Design Process

Design Process Infographic


Let's get to know each other! We'll complete an initial consultation before we get into our first official step – Predesign and Research (sometimes referred to as Programming or PD).

Predesign and Research is exciting! We're going to chat about what design style you love and how you envision using your new spaces. You'll share with us your inspirations, work you love, work you hate, and special places to celebrate. We'll brainstorm together and think creatively about ways to reflect your personality, capture the spirit of place, and bring together timeless and beautiful elements in your home. You'll feel relaxed and thoughtful as Arlene leads the process with honesty and attention to your details.


In Step 2, bubble diagrams and simple building forms are explored, tested, and quickly evaluated as concept sketches as we assist you in strategic building addition design. For you, it's your first real chance to respond and contribute to the preliminary design. Clients say Arlene is “… a terrific collaborator,” * and point out “… how much fun she was to work with.” * Many feel that collaborating on the Preliminary Concept (aka, Schematic Design or SD) is the most fun step because it's quick – like the ‘dating' phase of a relationship, where things are new, enthusiasm is high, and excitement abounds. We continue listening to you dream, respond with alternatives, and collaboratively work to realize a strong concept, overcome your fears, create hope, and design something that's distinctly yours.


In the Development Concepts step (Design Development, Permitting) we start with the approved preliminary concept, synthesize the elements, and metaphorically sculpt them into a cohesive architectural form. This is an iterative and collaborative process. One move affects another in this multidimensional activity of fitting things together. It's hard work, we don't expect to get there the first round and, honestly, the time spent exploring is worth the effort in finding just the right solution for you. Renovating a detail may result in a timeless focal point in the home. In this stage, roof, walls, and more come together and evolve into the personality and character of the space beyond square footage. Utilizing the “… talent, skills, and insights that people are looking for,” * whether it's an existing building or a new structure, Arlene uses various tools to help clients understand and feel the space as a cohesive architectural form.

During Step 3, we share our opinions and give you time to respond with feedback on what works and what could be improved. Arlene's friendly approach facilitates ".... open, collaborative communication…," * helping you understand drawings and the feel of the space before the design form is solidified. We'll be meeting life safety and energy building requirements with particular details, working with a structural engineer to fulfill permit requirements, and possibly other design consultants – it depends on your project's needs.

Toward the end of this step, there's relief and joy as we approach permit application – a package blending geometry, materials, form, and function into drawings of something someone can build. At the very end, we're psyched to finally submit the application for permit!


During Step 4 – Drawings and Specifications (aka, Construction Documents or CD), we're heads down, drawing interior elevations and documenting more details like millwork, lighting layouts, plumbing selections, door hardware, and building finishes. We'll schedule a few periodic review meetings to go over more interior and exterior items. Our care in getting details down might seem excessive; however, this information is critical in helping the contractor price your project. And, it's also a time when design adjustments (tweaks) will get hashed out for you. Yeah!

In addition, we produce the specification's manual. The specification is incredibly helpful for the contractor and you. A well-done spec will moderate the amount of questions the contractor has during the construction process. Putting time into product selections up front increases the chances that your project will proceed efficiently over the long run.

Step 4 is an opportunity to build the team and identify how communication and decisions will be made between the homeowner, the contractor(s) and your design team. With years of experience, integrating lessons learned, and client feedback, you'll feel confident that Arlene's skills will shepherd the process forward.


When we're in the Construction & Management step, we're building and we're excited! We can't believe it's finally happening. The general contractor oversees demolition, an important milestone. For some clients, seeing their old home demo'd can be an emotionally charged moment. There may also be other surprises as the old home comes down. Arlene has the empathy, skill, and experience to manage all possibilities as they come up, so client's feel safe and respected as they go through this process.

During Step 5 site meetings, Arlene will continue to provide value for you by being prepared to answer the multitude of questions that will be asked, bring in consultants as needed, and keep the project moving forward. As project fatigue sets in, the collaborative team relationships that have been built will make all the difference. Even if there's a snafu, as a team we will pull together to come up with solutions. Two or three heads thinking together is a strategy that really works.


During Step 6, and while construction continues, you'll be smiling as you see your ideas come to life in physical form. We'll be working on your behalf to approve samples of the items we specified. Think about items that are in the specification manual - items that are screwed, bolted, and physically attached to the building. On top of that, we offer you the option of working with us to select furnishings, drapery, and placement of art. Sizing a sofa or table just right. Or working to design a gorgeous fireplace surround. Arlene loves working with the people in her industry. From coordinating and collaborating with those who produce beautiful high-end metal work to those who produce incredible drapery and furniture – any additions or adjustments to the plans are like composing a painting for Arlene.


The final step! During the Furnish & Move-In step (sometimes called Close Out), paint is completed, appliances are installed, and you walk the project with your architect for a visual inspection and completion of the “punch list” document. The contractor is almost done, but may show up for odds and ends after the owner receives the keys. We've worked strategically, respecting the process, and the contractor's work is manageable.

This is the time for CELEBRATION! The final stretch has been completed, and it's time to pop the champaign for a job well done. Everyone is ecstatic to reach the finish line! You're moving into your newly renovated home, and it feels exactly how you wished it would!

* Excerpts from AKJ Architects former and current client statements.