Design Considerations – Function First – Part 2

on Tuesday, 27 November 2012. Posted in Planning your custom home/remodeling project

In the last blog I talked about individual room considerations. Now let’s consider the bigger and more general functional needs of your home:

Entertaining – Consider the size and type of entertaining you do and how often. Think about the areas of your home that you want to use for these purposes. They will be different for different scenarios. For example, a child’s birthday party is different than a teenager’s graduation party and that is different than an adult dinner party. You want to make sure the spaces you plan to use will be adequate to handle the amount of guests you typically entertain.

Another consideration when thinking about entertaining is where do other family members go when they are not part of the party or event – where do the other children and adults go when the teenagers are having a party and likewise where do the children go when the adults are over – no one wants to feel like they are being banished to their rooms during these events.

Also consider staging areas for food and drink places where you can layout your delicious spread. A well placed electrical receptacle can eliminate extension cords across the floor which could be a safety hazard, not to mention unsightly.
You may also want to consider a sound system that can feed music to multiple areas of the home including outside decks or patios.

What bathrooms will be used when entertaining? Many homes have a powder room right off the foyer – you may want to consider a different location so that your guests can have a little more privacy. Is there an opportunity to have a second bathroom accessible to your guests without them having to walk through one of the bedrooms. Simply adding a door with hallway access can help eliminate this problem.

Flow – You should avoid bottlenecks – spaces that are used during larger parties or events with only one way in and out. Also avoid long lineal flow which can also cause bottlenecks. Having multiple ways to move throughout the inside and outside during parties and events is a great asset for any home.

Light - Light is very important – do you want morning light in certain rooms like the master bedroom or kitchen area? – some people do and some people don’t. Do you like to put makeup on with natural light? How will the light affect artwork, fabrics, or flooring? Will there be glare on TV’s or video screens. The site orientation and location of the rooms in the plan will have a significant impact on what light comes in and when – so plan for it.

Furniture – It may seem obvious to but measure the furniture you have now and lay it out to scale on any proposed plans you are considering to make sure what you have or plan to have fits in the space you are planning.

Special personal needs - Think about display areas for the important pictures and mementos that are unique to your family. Do you have enough wall space for pictures? Do you need display area for mementos, decorations, or art pieces? Other special considerations could include pre-planned design cellars, areas for crafts or other hobbies, a sewing area, a gift wrapping station, and even basement areas with batting or golf swing cages. We’ve even put a bowling alley in the basement of a house we built. Anything is possible – you just need to bring your ideas to the table when meeting with your design professional.

Finally,  think about adaptable or universal design that allows you and your family members to use all of the home through special design features like wheel-under vanities, wheel-in showers, lever handles on doors, lower switches and higher receptacles, even floor transitions between rooms, ramps that don’t feel like ramps, elevators or chair lifts. These are just a few of the examples of features that can be designed into your home to make it more accessible and easy to use.

The moral if the story is this: your home is where you spend most of your time, it’s where you live. Your home design should be one that helps you live the lifestyle you want, and should be planned in way that all family members can enjoy themselves and have the security and sanctuary from all the outside world throws at us. Our home should make living easier, not harder for us – with good design and planning it can be and much, much more.

Next up – Architectural styling.

Design Considerations – Part I - Function First

on Monday, 12 November 2012. Posted in Planning your custom home/remodeling project

When developing a design, many people focus primarily on the eye-catching bells and whistles, the dramatic design details you see in magazines. These types of features are aesthetically pleasing and important to the overall feel of your home, but they are not more important than the function of your home. Your home design must accommodate all the special living needs of your family and needs to be designed in a way that will maximize the efficiency of the space where your family will live, entertain and function.

Get started by thinking about how you and your family live, both now and into the future. For example, how you use your home changes over time: The needs of a childless couple are different than the needs when there are infants or toddlers in the house and these are different then when children become teenagers and different still after the couple are empty nesters. Begin by going through your daily life from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep.

Bedrooms - Think about sleep patterns – in many families one spouse wakes up earlier than the other or one stays up later than the other. If this is the case, a master bedroom suite can be designed so that the spouse who wakes up earlier can leave the sleeping area to use the bathroom and get dressed and go on their way without disturbing their partner. Likewise in the evening, is there a sitting area or a way for one partner to watch TV while the other sleeps? For children – do you need space for homework, are they allowed to have friends in their rooms, what furniture will they have in their rooms?

