This is our second time working with an architect since we bought this house. We wanted to share a few things we have learned along the way.
Define your expectations.
You have to know what you want so that you can share those ideas as clearly as possible as soon as possible. Of course, adjustments will need to be made as you work through the design process with your architect, but make sure you have made your vision clear from the beginning. Sharing inspiration images can be very helpful. Just be sure to make clear notes about what it is exactly that you like about the images you share.
Have the money talk.
It will not be the most fun part of the project, but dealing with the money at the beginning should make everything that follows easier. We have worked on an hourly basis and on a contract per job basis. In our opinion, a set contract is more desirable because you can include these costs as part of the total project budget. However, you may want to work on an hourly basis depending on the size of your job and your time frame. When we were in the exploratory part of this project (when we were still just dreaming), we worked on an hourly basis because we didn’t really know exactly what we needed and when. Once we had a set schedule for the project to begin, we moved to a contract.
Agree on the scope of the project.
Depending on how much work you want to do yourself or how specific you are about how you want the design to be, your architect may or may not be used to dealing with customers with your needs. Lay out exactly what you want your architect to provide (as-builts, floorplans, elevations, structural plans, etc). If you are going with a contract, get each product listed in the contract. It is also a good idea to specify how many changes you can make to the plans during the design process before you are charged for work outside the contract. If you decide to work on an hourly basis, the architect should still be able to provide you with an estimate of how many hours your job should take. Be sure to include deadlines in your agreement.
Now for the fun stuff….
Work closely with your design team.
This may mean you need to have several meetings to share your ideas and get input from the architectural team. In our experience, there is no substitute for being in the same room to bounce ideas off each other. Prior to these meetings, you should think about what you want and what you don’t want. We have found sometimes it is easier to say what we don’t like than it is to put into words what we actually want. It is also a good idea to think about potential problems you see. You don’t have to have the solution to these problems. That’s what you are paying them for.
Be as specific as possible in providing your feedback.
Once they have a better understanding of what you want, you will likely get proposals that have several options. (We started with design version ‘A’ for the front porch, and we got to version ‘S’ before we were happy with everything.) Let them know what you like as well as what you don’t like. For things you don’t like, say exactly what it is that you don’t like. If you have ideas about what you would prefer, share them. If you’re not sure what you want instead, your design team should generate some new options for you to consider. Don’t be afraid to ask them to make changes if you aren’t happy with the design.
Finally, this is going to hurt me to say, but be flexible.
You have a vision in your mind. Nothing but that vision will satisfy you. Trust us, we know the feeling. However, you will inevitably bump up against some obstacles. It may be that some things you had in mind just don’t work with your property. It may be that others are out of your budget. Be willing to let some things go while maintaining your enthusiasm for the project. That being said, if something is a sticking point for you, then stick to it. Just recognize, you will probably not get everything exactly the way you imagined. That doesn’t mean it won’t be amazing. 🙂
The truth is even contemplating a major project can be scary. Actually getting started on the work can be downright terrifying. Just keep your eye on the prize, your amazing new space, and have fun along the way!