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Allan Corfield7.11.2016 5 min read

Home Design: A Step-By-Step Guide To Designing Your Dream Home Pt 1

This is the first of three articles in our series ‘Home design: A step-by-step guide to designing your dream home’. The series will take you through the three main stages in developing an empty plot into a well-organised construction site equipped with experts who can successfully build your dream home.


The first part of this series will explain how to create a project brief. The second part will answer the question of how to appoint the right team. The final part of the series will describe each of the main design stage that you will have to go through in order to complete your Self Build project – hopefully on time and budget!



Home Design: Brief

Before starting to create your project brief you need to think simply: “why?”. Why do you want to build your home instead of buying it directly from a mass home builder? Every self builder’s reason can be different. Some of them want to build a safe and joyful environment for their children. Others may want to build a house to then sell on, to gain maximum profit. Throughout the whole project it is important to remember ‘why’ you want to build your own home. By doing this it will help you get through the most challenging moments. There will be a lot of them.

At first, we need to answer the question what is a brief and what is it used for? The brief sets out all of the crucial requirements for your project and needs to be created before you engage with your design team. The brief will help you obtain accurate fee proposals from your design team and will be an evolving document throughout the life of the project.

Home Design

First thing you need to include in your brief is the basic room information and room sizes. It is helpful to use the measurements of your current rooms, as long as they meet your expectations. The second aspect you need to consider is your building flow – the layout/structure of the internal rooms. It is important to make sure that it will be consistent with yours and your family’s lifestyle. For instance, if you need an open-plan kitchen connected to the dining room so that you can cook while spending time with your family and entertaining guests. Or a sheltered seating area outside with a gas fire pit and BBQ, so that you can enjoy BBQs with friends and family.

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The next point that you should include in your Self Build brief is its architectural style. Do you want a traditional or contemporary house? Also is there any exceptional element of the landscape close to your house that you want to see from your bedroom window? Maybe you just want to position the house to receive the optimal amount of sunlight?

Home Design: Brief

Two important elements of your Self Build brief would also be the heating strategy and how important the home’s energy efficiency is. Do you want to build a low-energy house and focus on the form of renewable heating, or is this not a priority for your Self Build?

Your budget is one of the most crucial elements of the brief and something that is often kept secret from all but your partner. The amount of money you can afford to spend on your project determines the architect’s design significantly, so it is important to set the budget as accurately as possible. You must also consider how you are going to manage the cash flow throughout the key stages of the project, but we will go into this further later in the article.

The final element to consider is the timescale for your Self Build. It is advised to focus on the starting date of your project rather than its deadlines. For more advice regarding setting timescales for your self build read here. We would never suggest setting the move in date, as an important birthday or worse Christmas Day! For more advice on creating a brief read the article – ‘Collaborating with your self build architect’ here.


Home Design - Brief 2

Don’t be afraid to provide your architect with as much additional information as you can. One way of doing this is by drawing sketches. You shouldn’t worry about the quality, as long as it portrays your idea.

Another useful way of expressing your expectations is the use of a tool called SketchUp. This free software allows you to create your building and view it in 3D. It will even allow you to walk around and move within it, this is a fun way of getting your children involved in the design process. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that you may design something in SketchUp, which is actually impossible to build. So don’t be surprised if your architect will have to change your project in order to make it buildable.

The next tool that can improve the way you communicate your ideas to your architect is Pinterest. Pinterest is a content sharing website that allows you to “pin” images, videos, and other objects to your pinboard. It works like an online scrapbook. You can use it to search for inspiration, you can create separate boards, for example for interiors within the kitchen and bathroom. Then you can “pin” the pictures that express particular designs that you would like to implement in your project, and share it with everyone who is involved. For more detailed article regarding Pinterest click here.

So always think about what your “why” is.  Keep that with you throughout the project and will get you through a lot of difficult and challenging times because there are many when you are building your own house.”  
 - Allan Corfield

Once your Self Build brief is completed, you are now ready for the next stage of your dream home design – selecting the right team! For more information you can also check our blog article on top 10 tips for Self Build success here.


  • Start with question: why? Why are you building your dream home?
  • Prepare your brief properly! It will help you keep your project on track.
  • A good brief will inform your design team on exactly what you expect from them.
  • Room information, layout – consistent with your family lifestyle.
  • What architectural style? Traditional or Contemporary?
  • Is energy efficiency a priority to you?
  • Set up a realistic budget for your Self Build – it will determine the whole design.
  • Consider a realistic timescale for your Self Build.
  • Provide your architect with as much additional information you can.

A step-by-step guide to designing your dream home series is based on a talk created and delivered by Allan Corfield for Homebuilding and Renovating Magazine, at the 2016 Shows. If you have any questions for Allan and the rest of the team, send your suggestions to us via email, or social media using #asktheselfbuildexpert.

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