Starting from scratch: How to create a custom home that you love

Shanna Kerr of S.M. Design Associates shares some of her tips for designing a home you'll love to live in
Story by: Shanna Kerr
Barkow Dining - Shanna Kerr - Client traveled ceiling, dining room, estate, flooring, home, house, interior design, living room, property, real estate, room, gray, brown
Barkow Dining - Shanna Kerr - Client traveled extensively, loved Morroco, wanted display artifacts

If your dream of creating a custom home has the chance of becoming a reality, there are a few crucial steps you should consider before diving into the process. The biggest blunder I come across time and again? Believe it or not, most people make the mistake of not thinking about themselves.

At the end of the day, the beauty and success of a custom home is contingent on how it fits into your life. But be realistic. You know yourself better than anybody! What I tell clients over and over again is this: Don’t expect to make some tremendous changes to your routine or lifestyle. Own who you are and let’s invite those qualities into your custom project.

Prepare to answer a lot of questionsTo determine how our custom project should come together, it’s crucial that I get answers to a lot of questions early in the process. Do you have children? What are their ages? Do you like to entertain? Do you like to cook? Do you play games together? Do you watch movies together? Do you like to spend time in separate spaces or all together? Do you have a specific hobby? What do you love? Are you all tall or short? This is just a sampling of some of the conversation starters I might have with clients. The point is, think about your routine, your lifestyle and the things that are important to YOU.

Choose a great designer early on

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Posellli Kitchen - Applied Photograghy - Client loves ceiling, countertop, dining room, interior design, kitchen, room, gray
Posellli Kitchen - Applied Photograghy - Client loves to cook & entertain

Another very important element is choosing the right designer and doing it fairly early in the process. Good designers will not be inexpensive. In fact, hiring a designer will be an important investment, but they will save you money and time by helping you achieve what you want in your custom project.On that note, remember to consistently be upfront and honest with your designer about everything relating to your custom home. Tell them what you like and, even more importantly, what you don't like even if it is not popular. The more information you give them, the better job they can do.

Create a layout that suits your family’s needs

One of the crucial early design decisions to be made has to do with the desired layout of your new home. Once the overall style and feel has been determined, the designer and architect, based on your wants and needs, will draw up a proposed layout for you to consider. Study this and think about how you and your family will live in the space. Pay attention to how the rooms connect and flow together. Do you want a great mud room off the kitchen, or are you more interested in having a large pantry in that space instead? These types of considerations should be taken seriously.

Be sensible with your style

Loft Living Bike - Tim Street Porter - home, interior design, living room, room, table, black, gray
Loft Living Bike - Tim Street Porter - client loves motorcycles

Once the layout, or the “bones” of the home are set, then you will be able to think about the finishes, furniture and design details. I find that clients often desire certain materials or finishes that might not work for their lifestyle in the long run. I ask them: Are you ok with the house showing some age or do you want everything to look brand new? How carefully do you (or your family and children) want to live? Also, how much maintenance do you want to do? My goal is to create a custom environment that will look great the day they move in and for years to follow.

Invest in renderings

Some clients have difficulty envisioning how our design ideas on paper will look in real life. In these instances, I often recommend investing in photorealistic renderings. It might be an additional cost up front, but will go a long way in helping you understand the look and feel of your new home before it is actually built and way more expensive and difficult to change. As a designer, I want to do everything I can to save you time and money while giving you the custom home of your dreams.

Nov 10, 2017

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