At Interior Alchemy, our fourth phase is where your approved design concept is taken through to the finish line.  This is where the project comes to life!  In the DREAM phase, we focused our design on how efficient it is to use the space and how the space functions.  During the DEVELOP phase, we will focus primarily on how the materials in the space perform and what the final space looks and feel like.

The goal of the DEVELOP phase is to take the evolution of the design from concept to finished until all decisions are made regarding the components, products and materials to be installed in the final space, so that we can move forward with drafting the plans and documentation the contractor will need to bid and build out your project during the next DOCUMENT phase.

Develop Phase Steps

Note About The Permitting Process and Other Compliance Requirements

If the project requires building permits (typically for new construction, additions, remodels), we tend to divide this project phase into two parts.  The first half of the phase is focused on generating a set of permit drawings, and the second half is spent finalizing the materials and elements which do not affect permitting, such as paint color, fabric color, furniture, faucet model, etc.

If you must seek permission and approval from your HOA, neighborhood association, or any other entity, we will consider those timelines and make a plan to meet those deadlines at this time as well.

If you have decided to pursue green building certifications, we will factor their intake timelines and requirements into our materials and elements selections process.

Draft Permit Drawing Set

Not every project will require permits.  But certain changes to your existing structure, such as moving plumbing, adding a window, removing a wall, or adding a wall – all the fun stuff – will trigger the need for a permit.

Permitting is the biggest unknown in the timeline of a major project.  When you are renovating a bathroom or kitchen and not moving fixtures, appliances, plumbing or walls, then the permit process if fairly easy and quick when all you need is a mechanical, electrical or plumbing permit.  Comparatively, if you are creating an addition, converting attic space to livable space or opening up a wall, a building permit is required.  This is a process which requires drawings, oversight of your design, additional rounds of revisions, inspections by the city or county and approvals that the work was done according to the plans.

It is hard to predict at any given time how long it will take to gain building permit approval from start to finish.  This process could take anywhere from 2-6+ months, depending on the scope of your project, the number of unrelated projects requesting permits (how busy the permit office is), and what the staffing conditions are when you apply for the permit.

Once, our project was assigned to a plan reviewer at the permitting office and that guy was great, had tons of experience, and had been there forever.  He happened to have a medical emergency and so our plans review was reassigned to a young guy who had just been hired.  Eager to prove his value to the department, the new guy seemed like he had just graduated from plan review training and was overly determined to ensure that he caught everything…he even rejected the type of screws the architect specified because they had been discontinued during the time that our plans were under review!  Obviously, the contractor would have simply purchased the newer version of the fasteners we had specified, but leaving that decision to chance was not acceptable to this plan reviewer.  There were more rounds of revisions, and more requests for engineering drawings and calculation requests with that new planner than we and our architect had ever experienced – nearly twice as many!!  A permitting process which should have taken about 3 months was dragged out to 6 months.

This is one of the top reasons that we don’t guarantee our timeline to completion.

So, to help speed the process along, the first thing we do in DEVELOP is to start preparing the permitting drawing set.  The permit office does not care what brand and model of pendant light we are purchasing, or what color the countertop will be.  So we begin DEVELOP by first making all the decisions we need to make in order to prepare the permit drawings.

Typically, we make final decisions about mechanical, structural and other building systems, key surface materials are decided upon if the permit set requires it, equipment and appliance decisions are made, and code compliance is confirmed.  After the majority of fixed elements are decided upon and anything that the space requires which will take up space in the wall cavities (heating/cooling, venting, lighting, plumbing, waterlines, etc.), then we will turn toward the selection of surface materials, palette, millwork, built-ins, lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc.

In every project, there are certain required elements which cannot easily be moved or substituted.  Appliances, sinks, water filtration systems, water heaters, and HVAC systems do not come in standard one-size-fits-all sizes.  So, for example, it is imperative to have final decisions about which major appliances the client will be purchasing before we design custom cabinetry to fit around them.  Likewise, it is critical know what kind of HVAC system the client will be installing so that we know where to locate the unit – will it be an on-wall mini-split system or will ductwork for a basement system be required?  Because these major items cannot easily be relocated and because it is out of anyone’s control how long the permitting process will take, it is important to deal with these considerations and get your drawing to the permitting offices before we focus on the pretty stuff which the permit office doesn’t care about such as selecting what kind of stain will go on the hardwood floors.

Initiate Permit Process

Once all of the major items have been located, we can finalize a set of permit drawings or work with your architect through the process if they are providing the permit drawings (typically for new construction, additions, major remodels).  After the plans are submitted to the permit office for review, it is typical to have several rounds of revisions requested by the permit office. So, it is important to keep in mind that even though our design is amazing, and it meets all of the clients needs, a permitting plan reviewer may be assigned to us who is not comfortable with something we have designed. It is not uncommon for a permitting office to request additional engineered drawings or ask for some modifications.

