Designing Your Home With An Architect

handsaw.jpgIf you’re thinking of designing a new home to build that ‘dream home’ or looking to remodel an existing home, hiring an architect is an excellent idea. In Boulder, there are many outstanding architectural firms including some locally well known businesses and some more obscure but very talented architects that deserve your attention.

Here are some tips to work successfully with an architect.

Pay attention to personality (yours and your architect’s)

You’re most likely going to hire an architect only once in your life, if you’re like most people. Some say that hiring an architect is similar to finding a financial planner or a Realtor. Since designing your new home is such a personal project it’s important to have a comfortable personal connection so that you feel that you can communicate well and understand each other. You especially want your architect to understand YOUR needs and wants easily.

Consider looking for an architect who has designed projects that are similar in style and scope to what you’re planning. If you are able to see examples of previous work you’ll have a better idea of your synchronicity with your architect and you’ll also know that he’s actually got experience.

Hire an architect early

Architects will do their best to design a home to work with whatever you have for them to deal with. If you have a vacant lot or an existing structure that needs a major work-over, getting your architect in on the planning from the beginning will assure you get the best results to match your dreams.

Your architect can also help yo uscout prospective purchases and with a general vision of your new home and your budget in mind, your architect can help you evaluate the pros and cons of a location that you may even overlook.

Things that you might miss, such as whether a site is big enough for your plans, or how the home you’re envisioning will work in conjunction with a neighbor’s right-to-a-view, are a couple of examples of things that will be major help to you in the early stages of planning.

Bring Visuals

Face it, this is a mainly visual thing, architects are like other artists and they’re helping you through a very visual experience. Bring photos you’ve taken of houses you like, clip photos from magazines of homes you like including exterior shots, interior details or anything else that provides a visual example of what you like, or even what you don’t like.

You should even consider photos of things that express intangible concepts such as the way light worked in a certain photo you saw or an image of some room with a particular feeling you got. Make notes on the images and photos you collect so you can talk easily about what you like in the photo and what it makes you feel if it’s a little esoteric.

Choose a listener

In some sense, your building a relationship. I wouldn’t go so far as to liken it to a marriage, but perhaps it’s useful to think of it that way for the time being. If the architect you are interviewing gives you the feeling that he ( or she, of course!) really gets what you’re saying and you think that you’re being understood, you’ll likely get your dream home. If you get the idea that the architect is exerting his own personal preferences and agenda, bail out as quickly as you can.

Talk about money right away

Some architects will charge by the hour or by a percentage of building costs; others will consider a flat fee. While a flat fee may be appropriate for project whose scope is very defined, this is often a bad way to go because construction projects often include unforeseen challenges. It’s important to get clear on what the anticipated costs will be in the very beginning. You can suggest a budget that you have in mind and you can try to mesh that with your desires as you talk to your architect. Don’t wait to find out if you can afford what you dream about, or if you can afford this particular architect until you’re deeply into the process.

Consider a full service architect

Some architects will stay with the project process as a general contractor all the way through to completion of the build. Other’s will expect that you’ll go find your own resources and that they’ll just deliver design concepts and drawings. Having an architect that will do site visits, coordinate contractors and observe construction is a great way to assure that you get exactly what you dream about.

In some cases, the concepts and design details that you and your architect put together can get lost in the construction ‘shuffle’. As projects tend to move forward, sometimes seemingly small changes can occur when a contractor or sub-contractor takes the liberty of modifying specifications. Whether to reduce the budget or for other reasons, you will want your project to be completed just as you’ve envisioned it with your architect.

Have a strong marriage

Seriously, architects recommend this as one of the key elements to consider. Money can cause stress in a relationship, and building a new home involves big money usually. Building a strong relationship can help you create a great dream home; building a new home won’t create a great relationship.

I know some great architects in the Boulder area; each of them has different qualities and design styles. Whether you want sustainable design, traditional style or that modern ‘Dwell’ approach, I’d be happy to introduce you to an architect to get you started on the path to making your dream home a reality.


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