By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

Our most efficient clients are the ones who come in knowing what they want.

With so many options available for residential design and remodeling today, smart clients do their part to formulate an idea of what they want before they come into our office.

Gather plenty of information

Read books, magazines and articles on remodeling. Look on the net. Visit showrooms and home improvement stores.

An example: Recent clients said they spent a year thinking about and planning their remodel. “We had a pretty good idea of what we liked when we met with the architect,” he said. “We had the general concepts, but their ideas brought it all together.”

Basically, this client came prepared with the basics of how his family wanted their space to look and function. We were able to just tweak their ideas and pull it together with an efficient design. We were also able to give them a set of detailed plans, a realistic budget range and the confidence to do things they wanted but thought they couldn’t do such as excavate their basement under their addition.

So, how do you prepare for your remodel?

First, study the way your family functions or the way you wish it to function. Take a look at your current situation and try to project into the future. Do you need more bedrooms for your growing family? Do you need an in-home office for your business? Would you like to entertain more but only if you had that great room or deck fully equipped with your dream barbecue? What about that master suite you have always wanted?

Make a list of all the functions you want your home to accommodate, and then make a list of everything you will need to support that lifestyle.

Read books, magazines and articles on home remodeling. Gather photos of design aspects that you like. If you see a kitchen you love, keep the photo in a file to look back on when you have to choose the fixtures, faucets and cabinets in your own kitchen. Of course, you can mix and match to create your own eclectic style, but remember there is no shame in re-creating a look you love.

Of course, the Internet is an almost endless source of ideas and information that may be of great use to you. Some decisions, however, are best made after seeing, touching and using items you are considering for your home. Many manufacturers have local showrooms that will allow you to see the “real deal.” You can pare down your options on the Internet, so you can minimize your time spent actually running from place to place.

Home improvement stores can be great places for gathering information just by wandering through the aisles and seeing what materials and equipment they offer. Most big-box improvement stores also have do-it-yourself courses, a large selection of home improvement magazines and books, as well as many knowledgeable employees. By visiting these stores, along with specialty showrooms, you can see many options readily available for your home.

Open houses are a great way to see what other people have done to their homes. Watch for open houses from local remodeling professionals, architects and interior designers, as well as homes for sale that look like they might have some ideas to offer. A little window shopping never hurt.

While there are plenty of local open houses, HGTV and similar channels have almost unending opportunities to “visit” homes of every type. Here you can experience before and after renovation projects that you could never have seen otherwise.

Try to be organized when you are sifting through your favorites. Keeping a hard copy photo or sample can be helpful when it comes down to actually communicating your idea. It is a lot easier to show your architect a photo than to try to describe the concept.

When you finally meet with an architect, it will save you time, money and effort to come in prepared to discuss your family’s wants and needs. Coming prepared will give them something to work with. Understanding your current situation and your long-term goals will help them focus on helping you meet your needs. Often, a fresh eye (especially a well-trained and experienced one) can see design solutions to give you more of those wants, needs, “must-haves” and even the “thought you couldn’t haves” or “never even thought of its.” You might be surprised. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Gather plenty of information to prepare for your remodel