Swan Architecture specializes in all things residential. Whether you’re in need of a kitchen remodel, sunroom addition, or new home or cabin, our main objective is twofold: Providing premium professional design services while guiding and protecting you, the client, through what can be both an exciting and daunting journey to the best of our expertise. We understand that you’re hiring us to actually listen, and more importantly, understand your vision, so that your home reflects your spirit and personality, not ours. Above all else, when the project is finished, we want you to LOVE WHERE YOU LIVE. We believe that authentic design transcends fashion and trend. We draw upon our rich traditions of the past while modernizing them to suite the way we live today. Throw in a bit of whimsy, and we’re on our way to a home that will suit many for generations, but distinctively suits your life today. Prospective and past clients often react favorably to our whimsy page, which comes as no surprise, because whimsy is the perfect mix of ambiance and unexpected lifestyle that makes a structure not only a house, but your spirited home.

We often tell our clients that there is no set norm for the custom residential design process. That is due to many factors, starting with the fact that we’ve never designed, or built your custom home project before with you, and for you. Each client that comes to us with a project has their own unique set of objectives, conditions, and resources. And that’s why the kick off to the process, starting with the interview, is paramount in starting to define and tailor the right architectural process for you. As a starting point, particularly to those who have never been through the custom residential design process before, we explain five steps that typically occur:


This first phase includes all of the discussions, thought, and exploration that lead to the moment when you realize you need to build something new. We can assist with this preliminary planning effort and oftentimes we do. The phase ends with your decision to move forward with the project and with us as your Architect.

Whether we are helping you realize your vision through a referral of a relationship you have in place, such as a builder or interior designer, or you need us to assemble the right team of industry partners, that decision is entirely up you. At our initial consult, we will discuss your program and project objectives, any relationships you might already have in place, any resources you may have, and discuss the right service and process package for you. We offer the flexibility to cater our services to your needs, and not vice versa.

  • Here are a few questions to consider that will help start a productive dialogue when we meet:

  • Location – If you’ve chosen or are considering specific sites, begin to match your list of needs to what the actual properties offer. We can help you identify unusual or troublesome site conditions such as soil irregularities, drainage difficulties, or problematic slopes. We can also guide which site would best suit your program goals, taking into account sun angle, views, breezes, etc.
  • Design – Consider what you want both aesthetically and functionally from your project. It can be very useful to come prepared with precedent / inspiration images, from internet based apps such as Houzz, Pinterest, or clips from magazines or books. Even if you do come with inspiration, we will work with you and develop an inspiration pallet using our valuable collection of books, past projects, and magazines in our library.
  • Lifestyle – We will consider personal aspects of your lifestyle, like your desire for privacy, plans for family, entertaining needs, etc. We will also take into regard your future expected uses of you home. Every question we may ask may not be an easy answer, but we believe that the more questions we ask, the better we can understand your lifestyle and meet your expectations for the project.
  • Budget – We will discuss how much a project such as yours might cost. Sometimes clients choose to start the process by ‘designing to the dream,’ and then soliciting estimates from contractors early on to gauge how much the project may cost. Others come with a maximum price, and we work our project around that fixed fee.
  • Your goals from hiring us – What are you hoping to gain from hiring us? Did you know that we are a licensed residential Architecture firm? Did you know that that most residential designers are not licensed Architects? Not many are aware of this, or the different between a licensed Architects vs. a non-licensed residential designer. There are considerable added benefits and security to be gained by using a licensed Architect. You can learn more about this by clicking on the AIA MN icon below:



Here we define the project – its scope, features, purpose, and functionality. This is often called the “programming” phase. Together, we develop and refine a “vision” for the project. We lead you through an exercise to help you explore the needs of those who will live, work or play in the space you create. We will identify the services you need from us as your architect, and the design team will begin to form a cohesive relationship and a shared concept for the project. Following the program meeting, we provide a proposal letter that recaps our program discussion, project objectives, and outlines estimated fees. Once signed, this proposal serves as our engagement moving forward.


Once the requirements of the project are determined, the design process begins. We will begin to give shape to your vision through drawings and written specifications. Your input into this phase is vital, as you get the first glimpses, and then a more defined look at how your project will take shape. It is important to establish a clear decision-making process with us during the various phases of design beginning with schematic design, then design development, and ending with construction documentation.

In the Schematic Design phase, we begin by analyzing the site and survey conditions, along with your program, coming up with a preliminary concept for your main floor plan and outdoor spaces such as terrace, balconies, gardens, drives, pools, etc.

Once the concept takes hold, we migrate naturally into the Design Development Phase, where we are continuing to enrich every aspect of the design, while developing more drawings such as exterior elevations, key interiors and building sections, etc.

Last but not least we develop Construction Drawings, which are essentially a road map for permit, bid, and building of your new home or remodel project. Outline Specifications are often included, that define specific standards, products, procedures, and allowances to be used when bidding.

Click here to view examples of our in-process design drawings, sketches, and renderings, from our past projects


The contractor who will construct your building becomes the most active member of the team during this phase. Investments are made in materials, and timetables are extremely important. Good communication within the project team is critical, as the need for changes often arises. This can typically be the time of highest stress for you as the client. We work tirelessly on your behalf, to help manage and ease the strain this portion of the process can provide. We can discuss changes and manage options with you, to ensure that alterations are compatible with your vision for the project.


This phase begins the day your home, or project, is up and running and never really ends. It's where your satisfaction with the project is determined. We can help ensure that the terms of your building contract were met, and can use the experience of this project to inform future work. The greatest satisfaction to us is when you finally get to realize that you LOVE WHERE YOU LIVE.

We maintain positive relationships with nearly all of our clients and we are humbled when they return to us with future projects. A list of our many client references are available and will be provided when we have our initial consultation.

The right process for you and your project can begin by contacting us to schedule a consult, and begin discussing what we can do for you.