Best Tips for working with an architect

carsonheimFebruary 12, 2013

Howdy! We are about to sign the contract with our architect. His fee is based on covered square footage, and with that we get three iterations of the floor plan as well as 3 2-hour planning meetings. After that, there is an additional hourly fee.

We'd like to be wise about our time and spending with the architect so as to minimize additional fees. I have prepared a (rather lengthy) document that outlines all of our "must haves" as well as "like to haves" in our home. I've also provided him with a basic floorplan that I like as a starting point, with modifications. And finally, a couple of home exterior elevations that we really like as well.

Does anyone here have additional tips on what we can do to make the process as smooth as possible? Ideally, we'd like to accomplish the final floor plan and elevations without incurring extra fees.

Thanks for your input! :)

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In a custom home situation I don't see how 3 planning sessions will be nearly enough. I met with my architect once a week for about 3 months before the plans were locked down. I also had my builder and interior designer present at each meeting. The entire process was very smooth and both the builder and designer brought significant value during the design process.

My gut tells me they are trying to rush you through the process. I would rather spend the time (and maybe a little extra money) up front to get the details right before anyone sticks a shovel in the ground. I think you will be much happier with the finished product and could potentially avoid some cost overruns

Just my 2-cents

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 3:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I hope you are actually dealing with a licensed architect and not a designer or drafter. If so, then your floor plan and elevations are probably self-defeating and time-wasting. Many first-time home owners think they have to have their own floor plans worked out, in order to "show" the architect what they want. In most cases, an experienced architect will waste time and money pointing out what doesn't work and what a better concept(s) may be.

It's the architect's role (using her/his education, training and experience) to produce compatible floor plans and exteriors from your needs and wants. Since many architects have spend 20 years or more in their profession, they should be able to quickly produce work much more competent than yours. If they can't, you need another architect.

The fee/service arrangement does not sound like the services an experienced architect would normally provide, unless this was your specific request. If you're not sure whether or not the person is a licensed architect, you should specifically ask. So many people on this forum use the term "architect", when the person is not.

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 5:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My experience has been similar to Virgil's observations.

The best way to lower the cost of design is not to offer your design but to be ready with a written program and photos of what you like. A good architect can make a good design out of that information in short order. Working with your design could delay that result and increase the cost.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree with Virgil also. I spent numerous hours trying to figure out how to change something on our first draft. At some point I told myself I am a novice at this and this guy has been doing this type of thing forever. So I sent it back stating I did not really care for the way the bathroom and stairs were. Next thing I know he sent me the revision back with a change I would of NEVER came up with, but it was awesome! From that point I let him do the job he was being well paid to do :)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Great advice above. +1 to Mark's advice about involving the builder early. Paying an architect for plans that are detailed enough to send out to bid may not offer much cost savings or suit your best needs depending on the details or situation.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Involving the builder early has to be done carefully. If you have selected a builder and intend to negotiate a contract later you will give up the advantage of competitive bidding.

It is often wise to hire a builder as a consultant to price the project as it is being designed, then bid the project competitively.

Often it is necessary to spend money to save money.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 2:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am not sure how much time we spent face to face with our architect. I want to say it took 4 face-to-face meetings (each running a few hours) & a lot of e-mails back & forth. He had access to all my Pinterest boards, & this was extremely helpful to him, as a picture is worth a 1,000 words. We had 3 iPads going in the sessions. I could pull up the exact photo right then & there & he could do the same.

We were extremely well prepared before we met with him. We knew exactly what we wanted, but we were willing to listen to suggestions from him if it something we liked/desired didn't work with the design & budget.

We also involved a builder early on. He was at every architect meeting & had a lot of contact with the architect during the design process. We did not have a contract with him or pay him a consultant fee. He knew that if he came in with a number that was out of our ballpark, the deal would not happen. This was really risky on his part, I guess, as he spend so much time on our project ahead of time. I knew we really liked him, & he has an amazing reputation in town. So we felt pretty sure we would go with him, but it was understood that we could bid out the project to someone else. It was helpful to have him sit in on the sessions. From his point of view, he could say yay or nay to various items, based on our budget.

We did end up spending quite a bit more on the architect than we initially thought we would. But it has definitely been worth it. He is amazing! His plans are incredibly detailed. I doubt we will run into as many issues with our build because they are so detailed. He took our visions & made them into a beautiful reality.

In the end, we are getting very close to the exact floor-plan we initially desired. We literally looked at thousands (& thousands) of floor-plans, but it was worth it!

Also, if you are already using Pinterest, here is a tip. I have thousands of things pinned (many things unrelated to the build), so I made a separate account that is solely for the build. I also allow various trades to pin to my boards if they want to suggest something.

In the end, time is money so make sure you are very, very prepared!

Here are my Pinterest boards:
Powder Bath
Master Bath
Kids Bath #1
Kids Bath #2
Guest Bath
Pool Bath
Dining Room
Master Bedroom
Kids Bedroom #1
Kids Bedroom #2
Guest Bedroom
Exercise Room
Upstairs Laundry Room
Exterior of Home
Family Room
Entry/Front Door/Stairs
Master Closet
Door hardware

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 4:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Brad Edwards

I am not trying to knock anybody, but there are different strokes for different folks.

To the origional question, it depends on how much custom work you want done. How much can the builder complete based upon his skill do you think? How much custom work do you want done on the interior, exterior, siding? Corners, SF? Location? Some more info would really go a long way. How much experience do you have during a build?

If you have some construction experience and a competent builder, you probably could get by with catching a non licensed architect just out of college or a draft designer with a ton of experience.

If you have no clue what your doing I agree with taking pictures of things you want, presenting it to the architect, getting everything done exactly the way you want it, not expecting everything to come out exactly like you have it envisoned in the build, and DO NOT CHANGE A THING "other than small cost saving and problems in the build".

I think you presenting things you must have and would like to have is a good thing, along with the basic floor plan you would like. Just bear in mind if your on a budget and its pushed with to many must haves they won't be of the quality they would normally be. A bigger area to save money on a build to me would be looking in advance for close out materials your builder could possibly have a hard time getting, things like towel rods, faucets, Appliances, landscaping hardscaping, etc. Ex. I am buying trees for our build at 75-90% off during times of stress, planing in the ground, have only lost 1 out of 15, and they will be a solid 8 foot when we build and will burlap the rootball. At 6ft they are 50ish retail on sale for 15 and at 8ft 75-100 retail. There are a ton of ways to save on building...

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 11:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks everyone for your input.

My architect has over 20 years of experience. There are a few different fee models he offers, and since there is a stock floor plan that is VERY CLOSE to what we want, we decided to go with the "value" option that I presented above (3 iterations of plans, 3 2-hour in person meetings, and as much email back-and-forth as required). I'm not opposed to incurring additional expense to get it right, just trying to come up with the best strategy is all.

I'm hoping that by communicating everything up front, we can come up with a plan that we love.

Not sure why some folks don't think I should provide an idea of a floorplan I like to the architect.... I'm particular about aesthetics, and wouldn't want to waste his time or mine by not giving adequate examples of what I do and don't like only to get back a design that I don't like the way it looks. I'm not talking about micro-managing his design process, but rather giving him a jumping-off point that is 95% of what i already want.

Was just wondering if others have tips to make it even more efficient and effective. :)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 3:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There are indeed different strokes for different folks. There is architecture, repetitive use of stock plans from the plan factories, owner/builder design-build and do-it-yourself plans by owners. There's probably some other variants as well.

Architecture is done by architects. The other options are done by others--non-architects, for the most part.

What's right and best depends entirely on what an owner may wish. If one wants the pride of "self-design" then design-by-owner may be the best choice. If one considers one house prettly much the same as another, then a tract house may be the best approach. If one considers a house to be a collection of "things"--granite tops, mud rooms with huge cubbies, a large soaking tub, garage large enough for "toys", etc.--a custom home with a builder may be the best approach.

Architecture, on the other hand, is a creative problem-exploration/solving process using design as the tool. Design (the best and most enduring design) is about a strong central concept around which everything else is organized. Design is an creative exploration, starting with general concepts and ideas, and becomes increasingly more specific and detailed as the design concept is refined and finalized. It certainly isn't a 1-2-3 stage process! And it certainly isn't "a set of plans for a build". That's what the plan factories provide--a product off the shelf, rather than a personalized and uniquely creative service on behalf of those who commissioned the architect.

Architecture and medicine have some things in common, making a useful illustration. Few people, for example, would think to go on the Internet and print a list of symptoms and treatments for an illness or injury they may have, taking that to the physician and asking for medications based on the print-out. And no physician would ever treat such a patient if they should have such an idea. A physician is educated, trained, tested, licensed and experienced to make their own diagnosis and treatment regimen. And they have a legal obligation to do so.

Architects are similar. It is unnecessary and often wasteful of owner's time and money to suggest solutions to an experienced architect. Doing so only causes the architect to deal with the little competency of an owner and to illustrate where the owner's efforts fall short. Architects are educated, trained, tested, licensed and experienced to be able to understand and solve an owner's housing issues when furnished with a reasonable set of information: needs, wants, budget, site location and characteristics. After all, architects are certainly more competent in architecture than non-architects! If not, one needs to find a new architect!

Architecture is certainly not for everyone. But this is how it works. Architects don't need owner's floorplans. Architects create floorplans--and elevations--and interior spaces--and exterior spaces. Architects don't (and legally cannot) modify stock plans (or owner's plans) for a "build". Architects design buildings to fit an owner's needs and lifestyle.

Owners are free to focus their energy and efforts on whatever they wish. But the title of this thread is "best tips for working with an architect", so as an architect, I can reasonably say that there are far more productive and useful ways for owners to spend their time, interface successfully with an architect and not have to ever have a floor plan.

If your architect cannot translate your requirements into a successful and supportive floor plan, you need another architect!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 4:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It is certainly possible to design a house without the assistance of an architect but since the OP asked about working with an architect I will limit my comments to that approach.

The point I and others have tried to make is that giving the architect 95% of the design up front cannot be considered a "jumping off point"; you would be starting the design process nearer the end instead of the beginning forcing the architect to question every element of it to be sure it is what you want.

I have often commented here that this is the most common owner mistake I see: starting with an almost completed design, then letting an experienced designer try to make it better, then trying to put a shell on it, then starting all over again if the parts of the design do not reinforce and support each other.

A house design should follow a process that the architect is very familiar with: to start with the site, your family needs, your tastes, etc. and to develop a plan along with a shell that reinforce each other. I know this is difficult to do but if it wasn't, anyone could do it.

I am curious if the architect will put his name on the drawings or stamp them and if he will be involved during the construction phase.

This post was edited by Renovator8 on Thu, Feb 14, 13 at 17:13

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 5:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

virgilcarter, I totally get your point of view. However, DH & I started the process already miles ahead. By the time we met with the architect, we pretty much knew exactly what we wanted. Our architect is one of (if not) the most respected architects in our area. He's also completely down to earth & seemed totally at ease with the ideas we brought to the table. If he was annoyed by our ideas, he (nor the GC) showed it. In fact, both mentioned they loved working with people like us because we were so excited about the process. They both said that our enthusiasm brings them joy, & it's why they have been doing this work for so long.

As you say, "architecture is a creative problem-exploration/solving process..." which is definitely true for what we experienced. Though we did come to the table with all our ideas, we said in the beginning to Mr. Architect, "You are the professional here, & we want to hear all your ideas & ways to improve our ideas." There is no way we could have blindly gone into our first meeting with him with little to show him or tell him. It would have been one very long, drawn out process for us all, I think. The design process was as smooth sailing as it can get. We all respected one another (including DH & myself). Our architect & GC said it can get really nasty in that room, & the planning can go south rather quickly. I think by having concrete ideas, that kept us all level headed, & we knew what to expect. Of course DH & I had give & take on some things, but that is how we roll.

If I had to go through the process again, I can assuredly say there isn't one single thing I would change with working with the architect. It has truly been a fun experience & so far, so good. So many people have said, "Oh gosh, you are building a house? It is such an awful experience. Good luck." We haven't found that at all.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 11:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

wishiwasinoz, I think your post is a good example for everyone thinking of using an architect. You and your spouse were evidently organized, agreed on issues, enthusiastic, and most importantly, open minded.

Being open minded and accepting to new ideas, may be the most important ingredients in working successfully with an architect. After all, consumers may do their homework, but they don't know what they don't know. It's inconceivable that an individual consumer's knowledge and experience comes close to the knowledge and experience of an architect with 20 years or more of experience in the field of architecture.

I am saddened by those owners who are mislead, thinking they have to have their own plan that "meets 95% of their needs" and come to an architect for the tweaking needed for the remaining 5% of a completed plan. Such owners miss the point entirely and should best save their time and money and complete the remaining 5% themselves.

I'll ignore the fact that an architect is legally prohibited from stamping and issuing documents that were neither prepared by her/him nor prepared under her/his supervision.

For the potential benefit of readers considering using an architect, "drawing plans" is not what an architect does. An architect is a creative explorer and problem solver for the design of buildings, based on many inputs including the needs of occupants and owners.

Experienced design is what seperates architecture from shelter. Almost anyone can assemble some rooms and put walls and roofing around them to keep the elements out. We see evidence of that in many threads on this forum. It's experienced design, however, that transforms ideas and needs into a building that is both functional and responds to one's spirit and emotions, lifting the building far beyond simple shelter.

To work successfully with an architect, therefore, one should prepare by identifying whatever is most important for the design of their house. For some it may be functional issues--identifying special needs for living. For others, it may be improvements and enhancement to their existing living conditions. For still others, it may be aspirational ideas, a house that stimulates and supports the joy of living. Or some combination of all of these approaches.

It is completely unnecessary, however, that an owner try to design their own solution to whatever is most important about their house. That's the role of the architect--to successfully translate needs into a creative physical solutions. The more an owner tries to do this, the less opportunity there is for an architect to provide her/his expertise.

Thus, if one wants the maximum from an architect, one must allow the architect to provide it. It's really that simple.

"What if the architect proposes something I don't like?", some may say. That's why an initial interview, a review of the past work and references of a prospective architect are important. One would do the same due diligence for the selection of a physician, accountant or other professional. Once one has made the selection, however, let them do their work on your behalf. That's how to best work with an architect, or any professional.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 9:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, Virgil. I think you offer great advice!

Is it okay/legal for a consumer to bring hand-drawn ideas to an architect that were basically a mish-mash of ideas from looking at a myriad of other plans online? We lieterally took ideas from here & there & everywhere (online plans, photos, Houzz, etc.). There wasn't one set of plans we loved, & that is why we decided to use an architect in the first place. He then took our ideas & came up with something else (similar to what we sketched out but not exactly what we initially had in mind).

If there was another plan out there that we loved, of course we would have purchased it & then paid to have it tweaked to suit our lot. It sure would have been a heck of a lot less expensive.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 11:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

wishiwasinoz, of course it's legal and fine to bring to an architect anything and everything one wishes. But there are some things more useful and helpful, and other things that may not be so useful and helpful. An experieced and creative architect will listen, analyze and consider everything an owner provides. Everything.

An experienced architect will also listen carefully for what is not said or presented and will read between the lines of information that is presented.

The thing is, an architect is able to synthesize a lot of information (not just from an owner, but from a variety of applicable sources), use her/his experience to select what's truly important in your case and establish major concepts for designing a creative and directly responsive solution(s). The process is one of working directly and closely with owners, exchanging information, establishing the major concepts (or big ideas) getting critique, refining the design and repeating the process until all have reached agreement on the direction of the design. Thereafter the design is refined and finalized, ready for the preparation of bidding and construction documents.

