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How I Sketch + Design Architectural Details

Understanding the thought process on a design element for a project is often under estimated or misunderstood. Here we discuss the process and I am sure you will understand that as a professional we do more than what you think!


Sketch with me in this video as I design custom details for a residential project. Inventing bespoke solutions to design challenges is the reason I love designing homes. Often, if I’m stuck on a design brief, I’ll zoom in and begin sketching a detail.

There’s something about the scale and how manageable it is to solve simple problems that helps me move forward. For me, this process always starts in my sketchbook (or on the iPad) and then I’ll move to the computer to draw it more precisely following that. Starting informally with a sketch allows me to be free and fast with ideas and it leads me to other threads I hadn’t anticipated.

You’ll see this in the video as I chase down a few absurd ideas. The process begins with a design brief: in this case the hanging coats at the entry wall and adding a flip-down desk near the pantry area. I then compile inspiration imagery (like the military field desks) and grab a ruler to have on hand as I’m designing.

Relating to the human scale is an important part of detailing and a ruler helps you set proper proportions for drawers, desk height, etc. A trick I use as I’m drawing is to really think hard about the daily patterns of life around the subject I’m designing. How would someone use this space? What would they have in their pockets, what would their daily routine moving through or around this space be like? Placing yourself there and asking what would make this experience better, or more “delightful” leads to novel insights.

Delightful is kind of a corny word but it’s the best descriptor I can think of. It’s the thing that makes you smile when you see it, and say, “Wow, they really thought this through! They really considered what it means to live here, in this place.” The point of sketching is to chase down all the bad ideas, all the strange threads of thinking, including the absurd. Be open to thinking differently and the invented solutions may surprise you. It’s important to not to put too much pressure on it, these aren’t beautiful drawings, they’re process, they show the steps from one idea to the next.

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