The Remodeling Design & Planning Process

We provide the full range of traditional design-build services: design and planning assistance, construction and administration services. They begin at the project's inception and continue through closeout. By working with you from the conceptual stage we are able to provide a coherent, comprehensive package that is best suited to your specific needs.


The Three Design Phases


Design takes place in three distinct phases.

Information Gathering and Concept Formation


We don't actually design your space, you do. You determine the features you want, the feel of the space and how you want it to look. All we do is capture and formalize your ideas, making sure the space can be built with reasonable economy and environmentally friendly practices, and follows all the building code and design rules. In order for this to work, you need to have a very good idea of how you want the space to look and the features you will want it to contain.


Identify Your Likes and Dislikes


Since you are already thinking about remodeling, you probably have a good perspective about what you don't like about the existing space. But it is also important to understand what you do like, and what you therefore want to preserve. Retaining the features you like is just as important as fixing the aspects you do not like.



Ask yourself questions about your requirements and jot down ideas on paper.

If planning a kitchen, discuss the existing kitchen space and layout with all the primary users of the kitchen in your household, listing the good and bad points of your current kitchen. Investigate the traffic patterns in and through the kitchen. Analyze the day-to-day meal preparation tasks. Try to formulate a "normal" daily meal preparation routine. Find out about your family's desire to do more in the kitchen. Is there an area of interest, such as baking, that you would like to do more of if the space or facilities were available?

Get a good idea of what works and does not work in your current kitchen. If the wall phone is located between the sink and range, and this works for you, then you probably want to keep it in this location. What could be done to improve it? Maybe a shelf beneath the telephone for the phone book and a note pad would make it even more convenient.

For a bathroom determine what about the existing space works well. Is there adequate storage in or adjacent to the room in convenient locations? Are vanities and sinks at a comfortable height for all members of the family? Is there adequate light? Where is the hamper? Is it adequately ventilated? What is the best feature of the room? The worst? Is access from adjacent rooms sufficient?

For some ideas of what may be included in your remodeled space, take a look at the articles listed at the end of this page.

Keep a note pad in the space to be remodeled. As you are using the space, jot down any thought or idea that occurs to you.

Do Some Basic Research and Start an Idea Folder


Before you start your formal planning, you should have a very good idea what you want your new space to look like the cabinets, flooring, mouldings, countertop and have decided on a basic palette of colors. Research all of the information about new products and features on the market. Good ideas are available in magazines, on the Internet, and in books and magazines at the library. If you find a picture of a room, a feature or an idea you like; clip, or copy it and put it in a folder.

The folder does not have to be anything elaborate. A notebook or file folder will do. Collect images, material samples, color swatches and samples for your new space. To remind youself what you like about an item, makes notes on the back or, if it is an actual sample, on a piece of masking tape attached to the sample. Be sure to note where you intend to use it and why.

Use your cell phone camera to snap any unexpected ideas you may encounter. Restaurants, showrooms, appliance stores; really just about anyplace may contain just the color, fabric, tile, paint or fixture you have in mind for your new space. All cell phone companies provide software that lets you download cell phone photos into your computer.


Organize Your Requirements for the Space


List the features the space should include and order them by priority. A good working breakdown is:

  • Cannot do without
  • Important but willing to negotiate, and
  • Nice, but not necessary.
Don't be afraid to dream big. You don't know you can't afford it until we put the sharp end of the pencil to paper. We just may be able to work it in.

Carefully Measure the Space


If you are remodeling an existing space, measure the space. If you are combining rooms into a larger space, measure both rooms. Sketch out a rough plan showing all measurements.

To learn how to accurately measure a room, check out How to Measure Your Kitchen (And Other Rooms).


The Concept Plan


At this point, it is time to begin formalizing your ideas into a design. The concept plan is a series of designs intended to arrive at a point in which all of the features that you want to include in a space are incorporated into the space in a buildable design. Although we speak of it often as a plan, it is actually a series of plans, each one edging closer to the final design.

The first step is an initial planning meeting, preferably in your home. The purpose of that meeting is for you to share your ideas with us. We will spend most of the time listening to you — asking questions when appropriate for clarification. We will need your priority list, any photographs or drawings of items you would like in your remodeled space, and your sketches and drawings. We will also remeasure the space and make notes on potential construction problems.

With our notes and your ideas folder in hand, we will create a preliminary floor plan that allocates features to the space available. This sounds more formidable than it is. It is merely a process of putting things that go into a space onto the floor of the space to see how the objects in the room will go together.

Once we have a workable floor plan, we begin looking at elevations to see how objects fit vertically. For example, in a kitchen design, we will look at elevations of each wall of cabinets. Here is where we adjust the height and depths of objects. We may go back and forth between plans and elevations several times to look at different options and tweak the design here and there.

When we have a plan that includes the features you want, complies with the various design guidelines and building and safety codes, and is "buildable", we start costing it to develop a preliminary budget.

At this point we are ready to present the design to you. We will print out the floor plan, an elevation for each wall, close-up elevations of wall features if warranted, and one or more full-color perspective drawings. The perspective is a full-color, photo-realistic image of how the space will look when it is finished.

Many manufacturers of cabinets, fixtures, countertops, flooring and other products will provide us with graphic models of the exact items you have chosen for your space, in the precise colors you prefer. These models enable us to make the perspective as accurate as possible. Using a series of perspective drawings, we can walk you though the finished space, showing as much detail as you want to see.

