Kuhl Residential Design Services

Design Process Summary

We first look at the bones of your house and align what we find with your initial project ideas. We review the scope of work and desired schedule. We then move to the drawings, prove the plan with furniture, review material choices, do electrical and lighting plans, pick surface materials, finishes, and colors, and finish by moving to window treatments, furnishings, and accessories, if applicable.

How It Works


We start our design work by helping you define your project program. An architecture textbook would define this as the list of requirements for your project. True, but the other key ingredients are your spiritual and emotional concepts of home. Our job is to mine that stuff out of you. We do this first by helping complete a series of project-specific questionnaires. We tour through the Kuhl Design Library, a collection of thousands of beautiful photos we keep in our studio. Ideas are flagged for later inspiration. Whether you have specific design goals or just some vague suspicions, we can help you put a finer point on your vision for your home. That is what project programming is all about.

Another important element of the program is to take stock of your home. We document your existing home, take pictures and note anything that may be relevant in the design of your new space. We even measure and catalog any furniture you want to use in the new version of your home. If necessary, we also create a fresh set of blueprints called ‘as-builts’. 


There is no sense in drawing up pretty plans if they are not feasible (too expensive, not code compliant, etc..). For this reason exploring feasibility is a smart use of time and money for any large building or renovation project. A feasibility study explores how likely a project is to succeed by asking questions like: Will the city let us do what we want to do? Is it smart to invest money in your house or is it time to move? Does the proposed project respect the architecture of your existing home? Where will you live during the project, and can you handle the extra stress? Before you get in too deep, sometimes it makes sense to look into the financial, emotional, legal, structural and architectural aspects of the project.

We occasionally break out the Feasibility Study from our Design Retainer Contract in cases where our clients are looking only for a high-altitude analysis of their property, or one they may be buying. Feasibility Studies never involve the generation of designs, but are instead based on a set of conditions defined by our clients.


We’ve learned about who you are and what you want and we’ve made sure it is theoretically possible. Now it’s time to draw. The basic arc of our design process works like this:

Conceptual Drawings

This is work done in broad strokes on paper or in our CAD system. It is all about layout and scale. We brainstorm and explore. The resulting sketches are all aimed at satisfying your basic program within your budget. The idea is that you will see a few alternatives to the design of your project from a very high altitude. We continue to show you ideas until you approve. Then we move on to schematic design.

Schematic Drawings

We allow the ideas gleaned in the concept design phase to congeal into a more unified plan. You will see more detailed sketches, floor plans and some basic elevations. We often move to 3d CAD renderings in this phase to allow you a better sense of what is developing. Before we present any schematic designs to you, they are reviewed carefully to verify that we are still on target with the project budget. We consult our tradesmen – the people with hammers who do this work everyday – to ask them for advice on how our design could be enhanced or made more affordable.

Design Development

We take the schematic design of your choice and develop it into a fully articulated plan. The final form of your space is defined. Our interior designer formally begins working for you, developing schemes for interior materials and finishes. We oversee the conversation between the decor and the structure because both should inspire the other. The drawings we produce in this phase include floor plans, elevations, sections, details, interior elevations, framing and roof plans, and foundation plans, as well as written specifications with window, door and lighting schedules.) You will see feature elements such as stairs, cabinetry, millwork and fireplaces in detail. Our interior designer formally begins working for you at this time as well. (click here for information on our interior design process)

Estimating & Negotiation

During the latter stages of our design process we solicit competitive bids for every component of your project; from your foundation to your curtains. We draw from a small set of preferred Kuhl vendors and subs to ensure the best value for dollars spent (and to avoid working with losers). We carefully scrutinize the bids as they are received to ensure compliance with our design intent. If there is room for negotiation, we give it our best shot. We want as much project for the dollar that we can get. We assemble all of the numbers into a construction estimate that becomes the ceiling price for your project.

Contract Development & Planning

During this phase, we translate your design into the technical language necessary to build your project. Blueprints and specifications are created to announce all of the details, where they are located, how they are assembled and what materials should be used. All of the estimates, plans, selections and schedules are synthesized into a final scope of work and construction contract. This is a hefty document, usually ranging between 25 and 50 pages. The purpose of this effort is to establish expectations up front, before hammers start swinging. We need you to fully understand everything we are doing for you. It is just smart business.