After patiently and carefully preparing and learning about what’s to come and planning for this entire process, you’re now ready to actually begin doing something.

In this Brainstorm Section, you’ll hone in on your requirements for the project, form a Project Brief, and gather information that will help your team better understand your vision for the project.

While you’re brainstorming, you’ll also explore architecture styles, home features, and building elements that you like. If you’re building a new home you’ll also start to get an understanding of the style of architecture you are drawn to and what may work with your project goals and location. If you haven’t started doing so already, this is the time you should start researching and collecting images of things you like, dislike, and want to consider for your project.

Ultimately, you’re trying to create something you can share with your design team (if you decide to work with one) to ensure they have a good idea of what you want for your home. That way they can understand you and your project better. Getting your ideas down on paper and collecting reference images and documents is a great way to convey your ideas to your design team.





All great projects start with a good Project Brief. It spells out the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a project. It’s the all-important roadmap of the project and is used to evaluate all decisions moving forward.

A Project Brief is a short document that defines your goals & objectives and other requirements for the whole project. Specifically, it forces you to elaborate on the goals you defined in the Getting Started section by becoming more explicit in the requirements for the project.

Why you need a Project Brief

Good design, above all, is creating exactly what the users (that’s you and your family) want.

The process of establishing exactly what you want is the most important part of the entire design process. Every good building starts with a good Project Brief. So before you jump into designing your home, combing through images for inspiration, and talking in-depth with your team about the design, you should create a Project Brief.

What makes a good Project Brief? 
A good Project Brief should capture all your needs of your future home and reflect all your aspirations for it. It should describe the function of the finished home and how it will be used, state expectations and spatial requirements, indicate a design direction, and set a realistic timeframe and budget. AND, it needs to be clear and unambiguous so that it can act as a roadmap to guide all the different groups involved in delivering the final project.

Creating a Project Brief is a tall order. You can create it yourself, or an architect/designer can help.

Components of a good Project Brief:

  • Overarching goals & objectives
    • Aesthetic goals
    • Performance goals
    • Sustainability goals
    • Long-term goals
  • Budget requirements
  • Time frame goals
  • Programmatic requirements (needs/wants, spatial requirements, qualitative & quantitative information)

While project briefs can be as short or as long as you want. The important thing is that you clearly define your project requirements. The more detail you put into your Project Brief, the more easily your design team will be able to achieve your vision for the project. And don’t worry if you are unsure about a lot of things still. The Project Brief is a working document and will evolve throughout the project as you learn more about your specific situation and the circumstances surrounding your project. 



In the previous Prepare Section, you explored your design needs. You determined how important design is to you and type of person you want to work with to design your project.

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to hone in on the vision you have for your home. This is YOUR home and it should be something special that fits you perfectly.

If you’re building a new custom home and are unsure how you want your home to look, the style of architecture you’re drawn to, or what would work best for you, here’s a few things to do to help you get a better idea.

  1. Drive around the neighborhood or city – Pay attention to houses in the neighborhood or area you’re interested in building and take photos of ones you like. Also, take photos of ones you don’t like.  What characteristics about those houses really speak to you? Which features repel you?
  2. Look through books and magazines – Your local bookstore or library should have a few good books or magazines on home design. There are also online magazines from well-known magazines such as Dwell, Architectural Digest, Fine Homebuilding, Southern Living & Better Homes & Gardens that you can flip through for inspiration.
  3. Online Image Databases – A good place to start is Pinterest and Houzz. These are great resources because you can narrow your search for something specific and still see many great inspiring images. You could search for white bathrooms or wood siding and tons of images would show up for you to browse and save.

One thing to remember as you start saving images of houses and styles you like:

Keep in mind that certain neighborhoods have specific design requirements. Make sure your design preferences align with any community restrictions or conditions if you’re considering certain neighborhoods to live in. 



Whether or not you’re building a new home, you can still collect information that will help describe what you like and the style you’re after.  This information can be in the form of photos, drawings, newspaper and magazine clippings, online images, and even words – anything that can communicate what you like and don’t like.

As you explore your stylistic taste in houses and projects in person, magazines, books, and online, take note of what speaks to you and document it. Photograph or clip images that illustrate details you like. Do you like the color scheme? The materials? The openness? The type and size of windows? The configuration of the kitchen? The minimalist aesthetic?

Pinterest and Houzz are great tools to help convey your design preferences because you can see many of your inspirational ideas all in one place. You can create separate boards based on your interests or on different rooms or areas of the house. You can create an account with these platforms (it’s free) and create inspiration boards. Then share them with family and your design team.

Also, an often overlooked method of describing your taste and style is not by photograph but by words. Try making a list of words that best describe your style.

Expert Tip: It's OK if you can't figure out what style(s) you like. Keep collecting images of things you like (even if they are very different and all over the place in terms of style). Later on, as you work with your architect/designer, they will look through your images, listen to what you are saying, ask questions about the images or your lifestyle, and suggest a style that they think is appropriate for you based on the information they've gathered from you.


How do you collect these inspirational images and keep them organized?
For actual clippings and photos, you can keep them organized in a folder or binder.

If you want to stay digital, scan your photos and create a folder for “Design Precedents/Inspiration”. This could also be further broken down to multiple subfolders (windows, materials, cabinets, colors, light fixtures) for various aspects of your house if you have enough images and want to get into more detail.

If you’re using Houzz or Pinterest, create idea boards and save images to them. They will continue to stay there until you delete them. And when the time comes, you can easily just share your boards with your designer/architect via a web link.

Also, don’t forget to include your partner or family if you’re building for them, too. They will most likely have opinions on style, functionality, or aesthetics. If their style differs from yours, create a separate folder or board for their favorites.

Expert Tip: Having a separate collection of things you don't like is equally as telling to your designer or architect as seeing things you do like. Don't be afraid to clip things you hate so your designer can understand the direction NOT to take your project.




  • Create your project Project Brief.
  • Compile a collection of inspirational images of styles, colors, materials, and ideas that you like and don’t like.

Need more help? Here are additional resources related to this section.



All downloadable resources can be found in our Resource Library. Sign up to gain exclusive access.

  • Project Brief Checklist
  • Programming Questionnaire
  • Course: How To Create a Successful Project Brief
  • Visual Guide to Architecture Styles
  • Checklist: What To Do Before Meeting With Your Designer



Over To You…

With your Project Brief and inspirational images in hand, you are now prepared to engage with your designer/architect. You have a very thorough package of information (textual and visual) that will give him or her a well-rounded idea of what you are looking to accomplish with your project. Your design team will love you for this!

Understanding what you want your project to become (how big it needs to be, how it will make you feel, how it will look and perform) is important to know at this stage in the process. If you aren’t exactly sure on some things yet, don’t worry. That’s fine! Your design team will help you out. Now let’s think about your options for land in the next section.

Next Section: Acquire Land >