THE BULLI BLOG: Getting the brief right

  • 12 October 2020

Heading in to the GN Williams design studio for your first design meeting is an exciting time! For  me, it was also a time that I felt some pressure to ‘get it right’, and you might too. After all, it’s a big deal … your future home, and a big investment!

Before you set your design meeting, you’ll be sent an online form, the Design Brief Questionnaire. I recommend you carve out some time, at least half an hour, to go through this carefully with other key decision-makers, and take some notes about questions the form raises. As well as giving the design team some initial guidance about what you’re looking for in your new home, we found that the process of going through this form helped to define and refine what really matters to our family.

The design brief stage is all about layout and flow of the home – rooms, orientation of the home and positioning of the rooms, that kind of thing. So theoretically you don’t need to have any thoughts at this stage about aesthetics and interior design… but… personally I recommend you do have as much of this as clear in your mind as possible.

The thing is, some features or furniture you want will require appropriately sized or orientated rooms. You don’t want to get a few design-rounds in before revealing, for example, that you actually wanted an open shower, concealed butler’s pantry, or ducted aircon. All these examples require some thought in the initial design phase.

Do the designers need to know about your plans for matt white tapware and rattan pendant? No, but I also believe that there is no such thing as overdelivering information at this point. You just never know what a seemingly unimportant choice might mean in terms of behind-the-scenes preparation.

In addition, some factors may significantly influence the cost plan that is developed for you along with your initial design, one example would be flooring. If you have your heart set on imported oak herringbone floors (or is that just me?), speak up early so the team can incorporate the costs nice and early.

It’s easy to get stuck in your own bubble and make assumptions that your way of thinking is everyone’s way of thinking! For example you may assume that OF COURSE you’ll want ducted air conditioning, but don’t assume that everyone is on the same page. Speak up early about your expectations.

Special features like herringbone floors are definitely worth mentioning at this point! (Pic: Preference Floors)


Here’s what I recommend you devote some thought to before your design brief meeting…


Layout and Flow

For my family, we found it valuable to spend time daydreaming and talking about how we want to live, and getting quite specific about that. One way to tackle this is to consider your ideal day from the moment you wake up. Do you want to lie in bed and look out at the view? Do you want to do some yoga on the balcony, or take the dog to the beach (and wash him off afterwards), or have a coffee in a sunny spot? Perhaps you want your surfboard on easy access so you can head straight to the surf.

Go through your entire day – weekdays and weekends, and make sure your brief to the designers includes elements to give you the lifestyle you’d like to achieve and what would really delight you in your new home. It also could help to clarify what is less important and could be sacrificed to keep to budget.

Then how about how you’d like to entertain. Do you have large groups of people visiting? What kind of entertaining do you do – dinners, cocktail parties, lawn games, pool parties? How much space do you need and in what configuration?

  • Your room requirements. How many bedrooms, living spaces, work spaces and so on. The design brief questionnaire will lead you through this but it’s worth putting some thought into ahead of time. What do you need now, what would you like now, and what will your needs be in the future? What would delight now but isn’t a deal-breaker?
  • It’s vital to get the flow of your home right in the design stage. Is there a position of the home in which you’d like the living, kitchen and dining areas, and the master bedroom? How should the living and bedrooms zones connect to each other? How should the positioning of rooms relate to the northerly light, the hot westerly sun and the southerly cold winds? The design team are experts in maximising light and leveraging what your block has to offer, but will also take into account any specific wishes you have.

Consider your lifestyle. Beach people? Don’t forget the outdoor shower and storage for beach toys! Pic: Visit nsw.



Aesthetics concern so much more than the exterior look, or facade, of the home. If you build with a project builder you simply swap out different ‘looks’ for the facade. I always think this makes no sense as the interior design of your home speaks to the aesthetic style as much as the outside, and it’s more than decor, it’s the design of the home.

For example, a Hamptons home, a Scandi barn-style home, and an industrial home will all have different uses of interior features like staircases, kitchen layouts, indoor/outdoor flow and so on. For this reason I think it’s hugely helpful to have an idea of the look and feel of the home at this very early stage.

Somewhat like going to the hairdresser, it’s easier to communicate the look you’re going for through photos rather than trying to articulate what you’d like when you don’t have the terminology for it. And after all, one person’s modern coastal Aussie Hamptons is probably different to the next person’s 😉


A Pinterest board can help explain the aesthetic you’re looking for.


Things easily forgotten at this stage:

Don’t forget to think about the more ‘boring’ elements which will end up being quite important in the home. It’s always better to vocalise what you want even if you think it would already be included.

  • Side-access. Tell the design team what you’d like in terms of side access to your home, particularly if you want more than the minimum as required by your council.
  • Placement of bulky outdoor provisions such as clothes line, air-con units and water tanks.
  • Air-conditioning. Think about what you want in advance – ducted, stand-alone units or no air-con. Significant design decisions such as raked ceilings can impact the possibility for, or complications in installing, air conditioning, so it’s useful for the designers to know upfront.
  • Size of the garage and storage spaces.
  • Internal storage.



Multiple levels in your home might seem like a good idea now, and could take advantage of views from your block, but will this work well in the future for you? If you’re interested in future-proofing your home, include this in your briefing discussions with the designers so they can advise on elevators and provisions for other ideas.


Depending on how clear and detailed your vision was for your home coming into the design process, this stage can require dedicated time for thinking, visualising, researching and pondering. It’s well worth the investment of your time, though, as a few months down the track when you see the home start to materialise, you’ll realise the benefits of those well-considered decisions you made back in the early stages. Trust me, it’ll be worth it!


About The Bulli Blog posts

Nat Foxon and her family are clients of GN Williams. Nat is also engaged to write about her experiences. Find out more about this custom home.