How to create a design brief

Consolidating your ideas into a design brief for your architect is an important step in building or renovating a home. As your brief will form the foundation of your design, establishing your objectives and requirements will help achieve an optimal result.

Whether you’re designing your dream home, extending to make more room or renovating a home to flip, spending the time to refine your brief may prove to be an invaluable exercise. In this article, we discuss some simple steps to help you write a design brief for your architect or designer.

1. Get to know your site

The site is a strong driver for the design of any home. Your architect will analyse its attributes including views, sunlight, wind and access, but gathering this information ahead of time will assist in this process. Identify the views you love and those you want to disguise. Analyse the light, get to know the levels and understand any existing covenants. Scope out the surrounding area to get an understanding of the architectural presence, landscape and other attributes that may be influential in your design.

2. Analyse how you live

It’s easy to outline what you think you need in a house such as the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and the must-have kitchen appliances. While these are important, critically analysing how you live will help you maximise your space. Ask yourself:

  • Where do you spend the most time in your home?
  • What is it that you like about where you currently live? What don’t you like about your space?
  • Are there homes you’ve previously lived in that suit your lifestyle?
  • What areas of your home don’t function well?
  • If your budget was limitless, what would you change about your home that would enhance your lifestyle?

3. Compile your wish list

Once you have a greater understanding of how you and your family live in your home, it’s time to create a wish list if you haven’t already. Go old school and create a scrapbook or start pinning and exploring online websites such as Houzz or Pinterest.

Find inspiration for your home and outdoors on our Houzz and Pinterest profiles. 

But before you hand over a catalogue of all your ideas to your architect, take a closer look at what you drew you to the image in the first place. Is it the layout of the space, a specific material or a piece of furniture? Perhaps the image evokes a particular feeling or you can just see yourself living in that space. These are the qualities your architect really wants to discuss rather than gloss over some beautifully shot spaces.

4. Write a list of attributes

Write a list of the attributes you want in a home and don’t be afraid to be extravagant, thinking less about the budget and more about your ideal home. Identify if there are any key features or materials you desire. Think about colour, furnishings and the must-have mod-cons.

Also, take the time to think beyond aesthetics. What type of heating do you need? Is sustainability important? Do you want connections to the outside?

How you want your home to function will prove just as important as the look you’re aiming for when creating your design brief.

5. Fine tune your floor plan needs

Finally, think about your floor plan requirements and how you want each room to relate to the other. For example, you may want to have your dining area open onto your garden or need a storage room leading off your laundry. Perhaps you want your bedrooms the furthest away from the main living zones for additional privacy.

Fine-tuning your floor plan directly links back to how you and your family live. We all have our set must-haves when it comes to spaces of the home, but we all inhabit the spaces differently. Writing an in-depth brief will help build the foundation of your design and give your architect the best head start to weave their magic.

For more design and building advice, explore our Learning Library.