The Blog

Chapter 3 The Basics of Successful Home Design

Categories: WhiteStone | Posted: June 23, 2018

Chapter 3

The Basics of Successful Home Design

Designing your new home is a little like predicting the future. Often, couples come in, or families, and as we start the design process and mapping out a floor plan, I start to see cracks in the armor. The husband wants this, the wife wants that, one kid wants this and another wants that.

What it boils down to is that a lot of people don’t know what they want, period. It’s a little like being a kid in a candy store; there are so many options nowadays, not just in bedrooms and kitchens, but in accents, accessories, bells, whistles, landscaping and layout, that folks just start grabbing what looks good without a feel for how it all might fit together. That’s a great recipe for designing a home today that you may hate a year from now!

Our job then, is to help them understand not just the aesthetics of their various single design choices, but how they all fit together. And that’s the basics of successful home design.

Getting it Down on Paper: Starting with a Vision

The process of your home design begins quite simply, but realistically; in black and white. Using the Concierge Form we discussed in earlier chapters, we begin to make your dreams real by asking you to explain them. This is a breakthrough process for many clients who may know what they think they want, but only really drill down to specifics when they’re forced to.

Remember, building a home is a family affair. We encourage you to include the whole family, including everyone who will be living in the home, to help design it. This can take the form of you and your spouse filling out the concierge form before discussing it with your kids, asking your kids to help you fill it out or, in certain cases, handing every family member a concierge form, or at least a blank sheet of paper, and letting them know exactly what’s involved in the process.

This is a real opportunity for each family member to get down in writing what they want. This way, everybody should be happy, and more importantly, they’ll know upfront what the home will look like. This way nobody can complain—spouse, child or mother-in-law—nor will they be able to complain once the house is complete!

This will help everyone in the family make their voice heard when it comes to what they want…


  • In the living room;
  • In their bedroom;
  • In the garage;
  • In the front yard;
  • In the back yard;
  • In the loft/Game room;
  • In the outdoor cooking/living area;
  • In the pool area;


What’s interesting about this process is that it often makes the planned home real for my clients. I can see them getting excited about fixtures and faucets and features and as they begin to envision what their new home might look like, it’s almost like they get a new spring in their step.

My clients are motivated to build anyway, but this really brings it all together in a way that is both purposeful and visual. They can see the dream becoming a reality, and few feelings compare.

This process makes way for a clear and well-defined path for them to follow. Now, rather than just seeing a head full of unrelated pictures or picturing a meandering, curving mass of confusion, the line is straight and clear.

It’s time consuming to consider every room, all the variables and whittle down your choices. Brick or slate? Tuscan design or southwestern ranch style? Loft or Full Bonus Room? Hilly or flat? Game room or three car garage? These choices do take thought, time and even discussion, but as I like to say, clients evolve into “partners” in the home design and the process does require this kind of investment to pay off.

An Eye for Design: The Best of Both Worlds

Our sales staff is architecturally trained to be able to help our clients’ dreams become a reality. I like to call them “translators,” in addition to their other technical skills, because I often hear them listening to a client’s rambling explanation of some floor plan or feature or accessory they’ve seen in a neighbor’s house, or from the road, or in a magazine and magically our designers will not only be able to show it to them, but either draw it up on the computer or show them a sample of what it might look like in their home.

That’s why the concierge form and several of the other requirements we ask for—magazine clippings, sample floor designs, web links and other visual cues—are so important. The more information you bring to us to express your vision, the closer our designers can get to making that vision a reality.

Having designed dozens of homes in a variety of styles, we have a vast catalog of existing floor plans, designs and features that we can adapt to the client’s specific needs. So, building on the concierge form, our designers can blend the existing with new. This gives clients an even clearer vision when they can begin to see the house take shape, not just on paper but in living color, on screen, in print or in 3-D models—or even existing homes.

There is nothing like seeing a really great home, floor plan or design and enlisting a team of professionals to help you customize and personalize it for your individual needs.

A little bit of this house, a smidge of that floor plan, a garage here, a loft there, the landscaping this way, the lighting that way, and accent by accent, room by room, your house becomes a custom home.

Needs Vs. Wants: Where the Rubber Hits the Road

The next part of the process delves into separating what you want from what you need. We’re Americans; we all want everything. More toppings, more cheese, double-size it and add sprinkles, if you please.

But when you keep in mind that each element of your home design not only affects how the house fits together but also costs more, we get down to the nitty-gritty: What do you want and what can you really afford?

Here is where the design process gets real for a lot of people, because we still want to create a dream home for them, but we want to do it within the limits of their personal, professional and financial reality.

Yes, a built-in outdoor kitchen with stainless steel fixtures, mini-bar and dorm fridge. Resort style pool and camouflaged rock speakers is what every red-blooded American homeowner wants, but do they need it? Will it fit with the rest of the house design? Will the added cost of that luxury affect the size of, say, the garage or the den or the guest room or even the pool? Will it mean the difference between an outdoor kitchen and a pool?

Here is where involving your family, and the design team, as well as compromise and lively discussion can help. We don’t rush this process, but we do keep it moving for your benefit. We recognize that both the wants and needs are real to the client, so we generally take a week or two to really fill out these forms, gather these pictures, troubleshoot these issues, present the pros and cons of each feature until the client can see the forest for the trees and make clear, rational, realistic decisions.

Now we’re really cooking!

The Four Elements of Home Design

Regardless of how big or small the house may be or how many rooms or square feet, Traditional style or Tuscan, there are really only four main elements of home design:

  • Kitchen
  • Family Room
  • Master Bedroom
  • Master Bath

Here is where I’d like to walk you through each element: