When architects and interior designers put a pen to paper, sometimes the idea for a great project happens right off the bat, but more often than not, there’s a lot of old-fashioned sketching going on.

That’s the case for the team at Shea Homes San Diego, where Alex Plishner, Director of Development, oversees the details. How is each room oriented? What are the special features of each house, and relationships between the indoor and outdoor spaces?

“It’s very much a team approach, working together to create the most exceptional homes we can,” he said. “My favorite part is that we speak the same language.”

And it all starts with tracing paper and a big black marker. The higher-tech computer-aided design programs come later.

The team – usually 10 people — comes together for something called a design charrette, generally a couple of days of really intensive effort where they sketch floor plans on the first day and elevations on the second. Then comes the talk about massing – how the individual homes lay out on the land – and the architectural styles, said Plishner, a formally trained architect.

“That initial intensive design effort gets the ball rolling,” he noted.

From there it’s down to the nitty-gritty of how the home will work. That’s when the mechanical and structural engineers step in before the process shifts to working drawings – and all those approvals by local planners.

Plishner approaches his work the way many homeowners trying to figure out how to decorate their home do.

“I find inspiration all over the place,” he said, from books that give him “grand ideas and history” to magazines like Dwell that present current trends.

And while he’s in home building business, he looks to other industries for best practices.

“I think a hotel room is a quintessential way to make a real livable functional space in real small square footage,” said Plishner. “The hip contemporary, boutique hotels really have it figured out.”

Custom homes also give him ideas on ways to adapt spaces.

“An idea can be transformed any way you want … it’s the idea. You’re just trying to figure out how to adapt a great idea.”

It’s taking those ideas from sketch to finished product that makes award winners,” he said proudly.

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