custom home architect

sketch rendering of modern house design

custom home designs and renovations by richard hewitt

What makes a custom home design?

Many people building a home are experiencing something they have never done before. It is a complex process and sometimes they find the endless choices and decisions quite overwhelming.

Start off with the basics. Find out what zoning by-laws you need to follow - get topographic information on your site especially when it is steep or uneven. This might sound obvious but we have had many occasions where owners are surprised by some of the restrictions they are face with when proper relevant information is obtained. The sooner you find out the better. Most of our projects start off with a visit to the local authority to check information and what is and what is not allowed. 


Get the basics right. Formulate a list of accommodation requirements and discuss with your designer or architect what you want to achieve. Work this out in word form at this stage - don't worry about how it is going to be achieved - that is our job to figure that out. 


Get the concept right. The designer or architect should start off with a simple flow diagram showing you the basic layout. Get this right and the building design really flows from that point. Too many times I have seen poor planning and impractical house flows that forever condemn a home plan. With formal training (in South Africa) as an architect I have the background to prepare creative and practical layouts - as can be witnessed by our many completed projects and subsequent referrals we have had from these.

During the design development of the plans the wall layouts will get further refined and adjusted. Think of this phase as starting a project looking at the basics and then slowly zooming in and the closer you get the more attention you apply to the detail. Do not let the detail confuse or dominate at the start - get the basic concepts right and then concentrate on the detail. 

The most enjoyable projects we do occur when there is constructive collaboration between client and ourselves. Designing your home should be fun and exciting. We trust that some of the information contained here will be useful in your journey to getting a custom home designed and built.

Also look at our 10 best items to consider when designing a new home.


concept design for contempoaray new home

Why go for a custom plan ?

I am sure there are many people who wonder why they should spend several (or more) thousand dollars on a custom plan when they can get a ‘book plan’ for far less or even better - ‘free’ from certain custom home builders!

For the larger and more luxurious homes - the fees for custom home designs are easier to understand in that due to the size and specialist nature of the project, the owner’s needs are very specific and can only be realized by employing the skills and experience of a qualified architect or home designer. For the more “budget” oriented homes, this sometimes is an area where owners are faced with a certain dilemma; How can they justify several thousand dollars worth of ‘design fees’ when they can surely find a standard “book plan” that is close to their needs and have it modified?

Easier said that done! First of all - there are thousands of ‘book plans’ to choose from and the reason is quite simple; there must be thousands of different site conditions, layouts and family requirements which in the general speculative world all get turned over to book plan status in the hopes that these can be re-used over time.

My question regarding book plans revolves around the simple fact that when you go looking for a house to buy, how often have you found that the location is perfect but the house does not seem to fit the lot, nor feels like a “home” to you? So many property values both here in the Okanagan and elsewhere are I think, inhibited by poor planning and it amazes me that some contractors and owners continue to tolerate and promote these ordinary and too often poorly laid-out houses.

A fair amount of my current work has been renovations or tear-downs and rebuilds. Most of these are the result of extremely poor planning in the original building phase. I would go further to say that in certain cases if say $30-40k was spent on a decent design in the first instance - the resale value could have been substantially higher - or at minimum at least exceed the design fees charged. Spending a few thousand dollars on a decent design should not only provide you with a plan that is custom suited to your needs, but should also ensure that future resale is improved and is able to stand apart from the average “run of the mill” standard plan that is so common in our society today.

Lastly, you must be able to communicate well with your designer.

Whether or not you choose my office to help you with your plans, I hope the thoughts outlined here are of some use to you regarding the planning for your home or renovation project. The end result of a custom plan is surely a small cost in relation to the overall investment you are about to undertake.


Richard Hewitt

B.Arch (Natal RSA)

your house should be there a long time - give it a good start by designing it properly first time round


Richard Hewitt is proud to have been recognized in the field of excellence and his work has achieved local and international awards



website designed by richard hewitt