpiece. Experiment with size, color, and texture by mixing and matching different flower types. For those day parties that flow into the evening hours, a tea light or two in the vase will give your centerpiece a cozy glow.
Featured Bouq: Santa Cruz’n // Multi-colored spray roses
Succulent Table Setting
Succulents are perhaps nature’s prettiest, most low-maintenance friend. And best of all, they’re an on-trend and easy way to complete your summer tablescape. You can pick up succulents from your local garden center or pull from our Showstopper Bouq to cap off each table setting. It’s a great way to hold down name cards on breezy evenings, and it also makes for a great take-home gift to offer your guests! They can bring their succulent home to plant for a gift that keeps on giving.
Featured Bouq: Showstopper // Pink roses and alstroemeria with succulents
We’d love to see what you come up with for your next summer party! As always, be sure to use #Bouqlove when you post photos of your outdoor tablescape. It’ll make us feel like we were there enjoying the evening with you.
On the fence about downsizing? We help you decide whether that fencing should encircle a mansion or a mini trailer
2. Lots of roof there to maintain.
3. All I see is time and $$$$.
2. Must be nice having time to sit on the porch.
3. When can I move in?
2. I’d have to get rid of a lot of stuff, but maybe it’s time.
3. We could live on the road and visit the grandkids whenever we wanted!
2. It calls to me. But where am I going to put the Cuisinart, the KitchenAid mixer, the coffeemaker, the espresso machine and the countertop rotisserie?
3. As long as I can find the microwave, I’m good.
2. I could probably get along without the fireplace.
3. How many people sleep in this room?
2. At least there’s room for a chair to throw my clothes on.
3. All I do is sleep there, anyway.
2. Hopefully I’ve outgrown the need for multiple machines.
3. Looks more like a Laundromat than a laundry room to me.
2. Maybe this would discourage my son from bringing home his laundry.
3. Compact, functional, no piles of clothes … I like it!
2. This office makes me tired.
3. Just give me my laptop and a Starbucks!
2. This could work if I culled my files …
3. Genius use of closet space.
2. I wish my closet looked like this.
3. Anything I haven’t worn in the past year gets donated, so this is perfect.
2. I am seriously getting too old for this.
3. I’d rather golf, read, drink, watch TV, shop or travel than work in my yard.
2. Wow, I could weed this in five minutes.
3. Someone pour the wine!OK. All done? Now add up all the numbers you wrote down. If you scored:
13–21: You are definitely not a candidate for downsizing, and can totally ignore my next several ideabooks.
22–30: Brace yourself — there is a move in your future. You are definitely showing signs of being bitten by the “maybe it’s time to downsize” bug.
31–39: Call the moving company! And watch for the next installment in this series on the secrets to successful downsizing.
So as long as everyone’s in the spirit, I thought, why not take it one step farther? Try these ideas for adding a little Kentucky style to your home. Long after the winner’s rose garland has wilted, you’ll remain at the peak of bluegrass chic.
New York design firm Carrier and Co. offers inspiration for elevating your room’s decor — whether traditional, modern or country-inspired
When looking through photos of beautiful high-end rooms, it can be tempting to think, “If I had that kind of money, of course I could create a gorgeous living room (dining room, bedroom) like that.” But a gazillion-dollar budget doesn’t guarantee a great-looking room. And you don’t need a fortune to design a room that’s inviting and delightful and comfortable to be in.
New York City interior designers Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller’s work for celebrity clients such as Vogue’s Anna Wintour and actress Jessica Chastain has landed them on Architectural Digest’s exclusive AD100 list. But in the foreword to the designers’ recent book Carrier and Company: Positively Chic Interiors, Wintour writes: “These are homes whose high style comes from a very human-scaled sense of warmth and joy.”
The designers have organized their book into six looks, such as tailored, country, modern and traditional, and discuss the concepts they use in creating each style. We’ve highlighted some of their work and design ideas here. See if there are useful concepts you can pull out for your next project.
- Antiques as a key component
- A piece or two from the mid-20th century to lighten up the room and help bring it into the present
- A carefully chosen contemporary classic — something surprising but not trendy — to add a sense of being up-to-the-minute
In this upstairs landing in Vogue editor Wintour’s country home, an oversize painting by Hugo Guinness hangs above a diminutive Swedish painted chest of drawers. The play on scale accentuates the contemporary nature of the artwork and brings the old house up to date.
Tailored rooms may be traditional as well. The balance of elements determines whether a room leans toward traditional or modern. Above, splashes of lemon yellow and marigold orange add sunny warmth to an elegant living room’s neutral palette. The white walls have a polished-plaster finish.
Carrier and Co. lists elements typically found in high-end country decor: slipcovered pieces, kilim-covered items, twig furniture, sisal rugs and wrought iron railings and curtain hardware. Locally salvaged industrial and agricultural items may be included.
The farmhouse bedroom above features classic country details: linen, a metal bed, painted wood furniture, a botanical print. Unexpected color pairings and a contemporary hand-blocked throw pillow add a fresh twist.
- Strong silhouettes
- Precise geometry
- Clean lines
- Crisp edges
- Boldness and graphic clarity
- Soft moments, sensuous curves and deluxe details, as foils to the streamlined aesthetic
- A piece that’s clearly of today
The dining area above features a reclaimed-wood dining table. The dark fireplace wall behind it makes a striking backdrop for the artwork and the antique Italian gilded sunburst mirror. The floating fireplace provides warmth and focus.
- Antiques are evocative.
- They add atmosphere, age and patina to a room.
- They endow a room with a feeling of the familiar — the emotional and visual comfort of forms and materials that are tried, true and trusted.
This traditional eat-in kitchen features comfortable dining chairs and an adjacent seating area. An oval-shaped English hunt board (traditionally used for serving breakfast after a hunt) takes center stage but allows for ease of passage. A playful artisan-made zinc chandelier from the 1920s hangs over the table.
“In such rooms, each choice comes with additional layers of meaning. Beyond pleasing aesthetics and functional practicalities, the elements of the room must capture a personality and an approach to life — and to do so clearly and forcefully, but without shouting.”
Rooms that epitomize bohemian glamour are:
- Full of pattern-on-pattern
- Wonderfully colorful, with vivid, arresting and unusual accents
- Occasionally overflowing with a rich, sometimes eccentric riot of visual information
- Not necessarily maximalist, per se, and not just about “more is more”
“Our role in such projects is to establish calm amid visual cacophony, to relieve the visual density yet still reveal the personality, because when there is too much to take in, the eye has nowhere to pause or relax,” the designers write.
This home office in a loft had a wall that was double height. The designers turned the wall into a faux library with a Tracy Kendalltrompe l’oeil bookshelf wallpaper. The room’s colorful palette was pulled from the colors in the wallpaper’s books.