Todd Hallett, AIA, President of TK Design & Associates, Inc. ( has been designing award winning homes for over 20 years. He spent 15 of those years working for a $50 million production building company. Todd designed all of their homes but also worked in every other aspect of the company including purchasing, development, land acquisition, product development, and operations, and was President of the company for three years. Equipped with his vast building experience and fueled by his love for architecture he left to form an architecture firm that is second to none in working cohesively with Builders. Todd specializes in Lean Design and works, alongside Scott Sedam of TrueNorth Development, in the trenches with builders, suppliers, and trade contractors. His Lean Design blog appears weekly at Todd welcomes your feedback at or 248.446.1960.

Lean design and custom homes - a love story

July 22, 2012

I'm a sucker for a good love story. I get emotional at the end of Pretty Woman, and will watch Can't Buy Me Love over and over again. However, one story that really gets me misty is the love story between custom home clients and Lean Design. It's allure is based on the fact that the pairing of the two is just so rare. It is every bit as rare as the hapless geeky guy getting the prom queen, or the doe eyed working girl (with the heart of gold) ending up with the billionaire corporate raider.

About 30% of my business is based on designing custom homes. Several times a year I have people come to me with existing plans that do not work for their budget or their needs. They meet with an architect or designer and have plans drawn up. They then go to meet with a builder only to be heart broken. They become faced with the fact that not only has their hard earned money been wasted but they also lost precious months of time. The Builder's tell them that the house as designed is out of their budget range, designed inefficiently, and is generally a poor plan. Why does this happen? It happens for a multitude of reasons, lack of true construction cost experience of the designer, the inability to match budget with the clients needs, and most of all designing the home in a vacuum with a general cost per square foot guideline pulled out of thin air. If you build custom homes this should sound very familiar. Worse yet sometimes the clients get frustrated with the builder for breaking the bad news.

Ah but every good love story has a happy ending - enter Lean Design. Lean Design by definition involves direct knowledge of construction cost, elimination of waste both material and spatially, and collaboration. Utilizing Lean Design from the beginning always ensures a happy ending for the custom client.

This week I am exploring this exact scenario with some great folks that I am currently working with as we develop their 2200 square ft. Ranch (or Rambler if you are an East Coaster). Let's take a closer look:

A. Long hall space to exterior bedroom is a waste of livable square footage.

B. Multiple Foundation Jogs in Garage area create extensive material waste.

C. Great Room is partially closed off to Dining Kitchen area and is ill proportioned for furnishing.

D. Wasted Hall space to Master Suite

E. Foyer feels too deep and narrow for this square footage

F. Master Suite is poorly proportioned for furnishing

G. New Plan eliminates hall space and jogs in Garage

H. Foyer is right sized

I Great Room is properly proportioned and open to Kitchen space

J Master Suite is properly proportioned for furnishing

Employ Lean Design for your next custom project. If you do your customers are ensured to love their not only their new home but you as well for helping them achieve their absolute maximum value for their dollar. Now that's romantic!

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