How Size in Design Creates the Budget

How Size in Design Creates the Budget

We as a nation have come to believe that the “ Go Big or Go Home” approach is the way to have the best life in general. Not necessarily the truth in all things for sure. Bigger is not necessarily better in all things.

My life and career has taken me through many different aspects to garner attention to my work. I have created very large projects, small ones and very cost efficient ones as well. Which ones were more the most successful, accepted and indeed brought me more attention? I’m really not sure what the concrete answer to this question is. However, I do know without doubt, whether the project was large or small there were always challenges but I faced them and along with my team and always were satisfying to complete and met with gratification from the client.

The real challenge to creating anything small or large, is starting with a well thought out plan of execution. I have always taken every project and carefully and specifically set priorities for the task ahead of me. I am an Artist, Photographer, Writer, and Residential Designer. I apply this principle to each of the God given talents that I am working at the time. Again, the size is not the main priority for any of these areas. I advise my clients to carefully analyze just exactly what their priorities are and their expectations as well as an honest, realistic budget before we start. Again, this traverses across all areas I work on as listed above.

Specifically to this particular article, I am referring to the size and design of your new home. Before I ever put pencil to paper, I discuss the money and identify what elements are to be included in the home. Very few clients actually have an accurate assessment as to what the home will cost. Additionally, in today’s sellers market, rising prices on everything associated with the construction of a home is very hard to identify. There are segments of the country that are varied. As an overall point of view here, if there is a rising or Bull Stock Market, housing and everything else will follow quickly. This said, I approach every  project with absolute honesty and realism to the clients expectations. Sometimes it’s a don’t shoot the messenger meeting.

No one likes to be disappointed, period. I do my best to not be the “leader of the team” that becomes involved with a client and their project only to see them totally upside down before completion of the home. Again, this holds true with all sizes of housing or anything really. I have only designed one project in my career that had no “real” budget. When the client finally added up the cost, nine million, the home was only about 85% complete . The client soon became very cost conscious which resulted in a bad outcome for all connected to the homebuilding process.

Conversely, I have witnessed well thought of architectural firms that never discuss the “ budget” as their practice. They were of the school that taught them that the cost of the project was not nor should be their responsibility. The very famous architect , Frank Lloyd Wright always exceeded cost on every project he designed. His mantra was to create, not manage the clients money. Worked for him sometime, but not a road I wanted to travel. He was a marketing genius. Our land cost and availability in regards to size is becoming more valuable . We must as responsible Designers, carefully create a design program that utilizes every square foot into the livable spaces in order to make a more cost conscious building program for our clients. To this end, the designer is a facilitator for the client and their job is to create a well-conceived design program, define the priorities, establish a realistic budget and be definitive about expectations for all parties involved, and then enjoy the journey!

I am working on two projects now that I will share my challenges for each. First, we are completing a great little cabin of 1064 square feet for a client in Montana and I have had an enjoyable experience during the process. At the same time I am also creating an oil painting of an Abbey in Provence. The challenge for the painting was the size this magnificent building for the way I wanted to present it. There is so much detail to be found in these great structures that of course I wanted to make the painting large. But in the final decision, I knew that a larger piece would take longer resulting in of course a more expensive price. The price I would need to put on it would  reduce my buying audience. This concept and the relationship of anything is important to consider prior to making any decision for the subject you are presenting, whether it be a house design or a piece of fine art.

Again, just because you can purchase an automobile that has 797 horsepower, doesn’t mean you should. That said, it would be a heck of a ride for sure... Carefully managing your expectations and realistically defining your real living requirements will always result in a more successful and satisfying lifestyle.

Until next time enjoy the journey!


House plan image: Winter Park #95738

About Ken Peiper:

From Evergreen Colorado, Ken Peiper of Ken Pieper and Associates is a residential designer who specializes in extraordinary homes and has been doing just that for over 35 years. Many of Ken Pieper's designs are featured here on The House Plan Company.

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