Ask the builder: Interior design, deck building addressed

Question: We are considering building our home. We toured the Parade of Homes last month and you were the only builder we spoke with that mentioned incorporating interior design in the overall design process. Is this something we should be concerned about…how can interior designers help with our building process?

We use a collaborative design team approach which includes an interior designer for the simple reason that there are hundreds of decisions required and many decisions that can be made with the team of experts while the architectural drawings are being done. This process enables you to have a very talented and well diversified team assisting you with the design and building process. Building a home is a huge investment, so invest wisely by establishing a reputable team.

Please don't underestimate the complexity of interior design. Interior design concerns itself with more than just the visual or ambient enhancement of an interior space, it seeks to optimize and harmonize the uses to which the interior environment will be put. Many factors come into play in formulating the design solution. There is the space itself-its dimensions and construction-with its potential and its limitations. There is how the space will be used-for work, leisure, entertainment, etc. There is the meaning of the space, what it signifies-such as achievement, playfulness or serenity. There are practical considerations, like ease of access, amount of light, acoustics, seating and places to store or set things down. There are health and safety considerations, attention to special needs and more.

Designers have access to home products that are not commonly available in retail stores. They can also help narrow the selection process by locating products that will fit into your scheme and budget.

Designers can prepare a formal presentation, showing colors, textures, and materials so that you can see how the pieces come together and how each room in your home will relate to the others. She can help you establish a unified, flowing whole. This is especially critical in timberframe homes and homes with open floor plans where sightlines are so open.

As far as cost is concerned, interior designers are compensated in a variety of ways. Some charge by the hour and others by percentage of the overall budget. Others may provide complimentary service and in exchange for buying the furniture through them.

Lastly, check the credentials of the interior designer. Our interior designers are accredited through the American Society of Interior Design (ASID) and members of the Grand Traverse Home Builders Association. The ASID appellation is widely recognized as a mark of design excellence and professionalism. Members are qualified by education, experience and examination, and adhere to a strict code of ethics and professional conduct.

Question: We are going to build a timber frame home next year. We have just begun thinking about design. We spend a lot of time outside, so porches and decks are an important feature for us. What are your thoughts to designing these spaces to take advantage of the property or the way the home is sited?

When I design a wraparound porch, I often have a portion of it covered at the front of the home by exposed rafters and a decorative truss at the gable end. Your focus is drawn to this area. The design also gives the home a distinct personality and hints at the attractive posts and beams inside.

Porches don't have to be large to be useful. In fact, porches six to eight feet deep provide plenty of space for a few chairs and a small table to relax and sip our great local wines on starry nights.

With respect to decks, I like to break up the space and designate uses for different portions of them. I terrace them up or down in various scales. This is especially true with larger decks, where one flat surface can seem overwhelming. If the lot slopes, terracing the deck down the slope breaks up the space and means that railings won't block that gorgeous view. Also, I don't like to extend decks the entire width or length of the home, especially above walkouts. Doing so creates too much shadowing over the lower level where natural light is so key to creating a comfortable living space.

Mike Ferraro is president of Ferraro Builders and past president of the Home Builders Association of Grand Traverse Area. Ferraro Builders is a full-service design and build firm and Certified Green Builder specializing in Custom Homes, Timber Frame Homes, and Remodeling.

Do you have a question about home design, new construction, remodeling or the building industry? Submit your questions to Mike Ferraro at We'll print several questions and answers in upcoming "Ask the Builder" columns.