Permitting may require us to make adjustments to the final layout, but major changes to the program or project concept at this point will result in redesign work for an added cost.

Finalize Floor Plan

While we have already submitted the floor plan for the permitting process, now we will move to further develop it.  This is where we will precisely located everything, place furniture if that is part of project scope, etc.

Develop Elevations, Sections and Details

During the development of the floor plan, we will also need to develop sections and elevations.  We may have already gotten a good start on developing this drawings while preparing the permit set.  But now, we will develop those further.  For example, for permitting, we may have indicated that there is a wall scone on the wall, or a balcony.  Now, we will add to that drawing what the light actually looks like, precisely where it might be located above the finished floor and how many inches away from the corner of the room.  We may add the trim details for the casing we will be using around the doors and windows, and we may add other accessories such as vanity mirrors and medicine cabinets.

To design is much more than simply to assemble, to order, or even to edit: it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse. To design is to transform prose into poetry.

– Paul Rand

Research and Select Materials

While the permitting offices are being wow-ed by the design of our client’s future space, we will move forward with choosing all the things that will make the space look and feel like our client belongs there.  At this point, we probably already know that our client wants, for example, hardwood floors, quartz countertops, and modern cabinetry, with copper metal accents.  But now we will begin selecting our recommended materials that we believe will perform well, require as much or as little maintenance as our clients are in the mood for, and meet your style needs.

As designers, we have access to products and materials that you will not find in a home catalog.  Oftentimes, we also have access to trade and designer pricing that is offered exclusively to the design and builder industry.  We will try to share this discount with you whenever we can and we will be fully transparent with you about pricing.

This is where we present palette options to you to choose from, or you are welcome to visit a few showrooms with us if you would like a more hands-on approach.  Sometimes clients can become overwhelmed at the decision process during this time and long for the designer to handle the selections and then the client approves or rejects our recommendations.  We want to be upfront with you about the amount of work that goes into specifying materials for a full-house remodel. Thousands of decisions must be made.  Some decision can be fun, like kitchen faucets, but others can seem tedious, especially after the 2000th decision, such as door hinge hardware, door stops, lightswitch plate, vent covers, outlet covers, door locks, garbage disposals, shower drains, grout…you get the idea.

So we ask that our clients ask themselves if they have the mental stamina to be hands-on involved with every single decision.  Some things to consider are:

  • Do you work full time?
  • How busy is your schedule?
  • Do you care for children, parents, or pets?
  • How do you handle the decision-making process (some clients can spend days deciding between 2 nearly identical white subway tiles)?
  • What is your tolerance for details?
  • What is your tolerance for shopping?

The reason we ask you to consider these questions honestly is because, in the era of HGTV, design shows make every part of this job seem so easy and dreamy and delightful.  And while we love designing and wouldn’t consider doing anything else, we have witnessed good clients melt down while trying to be actively involved in choosing every light switch.

Most clients enjoy a couple of showroom visits to see what is out there and to be inspired, but most client do not want to spend their time choosing between the 240 varieties of Carrara marble tile for their shower.

If green-building certification is being pursued, we will begin to gather the appropriate documentation and confirm that the standards are met.

Draft Preliminary Specifications Document

During this time, we will also begin developing a preliminary set of specifications – written documents which serve as instructions to the contractors for specific elements of the project.

If green-building certification is being pursued, we will begin to gather the appropriate documentation and confirm that the standards are met.

Revise Estimated Project Cost

We will also reach out to you control and other trades and installers to confirm the previously-estimated cost of the project on the basis of these plans & specifications.  Because this phase can take several months, depending on the permitting office funnel, it is good to check in to see that materials and labor haven’t dramatically changed.  Sometimes a hurricane in Thailand can increase the cost of your decking or a shortage of aluminum can extend the time is takes for your product to be manufactured.

By the time we obtain permit approval, and have made all (or nearly all)  of the decisions regarding materials, equipment, and fixtures, the contractor shovel have a very strong idea of what the project will cost, know when he can begin the work, and how long it will take him with the crew that is available for the job.  We will revise the Initial Project Costs Range and Timeline.

Revise Estimate Timelines

By the time we obtain permit approval, and have made all (or nearly all)  of the decisions regarding materials, equipment, and fixtures, the contractor shovel have a very strong idea of what the project will cost, know when he can begin the work, and how long it will take him with the crew that is available for the job.  We will revise the Initial Project Costs Range and Timeline.

With the permit issued and all of the decisions finalized regarding items which will go into the final built environment, we will move onto the DOCUMENT phase where we commit the thousands of decisions we made together into written form so that the contractor understands our vision, can accurately price the project and can build what we designed with you.


Percentage of Designer’s Total Project Work

The Develop phase typically comprises approximately 30% of the designer’s total project work and, at the completion of this phase, the designer’s role in the project will be approximately 60% complete.


Percentage of Design Work Completion