When we present the concept drawings, you will probably have one of three reactions.
  • You will love the concept and want to build it right away (rare).
  • You will hate the whole thing and wonder why you ever got involved with idiots like us (also rare).
  • Or, you will want to make changes to the design.
The concept plan is an evolving plan. It's fine-tunable. We now begin refining the drawings to make the changes required until they match as closely as possible to the vision in your mind's eye.

This is the point at which adjustments are made to fit your budget, your lifestyle and your physical characteristics. You probably have many more ideas for the space than can be fit into the space or into your budget. Here is where we begin paring down and refining. For studies of how we handled concept design in two individual cases, take a look at Adapting a Kitchen to a Budget and Adapting a Kitchen to Human Dimensions and Movement.

Eventually we will reach a point at which the concept works for you and the budget is something you can afford. Now we start working on the construction drawings and final budget.

The Construction Blueprints and Final Cost Estimate


When you have approved the concept, we can then set about creating a firmer cost estimate. This is where the detail planning really starts. Creating a cost estimate requires us to identify all of the materials that will be used, and determine the labor required for the project. If necessary we will obtain preliminary estimates from sub-contractors such as plumbers and electricians to see what their part of the project will cost.

When the project's estimated cost meets your approval, we can begin drawing up the final construction plans.

Unlike the concept plan, which is basically, a project overview sketch drawn on a computer, the construction plans are very detailed. They show the exact placement of every wall, wire, pipe, outlet, fixture, cabinet and switch in the remodeled space.

The blueprints are the drawings the various trades use to actually build the space. They will include detailed construction plans, elevations of every wall; hardware, fixture and cabinet schedules; materials lists and detailed written instructions where required for additional guidance.

A typical construction blueprint will contain ten to thirty pages of drawings and text.

Once we have reviewed the blueprints with you and you have approved them along with the final budget, we can begin construction.



Need to learn more about designing, planning and building a kitchen or bath? Try these articles:


  • Adapting a Kitchen to a Budget
    A terrific kitchen does not have to break the bank. We may have to get creative and even make a few compromises, but you will end up with a wonderful kitchen that will serve your needs for years to come.
  • The Bathroom Revolution
    The role of the bathroom is changing rapidly. The importance of the bath in our homes has grown dramatically. Spacious rooms, closeted toilets, double bowl lavatories, whirlpool tubs, and recently large walk-in showers have found their way into our homes. No longer just a functional room, the bath is becoming a retreat. How can you modernize your bath into one of these gracious rooms? Find out here.
  • Behind the Scenes — The Hidden Kitchen
    Behind the beautiful new cabinets, under the sparking countertops, beneath the gleaming tile floor are the invisible bones and sinew that make the kitchen work - electricity, venting, heating and plumbing. Find out all that's needed behind the scenes.
  • Cabinet Basics
    Oak, maple, hickory, ash, cherry. Faced and unfaced. Framed and frameless. Custom, semi-custom and manufactured. MDF, Melamine, Thermofoil, even steel. So many choices. How do you pick the cabinets that are just right for you? Click here to find out.
  • Creating More Bathroom Space
    Our fondness of open spaces within the home doesn't end at the bathroom door. Unfortunately the acreage needed to create that spacious feeling just is not available in many older bathrooms. Often the key to updating a bath is creating more space — or at least the illusion of more space. This article examines where additional space can be found both outside and inside your existing bathroom.
  • Designing Efficient and Effective Kitchen Lighting
    The kitchen uses a lot of energy for lighting. While remodeling your kitchen, you have the perfect opportunity to create a highly efficient lighting system.
  • Finding Some More Kitchen Space
    Learn where to get more space, or at least the feeling of more space for your new kitchen.
  • Flooring Options for Kitchens and Baths
    Wood, stone, vinyl, ceramic tile, laminated flooring. What are the pros and cons of each? Learn the fundamentals of kitchen flooring.
  • How to Measure Your Kitchen
    All the steps required to measure a kitchen explained and illustrated. Learn to measure like a pro.
  • Mise en Place: What We Can Learn from Commercial Kitchens
    Organized to prepare a large variety of appetizing meals at a moment's notice, we can learn a lot about kitchen efficiency from studying commercial kitchens.
  • New and Traditional Countertop Choices
    Is solid surfacing, laminate, stone or tile your best choice of counter top? Or maybe something more exotic. Take a look at the incredible selection of modern counter top materials.
  • Off the Wall Kitchens: Living Without Wall Cabinets
    Wall cabinets are unquestionably useful storage, but with drawbacks. A major disadvantage is that wall cabinets make a kitchen seem smaller by closing in the space at eye level which is where we subconsciously judge how large the space around us is - and limit the number and size of windows in the kitchen. Can your new kitchen do away with wall cabinets? Probably. Find out how.
  • The Rules of Bathroom Design
    The Kitchen and Bath Association has published guidelines for designing a safe and functional bathroom. Created and maintained by a panel of expert designers, these recommendations should be closely followed in any kitchen plan.
  • The Rules of Kitchen Design
    In 1944 the University of Illinois conducted a study of kitchen design and developed fundamental design principals that are still very much in use today. Here are the rules for designing great kitchens.
  • Selecting Bath Fixtures
    The choices of bathroom fixtures are a little overwhelming. Tubs, showers, sinks, faucets and toilets come in so many shapes, sizes, colors and with such a great variety of features that choosing the right fixtures can be a challenge. Here are some guidelines and suggestions.
  • Sources of Supply: Faucets
    Thinking about buying a faucet? Before your do, see our list of major faucet manufacturers with ratings and guidelines on what to look for and how to select a good, lifetime faucet.