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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Kelley

Start Designing Your Dream Home With 2 Essential Steps

Imagine walking up to the front door of your dream home, turning the doorknob, and entering your paradise. Perhaps for your custom home design, you envision walls of soothing blues like the colors of the ocean and a big picture window that captures views of the surrounding vineyards. Or do you see the majestic Arizona desert stretched out for miles, and as you glance around, you see walls displaying artwork that inspires you?

Wandering through your home, you love everything. The living room is a great entertainment place, with inviting and comfortable seating. Your kitchen has all the appliances you need to be a gourmet cook and functions just as well as when you order take-out. There’s a home office where you can quietly concentrate and hold Zoom meetings, with plenty of windows that allow natural light to flow in, and you can gaze out to enjoy the beautiful roses planted in your garden.

Your vision is unique to you. Your custom home is an accumulation of everything you desire to align with your lifestyle. Turning your dream into reality is exciting, especially if it’s something you have been planning for years.

However, it can also be overwhelming, and you won’t always know where to begin. As a professional architect, I guide my clients to start designing their dream homes with 2 essential steps: Identifying their style and developing their project requirements.

Identify your style

Start by gathering images of homes you like that speak to your heart and soul.

Perhaps you were on vacation staying at a lovely villa in the north of Italy and would like to integrate the feelings you had of joy and relaxation into your dream home. You may envision a more vernacular-style house like the ones commonly found in the Ozark Mountains, a dog trot with two parallel sides and an open courtyard running through, so your home is light and airy. Do you have wonderful memories of your grandmother’s house and her freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and want a way to incorporate that emotion into your dream home?

My clients, Jill and Todd, are a young couple who had traveled to Tuscany and fell in love with the Tuscan farmhouse style, complete with a bell tower. They wanted to escape from the city and feel like they were living in a foreign country. Their custom home with views of the rolling hills of Southern California was designed to capture that vacation mode. Jill and Todd fully enjoyed the groin-vaulted hallways and fluted ceilings with Italian architectural details that embraced their style. The couple was delighted with their home, and when they decided to sell, they were glad they had invested in the unique features and design.

You might not know your specific style, as Jill and Todd did. But, I encourage my clients to create a shared Pinterest board, which allows us to communicate through pictures and helps me understand your vision. By browsing through websites like Houzz, Dwell, and Arch Daily, you’ll see ideas that will inspire you. You may prefer the brick patterns to that of natural stone or gravitate to clean, sleek lines versus round curves. By gathering pictures, patterns emerge that help determine your style.

Remember that there may be restrictions to the style you prefer based on where you plan to build. Your municipality or homeowner’s association could have architectural guidelines you must follow for approval from the architectural review committee. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to build the home that you love. But you will need the assistance of an expert to ensure your design is approved and has a coherent feel within the community.

A professional architect can ensure your home will comply with the guidelines and use the images you provide to establish your style, guiding you to a home design that aligns with your personal taste.

Develop your project requirements

Now that you’ve started to create your style, you should also develop your project requirements. Project requirements are your wish list. How many bedrooms will you need in your custom home, and does each require its own bathroom? Would you like the primary bedroom to be a specific size to accommodate your current bedroom furnishings, or do you plan to have everything custom-built? Should the primary bedroom be on the ground floor for easy access or have its own wing for privacy?

Do you enjoy cooking in your kitchen and want to ensure room for a large 60” stovetop to prepare gourmet meals for your family? When you entertain, is it for high-level executives that may require a more formal dining area, or is it twice a year when the family gathers for the holidays? You want to welcome your family and guests, so planning enough space for your dream home's design is essential.

Consider your lifestyle needs. Do you desire your custom home to have a fitness area, a sauna, and a spa? Would you like a pool so that you can swim laps or recline on a lounge chair while you sip margaritas, feel the ocean breeze on your skin, and smell the salt air as you watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean?

As a professional architect, I guide my clients to consider their current and future lifestyles. If you intend to stay in your dream home well into retirement, consider incorporating features that will help you as you age. This could be larger doors and hallways and backing in the shower for grab bars. Planning ahead and designing these features into your custom home now will save you money for renovations in the future.

Your dream home should accommodate your lifestyle, satisfy your needs and be comfortable to live in. The project requirements are about how you move through your home and how you plan to live your life. When you design a custom home, it’s an investment in yourself and your family. You will appreciate and enjoy this attention to detail, plus they often add increased value to your home. A professional architect can assist you in fine-tuning those requirements to create a home that is perfect for you and your family.

Start your dream home design in 2 steps

The design of your dream home is an exciting experience. A professional architect can assist you in establishing a style that aligns with your unique tastes and preferences. A program planning guide helps you get organized with what you and your family want and need for your home. Knowing your project requirements at the beginning of the design lets you consider what you desire for your custom home and ensure those features are included.

Is it time to design a home that genuinely encompasses your lifestyle and what you envision? If you are ready to begin the process and want to create the home you have been dreaming of, call me, and let's start the conversation: at 858-344-2404 or email

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