Are you looking for the best architects for you?
As you begin your search, please allow us to offer some advice. There’s more to choosing an architect than what you’ll see in a résumé or proposal. Don’t just look for a list of awards, make sure the architect is the best architect for you and your project. Does your architect operate with the same ideals that you do?
Whether it’s a remodel, addition, or an entire new building, the idea of beginning a new construction project can awaken the flutters of butterflies in your stomach. There’s a lot to think about. Choosing the right architect to guide you through all of those decisions can make or break a project.
Imagine interviewing architects as if you were looking for a partner on an online dating site. He or she may look like a good match on paper, but if there’s no chemistry when you meet in person, asking them to describe their design philosophy isn’t really going to matter. You will be spending a considerable amount of time with your architect and if you aren’t comfortable or confident, it’s not going to be a fun project.
So here’s how we recommend you approach the first interview with your architect.
1. Ask the architect to sit down and talk first.
When inviting an architect to your home for an interview, it’s tempting to start the tour and recite your wish list the second they walk through the door. Resist the urge for a few moments and first, ask them to sit down and talk. It’s a great way to find out whether or not the architect and you are going to be a good fit for one another. Save the house tour for later when you are certain there’s a reason to move forward.
2. Ask the architect to put away any brochures or portfolio.
As architects, we will be the first to admit that we love doing the dog-and-pony show. We are more than happy to bring out our portfolio and show you all of the wonderful work we’ve done. But that’s not really the point. We’re at your home to find out about you, and to answer your questions as they come up. Not to show you what we can do, when we’re not even sure what it is you really need. Chances are you’ve already looked at their work online, so you probably like the type of work they are capable of producing.
3. Ask about their background.
Get to know your architect. Find something in common that will help you to relate to each other. Ask about their family, where they’re from, and where they went to school. Ask how they became an architect and about what topics they are passionate.
A story related by HPS Architects’s Laura Davis illustrates this point nicely. “When I was in high school my parents interviewed architects to design our house. Turns out the one they selected was an avid fly fisherman and his wife was a school teacher…just like my parents. Our families have been friends ever since. I babysat for their two sons and even worked a summer internship during college at his office.” There is much to be said for the value of knowing from where your architect comes.
4. Ask about experience with your type of project and location.
You want as few surprises as possible during the design and construction of your project and an architect who has “been there, done that” is good to have on your side. Ask how familiar they are with local codes, zoning, ordinances, building inspections, etc.
Resist the urge to ask your brother-in-law, who may be a successful large-scale commercial architect, to design an addition off the back of your house. That’s not to say he couldn’t handle it, but chances are that he’s not going to have relationships with the right kind of consultants and contractors specializing in residential projects. And he may not know of the pitfalls to expect and avoid with that type of project.
5. Share information about yourself.
Don’t be afraid to share the emotional side of the project. By letting your prospective architect know how you want to feel in the space and what you hope to accomplish by completing the project, they will know better how to help you.
Dive under the surface of “I want a new master bath” to find the true reason of, “I need a clean, calm sanctuary that is all mine so I can relax and soak away the stress of the day because then I can sleep better and be a better mom to my kids.” In the interim, we might suggest a Xanax and a vacation, but we can also then fine-tune the lighting, space planning, sound insulation, materials, and storage (…might we suggest a wine refrigerator?) in the new bathroom to give you the sanctuary you desire.
When it comes down to selecting your architect, do your homework and go with your gut. You will think with your head, but decide with your heart. Choose someone you know, like, and trust. If you haven’t found that person yet, keep looking.
If you would like to talk with architects Holly Hall or Laura Davis of hpd architecture + interiors, please contact us below or call our office at 214.751.2304. We look forward to meeting with you!