Define Your Architectural Program

By Bud Dietrich

Your architectural program should include images of rooms you like, such as kitchen-living spaces. Plan 481-5

Define Your Program by Identifying Your Needs, Wants, and Dreams
You know you want to create a home for yourself and your family but where to start?  Sure, you need at least a certain room count, and you absolutely know that you can’t invest more than a certain amount of money, and you like a certain style, but how do you combine all of these criteria and the countless other things in your head to create that special place called home?

First: gather all of those thoughts into a document that’s called an architectural program.  This document, which is really a statement of goals, will include practical and functional considerations often referred to as “must haves,” and those things that you “want” but can live without.  And don’t forget to identify what you dream of as well.  For example, your program could state “we must have three bedrooms and 2 ½ bathrooms” and “it would be nice if two of the bedrooms shared a bathroom” as well as “I’ve always dreamt of having a small balcony off of my bedroom.”

Ways To Go

Collect and share images.  Websites like Houzz and Pinterest are great places to look at countless images of houses from all over the world to get a sense of what you like and want.  With unique features like the “Add To Ideabook” function, Houzz makes it easy to collect images of whole houses as well as special details, materials, and products, and share the images with others.  Though not dedicated solely to home design, Pinterest allows you to search an expanding universe of house images and organize what you like by pinning them to boards that you arrange by subject -- say, from kitchen islands to water features -- and then share with the world.

Before websites like Houzz and Pinterest, magazines dominated the design idea field and it was common for a new client to hand me hundreds of images clipped from these magazines. Though the web has made collecting and sharing images easier, there’s still nothing like holding clippings (or print-outs from websites) and sitting next to a client as we talk about what it is that they find appealing about the image.

Study floor plans.
 You can search a website like for houses of different sizes (square footage), room counts (numbers of bedroom and bathrooms), room dimensions, number of floor levels (one, two, split levels, etc.), plan types (courtyard, split plan, dogtrot, etc.) as well as style.  Browsing these plans makes it easy to compare typical kitchen and bath layouts and identify room arrangements that appeal to you.

Engage an architect.
 Architects are trained to help you discover what’s important to you and what’s not, what’s something you’ve always wanted as well as what’s achievable.  So don’t think of an architect as someone who will just draw the plans, but consider having an architect help you uncover what your goals truly are. Find architects by talking to friends and neighbors, contacting the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and browsing websites like Houzz and In fact Houzz even allows you to “follow” a few architects so you can get to know them better before contacting them. has an in-house design team that can adapt any ready-made plan and even design from scratch.

Next up we’ll show how to understand and use the different types of architectural drawings.  

Plan 481-5 by Bud Dietrich is shown above. To see all of Bud's house plans click here.

Tue Oct 29 00:00:00 PDT 2013