Working with Us

The timeline and phases of a residential project

This page serves as an introduction to our design and construction process of a residential project. Though not one project is alike, this page can serve as a “bare bones” guide of what to expect. You can download this page in booklet form for your reference here.

Our Design Principles

We are committed in crafting places that are beautiful, functional, and timeless.

We specialize in custom homes crafted and designed in the tradition of Pacific Northwest Modernism. Our designs are simple, intuitive, and span across a wide range of costs from very inexpensive Habitat for Humanity row houses to large, well apportioned custom residences.

We are committed to working closely with our clients to craft spaces that are beautiful, functional, and timeless. We engage all the senses– optical, auditory, touch– with the belief that the combination of the sensory and the intellect create an architecture for humankind. The use of materials and scale are balanced with light, sound and touch to create a harmonious whole.

The following is what to expect from working with us:

What Does an Architect Do?

Generally speaking, architects design buildings, but what does that actually mean?

Building design is more than just lines on a paper—it’s a process which requires creativity, thoughtfulness, experience, diligence and dedication.

In residential design, architects craft spaces that complement clients’ needs, lifestyle and environment. We coordinate with city officials and other building professionals (like contractors and engineers) to ensure your home meets with local zoning and building requirements. We are creative problem solvers who help clients make design decisions that are cost effective and aesthetically pleasing. Above all, we act as the client’s advocate, help clients define their goals, present options for how to achieve those goals, and ensure that the project built is the one approved by the client.

The following section is a rough outline of our design process, what it is like to work with us and what you can expect at each phase, starting with hiring an architect and finishing with moving in.

Choosing an Architect

Trust and aligned goals are essential in selecting an architect.

Residential projects often take a year or more to complete and represent substantial financial investments on the part of the client. Therefore it is very important that you, the client, choose an architect you are comfortable with and trust will achieve your goals.

Open feedback and communication is necessary throughout the design process: it keeps your dream feasible, on time, on budget, and well-designed for your needs. We find that design is a two way street, where client and architect operate as partners.

It is helpful during the interview process to have one or two meetings, over the phone and in person, ideally on site. We will ask you to define your goals and priorities. We invite you to ask us about our experience, our fee schedule and a possible design approach to your project. It should go without saying that we will not bill you for this early introduction.

Master Planning & Pre-Design

Gathering information and defining project goals.

We start our projects with Master Planning. The goal of this phase is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the project and site and a “big picture” sketch to move forward with.

Master planning begins with the accurate documentation of the site. Through visits, drawings and photographs, we look at views, vegetation, sun angles, and street activity to discern between advantages. If applicable we will also measure and photograph the existing house with “as built” drawings, which will serve as an accurate underlay for future design proposals.

Once all the information is gathered, we will start to draw, showing you a variety of options and discussing what works for you and what doesn’t. Because things can change quickly at this stage, we typically work in pencil so we can propose and alter ideas more quickly and efficiently.

Schematic Design

Giving goals shape.

The goal of this phase is to develop floor plans and exterior elevations to generate a preliminary cost estimate from a contractor and to ensure that the project’s direction aligns with your goals and budget. If you have a contractor already in mind, we are happy to work with them. Otherwise, we will help you in contractor selection.

Schematic design is typically highly iterative and energetic, thus requiring the most client input and feedback as we examine room size and adjacencies, constructibility, the relationship between indoors and outdoors, etc. We start to define spaces, rooms, masses and volumes of the project, using plans from the previous phase as a guide. We also study how these spaces and volumes fit into the context of the site. We begin to develop a preliminary structural organization as well.

Design Development

Defining the project in more technical terms for permit and pricing.

This phase of the design starts to define the project in more technical terms, with the goal of generating the required information and drawings for permit. We refine what’s designed in the previous phase and begin working with sub-consultants like a structural engineer and, if applicable, a geotech and a civil engineer. We also incorporate sustainable design strategies by calculating energy and water savings, as well as provide feedback on assembly and glazing options, all which effect energy efficiency and environmental impact.

During this phase, it is important to consider value engineering. Design can be an exciting process and often the scope gets larger regardless of whether you are remodeling an existing home or building new. There is always the allure of “while you are at it.” Sometimes adding scope makes sense, and we can help you make those decisions, but it is important to prioritize your goals and to keep an open mind.

Construction Documents

Building systems and specifications, structural, safety and energy information.

During this phase we complete a set of documents that describe the finished project to the contractor. This phase consumes the most time and fee, but is the most pivotal, as it is the culmination of a series of decisions made throughout the design process. The document set shows technical information on how building components and systems come together, such as floor to roof, as well as any specialty items and decorative details. It also includes structural, safety, waterproofing and energy consumption aspects of the building.

The final result is a detailed set of drawings and an accompanying document that describe the intention for construction so that your project will be built the way you want it to be. For residential projects, we like to get input from the contractor as to how to make a design more efficient and cost effective.

Construction Administration

Keeping design intent on course all the way through construction.

Finally, it’s time to build! This is an exciting time in the process when all the things on paper start becoming real. During this phase we like to meet regularly with you and the contractor on site to verify the project is being built according to the drawings. We answer questions and generate additional sketches for clarification if necessary. Change is constant, even with thorough construction drawings- existing buildings will especially throw a few surprises here and there.

The frequency of meetings and our depth of involvement depend on the extent of the project. At the end of this phase, we walk through the project with you and the contractor to develop a punch list, a list of things for the contractor to complete before they leave officially finish your project.


Defining a comprehensive scope of work will aid in calculating fees.

We find it good to define the scope of work prior to discussing fees, as the scope informs and often defines the amount of work done. Remodeling a basement with no anticipated structural changes, for example, differs greatly from adding a second story or designing a whole house.Fees are also based on the level of service required. Some clients prefer service only through permitting and some prefer full service design.

After agreeing on design requirements, scope of work, and level of service, we develop a fee amount for each phase in the design process. Typically, our fees are between 7% and 10% of the construction cost.