Custom Home Design Basics

Custom Home Design Basics

When existing home plans, even with modifications, won’t work for you, it’s time for a custom-designed plan. Several options exist, each with its own benefits. You may be most comfortable working with a local designer across the table, face-to-face. Another advantage can be their knowledge of local building code requirements and plan compliance. And you may meet with your designer at your future homesite if you have a unique or challenging piece of ground. On the downside, local firms may not have the breadth of experience nor knowledge of the design features, amenities, and solutions that you would later regret not having had the opportunity to consider in your new home.

Choosing a national design firm means tapping into to their vast knowledge of design and innovative problem solving derived from their experience working all over the country. Your meetings will likely be online rather than in-person, but these can actually be more convenient than trying to coordinate numerous schedules.

Whereas a pre-drawn plan you can get within a few hours might run $1,000 - $1,500, custom home plan prices range from a low of about $.60 per square foot to as much as 3%-5% of your home’s price and may take a few weeks to a few months to develop. Expect design fees to loosely correlate with the quality of the designs, quality of the final construction drawings, the designer’s experience and creativity, and level of services included. Yes, you likely could save some money on plans by selecting the low-priced draftsperson/designer, but you may end up paying higher construction costs associated with a design, which is not as well-thought out. Simply, at the cheap end, such firms don’t pay high enough wages to attract accomplished design pros. You can expect design fees from talented designers to start about $2 per finished square foot.

Custom Design Cost Chart

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Price will be one consideration when selecting your home designer. $1,250 for a pre-drawn plan equals ¼ of 1% of a $500,000 home. At $2/sq. ft., that 2500 sq. ft. home plan would cost $5,000, just 1% of the home’s price. Or a $15,000 plan – 3% of the home’s price – what’s the value of the ideal design, a home that lives the way you want, as compared to spending a little less, but having to live with regrets? 

Yes, Her Home™ is published by Design Basics, and admittedly biased. Shaped by decades of customer feedback and input, our firm has been designed around what our customers want and value. There are many fine residential designers, we hope that you will contact us to design your new home!

The accompanying chart can help you think through some of the most important considerations when it comes to selecting who will design your new home.  What is the designer’s reputation and what are they known for? How experienced are they with designing homes as compared to other structures? What information/education can they provide, equipping you to make wise, informed decisions and ultimately achieve the home you want AND the best value?

Download a PDF copy to use for your new home designer selection!

Choosing a Home Designer

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Cover photo: <a href=''>Business photo created by freepik -</a>

Beyond the Basics with Tricia Baker

Tricia Baker, Plan Alterations DesignerDescribe your responsibilities at Design Basics.

As the plan alterations designer, I’m responsible for incorporating changes to plans in accordance with customer request and architectural specifications. I also review existing plans to identify how the design could be modified for increased livability and style. I work closely with our senior designer and our Woman-Centric Matters!® team to ensure our plans meet our Woman-Centric design standards. In addition, I am a CAD drafter and provide customer service to builders, homeowners, and other industry professionals, answering questions about design, making recommendations, and searching plans that fit our customers’ needs. I also utilize my education and training in selecting materials and colors for many of our homes’ exteriors and I really like how the rendered elevations are turning out!

What made you decide to be a designer?

I enjoyed interior design in high school and took Exploring scouts at a university while in high school. That got me on the path of wanting to be an interior designer. But, when I actually got partway through college, I found I enjoyed the more technical side of design, drafting, and designing the actual blueprints and changing blueprints to make designs more functional.

What made me passionate about custom changes to plans, though, was the experience of my parents building their house. They couldn’t decide if they wanted a fireplace in the family room; and, at the last minute they decided they did. We went to the house every day and noticed the jog for the firebox in the foundation wasn’t there. The contractor tore out the concrete and put in the foundation for the fireplace. What we didn’t realize is that when they put in the foundation for the fireplace, they didn’t stretch the garage back 2’-0” to accommodate the 2’-0” firebox, which resulted in the 3rd car stall not able to accommodate a regular-sized vehicle! Lesson learned – career path decided.

What do you enjoy most about working in the home design field?

Working with customers to learn more about their wants, needs, and desires; then, translating this into a house plan that meets the way they live. Helping a customer design their dream home is exciting and rewarding!

Where do you get your design inspiration from?

I get design inspiration from anywhere and everywhere! Just look all around you, everything has a design. Nature presents a fabulous palette of colors and textures from which to draw inspiration. The advances in technology and graphic arts has provided a wealth of new ways to look at design. And, of course, customers – what they are looking for, how they live, etc. Everything influences design. I usually tell people when it comes to design, ‘Do what you like not what’s trendy because trendy will eventually be dated and what you like never will.’

What advice would you give to other women interested in working in the trades?

Go for it! Do what makes you happy. There may be challenges and obstacles along the way, but learn as much as you can about your field of interest, find a mentor, volunteer to learn a new skill, etc. Once you have the credentials and experience, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.

What are the biggest or most exciting changes in home design that you have seen over the years?

I love seeing the evolution of how design used to be to how we all live now. I would say the biggest change that I like is the design of the rear entry foyer. Years ago, we discovered that moving the laundry room out of the basement into the rear foyer was a much-desired design change. Now, we design that rear entry foyer with a drop zone, bench, and lockers for dropping off our stuff on the way into the house and have moved the laundry room to a location near the bedrooms or behind closed doors. Also, so many family and friends walk thru the garage to get in the house versus the front entry, having a space to put everything is great and not being greeted by the laundry is even better!

Tricia Baker and SonTell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a single mom with a very active teenage son named Rece. If I’m not supporting him and his team at one of his sporting events, I like to scrap book and play pool in my spare time, and play with our 13-pound fur baby, a toy Australian Sheppard named Diesel! I’m an avid sports fan and my favorite teams are the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the New England Patriots, and the Boston Red Sox as well as the Omaha Storm Chasers (KC Royals affiliate).

Tricia holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Science and Natural Resources – Interior Design from the University of Nebraska. Tricia's knowledge of Design Basics' home plans and processes combined with her enthusiasm for great design helps customers realize their dream home!

Learn more about Plan Customization from Design Basics and how we can help you realize your dream home.

(Photo credit: Cindy McAndrew, BrightSide Photography; the Shelton Farm (#42392) as built by Mark Hughes Construction)

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