Building Your Custom Home In Real Time

As a client, how can you avoid paying for a new custom home you don’t want? Here’s how. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you have it built!

There is no better way to understand and have a feel for a new design than to see it three-dimensionally! Rather than relying on imagination to see if the bathroom door will be far enough away from the kitchen, 3D drawings allow you to virtually walk through your home before even approving any specifications or designs. Want to see that great room with coffered ceilings? No problem! Want to check out the water view from the kitchen window? Step right up. Changed your mind and now want no windows? Hold on a sec!

3D design is a fast and efficient way to get involved in every part of the design process. And it’s fun! When architects actually design with you, and present other, different or better options, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions on a design that’s perfect for you!

How do you know if your architect works in 3D? It’s always a good idea to ask when you’re interviewing potential firms and to take a look at their examples of drawings and models. 3D design should be an industry-standard in the world of residential design, but sadly it’s not. Finding a great architect who works in 3D software is not easy. The good news is firms shouldn’t charge more for 3D capabilities. They either have it or they don’t.

At PCA, we are using the leading technological advancements in 3D design software, Revit and Enscape, to accomplish these goals for our clients:

1. Establishing and developing a clear vision of the project. Understanding traditional 2D floor plans and elevations can be difficult. Many people can get the general idea from a floor plan but still have trouble visualizing how the design is going to look. Being able to see and experience your design in 3D will help you understand how it is going to work. The more you understand the look and feel of your design, the more comfortable you’ll be at making decisions.

2. Designs can change and evolve in real time. Meetings are the best way to be included in the design process and to make sure nothing is overlooked. What does a design presentation in 3D look like? It could be a fly-through video or multiple perspective views of your project. We’ve found that the most efficient and productive 3D design meetings are in the conference room with everyone sitting around the flat-screen, walking through the project room by room. This usually always brings up design questions and changes can be made to the model during the meeting for instant results. If you’re a busy traveler and unable to make it into our office, these meetings can also take place via GoTo Meetings. PCA is well-versed at working with clients at a distance—even across the world—and also has the ability to sketch on a smart-screen to illustrate any changes before they are made.

3. 3D design can help cut down on changes after construction has begun. Reducing the amount of changes during construction can help save time and money. But it can be hard to do until you really understand what the space will look and feel like, which is where 3D design comes in.

4. It helps you avoid paying for work you don’t want. Having a clear understanding of your project before construction begins is the best method to significantly reduce the problem of unnecessary charges.

With all that said, there is definitely no substitute for having an experienced architect who understands the permit process, building codes and is well-versed in critical area law. While 3D design can be helpful to you and your project, know that great designs do not come from computer programs. They come from design professionals who have spent countless hours designing, reviewing plans, improving details and listening to everything you want in your custom home!

The Design Process

The Journey from Concept to Completion

Architectural design is not a job when you are a passionate architect who loves your profession. Rather, it is a design process that starts with the conceptualization process and ends with a complete design drawing submission and 3D presentation model. This process usually starts when the client or owner brings their ideas to an architecture firm. The firm takes these client visuals and verbal wishes and designs a structure with all appropriate zoning and code standards to suit a particular site. From the initial client inquiry through to project completion, a good architect is dedicated to helping a project succeed while taking the time to listen carefully to their client’s needs, conduct necessary research and explore options.

This is when the exciting design journey begins! An architect can walk you through any part of the design and building process. From helping find the right property, guiding the building orientation, providing plan options through sketches, displaying design views through computer technology, assisting in contractor award, overseeing construction, and selecting final colors, fixtures and furnishings, an architect can bring the “fun part” of the design journey to the forefront. They allow you to imagine opportunity and help you to see potential conflict in old living patterns. They are true problem solvers while creating amazing works of art.

Initial Introduction/Consultation. This is where the client and a member of the design firm (typically the business development manager) discuss the client’s needs and budget. The client shares information regarding their project such as general vision, design intent, and desired architectural style and/or details. After this, the principal architect helps the clients understand their goals and identify next best steps.

