Why You Need an In-House Designer When Building a Custom Home

Why You Need an In-House Designer When Building a Custom Home

February 15, 2024


Through this exclusive interview with Larrisa Fontana, the esteemed in-house designer at Chelsea Design | Build, we illustrate the importance of having an in-house designer when building a custom home. With her expertise and keen eye for detail, Larissa brings invaluable insights into the intricate world of custom home design and construction. In this session, Larissa will walk us through various aspects of the design process, offering valuable advice and highlighting the importance of meticulous planning and collaboration.

Q&A Session with Larissa Fontana:

Q: When in the custom home timeline do you work with clients?

A: My collaboration with clients begins right at the inception of the project. Upon signing a plan development agreement, we engage in thorough discussions regarding their preferences even before involving the architect. Subsequently, as we commence working with the architect, I maintain regular consultations with the client throughout the plan design phase, facilitating all design decisions for their home prior to construction. This encompasses finalizing cabinet plans, electrical layouts, lighting fixtures, interior trim, plumbing fixtures, flooring selections, color schemes, tile choices, and more. Showroom visits are coordinated as necessary, and we conduct on-site walk-throughs at predetermined intervals during the construction process.  For an example of the fixtures and finishes our clients select in this phase, check out our Custom Home Design Guide. Learn more about our custom home building process for our Charlotte clients.

Q: Why do you believe it’s important to front load design decisions? How does this help clients and the outcome?

A: Front loading design decisions is pivotal as it establishes clear expectations and enables meticulous planning for both the project manager and all involved trades. This proactive approach minimizes unforeseen expenses, project delays, and confusion during construction. By addressing as many design specifics as possible upfront, we can seamlessly incorporate them into the architectural plans, avoiding the need for later modifications to accommodate details such as shower niches, floating benches, beams, specialized openings, specific windows, or unique doors.

Q: Walk us through your design process from start to finish…


The design journey commences with an Inspiration Meeting where we review the clients’ inspiration images and have a comprehensive discussion about their desires and expectations.


As we delve into architectural planning, we meticulously refine the clients’ preferences within their budgetary constraints, making selections that align with their vision. At each stage of the plan development process, we identify and finalize certain design elements that correspond to the level of detail present in the plans. While some selections may necessitate showroom visits and extensive consultation time, this collaborative effort ensures efficient decision-making. We capture all of our design decisions into a client style guide.


Once selections are made and all pertinent details are documented, including estimates from vendors, the client approves them, thereby providing the blueprint for the construction phase. It’s crucial to note that any alterations post-approval may incur delays and additional costs. Approved selections are documented in a visual Style Guide accessible to clients, offering a cohesive overview of the design scheme and aiding the project manager in understanding the envisioned outcome.


In conclusion, Larissa Fontana’s insightful responses shed light on the indispensable role of design in the custom home building process. Her emphasis on collaboration, meticulous planning, and proactive decision-making underscores the importance of engaging with an experienced in-house designer from the project’s inception. With Larissa’s guidance, clients can navigate the design journey with confidence, ensuring a seamless and rewarding experience from concept to completion. When it’s time to take your custom home from the hard surface design work to interior design, Charlotte locals rave about these 7 Best Interior Designers.