In other words, there is a logical, organized and parcipatory process for turning ideas and information into the design for a house and enabling bidding and construction.

There are so many essential ingredients for successful design: owner's needs (and wants), budget, site conditions and constraints, energy conservation, views and outside activities, access to/from the site, neighboring properties and improvements, regulatory requirements, public hearings and permit processes, etc.

This is why it's usually unlikely that any stock plan will work for anyone without minor to major changes.

I agree with you--if you (or anyone) can find a stock plan you like and fits everything perfectly, you don't need anyone else except a builder. Depending on the individual and circumstances, however, the chances of this happening may often be slim and none!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 11:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Floorplans are 2D space. Most people confuse that with a buildable 3D space. And most people don't think in 3D. That is HUGE. And it's a handicap that scribbling 2D floorplans can never overcome. And in fact, trying to work something out in 2D where you need to think about the volume of the space and it's relationship to the other volumes of space---and light--and views---and family lifestyle---LIMITS your thinking. It makes you think inside the box, rather than outside it.

Bringing a floorplan to an archtect is like bringing a cake recipe to a county fare baking competition. The two things are sorta linked, but they are entirely different in reality.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 11:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Virgil, your quote is dead on, "An experienced architect will also listen carefully for what is not said or presented and will read between the lines of information that is presented."

We feel our architect did this exactly. I think we were really lucky & blessed to have worked with such a great team. I just wish everyone could have the same experience we had.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 12:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This post really whacked the hornets' nest! But I must say, you all have given me some things to think about.

As a first time home-builder, control freak and type A++++ personality, I have been approaching this as I do with most things in my life -- trying to over-prepare and be as efficient as possible.

So now, I will ask a second question to Virgil and Renovator, specifically:

With my controlling, type A personality, what things can I do that will help my architect be better able to serve me?

I'm in a profession that a LOT of people think is easy and that they could easily do (I'm a voice actor), and yet they don't realize that I've got 20 years of experiences, training, and refining my craft in order to deliver just what a client needs. Many people say "oh, people tell me all the time I have a great voice. Maybe I should be a voice actor!" My response to that is "people tell me I've got steady hands. Maybe I should be a brain surgeon." (By the way, a "good" or "unique" voice is NOT required to be a voice actor and, in fact, is often detrimental. An everyday, neighbor-next-door voice is preferable.)

So that's my long winded way of saying I totally get it, and am open to allowing my architect to come up with a home design that meets my needs for lifestyle, aesthetics and atmosphere. But I will need some help in holding back my controlling personality!!!!

Excellent, excellent discussion thus far!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 12:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm only half joking when I say this, preparation is good...but you might mask some of the control freak type A++++ tendencies until after you have signed contracts with the architect, and later the builder, so as to not have too high of an "Owner Factor" applied to the cost proposal/bids!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 1:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The most irritating client trait I have found is insisting on communicating by phone or email instead of meeting face to face. It not only makes my job much harder; it often causes costly misunderstandings.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 3:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

carsonheim wrote, "...With my controlling, type A personality, what things can I do that will help my architect be better able to serve me? ..."

It's a good question, and applies to personalities of all types, A-Z, I think.

I guess it all boils down to whether or not one wishes to maximize how an architect can add value or not. If one wants to maximize the value, then simply let the architect do her/his job. It's really that simple.

The more one tries to substitue one's personal efforts, wishes, ideas or knowledge then the less the architect can provide her/his value. The goal is constructive, positive team work, letting whomever can best lead in a given situation to do so.

As an A personality I know that's hard, but that's what it takes: teamwork with leadership from whomever is best able to provide the leadership at a given point in time. By the way, this approach works in lots of other endeavors as well.

For folks who want to develop 95% of their house design on their own, and then talk to an architect, I have a suggestion: forget it, just complete a 100% plan on your own and find a builder to talk to. You don't need an architect and probably won't benefit from the value an architect may add. And most architects will prefer a different type of client.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 6:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There is a very big difference between communicating to an architect what is important and attractive to you and your family vs giving the architect a plan drawing you like.

