Most people have never worked with an architect before. They see them on TV carrying around a set of plans or sitting at a drafting table, but they don’t really know what architects do or what added value they can bring to a project.

Architects bring added value

This client loves to read and wanted a way to organize her books. She was able to multitask this room as a guest room and a library by adding custom bookshelves.

Think of an architect as a problem solver who can help you resolve issues with the way your house functions and looks. When contemplating working with an architect, there are a few items you can bring to the initial consultation (which most likely will be free) that will facilitate good communication, which will result in a successful project.

The more information you bring to the architect, the less time (and, therefore, money) it will take to make critical decisions and move through the design phase.

Before an architect can help you, they need to know three main things about your project.

What you need: When we say we need to know what you need, we are talking about “programming” your project. This begins by understanding how your family functions. In what ways is your house working well? How could certain tasks or situations be improved?

We don’t begin with the specific dimensions of each room; rather, we are discussing what types of rooms/areas/space are needed to meet your family’s needs. We will put a general square foot number to a space based on its anticipated function.

For instance, we might calculate approximately 150 square feet will be needed to seat eight for dinner. We will also discuss whether this is in a separate, formal dining setting or is part of a great-room arrangement. As we discuss each of your family’s needs, the program and scope of the project will emerge. Integrating this information with your current house and your projected budget is required to reach the goal of creating a master plan for your home.

What you want it to look like: The easiest way to show us what you want your house to look like is to bring in photos. This sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many people come to the initial consultation without concept photos.

Often this is because people are not at all sure of what they want the final product to be. Even if you cannot find a photo to define the style you are seeking, spending some time looking at magazines, the internet, library books and/or HGTV will teach you something about what you like. Again, in a remodeling project this information must be integrated into your existing house. An experienced architect can help in determining the scope and cost of transforming your home, depending on the style selected.

A good analogy is a new hair style. When you bring in a photo of the hair cut you want to the stylist, there is less room for miscommunication. A good stylist will tell you if that style will work with your hair. By bringing in a photo, you are more likely to get the result you want, whether it is a hair cut or a home remodel.

If you have the original plans for your house, this can also be helpful in the initial consultation. The architect will still have to measure your existing house in order to get accurate drawings in the computer, but the plans will be useful in your initial discussion. Remember, the more information the architect gets up front, the less time (and, therefore, money) you will have to spend on the design process.

What you want to spend: Determining the amount of money you want to spend on your remodel is crucial to designing a successful project. Many clients have little or no idea how much the design and construction will cost, while other clients don’t feel comfortable sharing the budget number they have in mind. However, if a reasonable cost range cannot be established early on, the design process will not be integrated with reality. Nothing is worse that designing a project you love, only to get the bids back and find that the cost to build the project is $100,000 more than you want to spend.

Most clients do not have enough money available to put everything their hearts desire into a project. An architect will help you prioritize and understand the financial consequences of your choices, and help you get the most “bang for your buck.”

In a nutshell, an architect will help you analyze, synthesize, and prioritize your needs and wants for your home remodel in order to successfully integrate your dreams (how your home will look and function) with your reality (your existing home and actual budget).

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group,, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.

Architects bring added value to project