Site Visit. The site visit allows the design team to learn more about the client’s project. It also allows the client the opportunity to “interview” the firm. From the start of each project, architects believe in cultivating a positive client-architect synergy. The site visit is the next step in building this important relationship.

After this phase, a Letter of Proposal and AIA contract is provided. The Letter of Proposal defines the firm’s understanding of the project and provides related potential architectural fees.

Kick-Off Meeting/Programming. Once the client has reviewed, signed and returned the Letter of Proposal and the AIA contract, a Kick-off Meeting to discuss project details is scheduled. During this working session, the programming of the home with related room sizes is developed and images that speak to the client’s preferences and inspiration are shared. The design team sketches room relationships and diagrams to create visuals that help illustrate the client’s intent. Houzz and Pinterest accounts are typically shared by the client so that the design team fully grasps the client’s tastes through inspiration imagery.

Schematic Design. This phase includes the freehand concept sketch of floor plans and exterior elevations. This is a collaborative process in which the design team is very sensitive to client input and approval. Having a well-developed client wish list in place, as well as having both the client and architect fully engaged in the process, helps to expedite this phase and minimize the cost related to initial concept sketches.

Initial Freehand Concept Sketch

Design Development & Construction Documents. During this phase, the project information is loaded into the firm’s design software in order to develop the construction documents and the 3D Revit model for the project. The construction documents include plans, elevations, sections, framing, detail and specifications. Everything needed to build the home.

At the client’s request, a design team can assist with final color selections and finish schedules; kitchen cabinet design or assistance; tile selections and pattern design; assistance with selection of all countertop materials; assistance with selection of flooring; assistance with selection of all lighting and plumbing fixtures; selection of furniture, upholstery, accessories and window coverings; and selection and placement of artwork. The firm can also provide designs for interior custom built-ins.

3D Revit Elevation

Coordination of any Related Consultants. During this phase, the design team can assist with the coordination of any additional consultants that may be needed for the client’s project such as Civil and Structural Engineers, Landscape Architect, Interior Designer, Lighting and A/V Consultants.

Permit Filing. At the client’s request, once the construction documents are complete, the team can coordinate all building permit applications for the project.

Bidding Assistance. At the client’s request, the design team can assist with the bidding process including preparation of the bidding documents, distribution of documents to bidding contractors, and selection of the bidding contractor through the review of references, portfolios, and final bid submissions.

Construction Administration. At the client’s request, the design team is available to support the construction process in a variety of ways: interior design assistance such as the final selection of finishes and materials; developing millwork details such as replace mantels, bookcases/built-ins and ceiling treatment details; site visits with the client and/or the Contractor; review of applications for payment; review and negotiation of change orders; coordination of all field questions; preparation of Contractor’s final punch list; and issuance of Substantial Completion certificate.

The skills of an architect can be all-encompassing or very limited. When the journey is truly successful, architects are the creators of places and spaces that evoke joy, inspiration and contentment. We at Purple Cherry Architects are truly motivated to have incredibly successful outcomes – for our clients, for our designs, and for the contractors that make what we draw on paper become a reality.

Building For Vacation

As I bask in the luminous sun and indulge in the tranquil waters of Ocean City, MD, I wish time would stand still. Watching my son play in the sand and enjoying the silence of my daughter taking her afternoon nap on the beach is truly priceless. Without a care in the world, it’s no wonder why families choose vacation homes in beautiful ocean towns as their destination to escape from the daily grind to relax and enjoy life with the people they love the most.

For most of us, the weekly oceanfront rental is an amazing get away. It allows us to leave the stressful work week and endless housework behind. We get to spend time with family, sit around all day on the beach and play games late into the night. While it’s a dream for many to own their own vacation home near the ocean, more and more families are making it a reality. As of late, there has been an upswing of families investing in oceanfront real estate in beach towns such as Rehoboth and Bethany Beach, DE and Ocean City, MD. All easily accessible within a two-to-three-hour drive from Annapolis, Baltimore and DC, beautiful open beaches offer relaxing days of fun in and on the water. There is also always a wide variety of delicious restaurants within walking distances and plenty of fun for all ages.

