Friday, April 9, 2010

Diary of a Project...

From the Ground Up

I recently took on a new project that I am very enthusiastic about. Without going into personal information or betraying client confidentiality, I would love to share some of the process and the progress with my blogging friends and readers.

This is a new construction project for a couple that is relocating from Houston to the country onto 130 gorgeous wooded acres. For the past year they have been clearing and preparing the property with a beautiful large six stall horse barn, water features, gazebos and more. Just prior to pouring the foundation I joined their team… in the nick of time. The original architect prepared a botched set of incomplete plans, so I was able to make some adjustments prior to the pouring. Since we are basically working with just a floor plan, I am able to make further adjustments, addressing problem areas throughout the floor plan in regards to space planning.

This is truly a project from the ground up…

The house is 5200 square feet single story. We are in the framing stage right now, and because some of my design concepts vary from the original plans (or lack of plans), we are able to make changes to some of the interior framing of walls and ceilings. I am thrilled to say that we have another architect working with the team that has made my job much easier! I don’t do CAD work, and rather than spend hours at my drafting table, I am able to pass the design concepts along to the architect to work out the engineering and draft the CAD drawings showing everything dimensioned.

That doesn’t get me out of all the drafting however…to date I have been working on the partition plan, preliminary furniture plan, and the RCP (reflected ceiling plan). It is of utmost importance to have a furniture plan to determine spatial requirements… not only for furniture but for traffic flow and to determine how the spaces relate to other spaces. So, all the while that I am working on a two dimensional plan, I am also thinking three dimensionally. This includes accumulating ideas for the ceiling, floors, and wall treatments… doors, windows, custom cabinetry, mill-work, lighting… on and on. To make sense of it all (and to have something visual to show the client) I bring the plans into elevations.

Elevation sketch indicating changes in ceiling heights

The RCP is the plan that illustrates the designs for the ceiling treatments… exposed beams, materials and the lighting… fixtures, recessed, etc. This is extremely important, because you must take into consideration not only what is on the ceiling and how your lighting will be installed in relation to beams, moldings etc., but also, all that lies below the ceiling level and the effect the lighting has on all surfaces. For instance, if you are planning a gallery wall, the type of lighting and the placement are critical to properly lighting the artwork…. the same for work spaces. Allowing for a mix of task, ambient and accent lighting is also critical to the overall effects and effectiveness of the final lighting plan. There is a lot to take into consideration!!!!

A Portion of the RCP rough draft

Currently the architect is working on the framing plan for the ceiling in the family room. I had requested that we have enough support so that we can eliminate some of the vertical posting that would interfere with the window and French door placement. The concept for this ceiling is to have a rustic plank and beamed ceiling without the use of trusses. It appears that this is proving to be difficult to engineer without some sort of truss support for this particular project… so what I have proposed is the use of collar ties in lieu of the trusses. Basically you get the same support, but they are closer to the ceiling and less obtrusive.

Here are a couple of examples of collar ties being used that are not only functional but add a great deal of architectural interest to these ceilings…

Here is an example of a plank and beamed ceiling without the use of trusses or collar ties…

A final decision on how to handle this issue has not yet been made...

My plan is to take you along as we progress… through the design and selection processes. You will see how my ideas and material selections come together to create the design concept. You will see how things not only evolve as planned, but how things can unexpectedly change… depending on the challenges, obstacles and opinions that are all involved. Even though every designer has their own style and methods of working, much of the process is the same and I think you will find the journey interesting and hope you join me as we create a new home... from the ground up.


  1. Wonderful project! I know that it takes a lot of energy but I am sure that the result will be exceptional!!
    Love to see the further process of it! I wish you success!!!
    PS Thank you so much for stopping by!

  2. Thanks for stopping by Greet. This is the type of project that I love getting involved with... from the beginning. Of course, the end results will only be as good as the people working on it. I have not worked with this contractor or his subs before... hopefully his finish carpenters and cabinet makers can do exceptional work.

  3. Hola, it seems a great project, I will gladly follow the progress in your blog. Thank you very much for your kind words to my country and its devastation.
    Maria Cecilia

  4. Thanks for visiting my place. I love your hand drawn plans.

    I don't know your contractors but this always encourages me from Quinlan Terry:

    "People ask, 'How can you find men to do your class of work these days?' as if men no longer can or want to produce skilled work. The truth is that whenever there is good work to be done there are men to do it. We have never had difficulty in obtaining first class joinery; we prepare full size details and specify the quality, and provided a reputable builder is doing the work it normally needs no further explanation. The same goes for plasterers, bricklayers, slaters, stonemasons and even woodcarvers and coppersmiths. Generally, I find that the more intricate the detail, the more willing the tradesmen are to take on the work."

    It's from here and ther is more.

  5. Maria, you can be sure that your country is in our prayers.

  6. Terry, I like the quote... and I know it's true... I just hope that this project will be one of those that showcases their skills...

    Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Terry, I just read the essay by Quinlan Terry, and the whole reading is quite good... thanks for the link!

  8. OH! Boy .... What a project.

    I built 2 houses, since 2000 so I know what you are going through. I was up all night going
    over every detail.. The Best time is the day it's over.. I am so happy for you. It is exciting even for a 73 year old woman.


  9. Thanks Yvonne... these kind of projects get my adrenaline going too!

  10. I will be following the your thoughts about the ceiling. I just finished a house from the ground up and as you, worked every detail from floorplan, lighting, materials, ceiling , pool etc....It took a year and a half from breaking ground. Intense, but I learned so much. I embrace the challenge of every new project and always learn something new. Our biggest challenge was the ceiling as I specified antique large beams with no visible support or joinery...but the result was beautiful and gave the house its true personality. As for relocating my showroom, it has been quite an ordeal, but we are getting settled. Thank you for your kind I hope that our clientele( architects and designers) find their way to 228 east 58th Street. We are also revamping our website that alone is another challenge...

  11. Francine, Your website looks great! I love your inspirational photos and your product selection is wonderful...

  12. A project to follow is a great learning opportunity for a homeowner. Can't wait to see the development and progress.


Thank you for stopping by...please take a moment to say hello...