What Your Residential Architect Wishes You Knew But is Too Polite to Tell You

Photography by Lisa Russman

Before you ever select and start working with a design professional and residential architect on your next project, here are a few things you should know. 

“Please, speak up!”
Most architects will agree that the number one issue with the residential architectural design process is that clients don’t say what they mean or are not honest about their needs. Yes, we appreciate that you respect our expertise and experience. But, we also really, really want to hear from you. After all, this space we are designing is for you, and you are the ones that will have to live with it every day for a long time. We love it when our clients realize that they should be an active part of the process. Tell us your concerns. Ask questions when we use words you don’t understand or provide rationales with which you disagree. This process is a collaboration, and we need your voice to make this partnership work.  

“We are not like every other residential architect.”
Every architect is unique and special. We are all artists, and each of us has our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to residential architecture. It is always advisable that you do lots of research while trying to find an architect to choose one that matches your needs. If you are looking for a firm that has tons of experience in a particular style or with specific types of projects, looking through portfolios is the best way to gauge this. And just as aesthetics or design mindsets may differ, so do communication styles and attitudes towards clients, so it’s always a great idea to talk with past clients to make sure you mesh well with your chosen firm, too. 

“That change you want… it’s more complicated than you think.”
One of the reasons we value client feedback during the design process is because the more information we have in the beginning, the more successfully we can create a design that meets all or most of your needs on the first try. But, changes are inevitable during the design process, and we understand that. While it might look simple on paper to move a wall just a smidge or relocate that closet, every little change requires lots of additional alterations that you don’t see. These include revising electrical plans, rerouting plumbing, altering rooflines, or requiring additional support structures. The earlier we know about changes during the process, the better off everyone will be, and we appreciate your patience and understanding during the time it takes us to make them. 

“We won’t be able to put every idea from your Pinterest board into a design.”
We understand just how excited you are to design your dream space. And you have probably been collecting images and ideas for a long time to prepare for this process. Look at your inspirational collection to help you identify trends and an overall style rather than trying to incorporate every single idea into your new home or room. While eclectic styles can sometimes be great, we want to keep your new space from becoming merely a mismatched hodgepodge of elements you saw online. We are here to help you edit and pull from this collection the most essential pieces that will complete your vision. 

“Be realistic.”
Guess what? A gourmet kitchen will not make you a gourmet cook. And, your 12×12 living room can be amazing, but it will never be a combination office/game room/media room/kids hangout/formal dining area all at once. Be realistic about what your space can (and can’t) do for your life and what we can do with the space you have. We’ll help you design a space that meets your needs, but we have to work within the limits of space, time, and your budget, too.