The former is what good architects insist upon: a collaborative design process. The latter is too specific and limited to one person's skill even if they have a talent for it.

An A type personality should want to participate in a collaborative process to get the best possible design; why take a sandwich to a banquet?

Perhaps you need to find out more about what good architects can do for their clients.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If your budget matters to you, I suggest bringing that into the discussion as early as possible, at the first meeting, in fact, and then bringing it up again as often as necessary.

Some architects are very budget conscious and willing to work at containing costs while delivering a vision and a reality that suits your needs. They will be proactive in this regard.

Others, not so much. But they aren't mind readers. Even if you think you have a complete mutual understanding about your financial limits, make it explicit. As the design process goes on, keep checking to make sure the design is staying within your budget.

On the other hand, if budget isn't important, good for you. You should have lots of fun achieving the home you want.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 11:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Granted we just started on this process but while we interviewed 3-4 architects, we gave each one a "list" of things we would like (the rooms downstairs and upstairs, courtyard in the middle, open floor plan, etc). It's amazing how differently each architect interpreted what we wanted. Some kinda ignored our wishes (turned courtyard into just a backyard) and others really listened. So when we chose our our architect (the one who had a great rep AND listened to our needs AND is budget conscious), we had a good idea of what we wanted and what we didn't.

I gave him a prelim sketch of the way I see the home laid out so he had something to go on. I feel like this was a better starting point than a blank canvas. However, I told him to feel free to modify it or change it or throw it away. That way he is not compelled to spend hours telling me why my amateurish drawing doesn't work.

He was very happy with the sketch and said it was a great way to start. I also handed him a bunch of pictures of the style of home we'd like and described our family and what we were looking for in the house.

I can't wait to see what he will show us in our first meeting this coming week! We seem to have a very good and open communication so I think this will be a fun process for us (it has been so far).

This post was edited by kath0000 on Fri, Mar 15, 13 at 1:51

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 1:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well my wife and I recently received the first floor plan draft from our architect. And we hate everything about it.

We started the process by interviewing six architects in our area. We hired a gentleman (an architect not a designer) with over 20 years experience. We liked him because his portfolio seemed most consistent with what we were looking for and he seemed really interested in doing the project and working with us.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am definitely a type-A control freak. Nevertheless, I made a concerted effort to let the architect run the process. We filled out a detailed 15 page questionnaire about the spaces we wanted, how we lived, and what we envisioned for the house. We had two initial in-person meetings including one at the lot itself. We also exchanged a bit of email correspondence.

I refrained from giving him any floor plans or sketches because I wanted to give him maximum flexibility to achieve what we wanted, and I took to heart the advice from the architects who post here that I probably don't know what I am doing and I should leave it to the professional.

Well, the floor plan we received was very disappointing. For example: (1) An entryway that opens into the center of the kitchen! (2) a lot of interior walls (i.e., not open concept) that resembles a maze, (3) room windows facing directions with no view, (4) people must cut-though MUD room to get to back staircase leading up to upstairs guest rooms, (5) level changes on main floor even though we specifically requested no level changes, (6) many rooms wrong size, even though we provided specific size requirements, etc. etc.

Additionally, budget was not a concern as we have a generous budget for the project.

We have a face-to-face meeting next week with the architect and our builder to discuss the floor plan. I'm not sure what to expect. In my view the whole plan has to be scrapped as I am certainly not going to pay to build a house that is anything like what has been proposed. If anyone has any advice on how to handle this situation, I would be appreciative. Is it reasonable for me to expect him to start over from scratch?

In retrospect, I probably should have been more forceful up front with my own floor plan ideas as it may have avoided some unnecessary rework.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 2:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

pliesj, it's clear that there's a problem somewhere. From your posting, one can't tell if it's a communications problem, an expectations problem, a repressed control problem, or some other problem.

