Moved: Architect Challenges & Plan feedback

navi_jenAugust 2, 2014

I moved this over from small houses...given I have some design & some architect frustration, this might be the better forum.

My conceptual drawings are out. Please, I would love your feedback. Phase 1 will be updating main house only (928 sq feet)..phase 2 (if it ever gets built!, 350 sq feet)) will be the addition.

What I like:
1. Kitchen layout
2. Keeping some semblance of the DR built in
3. Fix funky entry to back (park) bedroom
4. More Park BD closet space (I can't even get a hanger in there now)
5. Slightly bigger bathroom with better layout (sink on outside wall instead of across from toilet)
6. Sink enough away from knee wall/ceiling juncture for a real mirror
7. 1.5 garage attached, with enough room to squeeze in 2 small cars for winter storage (most houses with attached garages in my hood are 1 car and mostly used for storage b/c too small)
8. Could use carriage house garage doors to make garage seem less bulky
9. Addition is decently proportioned to the house (still big, but at least smaller and set back)
10. Doesn't require any zoning variances

What I don't like
1. New BD closets seem way too big for old bedrooms (they are big to cover the sloping ceiling)
2. New BD Closets would require repiping of my steam radiators (right now, they abut the knee wall)
3. Upstairs bath wall would likely overlap the back bedroom window trim (I HATE that)
4. Upstairs bath would likely continue to have slanted ceilings as there is no way I'm ripping out a brand new bath wall if/when I do the addition
5. Hate to move (and rebuild) my DR built in (but it's killing my kitchen flow)
6. Might need another window in KT overlooking the park (period sensitive of course)
7. I would lose my side entry hall closet unless Phase 2 is built. (I need to demolish the side entry as it currently enters the KT where the fridge is planned).
8. No downstairs 1/2 bath until phase 2
9. Downstairs 1/2 bath not lined up with kitchen and bath (thinking it will be $$$ to have that additional piping...and where would the piping go? The garage??? It can't go in the basement, the stairs are in the way).
10. Garage space for 2 cars will be super, super tight.
11. Addition proportions are a little out of whack with historic buildings
12. Addition Gable eave will be over driveway..I am concerned about snow avalanches.

But I'm a bit frustrated with my architect seems like there have been only minor changes to my plan (bigger upstairs bath, reconfig of BD door and upstairs closets) that I gave him when we first started . He's validated my choices but not really given me a ton of new ideas. I don't know if I'm too opinionated (and I'm subconsciously shutting him down), I'm underestimating the give & take that happens, that he does more commercial than residential (I thought he was 50/50, but he let it slip it's more like 80/30) or if this is so straightforward that there aren't that many design 'breakthroughs'. Or maybe I'm underestimating the value of the changes he's suggested. But I told him no open kitchen, and a plan had that. No traditional size double car garage (too big) and I got a plan with that. No suggestion of going for a zoning variance to move the addition back to make the proportions more pleasing. No suggestion to buy the portion of the private way that is my driveway from my neighbors so that I can have more square footage (which may help with some zoning requirements).

The most frustrating, he offhandedly told me when we met this week that we've gone over his initial estimate for conceptual (and we aren't done yet) warning, nada. It's time and materials, but I would have hoped he would have given me an heads up. We've been moving fast (we only started the first week of July, but still). Or maybe I'm just being stingy.

He focuses more on commercial but has done a number of historic homes in the area. I liked that mix because I thought that might make him a bit more organized (and I love his demeanor). But I'm beginning to think his focus is a real liability with the complexity of my design challenges (small house, small and very sloping lot, want seamless architecture, have a bunch of conflicting wants). I am beginning to second guess him and have started buying architect design books to 'check his work', particularly with proportion and old houses. I am wondering if I should consider letting him go (which I can w/o penalties and get the plans once I'm paid in full). Or am I just a royal PITA?

Any feedback on the plan or words of wisdom are greatly, greatly appreciated.

I'm opening a bottle of wine now :) Thanks for your help....


Conceptual Basement

Conceptual First Floor

Conceptual Second Floor

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I am not familiar with your threads, but stop kicking yourself. It doesn't sound like he's walking you through the process very well. That could be a good reason to take what you have so far and find someone more client oriented who will guide you through the design process instead of you trying to figure out what is going on.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 6:11PM
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I can't read the plans well enough to offer advice. But the list of constraints seems disproportionate to the size of the house. Architects are charming and unusually handsome but they aren't magicians.

IMO the only way to make a small house more comfortable is to remove interior walls. Views from one part of a house to another are critically important. The goal is to "borrow" space from other rooms.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 6:33PM
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Snookums...thanks for the note. I know I can be a pretty strong personality, but I also work in professional services (in IT), so I understand logic. I think the crux of the matter is that the design is battling 3 main constraints: size of existing house & lot (tiny), I would like the addition to look period accurate, and I would prefer a 2 car garage (but would settle for 1). I don't understand why he didn't say...Hey you! You have conflicting wants. I can't make a large addition period appropriate and certainly not within existing zoning laws. We can either:

1. 2 car Garage, keep within zoning, will look 'clunky' and not terribly period appropriate (which is the design I have, I think)
2. 1 garage, keep within zoning, will look pretty close to period appropriate but a bit too close to the front wall of the original house than you would typically see (was my idea, tho loathe to give up 2nd garage space)
3. 1 or 2 car garage, get zoning variance to push the addition 4 to 6 feet back (would violate rear setbacks...rear plot line is shared with a 40 acre park). This will look the best in terms of period appropriateness, but it's more risky and $$$.

I can't tell if he's a poor communicator or doesn't do enough residential to think up these ideas. And I don't know how to ferret that out.

Renovator8, thank you for joining. I get what you are saying about the sharing of light and views...and I am opening up some doorways to do this. My bigger concern is the scale and positioning of the addition compared to the main house. If it helps, I've 'cut up' the single floor drawings into individual rooms to make them bigger in a photosharing website, link below.

Please, keep the feedback coming. Even thinking this thru online and writing the responses here is helping me understand how both he and I could do better!

Here is a link that might be useful: Larger Versions of the Arch Renderings

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 8:25AM
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If it helps, some visual references that I found yesterday when in CT yesterday to measure a solid oak butler's pantry (for reuse as kitchen cabinets)....

a. I think this is what #1 would look like when built. This house had 20' wide main house with 12' addition (roughly measured with my footsteps). And I HATE it. I think its because the addition is too close to the front???

b. Bigger addition, but set far back from the house to minimize heft.

c. I think this is a great balance between original, addition and proportion. 22' main house with 15' addition. I think the difference here is how far back the addition sits. Don't like the bay window, but that's another story :)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 10:26AM
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You said you have a strong personality and you wonder why he didn't say "Hey you" and tell you what you need to hear. So you need tough love but wonder why you are not getting it. I find most people do not like standing up to a strong personality. They don't want to "argue". No matter who you are working with you need to tell them, "Yes I speak my mind but I want you to do the same. Don't be afraid of telling me what I don't want to hear. I really DO want to hear it."

At times I have a strong personality. One person I know sometimes think I am arguing or yelling at them when to me I am just having a conversation. Because they perceive it as a confrontation they don't always give me important information I need. I see this happen with other people all the time. If your architect thinks his ideas will be met with a confrontation he may just skip it.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 11:18AM
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No suggestion of going for a zoning variance to move the addition back to make the proportions more pleasing.

Have you asked him about that possibility? Perhaps he has experience with how and when variances are approved and that is why he has not brought it up?

No suggestion to buy the portion of the private way that is my driveway from my neighbors so that I can have more square footage (which may help with some zoning requirements).

I would not expect an architect to suggest that you buy additional property.

I think those three photos you posted above are the type of photos you should have been showing your architect in order for him to understand the type of addition you envision.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 5:58PM
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Deb....I have (or I think I have) told him that I need a strong voice...but maybe I am overestimating? My sister says that about me sometimes too...pipe down!!!

Deke..I agree that these photo need shared but I only found those houses this weekend. When we started, had a scrapbook of 100+ photos of things I liked and didn't...of which all of them were old houses. If it's helpful, I've attached it here.

I guess that challenge is am I supposed to be thinking about variances? Isn't that why a pay an architect? (even if he/she say...look, it's a longshot, or these are the pros/cons). I agree that recommending purchasing some of the right of way...but there was no suggestion of even pursuing a formalized easement for my driveway (which is pretty much 100% on the private way. I thought of that today.

By pointing these things out, I am not trying to say I'm an architect or could replace one....absolutely not. I am just trying to get an idea if my expectations are reasonable (based upon this Gardenweb's experience with their architects).

Here is a link that might be useful: Pinterest scrapbook

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 11:05PM
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I just looked at your Pinterest link. And to be honest, there isn't a lot there to help an architect. Lots of stuff to help an interior designer. And let's be honest - that freezer you like is probably as big as your whole house!

What type of marching orders did you give the architect?

If we start at the beginning - what was your minimal list of wants? A garage? An additional bedroom? Bathrooms?

When I read your list of issues I'm hearing lots of stuff about carriage house doors and mirrors and period sensitive windows.

You need to start with the architecture and then focus on the interior design. You seem to want to pick the interior design and then make the architecture fit.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 7:57AM
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navi_jen make a good point on the Pinterest was more visual and with a lot of interiors to give a sense of style...but I did include a 17 different pictures/plans of old houses (although no farmhouses until this week, as pictures of old farmhouses that are 'unmuddled' were hard to come by on the web). I did give him a rather long list of prioritized architectural 'requirements' (on the first day...I'll upload those to the same site that is hosting all the plans) and the absolute and high priority items here.

These were my 'absolutes'
A. Add collar ties to attic joists
B. Pull down attic access to use attic for storage
C. Add attic ventilation
E. 220v electric in basement for Euro Washer
F. Shore up cracked main beam & replace rusty supports
H. Add support alongside basement stairs
I. Get rid of seepage in basement corner
J. Replace missing joist cross braces in basement
. Install full code compliant bathroom (gutted right now)
N. Better heat dissipation upstairs
O. Room for my DR table (seats 10)
P. Add heat to DR
Q. Fix side porch gutter/gap
R. Keep any exterior work visually in the style of the period (mid-late 20s)
S. More storage for my car stuff (temp controlled)
T. More storage for tools & yard furniture
U. Keep Gas for Dryer & Stove
V. Retain as much original HWF as possible on 2nd floor
W. Re-add HWF on first floor (prefer old growth)
X. Replace existing Oil Boiler with less noisy Gas Boiler
Y. Get rid of remaining cat smell
Z. Rewire house and bring 220v into house
AA. Add insulation
BB. New Hot Water Heating system
CC. Replace rusted waster/water/boiler pipes
DD. Ensure plumbing lines are run to avoid freezing
EE. Replace missing joists under bathtub
FF. Remove excess vent piping in kitchen
GG. Keep wall between Kitch/LR/DR
HH. Have fully functioning kitchen again
II. Double door opening from LR to DR
JJ. Better air flow on first floor
LL. Replace or shore up side entry
MM. Less highway noise
NN. Keep and strip all original woodwork
PP. Shady space for hammock (stand or tree)
QQ. Easy access to water outside
RR. Block access to path from driveway
SS. Remove Dead Tree in front yard

High Priority

A. Significantly reduce road noise in Master Bedroom
B. Up to code deck
E. Use deck as outdoor living space (big enough for dinner for 8-10, hammock)
G. Place to store my wine glasses, linen and platter collection (DR hutch)
H. Re-add Chair rail or wainscoting in DR
I. Get rid of calcimine paint in DR
J. Fix dark plaster spot (and source) in DR ceiling
K. Somewhere to store garbage/recycling bins
L. Keep wood gutters
M. Ensure drains run far enough away from house
N. Repaint trim
O. Covered Parking for 2 cars
P. First floor coat closet
Q. Period appropriate lighting (no cans)
R. Install crown molding
S. No skylights
T. Replace stopgap PEX and old plumbing with copper
U. Keep existing radiators
V. Plug any cracks/holes in foundation
X. Take advantage of the park view
Y. Better counterspace in the kitchen (currently 5 windows/doors in kitchen that impact counterspace)
Z. Vintage wood cabinets
AA. O'Keefe and Merritt 40" vintage stove
BB. Farmhouse sink
CC. Vintage kitchen hardware
DD. Extend kitchen cabinets to ceiling
EE. oven that fits 1/2 sheet pans
FF. Good ventilation in kitchen
GG. Permanently cap kitchen vent in chimney (if chimney not removed)
II. Good use of corner kitchen cabinet space
JJ. Place for recycling container
KK. Gorgeous Vent Hood
MM. More light in Kitchen
OO. Install HWF in kitchen
PP. More light in LR
QQ. Add Fireplace
RR. Place for couch in morning sun
SS. Add Chimney Cap (if chimney not removed)
TT. Shore up mortar and gap between chimney & roof (if chimney not removed)
VV. In side entry, add heat and/or address plethora of cold air seepage
WW. Reduce water runoff from street into sidewalk/yard
XX. More electric outlets outside
YY. Stereo speakers outside
ZZ. Make backyard more level and fill in old fish pond
AAA.Dog enclosure (physical or electronic)
CCC.Install wider and level walking path between front walk, side door and basement entry
DDD.Try to retain stone walls wherever possible