Oceanfront custom homes are becoming an increasingly higher demand. They range in style from traditional to coastal shingle-style to modern glass boxes with roof decks.  Open concept living to accommodate large families, balconies on every level, roof-top decks, and mudroom entrances with easy access to a beach are factors in every home. The common thread is to fit as many bedrooms as possible. Closets are small. Bedrooms typically fit one or two beds and maybe a dresser with very limited floor area. There can be as many as eight bedrooms. Only the master bedroom is generous. With summer nearing its end and school back in session, one would believe that little beach towns start closing doors for the winter. But it is quite the opposite. Construction is booming. Not letting the cold winter months or bad weather delay them, homebuilders are getting projects rolling, aiming to get custom homes built for the next beach season.

Typically, when looking to invest in a vacation home, most buyers would start with a real estate agent. Next, seeking an architect that can make their dreams a reality whether through the renovation of an existing home or designing a custom home. Then, they pursue a builder that can transform the drawings into a second home. It is a process that can be time consuming and burdensome for many. While many developers are creating speculative homes that work for the masses and are move in ready, they might innocently miss many of the elements desired by custom home buyers.

Recently architects and builders have begun to team up to streamline the process for busy families to design and build their dream vacation home in a quick and easy fashion. This process uses a single team point of contact that simplifies the communication, expedites meetings and improves the timeline. The best benefit? Time. The process can be much faster when the builder starts construction while design progresses. As a specific example, Purple Cherry Architects was hired with Ilex Construction on a $3.2 million project located at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA that was completed from beginning of design to end of construction in 10-months. Quite amazing.

In many waterfront areas, specifically ones close to the ocean, there is a complex level of zoning and code requirements that add challenges to the design and construction process. While a client may have a wish list for floor plans that check every box and meet a specific budget, this code layer can add complications that restrict some desires and increase costs. It is critical to understand these regulations up front if not before land purchase. There are also many misconceptions of the design-build process.

Simply put, design-build is a method of project delivery in which one combined entity – the design-build team – works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. One entity, one contract, one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion. Over the past year, Marnie Custom Homes and Purple Cherry Architects (PCA) have partnered up to design-build 8 new custom homes in the Bethany Beach area in DE. With our designs and their extensive beach portfolio and client base, we have created an amazing team, and PCA is grateful to be a part of this incredible team. With the right design-build group, your stunning new vacation home is absolutely within reach.

Written by Doug Kuchta, project manager at PCA. 

Etlan Residence

Under Construction – Etlan, VA Residence
Renovations to this contemporary farmhouse-style home are well underway. Located in Etlan, VA, this home will soon take full advantage of the incredible mountain views beyond by implementing expansive windows and new siding along the rear side of the home. Outdoor entertaining will be made easy with ample dining space, a lounge chair area, and an adjacent deck, all within close proximity of the pool.

The clients envisioned creating a compound-like homestead on the property. We will be constructing a new one-story home that will complement the main house, along with a new attached two-car garage. The new residence will integrate features such as large sliding barn doors, to resemble the feel of a horse barn.

We can’t wait to share more updates as this project progresses!

Harwood Home – Under Construction

These stunning aerial shots show the tremendous progress being made on our Harwood home project. The new residence, totaling 14,000 SF, is situated on 500 acres of land with two ponds. This traditional-style home will boast a stone center and clapboard wings. Stay tuned for more developments as this property reaches further stages of completion!

harwood home

Centreville Estate – Under Construction

Construction is underway on the main house of a seven-structure waterfront estate located in Centreville, MD. 40 truck loads of concrete were needed to pour all 385 yards! This four-floor, eight-bedroom home will total 25,000 SF once completed. Additionally, a three-car garage with party barn will link to the main residence. We are excited to see this project in progress!

Centreville estate

Architecture & Interiors