Your list of problems is extensive, but you haven't heard the explanation for them, have you? It might be a good idea to let the architect explain why the first design is the way it is. Perhaps you'll learn something important--perhaps not.

After letting the architect explain, if the house design is unsatisfactory, be prepared to explain why and what you would like to see in the next design iteration.

Good design, after all, is an exploration and it often takes some time to zero in on what's important and what will actually work. It's not uncommon for these two sets of criteria to be mis-aligned at the beginning, particularly for those with strong opinions.

Give the process a chance.

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 4:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

pliesj, it does sound like a lot of problems right off the back. Virgil gave good advice in finding out the explanations behind the plan. We are on our 6th generation of floor plans-lots of refinement on each one-some changes are ours and some the architects. The house will be quite different from what I first envisioned, but the architect took our need for one level living(with guest rooms and exercise room on the bottom floor) and desire to maximize the view and put it into a reality that we would never have envisioned. I'd make a list of what is not to your liking and share it after you've had the architect explain his vision. Good luck and I hope it goes well for you.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 7:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thought I would follow up on my post above, wherein I vented my frustration at my architect's first set of plans.

After receiving those disappointing plans, I sent my architect a polite matter-of-fact email listing a number of issues I saw with the plans.

Well, yesterday, my wife and I, along with our builder, met with the architect to discuss the house plans. To my pleasant surprise, the architect had significantly redrawn the plans taking into consideration my comments.

The new plans he showed us yesterday look really good and resolved almost all of our issues. We are excited again about moving forward with the project.

Fortunately for us, his first set of plans was just a starting point to get a round of feedback and he was not wedded to them.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 1:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Your experience is a good learning opportunity for everyone considering a custom-designed house by an architect or other design professional.

It was LeCorbusier, I believe, who said, "Design is a patient search!"

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 3:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The design of a house is a patient search but it should also be a collaboration. In my experience the origins of the most successful design ideas occur in client-architect meetings therefore the early phase of a house design should involve several meetings with sketches not CAD drawings. When the first drawing an owner sees of the house design is a print of a CAD plan via email, the collaborative design process has already gone off the rails.

Perhaps collaboration is no longer taught in architecture school. My mentors were Walter Gropius, Benjamin Thompson and Robert Rauchenberg who were each dedicated to collaboration in their own way.

Gropius at The Architects Collaborative believed in the collaboration of the design team. Thompson at Benjamin Thompson & Assoc. (a spinoff TAC partner) believed in collaboration with the end users more than with the owners. Rauschenberg believed in collaboration with materials.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 8:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The first architect I worked with (who I ended up firing -- another story for another day) did exactly what Ren8 said: provided me with the initial floorplan via a PDF of the CAD plan with an email exclaiming "I think I really hit it out of the park!"

It was a foul ball, and some of you have seen it and remarked as such.

My current architect is very collaborative. We've sat together three times so far to discuss how I want to live in my home, specific design features that I adore, and brainstorming ideas. What a HUGE difference.

I don't have any CAD drawings from him yet. He did hand sketch a first iteration of the floorplan, and I loved almost everything about it.

Communication and collaboration are so so important to a successful project! :)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 7:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Our architect was wonderful. One thing I would've done differently tho is to have him design a plan for us from scratch vs choosing one of his plans b/c the style was beautiful and trying to tweak it to fit our needs. We ended up w a humongous master bath & closet & a formal LR which we really don't need/desire but a family room that is smaller than we would've liked and no guest shower. I probably would've preferred a bonus/rec room (3 young chidren) but since the plan didn't have one we won't. You really should start from scratch, write a list of needs/wants and save lots of inspiration pics to show him/her. The inspiration pics on my ipad have helped me tremendously thoughout this build. Instead of trying to describe something, I always have a picture and they know exactly what I mean when they see it. Btw, one of the best things we ever did was to pay close attn to homes being built in our area and find out who the architect and builder were for the ones that we really loved w lots of character. It has been a breeze building this house bc we have seen probably 10 homes built by this builder and he uses the same architect for every one. We knew exactly what to expect bc we had seen his work many times before we actually built our home.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 10:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Annie Deighnaugh

Hahahaha! I'm just cracking up at being concerned that the first drawing wasn't a hit. I don't even remember the 1st drawing, or the 10th or the 20th or the 100th. We spent 7 years in design, working with 5 other architects before returning to the 1st one who was the best for us after all. While some people would golf or tennis on the weekends, we sat at the computer and designed houses. I could put together a book of all the house plans we didn't use.

