Visioning: The First Step in the Process Of Building A House

This is the first post in my custom home building series. I hope these resources help you as you enjoy the adventure of building a house!



diving into

the process

of building

a house.

It all starts with a dream.  

An idea. 

A vision inside your heart and mind that only you can see.

In order to get from that initial spark of possibility to a finished home, you have to be able to identify and express to others what your idea of success looks and feels like for you.

In later posts I will delve into the nitty gritty how-tos for building a custom home. But first, it’s worthwhile to talk about the importance of something called visioning in the home building process.

What is Visioning?

You may be asking yourself, “What the heck is visioning?” 

I’ve been practicing visioning all my life, but I’d never heard the term until recently!

I first came across the term “visioning” while reading the book The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin + Michael Ellisberg. One morning I was out on a run, listening to the book on Audible. When I got to this section, it was a lightbulb moment for me.

The authors discuss visioning as an interpersonal leadership skill. It’s something leaders do to set a goal for a desired outcome so they can communicate that desired result to their teams.  

Basically, visioning is painting a mental picture of what success might look like so that you have a clearly defined vision for how to move forward.  It might take the form of a visual representation, a written description, or some other creative form.

At the time this information came to me, we were in the early stages of building our new home and I realized “this is exactly what the work I am doing right now is all about.”

I’m an extremely in-my-head kind of person, so a big part of being prepared to tackle this project had to do with internal work.

For me, this looked like:

  • brainstorming
  • journaling
  • meditation
  • prayer

I had been listening to guided visualizations, making lists, and compiling visual imagery (Pinterest binge, anyone?) for months.

By the time I sat down to create our architectural plans, I knew EXACTLY what to ask for.  It was easy to communicate our needs and desires to the home designer because I had a laser-focused vision of what spaces we needed and how we wanted to live in our home.

It feels amazing to have so much clarity at the outset of your project, and it will serve you well throughout the entire process. If you keep your vision front and center, you can reference it with each and every decision you make.  

  • Does this choice get me closer to my ultimate vision?  
  • Will this decision impact the way we want to live in this space? 
  • Is this worth going over budget for?

This post outlines some exercises you can do to help you create a strong vision for your project.  

You can do this alone if you are the primary “leader” of the project. Or you can ask all the members of your team (aka your family) for their input.  Family meeting, perhaps?

Is it possible to skip this step?  Absolutely.  But there’s a reason this is utilized by high performing leaders- it has the potential to bring about powerful results if you invest the time and effort.  

Up for it? Let’s dive in.

Below you will find my 3 favorite practices for developing vision for a creative project.  Remember, the point of visioning is to get very clear on what a successful result means to youThis is a highly personal process, and it will look different to every person.

Practice 1:

Guided Meditation

Manifestation is fascinating to me.  Whether you are aware of it or not, our minds are constantly creating our realities. IMAGINATION IS EVERYTHING.  

There are entire books and websites dedicated to what manifestation is and how it works, so I’m not going to get into it too much here, but luckily you don’t have to know much to get started.  

Here’s the gist:  

In order to create anything real in life, first we have to be able to see it in our mind.

If you’re new to meditation and visualization, this may feel strange or uncomfortable.

I have found that listening to guided visualizations helps make it easier…. All you have to do is pop in some headphones and listen!  

The following guided meditation from Rising Higher Meditation was especially helpful when envisioning the life I wanted to live within our new home and if you’re up for it, you might like to try it too.

  1. Find a quiet place, free from distraction. 
  2. Plan about 30 uninterrupted minutes.
  3. Sit or lay comfortably and press play the audio.
  4. Close your eyes and focus, allowing yourself to watch the movie that plays in your mind throughout the exercise.
  5. When the audio is complete, take out a journal or a piece of paper and record what stands out to you from your visualization.  
  • How did you feel when envisioning your life?
  • What activities did you see yourself doing?
  • How were you interacting with your loved ones?
  • What details did you notice?

The things you notice can be powerful!

For example, when I would do this visualization I saw myself waking up with the sun, wandering in the garden, and making pancakes for my family as we happily talked about our days.  I saw myself sitting in the office writing (exactly like I am right now).  

Whatever life you want to build in your new home can be shaped before you even begin.

Repeat weekly, or as often as desired until your vision becomes a part of you.

Practice 2: Journaling

Some of us are journal people and some are not.

Totally ok if it’s not your thing, but would you consider stretching yourself a bit here?

I’ll make it easy on you.

I created a 7-Day Dream Home Journal that walks you through 1 journaling exercise each day for one week. Each journal prompt comes with a printable PDF workbook page and instructions, Or you can write on it directly on your iPad if you have an Apple Pencil! These exercises are all simple, take about 15 minutes, and are intended to help you think deeply about your dreams and desires for your dream home.

Simply set aside some time to dream, print out the worksheet, and work through it at your own pace. 

Practice 3: Creating a Visual Representation

Keeping your vision front and center is easy when you have something physical that you can look at every day.

That is why I like to create a visual representation of my ideas in the form of a moodboard or collage.

Once you’ve taken the time to deeply consider the way you want to live and love within the walls of your new home, it’s time to express those ideas outwardly.

Here are some ideas for creating moodboards:

Cut and Paste Collage:

Probably the easiest way to do this is to create an old school collage.  Grab some glue sticks, scissors, and a stack of old catalogues/magazines (ask friends if they have extras or make a run to the local newsstand if you need to!).

Flip through the pages and rip out ANY image that speaks to how you want to live in your new home.  Yes, this might mean a stunning living room photo.  But it might also mean a word (I.e. Airy) or an image that represents an activity (perhaps a family eating dinner around the table).

Once you’ve ripped out a good amount of imagery, trim the photos and arrange them onto a piece of posterboard or a piece of printer paper. Glue them down in layers and then step back and look at what you have created.  

Chances are good that you’ll be looking at a snapshot of the dreams that have been hiding inside your heart!  Often when I do this I am surprised at how profoundly accurate the end result is.

Digital Moodboard:

If you’re tech savvy, a digital moodboard is a fun project.

Using a digital design software, upload images you’ve saved from online sources (I.e. Pinterest, Instagram, Design Websites, Stores) into one document.

You can add in paint palettes, fabric textures, text, family photos… anything you want!

(I personally love and use a free software called Canva to do this. Sign up for a free account, because this software comes in handy in many parts of the process of building a house!)

Here is my digital vision board for our build.

Photo Flatlay:

This is another technique that I love.

It’s free, easy, and creatively stimulating!

The point of this exercise is to curate a collection of things you love that you would love to incorporate into your new home.

1. “Shop” your house for examples of elements that could inform your future design. 

Examples might include:

  • Art (photographs, drawings, sculpture, jewelry, etc.)
  • Textiles (pillows blankets, tablecloths, woven baskets, clothing items)
  • Finishes (think old silverware with a patina, brass, matte metal, earthy clay pots, milky glass)
  • Special books or sentimental items
  • Decor objects you love
  • Favorite kitchenware
  • Anything else you come across that you can see being at home in your perfect imaginary space.

2. Create a blank canvas using a posterboard or a clear space on the counter/table. 

  • Tip: It will be easier to photograph in step 4 if you use floor space or place a posterboard on the floor or a low table.

3. Arrange your items in the space. 

  • Lay some items flat, some on their sides.  
  • Place multiples of some items if you have them.
  • Allow Items to stack on top of each other and play with different heights. 

4. Photograph your items from an overhead perspective.

  • You may need to rearrange things and take multiple photos- things sometimes look different through a camera lens than they do with our naked eye!
  • If you have a fancy camera, that’s great.  But a phone camera works perfectly well for this project too!

Tip: Once you’re happy with your photo, try cropping the photo in a variety of ways until you are happy with the end result.

Here are some ideas for what you do with your flatly photo:

  • Print the image and display it in a frame on your desk
  • Make it a wallpaper for your phone or computer
  • Add it to your digital collage

It’s Your Turn!

Set aside some time and let your creative mind get to work.

Don’t rush things.  The vision you create now will carry forward into the process of building a house.  Be willing to feel a little uncomfortable if this isn’t your thing. You might surprise yourself!  

Have fun!


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