Design: Phase One
With these solid ideas in place, the actual design process began. At this stage, the designers were two weeks away from the initial client reveal. The first order of business was taking pictures of the site to have reference elements, which could be used to work from at the office. Next, both site and elevation surveys were performed and initial geotechnical reviews were conducted to provide guidance in putting everything together.
Knowing soil conditions and survey issues upfront is critical to ensuring no time is wasted during the design phase. These surveys also highlighted the no-build zone requirements for utilities, as well as the property’s height restrictions from the original owner. Both of which would become difficult to deal with later in the design process.
Pictures and website references provided by the client were also used to help speed up the design process. What someone might say compared to what they might be thinking are often two very different things.
Within this two-week period, a first draft of the entire project was put together, going back and forth to the site to perform layouts and determine what features and elements would and would not work. Once satisfied, the first design was presented to the client.
The initial presentation of any design can be stressful; the key is preparing the client as much as possible before hand. We always meet with the client to review the plan in person or video-conference to ensure a controlled release of information with supporting rational behind the design decisions. After presenting the design any necessary edits are made alongside the client.
For the Monique project, the initial plan was received well by the customer; however, changes were required to better create the outdoor space they were looking for. Some of these tweaks included moving the garage, adjusting the retaining walls and determining different points of access from the house.
At this time the primary hardscape, key features and layout became the focus. The final element in this phase was completing the site layouts, which allowed the client to walk around and visualize the design concept. The process of completing the site layout is as simple as using a can of paint and a tape measure. This helps the client get a better feel for how the spacing of features work, from a functionality standpoint, while also setting the framework for the construction phase.
A working plan
Once the working plan was in place, more discussions were held with the client for another two weeks to get a better picture of the final project. Before moving onto the second phase of design, the project’s costs needed to be discussed. This is a critical element to the end of phase one and is a step that should not be left too far down the design process as it can have a significant effect on the project’s final look.
During phase one, most designs are generally based on a controlled wish list with a typical budget in mind. Accurate project costs cannot be provided until all major features and design elements are on paper.
For the Monique project, a general breakdown of all the features was put together so that the customer could understand how this project would budget out moving forward. It had all the key elements in place, which included a large underground garage, a large infinity-edge pool (on top of the garage), a grotto with waterfalls, slide and tunnel, a firepit next to pool, cabana, pool bar and change room, retaining walls, as well as gardens and water features. Once everyone was on the same page, phase two began.