But finally, we got one that worked and we are delighted with it. It was a true collaboration between the architect, DH and me. And well worth the effort.

(Of course, we are also crazy!)

This post was edited by AnnieDeighnaugh on Sun, Jun 16, 13 at 18:30

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 6:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

anniedeighnaugh, can you share a few lessons learned from working with 5 different architects (or link if you've done this in a past thread)?

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 10:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Annie Deighnaugh

Dadereni, it was largely a matter of time spent with them (which we paid for !) and messing with designs. At some point, it became obvious that "he wasn't getting it".

One architect put together a lovely house plan, but he missed the view entirely. Then, when we said we wanted vinyl siding, he paled and said had he known that, he might not have worked with us at all.

One guy was going to charge us very little and essentially wanted to draft up our floor plan and send us on our way....he didn't see it as complex or aesthetically felt like he was a step up from what a custom builder would offer. We could tell he wasn't willing to put enough of himself into the place.

Another put together a plan that might have worked based on what we were asking for at the time, but it was out of our price range in terms of what we wanted to spend to build it.

Another architect was very focused on energy efficiency and we learned a lot from him about layout for solar design, but his floor layouts...and we went through a lot of them... still missed the mark, despite our sitting with him sketching for several hours at a time.

Another architectural firm, we spent very little time with...when they started talking about custom cutters to make their own custom designed woodwork, we knew they weren't for us.

Then there was the other guy who we also spent only a meet and greet with. (I loved him...he was Greek....I've never met a greek guy I didn't fall for....must've been a past life!) He was going to design our house for us and we were going to like it! He was going to pick out everything including switch plate covers and our job was to enjoy this lovely home he built for us. Definitely not our guy.

So we ended up back with Uncle Joe. I think our first go round with him was a disappointment because we expected to walk in, describe what we wanted and get it. It took awhile for us to learn that that wasn't going to happen, no matter who we went with. After we left Uncle Joe and went through these other guys, fate had it that we ran into each other in the mall, so we sat down and had a nice conversation. He said, "You know, I can build your house for you." Something in the way he said it told us that he "got" where we were going and that he was willing to stick with us for as long as it took to get there. Well it took several more years and lots of designs, but we got there. (I chalk that up to my "tuition fees" as it took awhile for me to learn what's necessary to make an exterior and interior work together to create a lovely house, to think in 3d....and control freak that I am, plus with my interest in interior design, I was not willing to let go of the interior layout as that's where we live and feel the house on a daily basis.)

So, from my POV, the most important thing is, (in addition to obvious core competencies and licensing) can you collaborate with the person? Can you duke it out over various issues while both maintaining your focus on your common goal of creating the perfect house for you? Can you see enough creativity and vision in the architect that stumbling blocks and trade-offs can be worked out? Does s/he have enough pride in their work and is s/he willing to put themselves into the project to make it their own as well as yours? As you collaborate, are you finding your visions converging or diverging?

Below is a link to a thread where I talk about how we turned our inspiration into reality.

Here is a link that might be useful: From inspiration to reality...

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you, that's a very nice addition to this thread!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 5:56PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Revised Floor Plan - Please Critique
We're building our first house this Spring and are...
Over thinking or detailed
We have not even poured the slab yet, and I find myself...
House Plan: ALP-03CF, 51-338, DC-6690-32, W14453RK
Has anyone built this house?
Please review my plans - help needed with bedroom arrangement
Hi folks! This is the second time I have posted our...
It's March 2015: How is your build progressing?
Zorro-anyone can start one. :) Link to It's February...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™