Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

The Design Process

In 1990 A-1 Builders was 35 years old.  The time was ripe to become a design/build company, so we opened Adaptations Design Studio, and with it, our showroom.  Our high dream was to create a design service that was client-driven, as opposed to the designer-driven services which dominate the industry.  Our goal was compelling… if we listen carefully to you, our client, and begin to see through your eyes, then the resulting design that emerges should appeal to you

How often have you heard about a project designed by someone whose resulting aesthetics were more aligned with the designer‘s eye as opposed to what is pleasing to the client?

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Here’s a glimpse into our showroom at 3310 Northwest Avenue in Bellingham. To see many more images of our showroom, click on the ‘showroom’ button in the navigation bar at the top of the page.

We also saw the need to offer our clients more than just a building design service.  Our goals reached beyond the drawings.  For example, while a drawing may show you where the kitchen sink is located, what sink is it?  What brand, model, color, finish and dimensions? This narrative description which accompanies the drawings is called the project’s specifications Drawings without specs is like a road map showing the roads without their respective street names… pretty easy to get lost!

More recently, Adaptations has chosen to commit to additional market segments reflective of our philosophy of thinking long-term. These areas of emphasis include the Universal Design and Aging-In-Place movements. These movements relate to the desire for people of varying ages and abilities to remain living at home as long as they possibly can. In other words, we help adapt homes for aging inhabitants.

Prior to embracing the importance of aging in place we were already well known as property preservation specialists.  Holistic thinkers that we are, we spread our wings to become human preservation specialists.  So, while we help you with design, we’ll be paying particular attention to issues such as wide hallways; grab bars; eliminating existing conditions that promote slipping, tripping or falling; adequate lighting; the ease of chores such as preparing trash and recyclables for street-side pickup; etc. Read Cindi’s compelling article about aging in place from our Spring 2013 E-newsletter.  Or read the 2 Bellingham Herald’s December 2015 articles about aging in place, which featured our expertise in this arena:

Changes to Home, Exercise Program Help Seniors Stay One Step Ahead of Falls

Checklist: How to Prevent Falls at Home

Want more?  Then read Whatcom Talk’s 2016 article about our expertise in aging-in-place.

It’s one thing to get your home ready for your aging process but it’s another for you to be ready; for you to be fit. Check out this short YouTube video about why your own fitness level is critical to minimize your chance of falling… no matter where you live.

In order to help our clients efficiently and effectively generate these specifications, wouldn’t we need our own showroom? You bet! Otherwise our clients would be asked to go elsewhere in order to select products and systems.  Talk about a nightmare!

Here’s just one example:  the big box stores have their own product specifications for name brand items.  So, prior to having our own showroom, clients would return to us and say they had seen and liked a particular Kohler sink at Home Depot, but the data they provided us with didn’t match the information in Kohler‘s catalog!  Clients would often return weary, confused and overwhelmed, a far cry from our vision of a client-friendly, one-stop, design-build shop.

We realized that a showroom would provide the most seamless path for our clients to  access the drawings, specifications and product selection that together represent the three legs of the stool that define a streamlined building project.

So in 1999 we expanded into the rest of our office building and completed this third leg of our seamless design/build concept – our showroom.  And we incorporated many of our favorite products into the showroom itself… not just as samples, but as actual building materials to create the space in which you will work with your designer!

Our showroom is a small box, not a 100,000 square foot big box with overwhelming space and inexperienced droids in costumes.  Instead you’ll find a small, knowledgeable, friendly staff within a cozy, human-scale, and healthy space… with plenty to choose from.

While Rick and Cindi hiked through Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah,they couldn’t resist the awesome photo opportunity this juxtaposition offered.

While Rick and Cindi hiked through Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah,they couldn’t resist the awesome photo opportunity this juxtaposition offered.