Bathrooms - How does sharing the bathroom work – in some cases one spouse is messier than the other – so do you share one sink, have two sinks or even have the vanities separated? The same goes for siblings that share a bathroom. Baths can be designed like a buddy bath: the tub and toilet area can be separated from the vanity area so two people can use the bathroom to speed up getting ready for school or work. Will the tub be separate from the shower? Consider if you need a makeup area in the bath and don’t forget space for your linens and towels.

Kitchen – How do you cook, what are your needs? Start with making a list of appliances you would like in your kitchen. Next, measure the lineal footage of counter space, wall cabinets, and base cabinets you currently have and then you can compare those dimensions to your new plan to better communicate your needs. Many kitchens become the primary entertaining space – everyone hangs out in the kitchen as food is being prepped so make sure there is there enough space to accommodate your friends – islands and breakfast bars can be both very functional as well as add a great design feature to your home. One of the more common mistakes is making a kitchen/eating area too small. Just a simple addition of an extra foot or two to the eating area can eliminate children bickering with each other as one wants to get up to get another drink and the other won’t move their chair in to let them get around.

Think about the household command center, every house has one – this is the area where all the family activities are: the family calendar, the birthday party invitations, the school notices. Normally it is in the general kitchen area, but can be unsightly. Plan for this so you can easily access this information without it all laying out on the kitchen island or posted on the refrigerator.

Laundry/Mudroom - Many homes have the laundry room and mudroom combined as the same space. It is usually the primary access from the garage or exterior. You could end up with kids coming in covered with mud or snow walking over baskets of freshly washed clothes or throwing their dirty clothes into the clean piles. Being a father of five children, this has always been important to me. I find a much better set-up is to have a mudroom entry where everyone can shed their outerwear, store their book bags, etc., and have a laundry off of that area so you don’t have to walk through it to get to the rest of the house.

Storage - We all know we will never have too much closet and storage space. Prior to starting your design go through your belongings and get rid of those you really do not want to keep. Do an honest evaluation of all your stuff; most of us are borderline hoarders. Next measure your current closet space in lineal footage of single hung vs. double hung needs. Once you can do that you can then have an accurate benchmark when designing your new closet space. Also think about the use of shelving, cubbies, or drawers for sweaters, hats, pocketbooks, shoes, etc. There are many very efficient closet systems that can help you organize your belongings.

Next we will review more design considerations – light, entertaining areas, flow, and features to consider that are unique to your family.

Choosing The Right Designer

on Thursday, 01 November 2012. Posted in Planning your custom home/remodeling project

Now that you have completed the 1st step, formulating a basic plan of what you would like to change about your home, it is time to move on to selecting a design professional who can help you put those ideas on paper to help you see the possibilities. There are different levels of design, including:

- Concept plans that can be floor plans and a combination of 2D or 3D elevations to help you visualize your home

- Scaled design development plans that are now adding more details and sections through critical areas

- Bid documents which should be scaled plans with complete notes and detailed specifications as well as the engineering needed so that you can get an accurate estimate and apples-to-apples bids

- Construction drawings with all the dimensions, sections, product schedules etc. that are needed to execute the work

- 3D models that can help you better visualize your home, inside and out

There are multiple options for you to consider when choosing a design professional: the complexity of the project, architectural styling and taste and budget should all be considered when choosing your design professional. There are multiple options for you to consider as well:

-  Your first option is to hire an architect. Architects are very skilled and creative and understand what architectural details work best. They are artist with buildings. It never ceases to amaze me how creative they can be presenting design solutions to difficult projects. Architects can also give you more detailed drawings and specifications to enable you to bid the project out. They can also offer you the most protection from unscrupulous contractors. I suggest you visit for a list of excellent professional architects.

- If you have a good idea of what you want to do you can hire a draftsman to create the plans for pricing.  This option will be less costly than using an architect, but history has shown that the construction documents are sometimes lacking in detailed information which could result in a wide range of bids. In addition, a draftsman may not have addressed critical structural engineering issues. However, if your design is simple and you don’t mind filling in some of the details yourself, a draftsman can help you move the project forward for a lower cost.

- If your project involves just interior spaces, you may want to consider hiring an interior designer, but make sure you choose one who is experienced in space planning, not just picking out fabrics and furniture. Like a draftsman, an interior designer may not be able to address structural issues, but if you have chosen a good builder, he/she can coordinate these new areas. Contact for a list of the many excellent interior designers in our area.

