+ Lisa Jaffe, AIA, LEED AP

Following up where we left off from our debut post, we wanted to talk about Schematic Design (SD) next.  SD is where and when we first identify the scope of the project; it’s the master planning phase.  We mentioned in “Welcome…Diving In,” that JAFFE A+I goes beyond providing clients with just a set of plans, making our approach to SD specific, thorough and foundational.  

By definition, architects are rigorously trained to think and dig below the surface — we start below the foundation to build the foundation.  Great architects are not only master planners, we’re also fixated on minding the minutiae and creating genius solutions to problems you didn’t know existed. 

So when we meet with homeowners, our process includes a comprehensive review of how they live.  Since SD affects the subsequent design and building phases, it’s critical for us to conduct in-depth interviews and fieldwork that allow us to envision present and future needs.

Identifying how you Live: The Client Interview

Whether it’s a new home, gut renovation or just an interiors refresh, we visit a client’s existing home and walk through the entire house with them from beginning to end. Starting at the front door, or the garage door, we ask, “Okay, what happens? You’re home. What do you do? You put your bag down. You take your shoes off.  You pick up after your kids. Where does the dog leash go?”  

Listening, taking copious notes and photos for future reference, we analyze a client’s daily routine.  We measure closet space, artwork and furniture they may want to reuse. We canvass their kitchen and open the cabinet doors. We assess the current living situation, so when we present a new house design or renovation design, we can address the specifics — the fact that they want twice as much closet space. Our client might currently have six linear feet of closet space and we’ve designed a closet with nine. But by making an adjustment, we could get twelve, or possibly fifteen, with another approach.  SD is the phase where there’s flexibility to make these kinds of changes. 


Often the fieldwork JAFFE A+I does identifies things that the homeowners don’t even realize they need.  Visiting a couple’s home, we noticed the master bathroom toilet tank was stacked with dozens of books and magazines — someone loved to read on the toilet.  So when we designed the master bathroom, we not only gave them a separate toilet room with storage for toilet paper and supplies, but we also included bookshelves in the plans.  

Other clients had very limited space and when they entered their home from the garage, they wanted a place to put down their keys, but there wasn’t a convenient spot.  Our solution was to create a recessed niche in the wall along with shelves for putting keys and other small items. 

Some families have programmatic needs where they want one room to function in multiple ways, so we devise a way to combine spaces. For instance when square footage is limited, sleek pocket doors can divide one large room into two, instantly creating private guest quarters. Here’s an example.  

We’re always thinking of practical, aesthetic ways to streamline and see how we can pair things together based on square footage and budget constraints.

Design Solutions: The Functional and the Aesthetic 

Back in the studio with our “research findings,” we sketch out designs.  We take the building code and zoning requirements into account, along with budgetary and stylistic requirements.  We translate the fieldwork into accurate and workable solutions on the computer.  However, since a schematic floor plan doesn’t have all of the details worked out perfectly, we do reviews and revisions.  After one or two rounds with our client’s input, we’ll establish the initial SD which leads us to Design Development, DD. 

We want to emphasize that since Schematic Design is the discovery phase, we take the time to really get to know our clients’ needs and their dreams, as well.  We determine what’s needed now, and we anticipate future changes to come. Homeowners who wonder whether they should hire an architect should understand that as visionary architects, we not only design practical solutions, we comprehend and imagine how to improve your lifestyle — we go deeper into the aesthetics and take in all of the details with a meticulous and careful methodology.  In other words — we work really hard to make sure everything functions well for you, and we make sure your home feels luxurious and looks stunning, too.  In our next post, we’ll show you the specifics of how we take SD to DD.  Stay tuned, this is where it gets fun! 

(photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels)