We specialize in Custom Residential Home Design in San Marino, Pasadena, and Arcadia. Our services include but are not limited to:

  • Pre-design Consultation
  • Preliminary  Feasibility Research
  • Preliminary and Detailed Custom Home Design
  • Coordinating Engineering Requirements
  • Construction Documents
  • Permit Processing
  • Bathrooms and Kitchen Remodel
  • Architectural Interior Design
  • Construction Process Consultation


The first step in realizing your dream home starts with a short 30-minute conversation. We want to get to know you and learn about your project, and we want you to be confident that we are the right fit for you and your home project, too.

To get started, please fill out the Project Inquiry Form.

If you choose to proceed with Silver Elm Studio, then we’ll begin working through the details of a Preliminary Design Requirements. This step allows us to get a clear vision for your project and to conduct a feasibility report with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to be sure your project is one that the local jurisdiction will allow.

The next step we’ll take is called the Schematic Design Phase. During this phase, the architect meets with you to evaluate your needs and establish the goals for your project. This usually includes general relationship and spatial requirements, figuring cost estimations, and determining a realistic budget. The architect will also research the requirements of the jurisdiction where the property is located.

When we feel confident with the results from the Schematic Design Phase, we’ll proceed to the Design Development. In this phase the Project Architect finalizes the design, including floor plans, exterior design elements, materials, structural details, and the site design. They will review these details with you and then with the city or county jurisdiction for initial approval.

A Construction Document is a culmination of all the design and engineering details, both written and graphic. Once you and the architect are comfortable with the design of the house, and that the Planning Department has given the green light to proceed, then the Construction Document is generated. At a minimum this document includes structural drawings, Title 24 energy compliance reports, California Green Building Code requirements, and any other information required by the Jurisdiction Having Authority for permit approval. Building permits have to be applied for before any construction can begin. In order to apply for these permits, there must be a Construction Document.

The time required for each project varies.

In general, it takes about 6 to 8 months for project planning, design development and engineering drawings to be completed before the Construction Document is ready for submitting to the Jurisdiction Having Authority for plan check and approval.  The Plan Check process can take 4 to 6 months for a straight forward, simple project, before the permit is ready to be issued.

Projects involving Design Review, Historic Preservation Analysis, and Public Hearings will require additional time.

While we’re waiting for the city to approve the building permits, this is a great time to begin selecting and ordering items for the interior of your home.

We recommend you work closely with an Interior Designer at this stage. They are experts in advising the best options for items like cabinets, tiles, flooring, finishes, fixtures, appliances and more. Interior Designers are key contributors in helping you select and shop for items that will help complete the style, décor and overall feel of your home. Their expertise is instrumental in helping you take your style and comfort from ideas to reality.

You will have the opportunity to decide which contractor you want to use during the Bidding and Negotiation Phase. This is the time when various General Contractors will review the Construction Documents and place a bid of cost and time. Our architects will help you work through understanding the details of each bid so that you can make the best-informed decision.

Although cost is a factor, we recommend choosing a contractor you feel has a personality that you are comfortable working with. Having a contractor who communicates well and answers your questions during this phase is likely to continue that positive experience through the building process.

When the Construction Document is approved by the City/County Jurisdiction, the General Contractor of your choosing will obtain the building permit. Now the construction can finally begin.

Upon service agreement with your Architect, they may work with the general contractor, observing their work to check if the project is conforming to the details of the construction document. If there are any questions that arise, unforeseen circumstances, or requests for design changes, your architect can provide respond or help negotiate those changes.

Every homeowner wants to know the bottom line for their project, as they should. But there are many factors that go into determining this number, so our initial answer is, “It depends.” Some of the factors that must be considered are the quality of construction materials, custom features, and luxury design features.

During the Schematic Phase and Design Development Phase of the project, we will define the general design and engineering requirements that then allows us to determine a more precise construction estimate.

We typically recommend that homeowners use this matrix as a rough estimate when considering their construction budget:

$400 per sq. ft. for a basic construction quality
$500 per sq ft. for a semi-custom design
$600+ per sq ft. for a luxury custom design

These estimates are based on 2020 California construction trends in the Los Angeles County area.  It is subject to change based on market condition and world events.  Please consult a certified construction cost valuator for current construction estimate.

Silver Elm Studio strives to be fully transparent when it comes to upfront costs and fees so that homeowners can have confidence when budgeting their home project.

Many people are surprised to learn that there are lots of fees even before permits are issued. The fee amounts vary depending on the scope of work.

The three categories of fees that are typical for residential projects are—City/County fees, Professional Services fees, and Construction fees. It is not uncommon for a homeowner to spend almost $30k on reports and fees required by the City/County even before they receive the green light to begin construction.  Professional Service fees are generally around 20% of the total construction cost. Construction Cost is based on current market trend, location of the property, quality and complexity of the project, the level of customization desired, and multitude of other considerations.

Since every project is unique, our architectural fee is based on your individual home design needs. Working through the Preliminary Design Requirements will give us a better understanding of the scope of your home project and allow us to provide a more precise and custom Architectural Services fee that is appropriate for the project.

The fee will be determined by the serviced needed, such as:

● Programming
● Floor plan Designs
● Exterior Design
● Structural requirements
● Site design
● Interior Design
● Consultant Coordination
● Design Review and Hearing
● 3D presentation
●  Color and material board 
● Bidding and negotiating
● Permits Application
● Construction Administration