- Another option is Design/Build.  This is where the builder also serves as the designer, using an in-house designer or architect, or sometimes using the services of an outside architect whom the builder has a working relationship with. In this scenario, the project timeline is reduced since there is less detail required for the drawings since they are not being bid out. Also, the builder would have a better understanding of budget issues and you have a more likely chance of bringing the project in on budget.

There is no best design option – only by doing the research can you decide what makes the most sense for your family. With all your design options it is very important that you select someone who is experienced in residential design of the same style and architecture of your home, someone who will listen and respond to your needs and requests, someone who wants to work with you. There is nothing worse than working with someone who ignores your ideas and request, drawing what he/she wants regardless of practicality, functionality or budget. Next week, we’ll discuss all the things you should consider when evaluating your design.

It all starts with a plan

on Thursday, 20 September 2012. Posted in Planning your custom home/remodeling project

So you want to build a custom home, addition or renovation.

You’re excited about the prospect such a major change can bring to your life and you’re ready to go now.

Slow down and take some time to make sure that whatever you decide to do,  you do it right. Building a custom home or adding an addition to your home can ease the growing pains you are experiencing and create that wonderful environment you wish to raise your family in but only if the design and construction are done in a way that meets all your needs, even some you may not have thought of.

The project you are considering should include all the grand details you’ve seen and fallen in love with in magazines and your friends’ homes. It should also meet all your functional needs for more space, better flow, whatever you need to make your home your own.

To get started, make a list of all the things you like and dislike about your home and a list of things you definitely want to change. Prioritize the list and then think long-term, maybe  projects that are on your Someday list, but you know you will not do now. For example, you may be planning for your parents to move in with you in the future or your children moving out in a few years. Maybe you’re considering a pool and patio. You want to make sure that what you design and build now will accommodate your future plans.

One of your most valuable tools will be a tape measure. Keep it with you everywhere you go. Begin by measuring the size of the rooms in your home and recording those in a journal. As your visiting friends, relatives or model homes and see rooms that you like the size of, measure and record them in your journal. That way, when you’re sitting down with your design professional you can accurately communicate to him/her the size of the spaces you really need or want and have something visual you can relate too. Many people find this exercise very helpful.

Look through design magazines and pull pictures of interior and exterior details you like. Keep a camera with you and take pictures of the homes or special features you would like included in your design. Create a binder with sections for exteriors, interiors, details, kitchens, baths, etc so that you can easily access them to show your designer.

Next you need to establish a budget of what you want to spend and what you can spend. Your design professional needs to know a budget so he/she does not waste your valuable time and money designing a project that will never get built.

Once you have a plan of what you think you would like to include in your new living environment and how much you plan on spending, it’s time to begin the design phase. Check back in a month to see how to successfully navigate one of the most critical steps in your housing journey. Better yet, register for our newsletter at and receive these updates automatically. Until then we remain dedicated to helping you along the way.

Griffith Brilhart Builders

Welcome to Griffith Brilhart Builders

on Wednesday, 19 September 2012. Posted in Planning your custom home/remodeling project

After 35 years Griffith-Brilhart Builders is finally coming of age in the twenty-first century with our own website. It seems that we have put so much effort into helping our customers design and build the very best homes and complete the very best renovations that we have not allowed ourselves the time to keep current and prospective customers up-to-date on the goings-on of the business. We try to share our experience with our clients on proper home maintenance when we complete our work, but it can be easy for this information to get lost in the excitement of a home improvement project.

In addition to the latest news on what is happening at Griffith-Brilhart Builders, it is our intention to make this website a source of continuing valuable information that you, our customers, can use to gain a better understanding of the construction process and techniques, as well as DIY projects and how to care for your home in the best possible way.

You will find future articles detailing every phase of the construction process from site selection, zoning, design, bidding, contracts and specifications, change orders, product selection, building techniques, green building, and more. In addition to these articles on what we can do for you, there will also be information to help preserve the investments you have made into your home and details on projects that you may choose to do yourself.

It has always been our belief that a more educated consumer can make the best decisions. This principle is what led us to create this newsletter, and it is what leads us to continue to treat our clients the same way we would like our own families to be treated—because it’s the right thing to do.

We hope you find this information helpful—sign up for our e-newsletter to receive updates automatically.  Thank you for visiting; we hope to see you again soon!

Griffith-Brilhart Builders.