More specifically, here is what Adaptations Design Studio has to offer…

Building Design, Site Design and Space Planning

        1. ASSESSMENT OF YOUR NEEDSHow do you use your home? What’s not working well? How might it function better? Would reorganizing existing space prevent the need for an addition, or perhaps an addition smaller than you had thought? How long do you intend to live in your home? Are your energy bills feeling exorbitant? Do you or any family members experience chronic respiratory symptoms at home which warrant further study?
        2. SHARED HOUSING: Housing needs and interests are changing these days.  We help people wishing to buy or rent a home with unrelated people; how to create and organize a shared housing residence; how to turn a single family residence into a duplex or beyond; how to add a mother-in-law suite.
        3. PRE-REMODEL CONDITION EVALUATION: when was the last time someone knowledgeable evaluated the condition of your crawlspace and attic? Although you may have called us for a kitchen remodel, isn’t it wise to put your home through a wellness exam if years have passed by since your last house-doctor’s appointment?
        4. SITE-SPECIFIC DESIGN: maximizing one’s view and light orientation; potential for solar and/or wind power. A visit to the permit center is an essential  part of site discovery so that we are aware of site constraints such as setbacks, easements, critical areas, etc.
        5. NEW, CUSTOM HOMES that are better, not bigger, by focusing on the efficiency and effectiveness of space utilization. So often the homes we’ve built from scratch started with the potential remodeling of an existing home. At times it’s simply not worth investing a lot of dough into an unworthy structure. We can help you determine whether this is true in your situation.
        6. FEASIBILITY STUDIES to explore the technical, regulatory and financial aspects of your ideas. [Here’s an interesting look at how local building codes might effect your project, from our Winter 2012 newsletter article written by our Design Manager Maggie Bates.]
        7. DRAFTING AND DESIGN DEVELOPMENT for your particular project, whether it’s an alteration to your existing space, an addition, or a new, custom home. Our software of choice is CHIEF ARCHITECT and this CAD program allows for 3D modeling.  You’ll be able to pick a spot on your floor plan, point in the direction you’d like to look, and instantly see the virtual view you’ll have from your finished space!  What a powerful design tool!
        8. ATTENTION TO HISTORICAL PRESERVATION and renovation so that the alteration, when completed, appears to be an original component of the building. Nothing irritates us more than seeing a home that has undergone an alteration where it’s readily apparent that a unsightly portion of it has been scabbed onto a former, aesthetic structure.
        9. KITCHEN & BATHROOM REMODELING: development of floor plans and detailed cabinet layouts.  Realtors will speak up loudly:  ‘its the kitchen and bathrooms that sell homes so pay close attention to them’.  We hear them loud and clear.
        10. UPDATING WHOLE-HOUSE SYSTEMS: to increase energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and comfort.  Consider listening to Rick’s informative  KMRE radio program on indoor air quality as it relates to allergies, chronic respiratory issues, pets and the like.
        11. PREPARE TO SELL: getting ready to sell your home? Just what is going to slow down how long it takes to sell?  What needs attention, whether it’s something minor like some landscape trimming, or something more major like an outdated, tired kitchen?
        12. EDIBLE LANDSCAPE DESIGN: we can help you design (and we can also install) your fruit orchard, vegetable garden, raised beds, water catchment/storage, etc.
        13. OUTDOOR ENVIRONMENTS: design… and also build… your deck, fence, patio, hardscaping (i.e. rockeries, water features, trellis, etc.).  Check out our sampling of  outdoor projects to grasp the diversity and quality of our work..
        14. OUTBUILDINGS: sheds, carports, garages, pump houses, detached bedrooms, accessory dwelling units (ADU’s)… again, any and all of which we can also build.

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Interior Design & Specifying

            1. COMPREHENSIVE PRODUCT SAMPLES for finished surfaces, including tile, flooring, counter tops and cabinets. Consider reading Maggie’s article about mosaic tile and her article about stone countertops.
            2. QUALITY INSTALLATION for each and every product we offer. Some products we install in-house while others we provide via one of our proven, quality subcontractors. We believe that a tremendous piece of what we offer you is a very balanced, consistent presentation in what we do , whether its one of our employees or a subcontractor.  It shouldn’t matter; you should expect and receive consistency throughout.
            3. SPECIFICATION SERVICE for residential and light commercial projects, whether you are interested in remodeling or new construction. Sometimes clients ask for a lot of input in product selection; others have done their homework on their own.  No matter which path you take we’ll bring the specs together for you into a comprehensive document that helps coalesce so many decision that go into your project.
            4. FURNITURE SELECTION AND ARRANGEMENT: accessory selection; integration of your personal treasures into your home environment; minimizing traffic patterns.
            5. Proponents of UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR AGING IN PLACE, which embraces the diversity of age and mobility for your home’s inhabitants. Universal design principles optimize long-term accessibility and comfort so that people can age within their home, avoiding the need to move to a different home due to dangerous stairways, narrow passageways and other non-functional spaces.
            6. COLOR CONSULTATIONS, featuring Benjamin Moore, Parker, Safe-coat, and OS finishes.  Sure, a significant project warrants our input on colors, but also keep us in mind for very brief and focused color consultations years down the road when all you might be doing is repainting a few rooms on your house.
            7. LIGHTING CONSULTATIONS, acknowledging the need for additional lighting as we age.  Electrical plans in general are often left undone by most designers, but not here.  Sure, your electrician may be able to cobble together an electrical plan, but we prefer a designer’s input.  Lighting and intelligent electrical plans are an integral piece of a well conceived building project so we take these seriously.
            8. ORGANIZATION AND CLUTTER MANAGEMENT:  let us help you sort, downsize, reorganize or perhaps eliminate some of the things that hinder the feel or flow of your space. Very often this process will reduce and, at times, even eliminate the need for adding on additional space to a home.


It’s no wonder that most of our projects incorporate all three legs of the stool… design, product purchase/installation, and construction.  The reasons go far beyond the ease of one-stop shopping.

It’s about intelligent design. Under one roof…

Our designers can ask our builders about best practices

Our builders can ask our designers about design intent

Providing some of our own products allows for tighter control on quality and availability

We look forward to putting these skill sets to work for you.

The power of design/build in real time! Project Manager Shawn Serdahl discussing a design detail with designers Cindi Landreth and Tristen Graybill.

The power of design/build in real time! Then Project Manager Shawn Serdahl [now our Production Manager] discussing a design detail with designers Cindi Landreth and Tristen Graybill.

Clients often ask us to describe our philosophy of design, so here’s the design intent we’d utilize to approach your particular design challenge.

Let’s move on. Let’s assume, for a moment, that we succeed in designing a plan for you that is both aesthetically pleasing and affordable. What happens next? Let’s now understand our actual construction process.



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