Medium (not all, but the key ones)
A. 3rd bedroom
B. Add formal entryway
C. Replace all MDF trim

This post was edited by navi_jen on Tue, Aug 5, 14 at 10:41

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 9:00AM
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This is not a list for an architect. This is a list for a handyman.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:26AM
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IMO this is a fantasy plan. A waste of time.

If you have enough money to actually rebuild the house then tear it down and build anew.

What would be the reason for keeping the current structure?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:38AM
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Pixie...On my requirements list, the architect liked the level of detail. Do most folks give their requirements something less detailed? If you or anyone has a list of their 'requirements' they created with their architect or builder in the past, I'd love to see them.

Geoffrey...I am an old house lover. Teardown and rebuild is not something I would ever consider. But I understand there are challenges dealing with an old house and am willing to work through those.

These are good questions, though...keep them coming.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 6:28PM
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Where on that extremely long list did you mention that you don't want the addition overwhelm the original house? Your lists don't say much about the exterior design of the house and addition.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 8:04PM
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I think you need to organize your list differently. As it stands, it is a brainstorming list. Sort through it and break it down to group things together. I would do this so you can generate multiple views. For example, by room/area; building additions; building systems; trade: carpentry, electrical, plumbing etc; storage; repairs; amenities; aesthetics, problem areas (ie noise, air circulation), etc. Assign priorities.

I don't think there's anything wrong with your list per se, you just need to take it to the next level so it is more easily understood and grasped quickly, by both you and the architect. Concise, with lots of white space.

It is his job to gather information to understand what you want, advise accordingly, organize the project and lead the way. So he takes your list and crosses half off or throws it out to go about it his own way. You've done your homework and will have your own checklist to work with along the way.

If anyone dreams, it's designers and other creators. Next step is to bring it down to reality. Feasibility and affordability.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Wed, Aug 6, 14 at 0:28

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 12:21AM
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"normal" list of Needs to an architect:
3 bdrms, master down with 5 piece bath
eat in kitchen (only; or next line, dining room, separate, but close to kitchen)
main floor full bath
kitchen near garage entrance to home
family entrance (garage entrance) to have organization nook/cubbies/whatever

This is what an architect is looking for--your structural wants. It goes without mention that things need to be to code.

You discuss electrical needs on a different level (220V whatever) than planning meetings with the architect. Those discussions come in much later, when specifics are spec'ed out in the electrical drawings for electrician bidding, etc.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 8:42PM
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Hi, your post caught my interest because your home and many of your needs are similar to my own. I don't think any of your requests other than the basement garage should be too challenging however, I admit to know knowledge of your set back and code restrictions. The basement garage like shown in your drawings isn't uncommon around here. Do you have other similar era homes in your area you can use as models? I agree the proportions will be key.
Have you considered a side or rear entry to the garage, your driveway would be moved from lot central to the side. This is nice in that it de- emphasizes the garage and the drive so the house is the focal point. I take it you can't do a rear detached garage because of the set back issue?
Have you considered a single story addition the other direction off the living room or dining room. I would suggest a shed roof angled down off your current roof line. The kind of roof that would be there if you had a wrap around porch? It would fit your period and could function as storage, bath or entry to a back porch. Or, this add on could be a screened in porch for entertaining.
To my eye, deck addition as shown doesn't work with your house, it detracts from the primary structure. Have you check out any period home floor plans or those from kit houses. Our library has several and there are sources on line. They are helpful in seeing how space planning issues can be worked around. They also show ways in which primary and secondary masses (original house and addition) can be visually tied together. Check the gardenweb kitchen forum for their space planning expertise.
Hang in there, thanks for caring for an older home.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 9:35PM
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